Challenges: Kevin Stephens and Jonathan Stettin

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NOMINATIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

As part of our ongoing series, Challenges and Solutions, we asked for feedback from our audience. The first of the replies appear here:

KEVIN STEPHENS, Stallion Manager, Sequel Stallions, New York.

What is the most pressing problem that needs to be tackled in racing, and how would you solve it?

I am a native lifetime Kentucky horseman who now is the stallion manager at Sequel Stallions in New York. I feel our biggest problem facing our industry is trouble filling positions with experienced staff. Let’s face it, the horse business is not easy work on a day-to-day basis. Our backbone of our workforce continues to grow older and filling the openings they leave behind is a hard process. Who among us have not ran adds only to be bombarded with people who may be willing, but do not have the experience required. We need people like these. These are the people we can teach and educate as they grow into experienced employees. The downside is that the people who are there to do the teaching are growing older and sometimes pushed out of the way by the younger generation. We as a industry need to do all we can to educate, employ, and retain a younger generation of horseman while at the same time respecting our experienced help.

What do you think somebody from the outside looking in-somebody not involved in racing-would say the problem that most needs solving is?

I believe the biggest problem in our industry from a outsiders view would be abandoned and abused horses. As a whole the industry is very supporting of rehoming and retraining of thoroughbreds after their days at the track are over. Regretfully, a lot of people outside the business see is only what the media shows them. Stories of abandoned horses pull at all of our heart strings. One thing about the thoroughbred industry is that we are fast to rally to a solution and it is usually well supported by all.

 

JONATHAN STETTIN, Writer and publisher of the weekly racing column “Past the Wire”.

What is the most pressing problem that needs to be tackled in racing, and how would you solve it?

The need for a central governing body in our sport is essential. This ties into many of our other issues and can be the road to solutions. We need uniformity in rules, and equal enforcement of them. We need transparency, and we need to prioritize three core issues: safety and treatment of our horses, while racing and afterwards; safety of riders, including exercise riders; and the integrity of our game. This starts with one central organization, made up not of political appointees, but people from all areas of our game, including the fans and bettors, and of course actual horsemen. I always hear the multi-state laws and jurisdictions prevent this. I don’t buy that argument. All other major sports are played in multiple states, yet they all have one set of rules, and a commissioner or board and uniformed leadership. We can’t tackle drugs, aftercare of our horses, safety and protection of our riders if every racetrack and state wants to do it their own way. I’d install a process of voting a regulatory board with representatives from all areas of the sport. I’d have the board vote on a commissioner. There has to be leadership to accomplish anything.

What do you think somebody from the outside looking in-somebody not involved in racing-would say the problem that most needs solving is?

I have to say this is a two-part answer, each of equal importance. The first thing is the perception of how we treat our horses. Many people think racing in and of itself is wrong and cruel to horses. They do not understand the breed’s competitiveness and they are for the most part doing what they love. We have to change that perception by educating the public and promoting that horses love to compete as athletes, and that we take care of them on the track and after they finish racing. Cheating, and the running of unsound, medicated horses ties right into this as it is hard to make my first argument when this is going on. This is why in part I am anti-raceday medication. If a horse is not sound enough to race without medical aid, perhaps they shouldn’t be racing. Most people I speak with who are unfamiliar with the sport assume it is cruel to the horses, and a large majority of them are drugged. We have to address this to restore our game to what it was and can be again.

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