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Columbus, OH - The State of Oklahoma, joined by the U.S. Trotting Association, Hanover Shoe Farms, the State of West Virginia and others, filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern Division of Kentucky U.S. District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act on Monday (April 26). Other plaintiffs in the complaint filed for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief are the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, West Virginia Racing Commission, Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association and three Oklahoma racetracks - Remington Park, Will Rogers Downs and Fair Meadows. "The U.S. Trotting Association has been pressing these unconstitutionality objections for more than four years and we have been ignored," said USTA President and Hanover Shoe Farms President & CEO Russell Williams. "Instead, Senator McConnell sneaked HISA through at the last minute, without any hearing or debate, in the middle of a 5,500-page, must-pass omnibus funding measure. "Now two states are challenging HISA in federal court alongside the USTA, and more states are considering joining us. HISA must be struck down. "Along with the National Association of Racetrack Veterinarians, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and legal counsel, the USTA has prepared a draft federal bill named the Racehorse Health and Safety Act that does not violate the U.S. Constitution and does protect the health and welfare of the horse for all racing breeds," added Williams. "This is the bill that should have been introduced in Congress years ago, but the Jockey Club had other ideas. "The American Quarter Horse Association, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, the state racing commissions, and even the recently-formed harness racing industry round table will be studying this legislation in order to have a legal and appropriate regulatory plan ready to introduce as legislation once HISA has been declared unconstitutional and is out of the way," said Williams. A press release issued by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's office on Monday stated that, "HISA disregards foundational law within the Constitution, including the Tenth Amendment. Congress cannot force a state legislature to either appropriate dollars for a private corporation, like the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, or be banned from passing legislation imposing certain taxes or fees. That puts Congress in control of state branches of government, which violates the law." To read Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's press release, click here. Defendants named in the lawsuit are the United States of America, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, Inc., Leonard S. Coleman, Jr., Nancy M. Cox, Federal Trade Commission, Rebecca Kelly Slaughter (as Acting Chair of the FTC) and three others in their capacities as Commissioners of the FTC - Noah Joshua Phillips, Rohit Chopra and Christine S. Wilson. To read the complete lawsuit, click here. From the USTA Communications Department

Columbus, Ohio --- By a vote of 35-8, the United States Trotting Association Board of Directors on Friday, April 16 elected to join an upcoming federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law last year.  The USTA repeatedly has expressed reservations about the legislation’s legality, in particular its apparent violations of the Constitution’s non-delegation doctrine and anti-commandeering principle.   In a statement made in September 2020, USTA President Russell Williams said that “The constitutional concerns raised by HISA are substantial and pervasive. Those concerns embrace the structure and powers of the regulatory body at the heart of the bill and extend even to the bill’s more peripheral provisions.”  On Friday, Williams further elucidated his concerns to the USTA Board in prepared remarks in which he also assured the board that the Association will assume no portion of the cost of district court proceedings.   If allowed to stand, HISA would remove from the states the power to regulate racing medication and safety matters and give them to a private entity, the newly created Horseracing Integrity & Safety Authority (Authority).  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 Authority.  The new law stipulates that HADA initially will be funded by loans taken out by the Authority, which will then be repaid by fees assessed to the state racing commissions.   No price tag has yet been attached, however, nor has it been determined which segments of the industry will pay for HISA. The legal action that the USTA will be joining is expected to be filed shortly by the State of Oklahoma and Hanover Shoe Farms.   That follows a similar claim against HISA brought last month by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (NHBPA) and 11 of its affiliated state organizations.   That suit, filed in the Northern District Court of Texas, alleges the law creates a private organization and gives it federal authority, which it claims is unconstitutional. An attendance and voting summary appear below.  A “yes’ vote reflects support for joining the lawsuit, while a “no” designation indicates opposition to doing so. Present:  C. Antonacci, I. Axelrod, S. Beegle, D. Bianconi, D. Bittle, J. Bluhm, M. Breuer-Bertera, B. Brown, J. Cross, G. Ducharme, Chairman J. Faraldo, M. Ford, J. Frasure, R. Gillock, K. Greenfield, J. Gregory, T. Haight, S. Hedington, J. Hensley, S. Hoovler, J. Ingrassia, M. Kimelman, S. Lilly, Vice Chairman M. Loewe, D. Marean, J. Matarazzo, S. McCoy, C. McErlean, R. Miecuna, Treasurer J. Miller, J. Mossbarger, S. Oldford, J. Pennacchio, J. Reynolds, A. Roberts, R. Roland, J. Roth, J. Settlemoir, D. Siegel, D. Spriggs, M. Sweeney, A. Tetrick, M. Torcello, S. Warren, President R. Williams, J. Zambito Not Present:  B. Alexander, D. Ater, L. Calderone, C. Callahan, K. Crawford, B. Kenney, C. Leonard, R. Mackinnon, S. O’Toole, S. Peine, T. Powers, R. Schnittker, J. Stratton, G. Wand Yes:  Axelrod, Bianconi, Beegle, Bittle, Breuer-Bertera, Brown, Cross, Ducharme, Faraldo, Frasure, Gillock, Gregory, Haight, Hedington, Hensley, Hoovler, Ingrassia, Kimelman, Lilly, Loewe, Marean, Matarazzo, McCoy, Miecuna, Miller, Oldford, Pennacchio, Roberts, Roth, Spriggs, Sweeney, Tetrick, Torcello, Williams, Zambito No:  Antonacci, Bluhm, Ford, McErlean, Roland, Settlemoir, Siegel, Warren *Two votes from directors who were confirmed to be present on the call but experienced technical difficulties in being heard were added to the final tally.  Statement from Russell Williams, USTA President           Mr. Chairman, fellow board members, I am now at liberty to announce that the State of Oklahoma will be challenging the constitutionality of HISA in federal court along with Hanover Shoe Farms in the very near future and both plaintiffs are very interested in having the United States Trotting Association join the suit as a co-plaintiff.             Concerning the costs of litigation, as a co-client with the USTA Hanover Shoe Farms has engaged Gibson Dunn and negotiated a flat fee for the federal district court proceedings, and has formally committed to pay the entire amount of that fee. The USTA will not be at risk for any portion of the cost of the district court proceedings.           The State of Oklahoma is in talks with other states that may also join the suit. You can readily see that states challenging constitutionality of a federal law identifies a case as being of the highest importance. Moreover, several tribal-owned racetracks might also join, underlining the nonpartisan nature of the case and providing the important track perspective. To me, having the USTA as a plaintiff is of the greatest importance so the entire harness racing sport is represented.           Don Brey has examined the USTA and Hanover Shoe Farms plaintiff roles and found no conflict of interest.            It is a rare honor to have a state express interest in joining forces in the fight to protect shared rights founded in our Constitution. I believe that this came about in part because of the USTA’s leadership over the past four years. Today I ask this board to continue that leadership by voting to join forces with the State of Oklahoma and Hanover Shoe Farms in this lawsuit seeking to overturn HISA. In a case like this, the plaintiffs go into federal district court and file a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment. Federal district court is the trial court, the first step and, in many cases, the last step in the progress of a constitutional case. A United States District Court judge has the power to declare HISA unconstitutional, and that is the relief we will ask for. I do not know at this point which federal court the case will be filed in.           Sometimes plaintiffs ask for a preliminary injunction to halt unconstitutional activity while the case progresses. For anyone who might not know, several Thoroughbred horsemen’s groups have filed a constitutional challenge against HISA in federal court in the Northern District of Texas. There is a motion for a preliminary injunction in the Texas case, but I don’t know whether counsel will decide to seek injunctive relief in our case.                     What we’re up against is a combination of an elite private club mentality and an effort to disguise a public relations campaign as regulatory reform. Both are bad foundations for a federal statutory scheme affecting hundreds of thousands of horses and people.           The cavalier way in which the question of funding has been handled shows the elite private club mentality. HISA gets no federal appropriation, so the states or racing participants in the states will have to pay for it. But for HISA to require payment of its expenses in this way is unconstitutional because private clubs don’t get to tax the public.            HISA has been hanging over our heads in one form or another for six years. Back in 2015 some members of Congress got worried about this legislation and sent it to the Congressional Research Service, known as CRS, for analysis. For over 100 years, CRS has been Congress’s think tank providing research and analysis under the requirements of balance, nonpartisanship, and accuracy. The CRS report on this legislation said, in effect, “Whoa, guys, a per-start fee looks like it would be unconstitutional because the Constitution does not permit private entities to impose fees on the states or on the citizens in the states.” Here we are, six years later, after the law has been enacted, and the HISA supporters have failed to come up with any solution to that problem. Even Jeff Gural is commenting about the need to figure out how this new regulatory unit will be paid for.           This is unacceptable. We don’t just race for silver cups. We make our living in the racing industry. We are already paying for state racing commissions to regulate the sport, and those commissions are answerable to our elected officials if improvements need to be made. We shouldn’t have to wait six years for our elite overlords to decide how we are going to pay for a whole new, federal-level regulatory structure.           The funding problem is more serious than most people realize. There is no upper limit to what the HISA Authority can spend and borrow. The Association of Racing Commissioners International, ARCI, analyzed the HISA legislation and called attention to the disruption that this “blank check” would cause in racing economics. Smaller and mid-sized racing entities and those with no gaming revenue sources could face insurmountable difficulties after struggling for years in a highly competitive environment for the entertainment dollar. Some tracks may be unable to absorb additional regulatory fees, and ARCI even developed a “watch list” of specific tracks in this category. The analysis also points out that reduced live racing means reduced simulcasting, further pressuring track margins.           HISA threatens not just economic disruption, but also destabilization. We are heading for a situation in which a private entity masquerading as the federal government regulates the racing side of the gaming companies while the states regulate the casino side. Thus the racing divisions will be subject to a regulatory start-up involving the expected amount of glitches and corrections. When the racing divisions of certain gaming companies start to show the effects of these economic and regulatory pressures, the gaming companies will have a huge business incentive to go back to the state legislatures and seek decoupling, ridding themselves of what they will describe as unproductive assets. I’m not talking about just Florida. I’m talking about Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware: the whole business model that we’ve turned into an economic productivity engine for the public, for government, and for agriculture over the past decade. Relegating harness racing to the level of a club sport would not greatly alter the picture for the elites that support HISA. But for those of us who make our living in the sport, it would change everything.           We are hearing the term “optics” more and more often, especially from members of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, a Thoroughbred organization that has fought for years to prevent Standardbred horses from getting medication regulations appropriate to their specific racing performance model. However, we’re not talking about the science of optics. We’re talking about a term used in the public relations profession to assess public opinion. The optics people don’t want a medication rule change that might appear more permissive to the public, even when veterinary science tells us the health and welfare of the horse requires it. In the case of Lasix, the optics people are seeking to make the rules even more restrictive because of optics, since Lasix must be administered on race day. From this perspective, HISA is just a public relations campaign disguised as medication reform. The objective is to hypnotize the animal rights groups.           Lasix is the only medication that helps exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. Now look at what HISA does with it. Banned. Then HISA goes on to say we’ll have an advisory committee that will have three years to do a study and issue a report. To modify or lift the ban, there must be a unanimous vote of the Authority board making the following findings: The modification is warranted, The modification is in the best interests of horse racing, That Lasix has no performance enhancing effect on individual horses, and That public confidence in the integrity and safety of racing would not be adversely affected by the modification. The third one is a question of science to which we already know the answer: it doesn’t. The other three? They are all questions of optics. Each member of the Authority board is given a cheap and easy veto based on nothing more than their own opinion that the optics of Lasix are not good.            What happens when you allow optics to triumph over science? On Saturday, April 3, Keeneland held some major races and they applied their new “no Lasix in stakes events” policy. A 9 to 5 favorite came back bleeding from both nostrils after finishing second, and in another race a 2 to 1 second choice had to be eased through the stretch while also bleeding from both nostrils. (I know that the 9 to 5 horse was found to have hit his face on the gate. He was also scoped after race and found to have been bleeding.)            We’re hearing the optics people repeating their new political slogan “we have to do right by the horse.” What they really mean is, “we have to walk right on by the horse and court public opinion.” Meanwhile the veterinarians, who are trained to medically care for the horse, and who are the only people in the industry who take an oath to protect the horse’s welfare, are ignored for the sake of optics. And the horse always pays the price.            For the past four years, the USTA has advocated for the harness racing sport. Mike Tanner has taken over 300 meetings on Capitol Hill. At these meetings, we did not spout negative propaganda. We explained the issues and addressed HISA’s glaring defects. After all the work involved in getting our message across to Congress, what happened? Mitch McConnell sneaked HISA through in the middle of a 5,500-page must-pass funding measure without debate and without the stand-alone vote he promised to his own colleagues. The HISA legislative process was a fixed race, but they won’t be able to fix the next heat, which takes place in the federal courts.           We’ve thought about this legislation so much that we’ve come up with a federal bill of our own. It’s titled The Racehorse Health and Safety Act because it puts the horse first. The National Association of Racetrack Veterinarians gave birth to it, so it started life based on veterinary science, not optics. The HBPA was involved in its development, so we know that the Thoroughbred people who are racing for a living – not just for silver cups – are good with it. Representatives of ARCI have looked at it, so we know that it would not be rejected by the state regulators, which is very important because it is essentially an interstate medication regulatory compact. Our own Don Brey really rang the bell, though, because he structured it under the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It will therefore have federal oversight, which will keep the states cooperating and moving in the right direction. It will also have another big advantage over HISA: it’s not unconstitutional.           Someone said that all this commotion is because Russell Williams is upset at losing because HISA was passed into law. This is not about winning or losing for me, because I can afford to retire, and our 3,000 acres could become the Hanover Shoe Farms Housing Development. But forty families live on that acreage now and apply their efforts to keeping the farm going. They could find work somewhere else, but why should they have to? Our horse population averages about 900 through the year. We presently have about 140 retired horses living on the farm, almost all of which were our broodmares at one time. Where would they go if Hanover Shoe Farms shut down? Who would want them? So I’m fighting for something much bigger than just myself.           We USTA directors are also fighting for something much bigger than ourselves. As directors, we’re obligated to fight for the rights and interests of our members. And so I ask you to continue the leadership that the USTA has displayed over the past four years and join the lawsuit that will soon be filed. Join the State of Oklahoma and the Hanover Shoe Farms in fighting for the people and the horses that make racing what we love. From the USTA  

Columbus, OH — The U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors Annual Meeting concluded Monday (March 22) with approval of the 2021 budget, five rule change proposals approved, including a new Rule 18.08 for Urging Regulations, Prohibitions and Penalties and the announcement that the 2022 meeting will return to an in-person gathering from March 11-14 at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square. “I’m really overwhelmed at the amount of work put in by the directors and USTA staff,” said USTA President Russell Williams. “In my 25 years of coming to these meetings, this is the best one we’ve ever had.” The completely revamped rule for Urging (whipping) was a result of the recommendations made by a subcommittee of the Rules Committee led by director Chris Antonacci. There will be more information about this new rule announced in the near future. The full Board of Directors also approved reports from the Racing, Registration, Rules and Finance Committees. Prior to the closing general session in a Zoom meeting that lasted just over three hours, the Finance Committee approved the 2021 budget, which projects a surplus of nearly $700,000 over projected expenses, and that was also passed by the full board. To see the new rule changes, click here. The Board also approved honorariums for two veterinarians who have contributed very valuable medication studies to the USTA and Harness Racing Medication Collaborative. USTA President Russell Williams announced the formation of three new subcommittees and one change to the Executive Committee. A finance subcommittee will consider the USTA investment policy for the future. A second subcommittee will assist the Standardbred Transition Alliance in developing a mechanism to provide sustained funding for the organization. In addition, following a presentation by Dr. Rebecca Bellone on pilot studies on genetic diversity (variability) and performance of Standardbreds in last Wednesday’s (March 17) Registration Committee, a subcommittee will consider and make recommendations on three studies by the University of California, Davis that she proposed. Williams selected Joe Frasure Jr. a track director from District 8A to replace the departing Alex Dadoyan on the Executive Committee. All other members on the committee will remain the same for 2021. After being called to order at 3 p.m., the meeting was adjourned at 3:22 p.m. To view a recap video of the annual meeting closing general session, click here. From the United States Trotting Association

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.

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

Columbus, OH - The Standardbred Racing Investigative Fund (SRIF) announced its formal launch on Tuesday, Sept. 29. SRIF is a 501(c)(3) corporation formed to fund expert investigations into matters concerning the health and welfare of horses in the harness racing industry, such as prohibited medication practices and fraudulent trainer listings. "Independence and confidentiality must go hand-in-hand to generate a reliable investigative product. We took great care when planning to maximize these features, insulating the Oversight Committee within the organization. This, combined with the business model of outsourcing to top-level investigative firms, makes SRIF the first of its kind in racing," stated Russell Williams, SRIF's interim Secretary-Treasurer. SRIF will eventually be registered to operate in all harness racing jurisdictions. The Oversight Committee will supervise investigations and report results from completed investigations to the racing commissions or other appropriate authorities. The Oversight Committee, comprising retired federal and state judges and prominent attorneys at the law firm of Saxton & Stump, has impressive credentials as well as extensive experience in regional and national criminal and fraud investigations. Committee members include: Hon. Lawrence F. Stengel (Ret.) is a shareholder with the law firm of Saxton & Stump and currently chairs their internal investigations practice. He is the former Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and has served as a special investigator for the NFL Concussion Settlement program and chair of the oversight committee for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Independent Reparation and Reconciliation program. Kathleen Duffy Bruder, Esquire, is an attorney with the law firm of Saxton & Stump and chairs their regulatory and government affairs practice. Bruder is the former Deputy Chief of Staff for the Pennsylvania Office of the Governor under former Gov. Tom Corbett. She is a member of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Civil Procedural Rules Committee and is experienced in representing issues important to the state racing industry associations. Hon. Robert A. Graci (Ret.) is a former Chief Counsel to the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board, a retired Superior Court Judge and the former Chief Deputy Attorney General who headed the criminal appeals and investigating grand jury section. He has extensive investigative experience working with law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal levels. To see full bios on the three members of the Oversight Committee, click here. SRIF's initial funding comes from a $250,000 matching grant from Hanover Shoe Farms. Its initial officers and directors are Bridgette S. Jablonsky, VMD, Robert Boni, and Russell Williams. Several horsepersons' associations have expressed their solid support, and SRIF expects to be well funded for the long term. "The pending federal legislation includes nothing about investigative capability, so even if it becomes law, SRIF will be much needed," Williams added. Contributions can be sent to: Standardbred Racing Investigative Fund P.O. Box 339 Hanover, PA 17331 SRIF will maintain its own anonymous telephone tipline that cannot be accessed by any outside individual or organization. Information will go directly to the Oversight Committee. The SRIF tipline number will be published across all industry online journals once established. Media Contacts: Dan Leary, Director of Communications, USTA - Jenna Wagner, VP Marketing and Development, Saxton & Stump - Russell Williams, Interim Secretary-Treasurer, SRIF - From the USTA Communications Department    

The Standardbred Horse Sales Company announced today that its 2020 Annual Sale will be held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Lutherville – Timonium, MD. Yearling sale dates are Tuesday, November 3 to Thursday, November 5. Mixed sale dates are Friday, November 6 and Saturday, November 7, 2020. The Maryland State Fairgrounds is the well known yearly destination for Fasig – Tipton Mid – Atlantic Thoroughbred auctions, and offers a first class sales facility as well as conveniently located hotels and attractive restaurants, great shopping nearby at Towson Town Center, and good access to Baltimore – Washington International Airport (BWI). Details about the venue and area can be found at the Maryland State Fair website Additional information about the sale will soon be forthcoming on our website  “Standardbred is delighted to announce our new partnership with Maryland State Fairgrounds for our 2020 Annual auction,” said Paul Spears, President of Standardbred Horse Sales Company. “Sale dates will respect the travel needs of customers who will attend Breeders Crown races in Indiana. The live auction sale will be conducted with COVID – 19 precautions to protect the health of our consignors and customers. For the convenience of customers who prefer to remain at home, online bidding and extensive telephone bidding opportunities will be offered. Standardbred will work hard to make the 2020 sale accessible and safe for our customers and consignors.” President/CEO of Hanover Shoe Farms Russell Williams remarked, “I am very happy that the sale will be held at such an equine – friendly site with a long history of successful auctions. Standardbred Horse Sales has positioned its consignors advantageously on the threshold of 2021, when our industry will prove its courage and achieve better results than ever.” From the Standardbred Horse Sales Co.  

Columbus, OH – As part of the initiative that commenced with Hanover Shoe Farms’ Executive Vice President Bridgette Jablonsky’s announcement in April of a $250,000 matching fund grant to promote integrity in harness racing, on Monday (July 6), U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams announced the establishment of the Standardbred Racing Investigative Fund. The SRIF will exist as a division of the USTA but with independent, third-party oversight. “After announcing the $250,000 challenge grant, we heard from several industry stakeholders who were concerned about industry participants having the ability to exert influence on or make decisions regarding investigations into possible regulatory or criminal abuses,” said Williams, who is president and CEO of Hanover Shoe Farms. “These concerns are valid, so we have worked diligently with a leading Pennsylvania law firm to design a structure that would remove funding and investigative decision-making from the USTA and allow for total confidentiality.  This difficult task has taken time, but it is almost complete,” added Williams. The plan for the SRIF will be presented at an upcoming USTA Board of Directors Executive Committee meeting to be held within the next few weeks in order to gain Board approval. If approved, complete details including who will serve on the SRIF Oversight Board, the way that money from donations will be allocated, how investigations will be conducted, and details of the plan for cooperative efforts with state racing commissions and local, state and federal authorities will be announced. To read Dr. Jablonsky’s original announcement of the $250,000 matching funds grant from Hanover Shoe Farms, click here. From the USTA Communications Department

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.  

Hanover, PA - Pick your catastrophe. We face a world health crisis worse than any we've seen for over a century. Meanwhile, the Governor of Pennsylvania is engaging in some state budget buccaneering that would, if the General Assembly permits it, destroy a two-century-old, native horse racing industry that brings $1.6 billion in economic impact and 20,000 jobs to the state. If this succeeds, what will happen in other states? And, finally, a long list of Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry participants face a reckoning that, looking at their conduct as alleged, you would think they never expected. This last situation is in the forefront of the minds of our Board of Directors as we work through our "annual meeting from home" this week and next. We all abhor the allegations in the indictments and criminal complaints, and we roundly condemn all conduct of the kind. At the USTA, however, there is an obligation to forego the luxury of performative outrage and, instead, to concentrate on what concrete steps our mandate requires us to take. Our record in dealing as an association with cheating and horse abuse is excellent. Now I write to call for concrete action that will move us forward in the right direction. In this editorial, I offer some recommendations. Others will join in, I hope, offering additions and corrections. At last, I hope, everyone of good will in harness racing will contribute time and money to the work that must be done. We can resolve to embrace change and to bear its cost, because we know that only then can our racing sport thrive in the modern era. The Narrative We love horses. This is our narrative, its beginning and its end, and it consists of countless stories of courage, hope, and love for horses that totally contradict the acts of a criminal few. Perhaps our very survival as a sport requires us now to make sure that the world learns about our true selves. When a horse puts its nose ahead of another horse's nose, evolution is at work. Taking the lead is part of a horse's social nature, so (unlike dog racing, for example) horse racing is entirely natural, and horses thrive on it. Horsepersons can tell inspiring stories of horses that found a way to win against unplanned-for adversity, just as we must overcome adversity now. Caring well for horses, and we do care well for them, involves trying to understand these beautiful creatures that cannot communicate with us in human terms. But those of us who employ their intelligence to understand and communicate in something like horse terms become better people for it. There are wonderful stories of lives that have been transformed, not merely economically, but in a deeper way, by the bond with the horse, an animal that evolved along an entirely different strand of the net of creation from humans. Horses can teach us things about courage and beauty, even love, that we would otherwise never learn. Some people do not know that our award-winning writers and photographers have been telling the story of harness racing in Hoof Beats since before the USTA was founded. But today the USTA has more powerful resources for telling the story of harness racing than it has ever had: our website is the most visited in harness racing and is closely watched by other breeds, and our social media presence is a serious force on the internet. Our Communications Department is unrivaled among breed associations, and our ability to put these resources to use is limited only by the cooperation of our membership. Finally, the USTA Board of Directors is meeting as I write, by means of a series of teleconferences, and advanced communications is under discussion. As the USTA and the membership find new and more effective ways to tell the true story of harness racing, we can correct the cultural narrative and propel our sport into its rightful place in the future. "The Feds" In the United States, the federal level provides the services that a central government should provide, while the states retain authority over every other matter. Federal prosecutions are usually the best way to address criminal activity occurring in multiple states. Although the conduct alleged took place in several states, the indictments and criminal complaints under discussion issue from the Southern District of New York, one of the most sophisticated offices within the United States Justice Department. We must not fall prey to the ignorant notion that there is any magical connection between the Justice Department and the Horseracing Integrity Act which, if it ever were to see passage, would be governed by the Commerce Department. As Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (representing state authority), has pointed out: nobody needed a Horseracing Integrity bill to make these prosecutions happen. The laws that make the allegations in the indictments illegal, and the federal, state, and private agencies that built these cases already exist, and we should build on the existing system to prevent cheating and horse abuse, and to incentivize best practices in our sport. The serious problems that the Horseracing Integrity Act poses for harness racing have been explained elsewhere. Yes, we have problems of our own to solve, but instead of throwing this poorly-considered federal Hail Mary, instead of ignoring the states' established knowledge and experience in regulating horse racing, and instead of relying on some unspecifiable federal magic to solve our problems, our effort must be to support and extend the growing cooperation among state racing commissions. The state racing commissions themselves called for this over a year ago, by proposing a dedicated unit among key federal and state agencies to investigate racing matters and, where appropriate, to refer them for prosecution. This call was ignored by those proposing so-called racing integrity bills at the federal level, but individual state racing commissions are continuing nevertheless to strengthen their ties with state and federal enforcement agencies. An even more significant development is taking place. "Interstate compacts" provide a contractual structure that enhances cooperation among states regarding regulations and enforcement. This is not a new concept: for years an interstate licensing compact has existed, simplifying licensing for owners, trainers, drivers, jockeys, and other licensees across the country. In a similar but more important way, an interstate medication compact would bring about consistent medication regulation nationwide. (We don't use the word "uniform," because Standardbred and Thoroughbred medication rules can't be uniform. They must differ in a few areas because the two breeds have different performance models.) Interstate medication compacts are working their way through several state legislatures, and we may be approaching passage of a multi-breed medication compact in one of the leading racing states. If this happens, I believe that the other racing states will quickly follow suit. Reading legislative bills (and enacted statutes) can be extremely tedious for most people. But someone has to do it. And if you read the Horseracing Integrity draft bill, you will discover something very surprising: recognition in the bill's own language of the primacy and importance of interstate compacts and, by implication, state authority. It's almost as if the federalization special interests felt compelled to acknowledge that the states have already done all the work and already have all the know-how regarding medication regulation. Section 4(e) of the draft bill says that the whole federal house of cards collapses if, "after the expiration of five years following [the effective date of the Act]," an interstate compact is established. Amazingly, the draft then goes on, in subsection 4(e)(2), to recite important steps that we should take to develop an interstate medication compact. Let us not wait five years enduring some sort of expensive and pointless federal intermission before we do what should have been done in the first place: to fully establish the breed-specific medication compact that is presently evolving in the states. The Ethical Climate We can achieve a radically new regulatory process that will render extinct the criminal activity of a few horsepersons and veterinarians, and we can do it without having to purchase any expensive federal snake oil. The type of criminal activity under discussion was, in the past, often veiled by certain legal concepts and, to some extent, aided by a certain "don't ask don't tell" attitude within the industry. We now have the opportunity, maybe our last, to change this permanently. First, the days of turning a blind eye to suspicious activity are over. They never should have existed. I offer, as a good counterexample to horsepersons who failed, in the past, to report suspicious activity, the American bar. If a lawyer becomes aware of an ethical infraction and fails to report it, he or she becomes guilty in turn of another serious ethical infraction. In other words, the legal community has a self-policing system that can be expected to work much better than the "don't ask don't tell' system that we have tolerated in racing. In grade school, if you told on someone, you were a "rat." Unfortunately, this way of thinking persisted into adulthood among some horsepersons. It was never valid. We must police ourselves, because our obligation is not to be a "stand-up guy." Our obligation is to ensure the health and welfare of our horses, and to preserve the integrity of our industry. Second, we must recalibrate our internal affairs. No longer can we be excused for leaving investigation and enforcement up to our chronically underfunded racing commissions. But rather than pouring more of our money into the state commissions, we should develop private investigative capabilities that support the regulators' powers and we should demand the commissions' formalized cooperation with the investigations that must be carried out. Much of the investigative work that went into the current prosecutions was carried out not by the FBI, but rather by a private firm called "5 Stones intelligence" or "5Si." We have contracted with investigative firms in past years, but never did we make the sort of commitment that was made to 5Si. Maybe this should be the model going forward: use the power of private investigations wherever necessary to support the work of the racing commissions. Indeed, as Ed Martin pointed out, the current prosecution demonstrates the way to protect racing. No federal Hail Mary is necessary. Third, all licensees in racing should be required to consent to investigation by any racing authority, in any public or private place, at any time, and also to consent to all appropriate, effective corrective action pending a hearing. If you want to participate in our industry, this comes with the territory. I'm aware of a case in which a trainer was caught doing something blatantly wrong to a horse, behaved extremely guiltily when caught, and then influenced a veterinarian to lie about the matter. The USTA suspended this individual and never looked back, but the state racing commission did nothing about it, because it thought that its hands were tied. Let us untie the hands of the racing commissions and other racing authorities, including the USTA, which has always been a powerful investigative force in harness racing. Where are the large sums of money going to come from that will be needed for all of this? This is something that we will have to figure out, and now the discussion has begun. But I can tell you this: the funding we come up with to make effective the work of the state regulators is sure to be less than what the Horseracing Integrity Act would cost us. According to the testimony of a Thoroughbred witness before the Congressional subcommittee that is presently considering the Horseracing Integrity Act, the cost to the Standardbred industry would be about $13.8 million. Even if we had to put that much into the existing system to make it work effectively, at least we would know where the money was going. Conclusion and Invitation Times of peril are also times of opportunity. We're aware, we're outraged, we're worried. But we're also energized as perhaps never before. Now is our chance to do things that probably could not have been done before. The USTA will act. I invite industry stakeholders to join the USTA in developing a comprehensive template that will protect real integrity, support the health and welfare of our horses, and permit the beautiful narrative of horse racing to continue uninterrupted. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Columbus, OH - The U.S. Trotting Association has been cooperating for several years with official investigations, several of which now have reached the indictment stage in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. "Having worked in the criminal justice system some years ago, I'm acutely aware of the presumption of innocence that applies from indictment through trial," said Russell Williams, USTA President. "At the same time, it's essential to the administration of justice and to the health of our industry for anyone with knowledge of possibly illegal activity to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. It is imperative that our sport is conducted fairly and with integrity." In his official statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman states that "the care and respect due to the animals competing, as well as the integrity of racing, are matters of deep concern." We fully concur. The USTA will continue to monitor the situation, but as a matter of policy regarding all pending legal proceedings, will have no further comment. From the USTA Communications Department  

Columbus, OH - The United States Trotting Association has announced that its in-person 2020 Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for this coming weekend (March 13-16) in Columbus, Ohio, has been canceled due to travel concerns related to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. "The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection has characterized COVID-19 as an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and has issued advisories regarding the travel of those at heightened risk to the virus," explained Russell Williams, President of the USTA. "In such matters, it is important to err on the side of caution. Canceling the meeting is the prudent course of action." It is not known at this time whether the assembly will be rescheduled. In the near term, USTA rule change proposals will be voted upon electronically, and officer elections will be conducted by an independent, third-party accounting firm, similar to how the Association operates district director elections. The Association will provide further updates as they become available. From the USTA Communications Department    

$200 Million PA Racing Fund In Jeopardy

Columbus, OH -- In an announcement from the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium on Wednesday (Nov. 21) regarding NSAID administration time and intra-articular injections, that organization inaccurately portrayed their relationship with the U.S. Trotting Association when they stated that, "The RMTC consists of 23 racing industry stakeholders and organizations that represent Thoroughbred, Standardbred, American Quarter Horse and Arabian racing." "A review of the RMTC release reveals an unjustified and regrettable misrepresentation," said USTA President Russell Williams. "The RMTC does not represent the Standardbred breed in any way. Only the United States Trotting Association and the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative can speak for the Standardbred breed regarding medication issues." HRMC Chairman Joe Faraldo echoed Williams' declaration. "As chairman of the USTA's Harness Racing Medication Collaborative let me be quite clear that RMTC does NOT represent the Standardbred industry," said Faraldo. "The harness industry operates under an altogether different training regimen and is a more durable breed than our Thoroughbred counterparts," explained Faraldo. "The genesis for such a proposed rule is founded on the unfortunate reaction to the Santa Anita catastrophe, which has gathered significant negative public attention but has no relationship to any Standardbred experience. Our incidence of catastrophic breakdowns is a statistical anomaly as compared to other breeds and hence such rules such as these, should under no circumstances be made applicable to the Standardbred industry. "Rules such as these, referred to any state commission through RMTC or even RCI (Association of Racing Commissioners International), as its conduit, is not representative of rules more appropriately applicable to the harness racing industry and should therefore not be applied to it," added Faraldo. "The HRMC shall provide the state racing commissions and others with appropriate regulations that are consistent with any and all integrity concerns related to permitted, therapeutic medications whether directly or through RCI." On Sept. 25, 2013, the Executive Committee of the USTA unanimously voted to reject RCI proposed model medication rules and in a separate unanimous vote, agreed that the USTA would immediately withdraw its membership from the RMTC. "We have carefully considered the RCI proposals and have come to the conclusion that the physical characteristics of the breeds are significantly different. Trying to fit them together makes little sense," said then USTA President Phil Langley. "We believe both breeds, Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, will benefit from having rules concentrated solely on their needs." On May 8, 2018, the USTA, through the Medication Subcommittee of the USTA Board of Directors, established the HRMC, a group that includes both academic and practicing veterinarians. The HRMC's purpose is to assist in identifying and developing the scientific background for medication regulation in Standardbred racing. The USTA utilizes HRMC's reports and supporting data to present to the RCI for dissemination to regulators in the various racing commissions. From the USTA Communications Department

Yannick Gingras, the leading driver in earnings in North America for the past four years, will represent the United States in the 2019 World Driving Championship in Sweden from May 24-31 next year. Conducted since 1970, the World Driving Championship brings together the world's best harness drivers for an exciting, international competition. "First of all, it's a great honor to be asked," said Gingras who will be making his first WDC appearance. "Only one person can represent the United States and I'm very humble and proud. "I'm looking forward to going to Sweden because I have made good relationships there over the years and have some great friends," added Gingras. "I'll get to spend a couple of weeks there during a beautiful time of the year. The timing and location make the whole package perfect." Gingras is currently the second-leading driver in purses earned this year with more than $7.6 million. For his career, he's on the verge of reaching 40,000 starts, 7,000 wins and $165 million in earnings. "Yannick has been an elite, big race driver for the past several years as demonstrated by his being the top money-winner for the last four years in a row," said USTA President Russell Williams in making the announcement of his selection of Gingras. "He is a fan favorite, is always very good with the media and he will be an excellent representative both on and off the track." Gingras, who turned 39 on Aug. 4, has a long list of career highlights. He was named the Driver of the Year last year and in 2014, when he had a career high $17.3 million in earnings. In 2003, he received the Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association. He has been among the Top 10 drivers in earnings for the past 12 years and has been in the top five in each of the past eight seasons. His $164.9 million in career earnings rank eighth all-time and fifth among active drivers. Gingras is the regular driver of 2017 Horse of the Year Award winner Hannelore Hanover. In 2017, Gingras' top wins included the Maple Leaf Trot with Hannelore Hanover, four Breeders Crown finals (with Hannelore Hanover, Ariana G, Manchego, and Youaremycandygirl) and the Little Brown Jug with Filibuster Hanover. Gingras has won 20 Breeders Crown trophies in his career. Also among his many accomplishments, Gingras is known for his association with pacer Foiled Again, the richest horse in harness racing history with $7.59 million in lifetime earnings. With Gingras in the sulky, Foiled Again got career win No. 100 on July 8 at Harrah's Philadelphia and joined Hall of Famer Rambling Willie as the only pacers with at least 100 wins and more than $2 million in purses in the past 40 years. From the USTA Communications Department    

Columbus, OH --- A group of 13 people, representing a variety of sectors in the industry, has been assembled to lead the development of the Standardbred Transition Alliance (STA). The STA will accredit programs serving Standardbreds seeking placement outside traditional commercial uses and also serve as a conduit for partial funding to those groups. The group has filed articles of incorporation and is registered as a charity with the state of Ohio; documents have also been submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to file as a 501(c)(3)charitable entity. The STA will operate independently of the United States Trotting Association, though the USTA will provide operational support and will have an ex officio spot on the board. The USTA Board of Directors in March directed Chief Executive Officer Mike Tanner, with assistance from a steering committee comprised of Directors Don Marean, Jacqueline Ingrassia and Fred Nichols, to form the group. The STA will not directly care for horses, but will accredit and provide some funding for groups that meet accreditation standards. It will be modeled after the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which provides financial assistance to about 60 groups annually. "It is past time that we have a pervasive and proportional system to provide some support to groups helping our horses when they are no longer viable on the racetrack or as bloodstock," said USTA President Russell Williams. "We have many horse owners that provide for their horses for all of their lives, but that is not an option for every person or every horse. We owe the horses that provide our living and enjoyment a coordinated effort to give them a secure future off the track. The STA will support that goal." The STA Board will convene for the first time in early November. The USTA Executive Committee is expected to consider and vote on actions to provide some funding for them at their November meeting. For questions and comments about the STA, email The members of the STA Board are: Bill Abdelnour, horse owner and president of the New England Amateur Drivers Association Elizabeth Caldwell, owner and manager of Cane Run Farm, Kentucky Michelle Crawford, breeder and owner of Crawford Farm, New York Moira Fanning, chief operating officer of the Hambletonian Society Dr. Donna Franchetti, horse owner and veterinarian Kevin Greenfield, breeder and president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association Dr. Patricia Hogan, horse owner, breeder and veterinarian Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, horse owner and veterinarian, manager of Hanover Shoe Farm Rick Moore, vice president and general manager of racing at Hoosier Park David Reid, owner of Preferred Equine Marketing Mitchel Skolnick, breeder and partner in Bluestone Farm Kelly Young, executive director of the New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund From the USTA Communications Department

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