by Remi Bellocq, National HBPA CEO
On April 29th, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and Kentucky Representative Ed Whitfield sent a letter to National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) President Alex Waldrop essentially asking what the racing industry had done to improve its record regarding the safety and welfare of our horses and riders. The letter hearkens back to the summer of 2008, when after the Eight Belles tragedy, similar inquiries and the resulting Congressional hearings – headed by Rep. Whitfield – were held.
Subsequently, on May 6th, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI)informed the NTRA that it would be dropping out of the NTRA as a dues paying member, citing costs and setting off a chain reaction of negative comments and statements from various racing circles.
Yet, in the face of all this, on May 14th, the NTRA provided Sen. Udall and Rep. Whitfield with a powerful and detailed response on our industry's behalf. We strongly encourage all HBPA members to take the time and read over the NTRA’s reply. To read the NTRA's reply letter, click here.
The NTRA is not without its critics. With a seat on the NTRA Board of Directors, the National HBPA works diligently to ensure that our horsemen get full value for their NTRA dues dollars. And, it must be noted that the NTRA has, in fact, adapted and changed dramatically since its inception.
Yet, in spite of CDI’s actions and the resulting concern from many other dues paying members of the NTRA, a few things remain certain. When racing faces a crisis situation such as the threat of federal intervention or the Breeders’ Cup Pick Six scandal of a few years ago, all of racing turns instinctively to the NTRA for action and for its ability to serve as racing’s de facto “convening authority.”
The racing industry has, in fact, done quite a bit to reinvent itself in certain ways since the summer of 2008. We are much more attuned to improving the safety and welfare of horse and rider and to raising the standards of our tracks and licensees.
So, we again urge you to read the May 14th NTRA letter to Congress and ask yourselves whether the same response could have been made or would have been made on our behalf in 2008 or earlier without the NTRA there to make it happen. The answer is no.
While there are very valid concerns regarding the future of the NTRA, such as its cost and its role within the industry, we must also recognize the very vital role it does play and how important the NTRA is to our future.