Letter to Editor: Victoria Keith

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Victoria Keith | Keeneland

This is in response to Bill Finley's editorial “Horsemen's Groups Turn Their Backs on Honest Trainers, Owners”.

I don't share the opinion that “every honest horseman should be 100% behind the Horseracing Integrity Safety and Integrity Act (HISA).” I do agree that every honest horseman wants to see our sport cleaned up and cheaters caught and removed. The points of disagreement in the HISA bill have been the removal of race-day Lasix and funding, which I'm not addressing here, and the makeup and selection process for the HISA governing bodies.

Any governing body including the one established in the HISA bill should be one governed by the owners. The owners are who finance the entire sport. They put up the money for the horses who are on the track. The owners are who govern other professional sports.

The HISA bill gives no governance to the owners. Instead, the two boards–the Nomination Board and Authority–specifically exclude owners.

The HISA bill gives tremendous power to the two boards. The Nomination Board will name the first members of the Authority and then nominate future members for the Authority. The Authority will rule racing on all drug-related issues with horses in training and racing. Both boards are self-appointed thereafter. Owners have no say, no vote. A board that is either incompetent or corrupt cannot be removed by the owners or anyone else in the industry. They can only remove themselves.

As things currently stand, we have to hope that those who had the power to name the first members of the Nomination Board did an outstanding job with their selections. We have to hope that the Nomination Board does an outstanding job in naming members of the Authority. And we have to really hope that as the Authority takes over, that they do an outstanding job not just initially but in the years and decades to come. As a self-appointed Authority, the industry is at their mercy.

With the passage of the HISA bill, I had resigned myself to hope. But with the lawsuit filed by horsemen's groups, perhaps there is a way to amend the means of governance in the HISA bill.

I propose a Board of Governors representing the various racing jurisdictions, put into power through democratic vote by all licensed owners in those jurisdictions. Instead of the Authority and Nominating Boards being self-appointed, they would instead be appointed by the Board of Governors.

This chart is what I would suggest. A jurisdiction would need to have a minimum of 1,000 starters to be represented by one Governor and larger racing states with over 5,000 starters would be represented by two Governors. It admittedly only factors in Thoroughbred racing and would need adjustment for other racing that would be governed by HISA.

With few exceptions, we do all want to clean up the sport. That never meant there isn't room for legitimate concerns regarding the HISA bill.

–Victoria Keith, Fox Hill Farm

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