Letter to the Editor: Jerry Brown


First off, let me say that I have been fighting against the use of performance enhancers in racing longer than anyone reading this. When The Jockey Club took up the fight in 2008 I was one of the people they talked to, for that very reason. So, I'm not very happy being told that if I oppose a misguided piece of legislation, I'm somehow pro-drug (link to Bill Finley's Mar. 17 Op Ed).

I disagree with Victoria Keith's Op-Ed (link) on one point– horseplayers, not owners, fund purses, which ultimately fund everything in our industry, directly or indirectly. But I do agree with a lot of what she wrote. And while I don't believe the body given authority should be strictly made up of owners, they are at least industry stakeholders. If you tried, you couldn't come up with a worse idea than having a governing body that a) is not allowed by law to contain people from the industry; b) is not elected and can't be voted ou; c) but gets to decide how it gets funded.

The technical term for that last part is taxation without representation (see: Tea Party, Boston), and if there is any attempt to raise takeout to pay for this nonsense, I can promise you will see a full-scale rebellion, because I will be the guy out in front of it. But I'm not really worried about that, because I know the commercial breeders who are gung ho for this Frankenstein will be volunteering to fund it out of stud fees and yearling sales.

Owners and those of us who make a living in racing, including HPBA members, understand the relationship between handle and purses, and purses and everything else, and how our industry works as a business. The only people who want to see cheaters get away with it are the ones cheating, while the rest of us are all for good-faith, serious attempts to stop it.

A couple more points. First, the elephant in the room here is obviously Lasix, and the concern of many of us that an unaccountable body could make an uninformed, politically correct decision that could wreak havoc on the tenuous financial well-being of the industry where we make our living. It's already clear to those of us paying attention that a higher-than-usual percentage of horses running without Lasix in graded stakes are not running their races, though without scoping and the results being made public, it's hard to establish cause and effect. But as I have pointed out in these pages before, anything that makes racing less predictable and increases the value of inside information decreases bettor confidence, which hurts us all.

Finally, this: Most of you reading this are blissfully unaware that the industry is dealing with cancer (batch betting), and is about to get run over by a bus (legal sports betting). Batch bettors with electronic access are siphoning huge amounts out of the pools, and have made an already tough game unplayable by effectively raising the takeout for everyone else. And sports betting is giving cynical, disillusioned horseplayers a very viable, easy-to-play, low-takeout alternative, on games they grew up with–there's no learning curve. If the industry doesn't get its act together quickly, those who don't understand the importance of horseplayers to our financial health are about to learn a hard, and probably irreversible, lesson. The last thing we need is to make things worse.

Jerry Brown, Thoro-Graph Founder

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