Day At The Track

Beard trainers about to be eliminated

04:15 AM 16 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Hidden in plain sight
The essence of the beard trainer problem is that trainers currently under suspension or whose license has been denied are conducting business as usual

Columbus, OH - Following the U.S. Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors Annual Meeting held March 8-11 in Columbus, OH, the USTA's Call to Action Subcommittee issued the following announcement regarding the issue of harness racing hidden trainers on Thursday (March 14).

At the Call to Action Subcommittee meeting on Friday night (March 8) the committee updated their plan regarding the initiative to prohibit hidden trainers from continuing to ply their unethical trade by using program trainers (commonly referred to as "beard" trainers) when that hidden trainer is banned from being licensed or has been suspended.

"The essence of the beard trainer problem is that trainers currently under suspension or whose license has been denied are conducting business as usual, they are making a mockery out of the industry," said Call to Action Committee Chairman Mark Loewe. "Currently, we have to rely on the state regulators and licensing is their only tool to combat this problem."

"It is important to note that beard trainers are cooperating in a scheme to defraud the regulators and the public, so they are also culpable," added Loewe.

USTA Director and Subcommittee member Joe Faraldo previously presented the concept of "regulatory discovery" to end this unethical practice.

Essentially, regulatory discovery requires suspected beard trainers to provide a series of documents to regulators, who could examine the flow of money and other communication to ascertain they are just acting as a shill for the hidden, unlicensed trainer. If so, the beard trainer would also be suspended or have his or her license application rejected.

"It is important to note that this process is not expensive for the regulators because it requires no additional detectives or other investigatory expense" explained USTA President Russell Williams.

"And it should also be noted that it is very likely that it won't be necessary to get every commission to adopt regulatory discovery or to catch every beard trainer. A few prosecutions will go a long way," added Williams.

The USTA first presented the regulatory discovery concept at Association of Racing Commissioners International meetings in Omaha, NE last July, and will pursue it to a conclusion. As a result, the proposal was assigned to an ARCI subcommittee for further consideration. The committee determined that they will submit it again for discussion at the ARCI meeting scheduled for August 8-10 in Saratoga Springs, NY.

The USTA is also prepared to take the concept directly to regulators, track operators and horsemen's organizations. In fact, Faraldo indicated that the policy has already been implemented at Yonkers Raceway, where he is the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York.

At this year's Call to Action Subcommittee meeting, the committee drafted three proposals regarding guidelines for regulatory discovery to be distributed to racing commissions, racetracks, and horsemen's associations, respectively.

In addition, the USTA is also looking at its own licensing and membership structure to determine whether it can act as an association to implement regulatory discovery.

Ken Weingartner

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