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Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021. While the holiday season normally is a quiet one for harness racing, that was not the case most recently. On the evening of Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA) was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives as part of a 5,539 page omnibus spending bill. President Trump signed the bill into law several days later. Here's what every USTA member should know. *HISA is scheduled to go into effect no later than July 1, 2022. The Federal Trade Commission will oversee a rule-making process that eventually will establish and approve the medication control and racetrack safety programs to be enforced by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (Authority). Letters have already gone out to Thoroughbred stakeholders asking recipients to suggest nominees for the Authority's board of directors. *The entity will be costly to the industry, but that price has yet to be determined. The new law stipulates that the Authority initially will be funded by loans taken out to fund its expenses, which will then be repaid by fees assessed to the state racing commissions. It is widely believed that a per-start surcharge will be implemented. *The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is identified within the new law as the medication control enforcement body that will be the foundation of the Authority. *The new law does not specifically mention harness racing, and, indeed, some proponents of the legislation frequently questioned why the USTA was opposing a measure that did not include Standardbreds. However, the law contains an opt-in provision for each state racing commission to elect to have additional breeds covered by the law, and the financial implications for state racing commissions, as expressed clearly in a September press release from the Association of Racing Commissioners International (https://www.arci.com/2020/09/federal-bill-may-incentivize-states-to-defund-anti-doping-and-medication-rule-enforcement/), are such that many commissions will have no choice except to bring Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing into the federal fold. *The new law effectively removes medication control from the state racing commissions. The commissions will continue to perform all other traditional functions, including licensing and general oversight. State racing licenses will still be required for participants, and it is likely that a national license also will be required for owners, trainers, etc. *The new law specifies that all race day medication, including Lasix, is to be phased out and ultimately prohibited. It does allow for a Lasix study to be performed, but for any changes to be implemented, the entire nine-person board of directors must unanimously agree that the following conditions are met: 1. That the modification is warranted. 2. That the modification is in the best interests of horse racing. 3. That furosemide has no performance enhancing effect on individual horses. 4. That public confidence in the integrity and safety of horse racing would not be adversely affected by the modification. Given that all four conditions are subjective, rather than objective, and that all nine handpicked board members, rather than a majority, must be in agreement in order for the policy to be changed, it's probably safe to say that Lasix will be off the table in any harness racing jurisdiction that opts into the Authority. *In addition to medication control, use of the whip/crop also would be regulated by the Authority as it is considered a racetrack safety issue. Other matters under the racetrack safety umbrella likely will include track surface composition and conditioning, in addition to pre-race examination and testing. There remains a long road ahead as the enactment of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is contemplated. The USTA, under advisement from its attorneys, remains convinced that the new law is unconstitutional, and has grave concerns about its potential impact upon the harness racing industry. The Association continues to evaluate this issue and explore its options. Further developments will be reported as they occur. Dan Leary Director of Marketing and Communications

Columbus, OH – Following is a response from USTA harness racing President Russell Williams on statement made Monday (Dec. 28) by the Meadowlands supporting the recently passed Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act: “Mr. Gural’s central message seems to be that he would like to see harness racing brought within the jurisdiction of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) and that ‘we can modify the law next year to meet our needs, which are considerably different than the Thoroughbreds’ so that we can ‘live with’ HISA. “HISA supporters refused to countenance the slightest modification during more than three years of USTA effort to get something that we could live with. There is no reason to think that next year would be any different. “HISA is unconstitutional and is very unlikely to withstand the legal challenges that will be forthcoming if an attempt is made to apply it to harness racing.” from the USTA Communications Department   Following is the Meadowlands’ statement supporting the HISA: East Rutherford, NJ — The Meadowlands supports the inclusion of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in the 2020 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The Omnibus passed through both houses of Congress last week and was signed into law by President Trump on Sunday. “The HISA is important to all of horse racing to demonstrate that we are addressing the problems that have plagued the sport for the last several decades. It is clear the past and current policies do not work,” said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. “Virtually all the horsemen that I have asked support trying to eliminate trainers that drug the horses. Having the Federal government involved will put some teeth into the effort to stop them as the indictments and subsequent arrests of last March showed. “It seems inconceivable that in 2022 every Thoroughbred racetrack will have uniform rules and be governed by this legislation while every Standardbred racetrack will continue to be governed by the states despite the fact that 27 of the 29 people indicted earlier this year were associated with Standardbred racing and only two were Thoroughbred trainers. “Hopefully we can work with the USTA to modify the law next year to meet our needs which are considerably different than the Thoroughbreds. If the USTA continues to oppose the legislation it would be our intention to ask the Racing Commissions in New York and New Jersey to allow us to opt in to the legislation since it does provide that option. “I remain confident that the majority of the issues that concern the Standardbred industry can be addressed and adjusted to where we can live with them.” Details on the HISA and its passage are available by visiting the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) website and consider joining that organization while you’re on the site. It is free to join. The Water Hay Oats Alliance is a grassroots movement of like-minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing.

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands supports the inclusion of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in the 2020 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.   The Omnibus passed through both houses of Congress last week and was signed into law by President Trump on Sunday. "The HISA is important to all of horse racing to demonstrate that we are addressing the problems that have plagued the sport for the last several decades. It is clear the past and current policies do not work.   "Virtually all the horsemen that I have asked support trying to eliminate trainers that drug the horses. Having the Federal government involved will put some teeth into the effort to stop them as the indictments and subsequent arrests of last March showed.   "It seems inconceivable that in 2022 every thoroughbred racetrack will have uniform rules and be governed by this legislation while every standardbred racetrack will continue to be governed by the states despite the fact that 27 of the 29 people indicted earlier this year were associated with standardbred racing and only two were thoroughbred trainers.   "Hopefully we can work with the USTA to modify the law next year to meet our needs which are considerably different than the thoroughbreds. If the USTA continues to oppose the legislation it would be our intention to ask the Racing Commissions in New York and New Jersey to allow us to opt in to the legislation since it does provide that option.   "I remain confident that the majority of the issues that concern the Standardbred industry can be addressed and adjusted to where we can live with them," said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. Details on the HISA and its passage are available by visiting the "WHOA" website and consider joining that organization while you're on the site. It is free to join. The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) is a grassroots movement of like- minded individuals who support the passage of federal legislation to prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of horse racing.    

Columbus, OH – Following is the statement from the harness racing USTA President Russell Williams regarding the inclusion of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in the year-end omnibus bill and the passage of that legislation: “Inclusion of the HISA bill in the year-end omnibus legislation was not a surprise, and we have been working on the assumption that it would pass ever since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell first made it public,” said Williams.  “A new Congress, the 117th, convenes next month. It will provide opportunities to remedy many official errors that were made in 2020, including HISA.” USTA Communications Department

The Hambletonian Society supports the proposed Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), the latest version of which is S.R. 4547, introduced on September 9, 2020. The Society believes that the current system of oversight and regulation of horse racing needs and demands changes in structure and execution and that the proposed legislation has the potential to bring new found confidence and trust to horseplayers, owners and all other participants. While some of the provisions of the original bill caused legitimate concerns for the Standardbred industry, since, among other concerns, it provided for "one size fits all" rules for all breeds, the amended bill now recognizes the uniqueness of other breeds, including Standardbreds. To be represented effectively, the Standardbred industry and its leaders must be united in their approach to the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority to be established under HISA, so as to ensure that therapeutic medication protocols, funding mechanisms and representation, are appropriate and practical for the harness racing industry. Universal thresholds and withdrawal times, as well as standardized testing procedures for permitted therapeutic medications, will allow honest and ethical breeders, trainers and veterinarians to care for race horses in a more consistent manner. This proposed legislation also greatly increases the chances of detecting and apprehending unscrupulous and unethical people who currently operate within industry-regulated boundaries. The Society urges all participants and organizations in the Standardbred Industry to familiarize themselves with the contents of the amended bill, (Amended HISA Bill SR4547) and support this groundbreaking legislation. There is an opening to be part of a solution that will allow harness racing to be treated fairly and be the best that it can be as we move forward. Sincerely, John Campbell President & Chief Executive Officer Jim Simpson Chairman of the Executive Committee   The Hambletonian Society Executive Committee Frank Antonacci Thomas A. Charters E.T. Gerry Jr. Ted Gewertz Fred W. Hertrich III Charles E. Keller III Michael G. Kimelman Seth Rosenfeld George I. Segal   The full board of the Hambletonian Society, Inc. can be found here: Hambletonian Society Board Below is the link to the House floor if you would like to watch the debate on the HR 1754, the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act.  It should begin around 1pm.  There is 40 minutes of debate, divided between Reps and Dems.   Votes will be stacked beginning at 6:30, and you can watch the live vote at the same link. live.house.gov/

The plan to spend money it doesn’t have to prepare to challenge integrity legislation. Did you know that the USTA is operating this year with a budget deficit of $219,940? I didn’t. Did you know that at the same time the USTA is operating under this deficit it has cut salaries by $170,000 and rejected at least two attempts to provide more funding for the protection of unwanted horses? I didn’t know that, either. I also didn’t know that while the USTA is taking these unfortunate steps it authorized $425,000 in funding to prepare itself to challenge the constitutionality of whatever racing integrity legislation ultimately emerges from Congress. In other words, the USTA is running a budget deficit, and saddling its employees with pay cuts or worse, while it spends beyond its means to take on Congress, the executive branch, the Thoroughbred industry, animal rights activists, and all the many other powerful entities who have lined up to support a meaningful change to the way horse racing operates in the United States. Did you sign up for such a use of your USTA membership dues? I didn’t. Did your USTA director ask you what you think of the pending legislation? Mine sure didn’t. The complex federal litigation the USTA is preparing for-- no one spends $425,000 to study the constitutionality of a statute it does not intend to subsequently challenge-- will take millions of dollars and many years to conclude. And even if after all that the USTA somehow wins, which is unlikely, the victory would likely mean some sort of return to the current system we all surely can agree is a total failure. Even if the USTA wins, in other words, we all will lose. Another kicker? Throughout the course of that litigation harness racing will be vulnerable to political attacks by powerful people who want less racing-- including the very legislators we are begging to continue purse subsidies. We all deserve more answers about the USTA’s expenditure of this money. What justifies it at a grim time when the USTA is telling its own employees they have to do with less? Why didn't USTA leaders ask members for their input before authorizing the expense? How much already has been spent? How exactly is it being monitored? How were these lawyers and lobbyists selected? What are their connections to harness racing or to members of the USTA’s board? What outreach did the USTA undertake to educate members about its decision to spend precious resources in this fashion?  I asked the USTA’s Dan Leary some of these questions last week. His response via email: “As the public record reflects, the funding was unanimously approved by the full USTA Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting in April and has been closely monitored by the Executive Committee since then. The purpose is to examine and analyze the legality and constitutionality of the Horse Racing Integrity Act. That examination is continuing. We will be prepared to discuss these efforts when the work is completed.” No organization committed to transparency and accountability would offer to “discuss these efforts” only after all the money is all spent. Russell Williams, over the weekend, in a condescending open letter to Jeff Gural, defended the expenditure and then hinted that the law firm he hired to do the work reached a conclusion that the legislation is legally vulnerable. Of course it did. Give any law firm $425,000 and you can expect its lawyers to cobble together an argument you want it to make. And, sure enough, on Monday the USTA announced online that its hired guns had concluded that the legislation is likely unconstitutional. The smart people who support the federal legislation say that their very own smart lawyers have vetted the measure and revised it to make it less likely to be struck down by the courts. Ultimately, federal judges will decide-- after the USTA exposes itself for years to lawmakers and animal rights activists as an industry that wasn't willing to embrace a new approach to racing safety and integrity. Imagine paying all that money for the privilege of becoming a target for lawsuits and new legislative attempts to end purse subsidies-- without first giving USTA members the chance to vote on whether we want to travel down this perilous road. Not in my name. If the legislation passes, and it looks like it will, then those in harness racing who believe it should be challenged in court can all pool their own money and litigate the matter privately. Good luck with that. This is what I think the USTA is getting at, in those April minutes linked to above, when we see this: “Once the analysis is completed, we will be looking for other outside support to fund the balance.” So why then is the USTA footing the bill for the first $425,000 of this dubious endeavor? Why is that “outside support” not paying now?  Here’s an idea. How about a vote of USTA members with a single question involving the expenditure of the $425,000: What's the best use for that money: Paying lawyers to fight popular and bipartisan federal legislation to improve racing integrity or helping horsemen and horsewomen offset some of the additional drug testing costs that will come from the legislation once it’s passed? Or, better yet, what's more important, paying the salaries of USTA employees or funding lengthy and expensive litigation that if successful brings us to where we are today. Even if you are queasy about the pending federal legislation you should be alarmed that the USTA is operating in this manner. I have heard from many horsemen and horsewomen over the past few weeks who are simply shocked to discover that the USTA’s vitriolic opposition to federal legislation-- seemingly any federal legislation-- has found such profound expression in the association’s budget. Many are growing less skeptical of the pending federal legislation-- in its new and improved form-- and more skeptical of the USTA’s divisive and dangerous antics in opposing it. Andrew Cohen    

Since the indictment of more than two dozen thoroughbred and harness racing trainers, assistants, veterinarians, and pharmacists in connection with a horse doping ring this March, rumors have swirled that more names could be forthcoming in connection with the federal investigation. Speaking at a status conference for the case on Tuesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams told U.S. District Judge Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil that a superseding indictment could be around the corner, but did not provide details as to the timing. “We are looking seriously at superseding indictments,” said Adams. “For the moment, and I made this point at least to some defense counsel previously, the nature of what we're looking at is largely in the same kind of criminal conduct as what is in the current indictment. We're looking at expanding timeframes for certain of the conspiracies. We're looking at potentially adding different statutory charges with respect to certain of the defendants. What I do not anticipate for the moment is that those superseding indictments, if and when they come, would require the production of some substantial large set of materials not already produced to date or already in the queue of things we expect to produce.” A superseding indictment is one which replaces an existing indictment, and could add charges against already-named defendants and/or could name new defendants. Vyskocil reminded Adams that the court would not hold things up while the government finishes its investigation. Adams said he understood and that he would not ask to hold up the proceedings for that reason. The charges on the current indictments, which names former top trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, among others, focus on drug adulteration, misbranding, and conspiracy. The indictments claim a network of horsemen, veterinarians and pharmacy reps sold, distributed and used drugs in racehorses for the purpose of performance enhancement. Other than a potential superseding indictment, there are not likely to be many updates in the case until late fall. Currently, attorneys are going through the discovery process, meaning each side is requesting and providing requested evidence in the case. Adams said he believes his office will be able to provide the last of the discovery material requested by defendants by the end of September. Already, the office has provided some 90 gigabytes' worth of data to all defendants in three different volumes, and has fielded 20 additional individual requests. That data includes the results of 30 different search warrants, intercepted phone calls and text messages, geolocation information for various devices, email accounts, file transfer accounts, inventory lists, shipping records, veterinary records, drug promotional and marketing material, and much more. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still extracting data from devices like cell phones and tablets seized from defendants at the time of their arrests. Adams mentioned that labs inside and outside the United States had been asked to conduct testing on samples related to the case, although it was not immediately clear whether that referred to samples of substances seized in searches of pharmacies or biological samples from horses, or both. Those results were not all known to the federal government as of yet, and some defense attorneys expressed a desire to work out some sort of split sampling process where possible, acknowledging there was a finite amount of some samples available to test. After the government produces requested evidence, it is sent to a coordinating discovery attorney for organization and distribution. One defense attorney pointed out that it generally takes the coordinating discovery attorney roughly a month to process large document releases before they are given over to defense counsel, so a late September target for discovery completion means they will get a look at the last of the evidence in early November. Vyskocil scheduled a status conference for Nov. 19. Most participants on the call agreed it would be impractical to set a trial date or motion schedule until the defense has seen all the government's evidence against their clients. Read more about the federal indictments in this March 9 piece from the Paulick Report. By Natalia Ross Reprinted with permission of The Paulick Report

In a bid to limit data used by offshore bookmakers, the New Zealand Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee has proposed that changes be made to the charges imposed for using betting information. The Select Committee introduced more than 30 changes to the Racing Industry Bill when it submitted its report to the House of Parliament, with the legislation only set to be signed into law a month later than originally intended. The Committee outlined plans to work with the three racing codes-New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) and Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ)-to ensure that measures are placed in place to allow offshore bookmakers to pay for the use of New Zealand racing data. Once the law has been codified, the committee suggested that Racing NZ, consisting of the three codes, be established which could assume some of the functions of the codes. The group has also suggested a TAB NZ Board reshuffle. On the recommendation of the codes the TAB is proposed to have three out of seven members appointed. A selection panel was introduced, and the Board ‘s overall required skill set would typically remain consistent with what was previously in the Bill. In a statement, the Racing Industry’s Transition Agency (RITA) said: “There are over 30 areas where the Committee have recommended changes and it will take us some time to work through and understand each of the different proposals. “Our initial view of the Select Committee’s recommendations is that the overall direction and structure of the Bill remains the same as it was before the Committee and is still in line with the direction of the Messara Report. “The TAB will be established as a pure betting, broadcasting and gaming entity, and the Codes will have greater roles and responsibilities for developing and promoting their sport.” By John Stewart Reprinted with permission of Inkedin

It looks like betting on US thoroughbred horse racing helped fill the gap for some sports bettors during the month of April, according to Equibase. Handle fell 24.4% to $639.4 million last month compared to last April, according to the report. But that’s a much lower drop than the decline in races and race days with many tracks still shuttered. Total races fell 71.4% to 746 last month and race days dropped 72.7% to just 85. Equibase typically reports US thoroughbred racing figures on a quarterly basis. It moved to monthly to show the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Horse racing handle per race day skyrockets The most telling stat provided by Equibase is the average horse racing handle per race day for last month. Each race day saw an average of $7.5 million in handle, up 176.5% from the prior year. So while overall handle shows a drop, in reality, these races drew much more betting attention than last year. If the number of race days were equal to last year’s 311, that average handle per race day would equal $2.3 billion in handle for the month. TwinSpires sees ‘significant’ growth TwinSpires, one of the best-known deposit wagering websites in the US, has seen a spike in business since sports began to shut down. Handle grew 8.3% in the first quarter to $329.8 million with active players up 11.6%. Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen during the company’s first-quarter earnings call: “Our TwinSpires business, within the online wagering segment, has grown significantly as more individuals bet online, particularly with so many brick-and-mortar betting outlets closed and, perhaps, with fewer entertainment options in general. Even as the number of racetracks that are actively running races has declined, TwinSpires really capitalized. This has been even more true as we’ve progressed through the second quarter.” That growth really started from March 16 through the end of the month, COO Bill Mudd added. That’s about the time when casinos, tracks and off-track betting facilities began to shutter, forcing bettors online. And it’s also about when most of America realized major sports weren’t returning anytime soon. “But anecdotally, I can say that we’ve picked up a lot of core horse players, but we’ve also picked up a lot of other players now that are playing thoroughbred racing because of all of the sporting events that have been canceled across the world,” Mudd said. Michigan approves ADW deals Michigan will begin licensing advanced deposit wagering operators that want to partner with Northville Downs, which offers harness racing and simulcast betting. Of the three biggest ADW sites operating in the US, two of them – BetAmerica and TwinSpires, both owned by Churchill Downs – already list Michigan as a legal state. TVG, owned by the same parent company as FanDuel, is not currently in Michigan. Operators must pay a $1,000 license fee and provide a plan of operation to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. There’s no timeline for when the first licenses will be approved, but the agency will work “as quickly as possible” to review applications, Communications Specialist Mary Kay Bean said. “Many firms already have licenses in other states, which will help the applicants as we review them,” she added. By Matthew Waters Reprinted with permission of Legal Sports Report

For some people, the federal indictments of over two dozen people in horse racing for drug adulteration and misbranding were a confirmation of long-held suspicions — that racing wasn't as clean as it should be. For Hanover Shoe Farms president and CEO Russell Williams, it was a call to action. Williams is the grandson of Hanover Shoe founder Lawrence Sheppard, who launched the Standardbred operation in Hanover, Penn., when he was a junior partner in the Hanover Shoe Company. The farm burst onto the Standardbred scene in the 1920s and emerged as one of the sport's largest commercial breeders. Hanover Shoe has been the country's top breeder by U.S. Trotting Association figures year after year. He is also the president of the U.S. Trotting Association. As such, the allegations in the indictments, of Standardbred and Thoroughbred trainers doping horses while escaping the detection of pre- and post-race testing, offended Williams deeply. “Here at Hanover Shoe farm, we sell about 230 yearlings, or that's what we're going to sell this year,” said Williams. “We try to raise them right and love them and take good care of them. To send them out into the world to be subjected to the things described in those indictments … it breaks our hearts. “We're going to show them we're not going to say goodbye to them when they leave here. We're going to put this challenge grant down and make some things happen.” To read the full report written by Natalie Voss in the Paulick Report click here.  

Washington, D.C. –  On Wednesday (April 22), President Trump announced that the Administration would suspend entry of certain “immigrants” into the country for a period of 60 days, citing economic conditions arising from COVID-19.  Fortunately for members of the horse industry who may continue to rely on guest workers under the H-2B and H-2A programs, the restriction will not add to delays for guest workers at this time. While the executive action is relatively narrow in scope by focusing on candidates for a “green card,” or prospective new, permanent residents, the Administration has left the door open for possible expansion of the ban to other classes of workers.  The order provides that “within 30 days, … the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Homeland Security … shall review non-immigrant programs (emphasis added) and … recommend … other measures appropriate to stimulate the U.S. economy.” The Administration’s decision to focus on foreign labor and contemplate further restrictions adds uncertainty to the guest worker visas programs.  As you recall, Congress authorized a substantial increase in the cap on H-2B guest worker visa-holders within the context of Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending legislation.  In early March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would release 35,000 supplemental H-2B visas pursuant to the spending law.  On April 2, however, DHS announced on its Twitter feed that the agency continues to review the H-2B rule, thereby delaying possible release of the supplemental visas. To view a copy of the presidential order, click on this link  

Jim Gagliano, the President and CEO of the Jockey Club, discusses the recent horse drugging indictments and the intricate investigations that led to them.   President & Chief Operating Officer   James L. Gagliano became president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, the breed registry for all Thoroughbred horses in North America, on January 1, 2010. He had served as executive vice president and chief administrative officer for The Jockey Club since June 2005. Prior to joining The Jockey Club’s management team, Gagliano served as executive vice president of Magna Entertainment Corporation’s Maryland racing operations, where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Maryland Jockey Club. He also served as president, MEC OTB, and group vice president, MEC Northern Group. Before that, Gagliano served as executive vice president and general manager of Greenwood Racing Inc. and worked in various roles during a 10-year stint with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. James L. Gagliano Since October 2010, he has served as vice chairman representing the Americas for the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Executive Council. In January 2013, he was elected to the American Horse Council board of trustees for which he was elected vice chairman in June 2015 and chairman in 2018. In June 2016, he was named to the Humane Society of the United States National Horse Racing Advisory Council. In addition, he was elected to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance board of directors in December 2016. Gagliano has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Providence College.   While signaling that there's lots more to come, he also talks about his overwhelming support of Jeff Gural, USADA and the Horseracing Integrity Act. - It's a 'must be listened to' broadcast...!!!        

Following is a summary of the new “economic stimulus” federal legislation that was passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday (April 21) and is scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday (April 23) with the expectation that it will pass and be signed into law by the President the same day. This summary has been provided by the Washington, D.C. and Nashville, TN-based The Ingram Group for the USTA. But first, is a section of a letter the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association sent to Thoroughbred horsemen with important information regarding loan applications for the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration stressing the need to act now, which applies to the harness racing industry and horsemen as well. From the National HBPA IMPORTANT: Regarding those who have already applied for the PPP loan and not received assistance: We can make you aware that according to staff members from the office of Senator Rubio who is the Chairman of the Small Business Committee team, the criteria for re-applying or not re-applying for the PPP depends on your specific bank and their process. Senator Rubio’s team said it is not the intent for businesses who have already applied to have to reapply and the applications were to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. With this information, I urge stakeholders to act quickly and contact lenders if they want to be certain. As you know, many lenders have stopped accepting applications since relief funds have run dry, but applicants can still work to fill out the application and identify possibly a new financial institution that is taking applications, so that they are ready to go when the cash starts flowing again. Act now. It is also worth noting, especially to 501(c)(6) organizations not qualified for relief under the current PPP, that an additional $60 billion will be provided for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) where (c)(6) organizations do qualify for this loan program. From The Ingram Group Tuesday, Senate Republicans and Democrats struck a $484 billion deal aimed at replenishing both SBA and healthcare-related funds. That evening, the Senate passed the agreement that contains the additional relief funding. The bill included $310 billion for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) (with $60 billion of that dedicated to small lenders and community-based financial institutions), $75 billion in emergency money for hospitals, and $25 billion to increase testing and contact tracing capabilities. An additional $60 billion will be provided for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). Note that the bill makes no changes to the Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and local governments. Also, note that it is estimated that the additional $310 billion for PPP could run out in only 72 hours. The bill will now be sent to the House, which will return on Thursday to pass it. The House will also formally approve the task force to oversee COVID-19 funding implementation, which will be led by Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC). And finally, the House may also address a rule change that would allow the chamber to permit remote committee work and, possibly, remote voting or remote voting through a proxy. Additionally, various House committees are already working on “Phase 4” legislation with the expectation that the House goals for “Phase 4” will emphasize more state and local funding, additional unemployment assistance, food benefit/nutrition funding, and more. The House is currently scheduled to return on May 4, but it is unclear if that date will change. Either way, the expectation is that “Phase 4” is not likely to move before mid- or late-May. To read the text of the bill “to increase amounts authorized and appropriated for commitments for the Paycheck Protection Program authorized under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act, economic injury disaster loans and emergency grants under the CARES Act, to fund hospital and provider recovery and testing, and for other purposes,” click here. from the USTA Communications Department

A deadly venom found in sea snails which can paralyse fish within a second has emerged as the latest chemical suspected to have infiltrated horse racing, with authorities scrambling to organise testing for the powerful painkiller. Racing NSW and Racing Victoria integrity officials on Monday confirmed they had started screening for the mystery drug, which has subtypes known to be infinitely stronger than morphine. It can also be extracted to be used for therapeutic purposes on humans in the form of the conotoxin-based Prialt. Racing stewards have received intelligence that a form of sea snail venom has been imported into Australia and used to manage pain in horses suspected to have raced in both the thoroughbred and harness codes. It is unclear in which state the latest fad is said to have emerged, but the Herald understands multiple racing authorities have been tipped off about its use and developed laboratory testing to weed out those who have dabbled in the product. The substance is not entirely new to the industry and was understood to have been in use more than decade ago, but until recently had not again been on the radar of racing officials. It's understood to dissolve from a horse's system very quickly and can help numb any pain before heading to the racetrack. Sea snails are generally found in the bottom of the ocean in tropical climates. Racing NSW said it had the ability to retrospectively test stored samples for the substance. It hasn't yet confirmed any positive swabs stemming from the chemical. "When we get information we act on it and we have a screen for this drug now," Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys. "At the moment it is not a part of the normal screening process, but we have the ability to target it and test for it." RV executive general manager of integrity Jamie Stier confirmed his organisation had begun testing for the drug as part of its normal screening process. Australian scientists from several universities have previously been working on developing new pain relief drugs using the chemicals from sea snail venom, which can be administered when morphine is no longer sufficient. It has traditionally been hazardous to use on humans given the bad side effects it can induce, including hallucinations, memory loss and confusion. But it is seen as a future alternative for pain relief given it is thought to be less addictive than opioid-based painkillers. Researchers are hoping with more funding for trials conotoxins could be in clinical use within 10 years. Venomous sea snails have been known to kill the nervous system of fish almost instantly before they eat their prey. The suspected infiltration of the chemical into horse racing is the latest scourge for the industry, which earlier this year was rocked by the ban to Australia's most prolific thoroughbred trainer Darren Weir for possession of electrical shock devices. Victorian-based Weir was rubbed out for four years and is still the subject of an ongoing police investigation. Racing NSW stewards are also investigating the finding of human growth hormone (EPO) in a fridge at the property of Kembla Grange trainer Mick Tubman. He has been stood down from training. NSW Police have also charged a nurse from Wollongong Hospital with the alleged theft of EPO from the hospital. By Adam Pengilly and Chris Roots Reprinted with permission of the Sydney Morning Herald   SEA SNAIL VENOM - Sea snail venom contains hundreds of peptides known as conotoxins, which are used to cause paralysis or death. The chemical allows the venomous snails, who are carnivorous, to prey on animals as large as fish. - When used in humans, the chemical produces an analgesic effect by stopping the transmission of nerve signals. - Only one conotoxin-based painkiller, Prialt, is currently on the market, and can only be injected into the spinal cord. The drug also has multiple side effects such as hallucinations, memory loss and confusion, limiting its use. - Multiple groups of Australian scientists are currently working on a safe, oral version of the drug for humans, with recent breakthroughs set to reduce the nation’s reliance on addictive painkillers. - In 2010, Australian scientists injected venom from the cone snail to a group of laboratory rats which resulted in a reduction in pain "100 to 500" times more effective than commonly used pain relievers such as morphine or gabapentin. Lead researcher of the study David Craik says one of the biggest advantages is that the drug uses "different receptors" in the brain in comparison to highly-addictive opioids such as morphine. Sarah Keoghan

People who earn their livelihoods working with horses in eastern Will County, Chicago, are hoping recent gaming-expansion legislation will revive the struggling harness racing industry. “It’s a good business,” said Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, a horse trainer and owner. “Obviously, it’s dwindled. Hopefully (the legislation) will turn things around. It’s going to help everything.” “Everything” involves thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to harness racing, according to an industry trade group. There are investors who own horses, men and women who breed and train the animals and drivers who man the carts known as sulkies. The trade involves veterinarians who care for animals, blacksmiths who shoe them, farmers who grow hay, occupations related to the transport of horses and entry-level jobs of mucking stables and grooming horses. Roth works out of Sawgrass Training Center near Crete, where trainers and riders take horses around a half-mile limestone track. Because of economics, there are far fewer horses bred in Illinois today than in past years. “Our breeding industry has collapsed,” Roth said. “That’s going to have to be completely rebuilt.” To put it in perspective, there were 124 standardbred horses foaled in Illinois in 2018, according to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. During harness racing’s peak in the 1980s, there were more than 2,000 horses foaled each year in the state, the group said. Trainer Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, works with Ashlee's Fine, a 2-year-old standardbred Illinois horse she is training, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "Our breeding industry has collapsed, " she said of the decline in the number of horses bred in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) “The purses have got so low, people can’t afford to pay their training bills,” Roth said. Nelson Willis, 75, of Crete, has worked in the business for 62 years, starting as a horse groomer when he was 13 years old. “You’ve got to learn how to take care of a horse before you learn how to train one,” he said. Willis said he trains “22 or 23” horses at Sawgrass and employs five people. Previously, he said, he had a dozen people working for him when he trained 55 horses at Balmoral Park near Crete. “I’ve seen the best of times and right now it’s the worst it’s ever been in this state,” Willis said. “So many people have left here.” For years, track owners, breeders and others in the trade pleaded with legislators to allow gaming positions at racetracks. Illinois was losing out to Ohio, Indiana and other states that drew more competitors and spectators, they said. Trainer Nelson Willis, 75, of Beecher, holds onto a horse halter outside a barn on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "I've seen the best of times and right now it's the worst it's ever been in this state," Willis said of the harness racing industry in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) After years of efforts, the General Assembly recently passed and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a measure to expand gaming. The major changes allow casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs and four other areas; legalizes sports betting; permits video gaming terminals at racetracks and other large venues; and designates a new racetrack for the south suburbs. Tinley Park officials have said a developer is interested in building the racetrack on the site of the former state mental health facility northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street. The historic approval happened seven years after lawmakers passed a measure to expand gaming and address losses in the horse racing industry. Former Gov. Pat Quinn vetoedthe 2012 measure. “That left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Roger Welch, 55, of Beecher. “That was the biggest letdown. One person with a veto single-handedly stopped Illinois horse racing in its tracks.” Welch is a fourth-generation horseman who was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. He has bred world-champion horses, such as Fox Valley Anabell, a horse owned by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The harness racing industry in Illinois has rapidly declined in the past five years, Welch said. “There’s no market to sell (horses) in Illinois,” Welch said. “I hope it’s not too late” to bring back the industry. Welch said he remembers when he was a child and visited Sportsman’s Park near Cicero. Crowds were so big, people paid for parking and admission, he said. Attendance dwindled as years passed, despite free admission and parking. Welch said he still lives in Beecher but spends the horse-racing season in Indiana, working mostly at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, northeast of Indianapolis. Since 2016, Hawthorne Race Course on the border of Cicero and Stickney has been the Chicago area’s only track with harness racing. Hawthorne also hosts thoroughbred racing. Balmoral ended its harness-racing tradition after the 2015 season and became a show-jumping venue in 2017. Maywood Park near Melrose Park also closed in 2015. Sportsman’s Park hosted its last horse race in 2002 and was demolished in 2009. Other harness racing tracks were Washington Park Race Track in Homewood and Aurora Downs Racetrack. Fire destroyed Washington Park in 1977, and Aurora Downs went out of business in 1976. During a 99-day peak stretch in the summer of 1979, Sportsman’s averaged daily attendance of 13,136 patrons who wagered a daily average of $1.6 million, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2017. Back then, harness racing outdrew thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park. Thoroughbreds — the types of horses raced at the Kentucky Derby — are larger but more delicate animals, Roth said. “Standardbred horses are tougher,” she said. Breeding stallions and mares for thoroughbred racing also is more expensive. Harness racers turned to Amish farmers for standardbred workhorses, Welch said. “Amish breeders were breeding every buggy mare they had,” he said. Thoroughbred racing has jockeys; standardbred racing has drivers. Several factors contributed to the decline of harness racing in Illinois, including the introduction of riverboat casinos in the 1990s. In 1995, state lawmakers introduced “purse recapture,” a provision designed to help racetracks when live simulcasts of out-of-state races were introduced. Recapture awarded track owners a share of money that otherwise would have been allotted to purses. The lower purses in Illinois drove many horsemen and horses to races in other states. The decline in racing quality further diminished attendance. “It was a chain reaction,” Roth said. The new legislation ends purse recapture after nearly 25 years. “Purse recapture was the killer,” Welch said. “The racetracks kept recapturing the money and the wagering dollars were less and less every year.” The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association estimates that harness racing-related jobs stand at about 20,000 in Illinois, down from a peak of more than 60,000 two decades ago. The new legislation will create jobs indirectly related to harness racing, including racetrack positions such as tellers, bartenders, servers, marketers and accountants, the IHHA said. “The ripple effect of our industry on the Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes,” IHHA President Marty Engel said in a statement. “It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable.” Blacksmith Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, shoes a horse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "A lot of people left. Now there's a lot of talk that they want to come home," he said of harness racing-related jobs in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, is a blacksmith who shoes horses at Sawgrass and other training centers. “It seemed like we had a dying business here,” Halvorson said. “A lot of people left. Now there’s a lot of talk they that want to come home.” Despite track closures, declining attendance and job losses in the industry, horsemen and women are optimistic that the new legislation will create growth within a few years. “I’m excited,” Welch said. “I think it’s going to be real promising.” Welch and others believe breeders, buyers and workers will return to Illinois as the harness racing industry is re-established. “This is going to get our breeding business going again,” Roth said.  By TED SLOWIK  Reprinted with permission of The Chicago Tribune

In response to a request from the industry to consider revising the current rules and Directives with respect to urging, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is making an amendment to the Standardbred Rules of Racing and to Policy Directive No. 5-2009: Penalty Guidelines for Inappropriate Urging of a Horse in Standardbred Racing. Amended wording will limit urging in Standardbred racing to acceptable "wrist action" only and there will be recommended minimum penalties for races with a purse of $100K or more. The rule change will become effective at Woodbine Mohawk Park on June 3, 2019 and will be gradually phased in across all Standardbred racetracks in Ontario on dates to be determined. https://www.agco.ca/bulletin/2019/information-bulletin-no-71-amendment-standardbred-urging-rules    

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