The strength of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. is the enormous popularity of its product based on extremely high quality that isn’t dependent on a single event, a single division, a single foal crop. It features the best of everything racing has to offer.
Its influence derives strength from its flexibility and relatively independent operation which places the organization in a unique position: To assume the mantel of leadership in Thoroughbred racing, ushering it into a brighter future.
A permanent home for the Breeders’ Cup could seize the day and possibly introduce an oversight model for one central authority–something all reasonable stakeholders want and what this industry needs. The state of Georgia has something money can’t buy, the weather. Georgia’s temperate climate and physical location make it not only a great pit stop on way for snow-birding stables… but perfect for a boutique meet in March and November.
Achieving this would require the support and resources from The Jockey Club, the body most closely associated with preserving U.S. racing as the sport’s registrar and insists it conducts itself at the highest attainable level of integrity.
At its last Round Table Symposium at Saratoga, the Jockey Club announced an interest in possibly acquiring distressed racetrack properties as either a buyer or lessor of last resort.
But east of Louisiana and north of Florida lies the state of Georgia which is preparing for a vote in 2019 to legalize parimutuel racing. Some racing partnerships like RacingFactions.com have vowed to move their operations to Georgia if the vote passes.
At the same time, a group there led by Kieran Byrne — is promoting the construction of a state-of-the-art racing facility. See the artist rendering below:
Does it strain the imagination to think that circumstances may converge whereby “preparation could meet opportunity?” Could the Jockey Club and a southern-based current non-racing state combine to form the basis of a unified sport for one day? How’s that for revolutionary?
By ensuring higher operating standards, more humane and consistently fair equine competition in a transparent, equitable and trustworthy fashion, it could inspire increased confidence and participation by both existing and new customers.
The first step toward accomplishing meaningful reform might be to offer a functional, transparent alternative to every existing example of incompetence and/or corrupt regulation that presently exists at some level in various states.
Old problems need new, original solutions. But would the Jockey Club dare use its registration clout to mandate change among the sport’s true power brokers, the breeders?
The success of Major League sports suggests that a single commission office overseeing all franchises at a championship defining event should be the most appropriate model.
With broad powers to define and enforce forward-thinking regulations and standards for its event, the Jockey Club could ensure that the Breeders’ Cup championships are comprehensively staffed and technologically equipped to monitor a cleaner game with uniform regulations.
Isn’t that in the best model for improving the breed—the charter by which they exist—and lead the sport toward a promising future? How could self-proclaimed caring breeders and horsemen object? On what basis? Fairness and firmness must become the new normal.
Obviously, this cannot happen in a vacuum. Some modification to the Interstate Horseracing Act would need to happen, stating that unique Jockey Club/Breeders’ Cup Consortium regulations must apply to a championship event and hopefully beyond.
In this “new world,” a league of racetracks could be formed leading up to racing’s defining moments. The new regulatory body could convince (compel?) league tracks to conform to rules closer to these new championship requirements. Extremely difficult? Yes, but not impossible.
The continuation of simulcasting approval by horsemen’s groups should no longer be allowed to dictate gambling or medication policies. The current power structure would be unthinkable under a championship-consortium model.
Does the Jockey Club have the will to flex its muscle to improve the breed in the long term? At stake is nothing less than the sport’s survival and future.