Round Table: Lazarus Announces More Transparency, Input From Horsemen Coming To HISA - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Round Table: Lazarus Announces More Transparency, Input From Horsemen Coming To HISA

Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, speaks during the Seventieth Annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

As the American horse racing industry looks ahead to the upcoming new rules for medication control via the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, Authority CEO Lisa Lazarus says there are other changes coming, too.

Lazarus reflected on the first weeks of the Authority's regulation of Thoroughbred racing as part of the keynote address at this year's Jockey Club Round Table. Although she admitted the Authority was still a ways from being perfect, she said she was proud of the progress the group has made so far in its efforts to comply with the tight implementation deadline given by the authors of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA).

The Authority implemented track safety rules starting July 1, and is prepared to submit draft regulations for medication and anti-doping to the Federal Trade Commission next week for approval. The group's work so far has received mixed reviews, depending upon your perspective; its critics have raised concerns about its transparency and about its willingness to collaborate with industry participants. Besides the medication rules, Lazarus says the racing industry can look forward to a new and improved permanent website for the Authority, which will include “more content around committee work, budgets, staff responsibilities and contact information, organizational charts, as well as HISA's strategic goals and objectives.” Additionally, the Authority plans to hire a medical director to oversee the use of uniform health and safety procedures for jockeys across the country.

The organization will also soon create a series of new committees, including a horsemen's committee, to provide feedback on proposed rules and rule changes to better understand the needs and concerns of the sport's participants. Lazarus emphasized that the Authority is governed by an interest in collaborating with — not fighting — horsemen and others, which she says is illustrated by its willingness to change its rules on toe grabs on hind feet after industry pushback.

“Let's have vigorous debates about what the rules should be,” she said.  “But let's never forget the real adversaries are the bad actors who tarnish our sport, anyone who is cavalier about horse welfare, and those who want to shut down horse racing for good.”

Lazarus also underscored the need for racing to have a unified voice in the public space, pointing out that the Authority can serve in that role, even if racing industry participants agree to disagree internally about the rules.

Six weeks into the Authority's regulation, she presented the following statistics:

  • There are 34,000 horses and 28,000 people registered with the Authority
  • Of the horses, trainers, and jockeys who compete in the States, 90% are registered; if you take Louisiana out of the equation (Louisiana is one of the states suing the Authority in an effort to have a judge declare it unconstitutional), the proportion goes to 95%
  • Of 21 states governed by Authority regulations, 17 have voluntary agreements with the Authority
  • Concussion baseline testing for jockeys has taken place at 10 different racetracks to date.
  • Of 1,748 claims put in since the July 1 start date, 36 have been voided in accordance with Authority rules
  • $1.8 million has been spent so far defending the Authority from the four federal lawsuits questioning its legality

The last point was a particular area of emphasis for Lazarus and also for Jockey Club chairman Stuart Janney III. Lazarus pointed out that the legal costs for the Authority are ultimately inherited by the jurisdictions it governs, so that when the Authority prevails in court, those expenses could be shouldered in part by the very groups who have brought suit.

Janney indicated particular disappointment in The Jockeys' Guild, which joined the suit brought by Texas and Louisiana, pointing out that HISA includes numerous safety provisions aimed at improving the lives of riders.

“It's outrageous,” said Janney in his closing remarks. “The jockeys are wasting their time and hurting our sport. I hope they come to realize that.”

Read a complete version of Lazarus' keynote address here.

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