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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

National HBPA Closely Examines, Takes Positions on Industry Issues at Recently Concluded Summer Convention in Minneapolis

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) recently concluded its 2010 summer convention, which was held at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota from July 21-25, 2010 and hosted by the Minnesota HBPA. The organization took in-depth looks at a number of industry issues at the convention through both committee meetings and speaker forums featuring an impressive list of experts. As a result, the National HBPA Board of Directors has adopted some specific positions.

The National HBPA Medication Committee presented a speaker forum entitled, "Bute - 5 mcg ... To Be or Not To Be," which was moderated by NHBPA Medication Committee Chairman and Florida HBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling. With a panel consisting of a virtual who’s who of racing medication testing and regulation experts, the forum presented all sides of the current debate over a proposed change to the longstanding RCI Model Rule regarding phenylbutazone (Bute). The proposal would decrease the allowable level from 5 mcg/ml to 2 mcg/ml for Bute administered 24 hours prior to racing.

As a result of considerable previous work and research, as well as the information heard at the Medication Committee forum, the National HBPA Board of Directors took an official position actively objecting to any change to the RCI Model Rule regarding phenylbutazone at this time because it is clear that the scientific community is not unanimous in its opinion that the preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that there is an effect on the athletic performance of the horse at the 5 mcg/ml regulatory threshold, nor does the scientific evidence demonstrate that the 5 mcg/ml level impairs the ability to conduct accurate pre-race examinations. It is understood that while the vast majority of horses test below the 2 mcg/ml level, the 5 mcg/ml level simply provides a safety margin to avoid inappropriate positives.

National HBPA President and CEO Joe Santanna commented, “We represent the majority of racing horsemen in North America. And while a rule change like this might seem somewhat benign, it could lead to unfair burdens on horsemen and unnecessary negative media scrutiny of our industry and its participants. So the burden here – as it should be on any important rule change – was the science. Does a preponderance of scientific evidence in this case show a clear line between a lowered regulatory threshold and a decrease in the rate of musculoskeletal/catastrophic racing injuries to horses? At this time, in our opinion, it does not.”

Turfway Park President and CEO and NTRA Board of Directors Chair Bob Elliston moderated a speaker forum examining a proposed Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact (IRWC) that has been under development over the course of the last year. The panel titled “The Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact and Horsemen: To Be Feared or Embraced?” featured a strong selection of speakers with widely varying perspectives on the subject.

After a lively debate over the positives and potential negatives to horsemen such an interstate racing and wagering compact could create, the National HBPA Board of Directors has chosen to give its conditional support to the development of such a compact as long as it is founded on the following five tenets:
1. The implementation of rules based on industry consensus,
2. A structured process which provides horsemen with an opportunity to be heard on both the local and national level,
3. Reasonable uniformity of rules based on industry consensus,
4. Concrete protections against unilateral rule-making,
5. Commissioners selected on the basis of merit and experience.

Highly informative speaker panels were also presented on "Technology and Horsemen: The New Frontier" and "The Future of Horse Racing & the Horse Race Wagering Product."

A decision was made by the NHBPA Board Directors to launch an electronic version of its award-winning The Horsemen’s Journal magazine, as well as continuing to mail the printed version to its members. Also at the Convention, Kentucky HBPA President Rick Hiles and Virginia HBPA Executive Director Frank Petramalo, Jr. were named co-recipients of the National HBPA’s Industry Service Award. Pierre “Peb” Bellocq was recognized for his outstanding artistic contributions in furtherance of the charitable and humanitarian efforts of the National HBPA, and Keith Swaggerty’s mare No Flies on Doodle was named the National HBPA Claimer of the Year.

The convention was held in conjunction with the 12th running of the Claiming Crown, a lucrative day of racing developed to spotlight hardworking claiming owners and trainers and their horses that was created and is put on annually by the National HBPA and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). This year’s $500,000 Claiming Crown was held at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota on Saturday, July 24.

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