Lazarus Reviews 'Ten Things I Learned' In Early Days Of HISA - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Lazarus Reviews ‘Ten Things I Learned’ In Early Days Of HISA

Lisa Lazarus, CEO of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority

On Dec. 6, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority CEO Lisa Lazarus took a look back at her first year in the role.

Originally, Lazarus' prompt for a presentation at the Annual Global Symposium on Racing had been the Authority's 2023 outlook, but after a surprise decision last month by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring the Authority unconstitutional, that no longer seemed quite right.

Instead, she presented the ten lessons she has learned about racing so far.

Lazarus came to her position in the Authority after establishing the Equestrian Law practice within Morgan Sports Law, and previously served as general counsel for the Fédération Equestre Internationale, the international governing body for equestrian sports. Although she came in with some familiarity with horse sport, racing was new to her at the outset of the job.

What she learned:

-One of racing's strengths is the diversity of viewpoints – on HISA, and on everything else. Lazarus said she doesn't even mind that this means a lot of debate among industry insiders, and she knows that's unlikely to change.

“We're a colorful family,” she said. “We're fractured by geography, sometimes by tradition, by rules in place, and we share those divisions publicly.

“Like real families, let's fight like hell behind closed doors but let's present a unified voice to the public.”

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-All participants in the industry have a role to play in making it better – and that includes groups that have been critical of the Authority, like trainers, farriers, and jockeys. Lazarus said this is why she instituted the Authority's horsemen's advisory group earlier this year with the hopes of making sure all viewpoints are included in rulemaking going forward.

-“Racing can only achieve its full potential by taking advantage of its greatest resource – the people who spend their days at the track, on the backstretch, who are truly in the game,” she said. “They are truly our greatest treasure.”

-Criticism is not just expected, but welcomed.

“I learned I love the people who tell me they hate our horseshoe rule, or we shouldn't disqualify horses from purses [for whip violations] or our drug rules go too far…because they're talking to me,” she said. “They're engaging. They're helping to make HISA and this industry better.”

-Lazarus said she was particularly struck by the vulnerability of jockeys, who must trust each time they get on a horse that the regulatory system has worked to reduce as much of that horse's injury risk as possible. While there has been, and will continue to be, much focus on equine safety for the sake of the horses, Lazarus reminded the audience that the most dangerous event for a jockey is the fall of an injured horse under them. She also said that jockey health initiatives via the racetrack safety program would continue to be a top priority for the Authority in 2023.

 

-As much debate as there has been about the Authority, the industry has begged for uniform medication regulation for years. The Authority is set to begin its anti-doping and medication program on Jan. 1.

“I believe that the vast majority of our racing participants compete fairly and they deserve to know the folks they're competing against are doing the same,” she said.

 

-The sport has already had an opportunity to regulate itself independently through the national compacts and national model rule organizations that have formed racing's alphabet soup in recent years. Lazarus said that voluntary system doesn't work.

“When I first took this job, I think it was my second month on the job, I went to meet with an important horsemen's group leader who shall remain nameless,” she said. “He said to me, I don't like federal legislation. I don't like the way HISA came about. But we did this to ourselves, because we never came together, we never agreed voluntarily to unite under one regulator. There's no sport in the world, in my view, that can survive with some of the most important integrity issues being managed by 28 different organizations.”

 

-Uniform rules aren't enough – they must be accompanied by uniform implementation.

In 2023, Lazarus anticipates that more harmonization in stewarding will come as officials become more used to the new regulations. She credits Marc Guilfoil, former Kentucky Horse Racing Commission executive director, with leading the charge thus far to help officials apply the Authority's rule in consistent ways across stewards' stands.

 

-Lazarus believes that the Authority should not be the focal point for the sport, that the regulators are neither the sport's talent nor its main story. Instead, she sees its eventual role as operating in the background to root out bad actors and give the sport a narrative focused on integrity.

 

-Most importantly, Lazarus said, the Authority is at a crucial crossroads, as is the whole industry.

“This is our moment in time,” she said. “This moment is very unlikely to ever replicate itself. We have an incredible group of people who are committed to doing the best for this industry. Not to making rules that complicate people's lives, not to being a top-down regulator, but to helping grow the industry through uniformity.”

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