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Columbus, OH - On Sunday (May 9), Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert (Medina Spirit) announced that his record seventh Derby winner tested positive with a level of 21 picograms (pg)/milliliter (ml) of betamethasone (Editor's Note: A picogram is one trillionth of a gram), which is above the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's (KHRC) limit of 10 pg/ml that is based upon the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's (RMTC) misguided guideline for that medication. "The Harness Racing Medication Collaborative (HRMC) and the U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) have been out in front of the issue of the threshold level for betamethasone of at least 100 pg/ml since it is a valuable, legal therapeutic medication for racehorses, especially for our Standardbreds who are often treated in more than one joint and race with a much greater frequency than Thoroughbreds," said USTA President Russell Williams. "Normal exercise stress can trigger an inflammatory response, causing native immune cells to release substances that cause tissue damage, such as to bone and cartilage in joints," said Dr. Andy Roberts, a USTA director and member of both the RMTC and the KHRC's Equine Drug Research Council. "Betamethasone does not mask pain and it does not improve performance when administered by a veterinarian at HRMC-recommended levels. It acts to prevent cellular destruction. "It is critical to clarify that betamethasone is not 'a banned steroid' as has been erroneously reported in multiple media reports," emphasized Roberts. "This is an absolute falsehood, in no way, shape or form is this drug banned and it would more accurately be referred to as a glucocorticoid. "And just for everybody's edification, this medication is commonly used in both human and veterinary medicine, from pediatrics to small animal dermatology. I would venture a guess that in any NBA or NFL game there are numerous participants that have tens of thousands of picograms of betamethasone in their systems when they play," added Roberts. "HRMC made recommendations to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), once rebuffed and then came back with a scientific study validating them, and our recommendations for betamethsone's use in harness racing have gone nowhere for more than two years," explained Williams. "Now all of horse racing is under fire from uninformed media, horseracing critics and animal rights activists for the possibly inaccurate perception that most recognizable trainer in the biggest race in the U.S. cheated. "If the RMTC had listened to the science and done the right thing, we wouldn't be in this situation now," said Williams. "It has been this way for years, as they have catered to their notion of public perception of Thoroughbred racing instead of to the health and welfare of the horse. "What is most concerning is that RMTC Executive Director Dr. Mary Scollay and RMTC Scientific Advisory Committee Member Dr. Scott Stanley recently were named to the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Standing Committee established by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which has been challenged in federal courts on its constitutionality. If HISA is not struck down, faulty RMTC thinking will become institutionalized at the federal level." The threats of that federal legislation reflect the same problems that the RMTC has caused by their inaction and lack of transparency. "The RMTC has a non-disclosure policy regarding their scientific studies and subsequent decisions on determining thresholds for therapeutic medications," said U.S. Trotting Association Chairman of the Board Joe Faraldo. "That's exactly what happened when they arbitrarily lowered the acceptable threshold for betamethasone from 100 pg/ml to 10 pg/ml with no disclosure of the scientific evidence for their decision. "When our panel of eminent veterinarians on the HRMC recommended to the ARCI, along with 16 state racing commissions including the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in December 2018 that the appropriate threshold should be set at 100pg/ml in plasma for betamethasone and a recommended withdrawal guideline of 6-1/2 days; no action was taken and it was referred to the RMTC's Scientific Advisory Committee, weighted heavily with RMTC personnel for further consideration. The result was inevitable," added Faraldo. Two years later, on Thursday Dec. 3, 2020, in a presentation at the ARCI Model Rules Committee Meeting in New Orleans, LA., HRMC member Dr. Clara Fenger described some unexpectedly high serum concentration levels found in experimental horses that were demonstrated to be caused by environmental contamination in the study* she submitted as part of her proposal. That study found that "among the biggest environmental substance offenders are dexamethasone and betamethasone." As a result, Dr. Fenger, on behalf of the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians (NAARV), who was the sponsor of the proposal, called for "alternative penalties for drug positives that are likely to result from environmental contamination and unlikely to have a relevant effect on the animal." Betamethasone, because it is a stereoisomer of dexamethasone, which was the focus of the study, is expected to behave in the same fashion. The study made clear that the evidence demonstrated concentrations below 100 pg/ml occur relatively commonly (1 in 50 horses at risk), produces no risk to the integrity of horse racing, and solves the problem of inadvertent environmental transfer. She recommended to the RMTC's Scientific Advisory Committee reduced penalties for results between 5 pg/ml and 100 pg/ml, which if adopted would have had a direct application to the current Kentucky Derby situation. Based upon the recommendation of the HRMC and the National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, the USTA supported that proposal. "The RMTC should have supported it too because that's what the science demonstrated, but they didn't. An important part of the mission of medication and testing consortiums and regulators is to inform public opinion about veterinary sports medicine, not to hide from it. Science, not fear, will lead us to what is best for the horse," concluded Williams. To read the complete McClure S, Fenger C, et al. study, click here. *McClure S, Fenger C, Kersh K, Brown B, Maylin G, Duer W, Dirikolu L, Brewer K, Machin J, Tobin T. 2020. Dexamethasone serum concentrations after intravenous administration in horses during race training. Comparative Exercise Physiology, In Press. From the USTA

The following is a letter recently received by Harnesslink. I am writing to you all because of my concern about the lack of neck freeze brands making it harder to identify Standardbreds, especially in the slaughter pipeline.   To give you a little background, my great grandfather and grandfather bred, raised, trained, and raced Standardbreds here in Maine for many years. I became involved in the breed over twenty years ago when I took on a retraining project of a retired pacing broodmare named Dreamy Starlet.   Dreamy and I competed all over New England and the Mid Atlantic in both dressage and eventing, winning many horse show ribbons and national and regional championships. We were also part of the Standardbred demonstration team at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Dreamy is now thirty years old and is happily retired on my small farm. While I am not currently a member of the USTA, I was for many years and have always tried my hardest to support and promote this wonderful breed. The notion that the lack of a freeze brand will somehow make the Standardbred more popular in the show ring is complete rubbish. The lack of a brand does not make a horse more desirable and anyone that wants to say that has obviously never competed horses.   In all the years I competed with Dreamy, and then later with the trotters Revenue Stream and Snap Dancer, I never ONCE had a judge look down upon my horses because of a freeze brand. If someone is willing to judge a horse's merits on a few white hairs on their neck, the problem is with the person, not the horse. In fact, the presence of the freeze brand often provoked a positive communication with others who were curious to know what the brand meant. This would always turn into an excellent opportunity for me to educate others about how great this breed is, and people would always be pleasantly surprised.   The riders I hear who like to complain that a judge didn't like their horse because of the freeze brand use that as an excuse for poor training and preparation for the show ring. No, the judge isn't biased against the horse due to a freeze brand, but more likely because the rider made a mistake in the competition ring or didn't train their horse well enough to be competitive. Bottom line, there is no reason to make a microchip or a freeze brand a one-or-the-other type of choice, as a horse can have both. There are certainly benefits to both identification methods. However, the freeze brand should continue to be mandatory and not cost an extra $75 over the cost of registration.   By removing the freeze brand, you are now making Standardbreds invisible in kill pens, which I feel is a true disservice to the breed. Being able to identify the horse based on the brand makes it much easier to contact previous owners who may want to know if their horses are in a bad situation as well as anyone who may have enrolled the horse in the Full Circle Program.   Unless, of course, one of the real reasons for changing to microchips is to make it appear as though Standardbreds are not as prevalent in kill pens or to wrongly protect former owners who don't want to be contacted because their former horse ends up in a bad situation. If that is even remotely true, and I hope it is not, then shame on the USTA for being so callous and treating unwanted racehorses in such a way! Additionally, as far as I know, unless the state rules have suddenly changed, it is illegal in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois for anyone other than a veterinarian to implant a microchip in a horse. So it is curious to me how USTA might be circumventing that law. Over the years, I have had innumerable people ask me to help look up horses for them. Not everyone knows the USTA offers a free lookup search on the website. Without the freeze brand, we can no longer look up the horse. A chip reader costs a minimum of $250, and it is not something everyone can purchase.   Further, even if someone owns a chip reader and wants to try to identify a horse in a kill pen, it will be nearly impossible to safely read the chip in the crowded pens. Granted, at times a brand can be more difficult to read. However, if the brands are becoming that hard to read, perhaps that is more a problem with those creating the freeze brands, which would indicate better and more comprehensive brand training is needed. I understand you might feel it is easy to discount someone like me, who is not involved in racing and is not currently a USTA member. I also know it feels uncomfortable to have someone call you out on a topic you might wish to sweep under the carpet. However, it is also true that it is people like me who are effectively helping the discarded horses from your industry.   There are many wonderful people who are rehabbing, rescuing, and retraining these horses for a chance for a secure job as a riding horse for the future. With that said, I do feel our opinions should matter. Bottom line, the USTA would NOT be doing these horses a favor by allowing them to be registered without a freeze brand. I implore you all to rethink this decision and realize that it is not helping anyone, especially these wonderful horses we are so lucky to have in our lives. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, Elizabeth Sanborn  

Columbus, OH - Former Associate Editor of The Horseman And Fair World, Gordon Waterstone, has been hired as a freelance Editorial Specialist to assist the U.S. Trotting Association with editorial contributions to Hoof Beats and Youth Beats magazines, the newsroom on www.ustrotting.com, content for www.HarnessRacingFanZone.com, social media and other projects. "We're excited to have Gordon on board; he's an excellent addition to the team," said USTA Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Leary. "He's a Hall of Famer, two-time Hervey Award winner and a former track publicity director who has a wealth of writing experience, extensive knowledge about the industry and a vast network of contacts within it. "And obviously, his relationships with Kathy (Parker) and the rest of the USTA Communications Department team will allow him to hit the ground running." In his new role, Waterstone reunites with his former colleague Kathy Parker, who was named the new editor of Hoof Beats on March 12. "I was unsure which of the many avenues to pursue when The Horseman closed, but it led to this great opportunity," said Waterstone. "I'm excited to add another chapter in my career in harness racing and looking forward to working with a team I have long respected. "I am very grateful to others who reached out to me as a possible landing spot, but the USTA was the best fit and I want to thank Mike Tanner, Dan Leary and everybody at the USTA for this opportunity." Prior to The Horseman And Fair World, which he joined in June 1998, Waterstone worked in publicity at Hazel Park in Michigan. He served as assistant publicity director from 1979 to 1981 when he was promoted to director and remained in that role through 1996. In addition to his induction into the Communicators Hall of Fame in 2017 and two John Hervey Awards (1999, 2008) for excellence in harness racing journalism, Waterstone was named U.S. Harness Writers Association's USHWAn of the Year (2014), won the Harness Horsemen International Clyde Hirt Media Award (2002), the USHWA President's Award (2001) and the Harness Publicists Association's Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award (1995). He was also the recipient of the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association Appreciation Award twice. A current member of the USHWA Hall of Fame Screening Committee, Waterstone served as that organization's president from 2004 to 2006 and was also president of the Harness Publicists Association in 1999. Wendy Ross assumes new role as Social Media Content Manager Wendy Ross, who joined the U.S. Trotting Association on May 23, 2018, will assume the newly created position of Social Media Content Manager beginning on May 3. She previously served as Social Media and Public Relations Coordinator. "Wendy really stepped up during the past year with some creative ideas and ways to help promote harness racing's major races, events and participants when the USTA and harness racing industry faced some unprecedented challenges," said Leary. "The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the way that our social media team operated because we were restricted from our normal traveling and on-site coverage. "In addition, she successfully took on additional responsibilities involving our social media strategy and its execution with changes that we had in staffing." In her role as the on-air talent for the USTA's coverage of harness racing, she has become an even more familiar face in the industry adding to her work at The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs, Northfield Park, The Meadows, and The Little Brown Jug. From the USTA  

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

The following is a statement from Travis T. Tygart CEO of the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) after meeting with several harness racing stakeholders on April 21, 2021.   "Last week we had a productive conversation with several members of the harness racing community to help explain the role USADA intends to play in the enforcement of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, the new federal law designed to establish an equine program of strong, harmonized rules that cover all racing breeds. We discussed testing protocols, medication rules, and other matters of special interest to the Standardbred community. We look forward to continuing the conversation with the leadership of the United States Trotting Association."   From Travis Tygart, CEO USADA

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 — Applications for the 2021 Matching Funds Grant for harness racing fair meets in the USA, sponsored by the USTA, are now available. Applications, and materials to help you create your application, are available at this link. There is once again $10,000 of funding available. Applications must be postmarked or emailed by May 1; late submissions will not be considered. Once the application is received, an email confirmation will be sent to the contact person as submitted on the application cover sheet. If you have not received an email confirmation, your submission was not received. Please note that in order for your application to be considered complete, it must include: — Filled out application cover sheet — Typed marketing plan, between 250-1,000 words — Typed budget, including your total applicable expenses and details how much you are requesting from the USTA (max. $1,000) — Copies of quotes — Proposed copy/draft ad, to ensure that 75 percent of the marketing efforts focus on harness racing There is another program available to assist fairs in purchasing promotional items for grandstand giveaways. There is $10,000 in funding available for this program as well. To receive reimbursement, up to $1,000 per requestor, please email a copy of the paid invoice and a photo of the item with a harness horse on it to jessica.schroeder@ustrotting.com. Funding is available on a first come, first served basis. Questions about the Matching Funds Grant can be directed to Jessica Schroeder at 614.224.2291, ext. 3212. by Jessica Schroeder, for 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

MGM Northfield Park has announced the addition of a $100,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee for Tuesday (February 23). Beginning in race six, the $100,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $21,559. This harness racing wager is being offered as part of the Strategic Wagering Program through the United States Trotting Association. Northfield's Pick-5, Pick-4s, Pick-3s, 50¢ (non-jackpot) Pick 6 and 20¢ Super High Five offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14%. Tuesday's post time is 5 PM. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Columbus, OH — Race conditions for the 2021 USTA stakes and early/late closers are now available online. Also available are sections of the Event Guide, including harness racing payment schedules, 2020 race results and race schedules by division. Access the current year information at horsemen.ustrotting.com/stakes. Payments are due starting Feb. 15 for many 3-year-old and some 2-year-old races. Race dates are still being submitted for some sire stakes programs and will be included in the Stakes Calendar, which is scheduled to go to print mid-February with an in-hand date of March 1 (the calendar runs March 2021-February 2022). You can pre-order your copy by simply logging into your USTA MyAccount (available to both members and non-members), visiting shop.ustrotting.com or by calling Member Services at 877.800.USTA. by Jessica Schroeder, for the USTA

Columbus, OH - With the suspension of harness racing for about three months during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, total wagering at all U.S. harness tracks for the year was down by 18.39 percent from $1,424,886,558 in 2019 to $1,162,848,201, a decrease of $263,038,357. In addition, the amount of purses distributed was down significantly by 30.82 percent. In 2020, horsemen earned a total of $304,059,115 a decrease of $135,486,904 from the $439,546,019 in 2019 purses. The 2,358 race days in 2020 was 1,066 less than the 3,424 race days in 2019, a 31.13 percent decrease. Despite all of the lost race days, the per race wagering average increased by 10.5 percent from $5,008 in 2019 to $5,534 in 2020. To better understand the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and the lengthy suspension of racing during 2020 had on the numbers, the economic indicators are broken down into three categories. 1. The year-to-year economic indicators for 2020 compared to 2019. 2. The "Before COVID" economic indicators before the shutdowns caused by the pandemic comparing Jan. 1 to March 22, 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019. 3. The "After COVID" economic indicators after tracks resumed racing following the shutdowns comparing June 1 to Dec. 31, 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019.               Following are the comparative economic indicators for U.S. harness racing from 2019 to 2020. ECONOMIC INDICATORS ON U.S. RACES YEAR-TO-YEAR COMPARISON Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2020   2020 2019 % Change Total Wagered $1,162,848,201 $1,424,886,558 -18.39% Per Race avg. $45,140 $39,991 +12.87% Per Betting Interest $5,534 $5,008 +10.50% Purses $304,059,115 $439,546,019 -30.82% Race Days 2,358 3,424 -31.13%   BEFORE COVID Jan. 1 – March 22, 2020   2020 2019 % Change Total Wagered $299,074,258 $315,189,172 -5.11% Per Race avg. $52,756 $56,976 -7.41% Per Betting Interest $6,594 $6,975 -5.46% Purses $53,949,205 $52,804,155 +2.17% Race Days 474 455 +4.18%   AFTER COVID June 1 – Dec. 31, 2020   2020 2019 % Change Total Wagered $844,385,389 $796,464,289 +6.02% Per Race avg. $42,414 $35,097 +20.85% Per Betting Interest $5,173 $4,414 +17.20% Purses $248,668,418 $306,707,985 -18.92% Race Days 1,866 2,339 -20.22%   “Obviously it was a very difficult year for everyone in harness racing, especially for our horsemen, racetracks and everyone whose employment depends on our industry,” said USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner. “All of them should be commended for their efforts and compliance with the required health and safety measures that allowed us to return to racing. And we’d like to thank all of our loyal harness racing fans for their continued support through tough times.” Please note:  The information above includes U.S. and Canadian common and separate pool wagers on races contested in the U.S. Dan Leary Director of Marketing and Communications  

Columbus, OH — The Dec. 31 deadline to register your 2020 harness racing foals without penalty is just around the corner. The foal registration application, fees and mating certificate all must be postmarked or submitted online by Dec. 31 to stay at the $185 registration fee. Any registrations missing one or more of those pieces are subject to a $265 late fee. Check on the status of your mating certificates by logging into your USTA MyAccount and clicking “Broodmare Activity.” There will be a ‘Yes’ in the “M.C.Released” column once the mating certificate is received in the office or released electronically by the stallion owner. You can register your foals, or submit a no foal report, online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If the mare is owned by you, a stable you are a member of or by a person you are an authorized agent for, you can start the foal registration process by clicking that same “Broodmare Activity” link. If that mare does not appear in that list, click “Online Services” from the black navigation bar, then “Horse” and “Foal Registration” to get started. You can still send a Foal Registration Application or Live Foal/No Foal Report by mail, email or fax. If you have old forms at home, please be sure to use these links so you have the most up-to-date forms. More information about foal registration can be found on this page of the USTA website. If you have any further questions, please contact Member Services at 877.800.8782 or memberservices@ustrotting.com.  

Columbus, OH - Due to travel concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 USTA Board of Directors annual meeting will not be held in person, but rather all board meetings and functions will be conducted exclusively online. The determination was made through a unanimous vote of the USTA Executive Committee, which convened via Zoom this past Wednesday (Nov. 18). "Health and safety were the most important considerations in making this decision," said USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner. "We've successfully conducted a number of our annual district meetings online during the past month, which has provided us with a good test run for virtual meetings." The 2021 annual meeting was scheduled to take place at the Sheraton Columbus Hotel at Capitol Square hotel in Columbus, OH from March 12-15. The agenda and full schedule for the virtual 2021 USTA Board of Directors Meeting will be disseminated once dates and details have been finalized. From the USTA Communications Department

Columbus, OH –  The U.S. Trotting Association released the 2020 List of harness racing Mares Bred statistics on Thursday (Nov. 12). As of that date, there have been 12,229 mares bred by 623 stallions. In 2019, there were only 11,513 mares reported by this date.  The numbers indicate an increase of 6.21 percent compared to 2019. The expectation is that the reports on the numbers of mares bred will increase during the final two months of the year.  Based upon previous years, it is estimated that the reported number of mares bred will increase by 1,500 by the end of 2020. “We are pleased to report that the 2020 List of Mares Bred numbers are once again up over the previous breeding season,” said USTA Registrar TC Lane.  “This marks the fifth straight year that the number of mares bred has increased.” Following are the statistics for the List of Mares Bred for the previous five years: 2015    12,811 2016    13,390 2017    14,316 2018    14,980 2019    14,997 Ohio is the state with the most Mares Bred to date with 2,860.  The following are the top five states as of Nov. 12, 2020. Ohio- 2,860 Indiana- 2,497 Pennsylvania- 2,216 New York- 1,181 Illinois- 997 Another interesting statistic is related to the location of the mares around the country. Following are the top five states by mare location in 2020: Ohio- 2,530 Indiana- 2,334 Pennsylvania- 2,054 New York- 1,223 Illinois- 933 Some mares have been bred to more than one stallion and more than one report has been submitted for those mares.  Each of those reports has been counted separately in the statistics on the List of Mares Bred.  “Despite the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the major sales have been fairly pleased with their results considering all factors,” added Lane. “Five years ago, with foal crops on the decline, there was some concern about where the industry was headed.  But with purse structures as high as they’ve ever been in many states and the positive trends in breeding, there may never be a better time to be an owner in harness racing.” from the USTA Communications Department

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The 2-year-old filly, Aela Jamieson, by Chapter Seven of Blue Chip Farms in Wallkill, N.Y., has been named the Unites States Trotting Association District 8 Horse of the Year. The harness racing award was presented to trainer Julie Miller at Sunday's New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) & USTA District 8 Virtual Awards Banquet. "We loved her at Lexington at the sale, she was a smaller filly, but she really grew into herself," said Julie Miller, trainer. "I was really happy with her, she had some bumps in the beginning of the season on the half mile tracks but you don't give up on them and you just keep tinkering with her equipment. I was very fortunate that she started to get with the program at Vernon and Tioga. When the money was down at Yonkers, she really put her best foot forward." The filly took home more than $92,800 worth of total earnings for owners Andy Miller Stable, Inc., Dumain Haven Farm and Little E, LLC. You can watch the full livestream of The New York Sire Stakes & USTA District 8 Awards here. From the New York Sire Stakes

Timonium, MD – Sister Sledge, a 3-year-old daughter of Father Patrick, was purchased for $265,000 by agent Robert Lindstrom to lead Saturday’s (Nov. 7) second day of the Standardbred Horse Sale’s mixed sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. Sister Sledge established her lifetime mark of 1:51.2 in winning a division of the Tompkins Geers at The Meadowlands. Lisa photo. Sister Sledge, who was a 2020 Hambletonian finalist, was consigned by Preferred Equine Marketing. She has a record of 15-5-3-0, $842,815 in career earnings and a lifetime mark of 1:51.2 established in her victory in a division of the Tompkins Geers division at The Meadowlands on July 25, 2020. The second highest purchase of the final session of the sale was Philly Hanover, a 4-year-old Captaintreacherous mare who was sold to Joe Parisi for $225,000.  Consigned by Northwood Bloodstock Agency, she has 10 wins, 10 seconds and nine third-place finishes from 45 starts and has earned $363,304. She established her lifetime mark of 1:49.2 as a 3-year-old. For the two days of the mixed sale, 446 horses sold for a total of $12,844,000 and an average of $28,798. For complete results, click here. From the USTA

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