LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Congressman Andy Barr (R-6th District) said he’s spent a good portion of this last three terms pushing for horse racing reform. House Resolution 1754 would put certain aspects of the sport under the watch of a federally operated board, which would oversee numerous safety issues.
“Clearly the sport is in crisis right now,” Barr said from his office in Washington, D.C. “What we need to do is come together, not put our heads in the sand, and recognize the American people won’t tolerate a sport that is perceived as unsafe.”
Barr is hopeful this piece of legislation will lead to uniformity throughout the sport as it relates to an anti-doping policy, punishments for violations of such, and how and when medications are administered to thoroughbred race horses.
Alex Waldrop, of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association based in Lexington, took it one step further.
“The Bill would be best if it was expanded to include other safety initiatives, beyond medication,” Waldrop said. “Medication is a big component, but you’ve got other issues; track surfaces, pre-race inspections. We want to make sure those are done in a way that’s consistent across the country,” Waldrop continued.
Waldrop said his organization is completely impartial to H.R. 1754, meaning NTRA is able to sit on the fence to get a perfect view of both sides of the argument. While saying the need for uniformity in the sport is “critical,” he knows why those 38 race states would want to continue to govern themselves on these matters.
“You have states, that for a century or more, have been regulating horse racing,” Waldrop said. “They think they’re doing a good job. And for the most part they actually are. I don’t think one state can be singled out as a bad actor, but some do a better job than others.”
Waldrop said those not doing as well can likely have their performance linked to funding, or lack thereof.
“There’s a lot of push back, a lot of concern people have that this is going to take away local control,” Waldrop continued.
Taking away that local control – or a portion of it - is exactly what those in favor of H.R. 1754 are hoping to accomplish.
“We need to preserve and protect horse racing in America,” said Barr. “The way to do that is to acknowledge there are problems, and to reform it.”
Given where his constituents reside, Barr knows exactly how critical it is to preserve the sport, while welcoming new generations of fans.
“The status quo is unacceptable. Status quo has led to catastrophic breakdowns of horses, it’s resulted in permanently disabled jockeys, and it’s resulting in a decline in (wagering) handle,” Barr said. “One, single, national system would allow us ensure the American public that we’re conducting racing in the most safe and fair way that honors the sport, and honors the equine athletes, and the human athletes,” he continued.
Barr feels as if a House of Representatives vote on this new piece of legislation could come sometime this year, if they get a markup to amend, as needed. Barr said he requested such on Tuesday.