Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.





 2022 was year for racing that felt like an Archie Moore heavy weight fight. Punches flew from all directions. With criminal investigations and prison sentences for many, racing looked raddled. Like a knight on a white horse HISA rushed in to save the day. But it stumbled when the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) backed out of negotiations and forced HISA to postpone the main part of their legislative mandate. With quick maneuvering HISA found a replacement—the Drug Free Sport International. Just when HISA thought it was approaching the final bell the lawsuits from some states and horsemen’s groups started coming in like desperate punches in the last round. Then came the biggest one. The Federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in mid-November HISA unconstitutional. The defeat looked eminent.

Just last week Congress amended the HISA law, and the amendments included in the Omnibus Spending Bill passed Congress and President Biden signed it on Friday, December 23, 2022. How will the courts react to the changes in HISA? What the litigators in the previous suits will do is unknown. It may not matter. The speed Congress acted with nearly unanimous support suggests that if the court upholds its ruling, Congress will act again and perhaps again. Hopefully the opposition to HISA will see the issues more clearly and consider opening new discussions, seeking a mediated settlement. Again, another unknown. But what is known?

Fans of the sport have sat on the sidelines watching racing act like kids fighting in a school yard, albeit with bigger and more expensive toys. Will we continue to watch or do something? In the beginning ThoroFan formally asked HISA to appoint fans/players to their Board or one of the three statutory committees. We were ignored; not even thanked for our suggestions. Just another indication how the sport sees its fans. That may never change, although we hope it will.

Previous efforts by other groups to change racing were met with similar responses. Boycotting tracks not favorable to betting fans was brushed off like a summer mosquito on the arm. No matter how hard we try, our voice to help falls on deaf ears. What should we do?

Perhaps we can take a more positive approach but approach it we must. In early 2000 a racing partnership had an idea that would benefit the sport and their partnership. National television covered it. ThoroFan participated. The morning show invited us to come on the air. We took a very early morning train to New York City for the live show. With high-test coffee in hand, we put on our orange shirts and waited to be called. The shirt read, “F.A.T.E ---- an acronym for “Find A Thoroughbred Enthusiast”.

A dozen years ago we were trying to energize the sport of racing that was in 5-year-cycle decline in handle. In fact, 2009 saw a drop in handle of 9.9%, the largest decline in one year ever according to the Jockey Club records. Tracks appeared empty on most days. If new fans could be found things might improve. That was the premise of F.AT.E..

The action requested by the founder of this effort, Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds, was simple. Finley, a 1986 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, hoped he could organize the racing fans like a military battalion. Fill the stands with the help of regular fans. It was a clarion call to existing racing fans to help racing. If we could bring a non-fan of racing to the track and teach her a little about the sport, we would help build the fan base—one fan at a time. But how?

So, a dozen years after Terry Finley’s idea, ThoroFan wants to try it again. This time as ThoroFan’s New Year’s Resolution for racing fans --- a resolution that lasts a full year rather than until February like most other resolutions. To be more specific let’s resolve for 2023 to find three fans from our non-racing-fan circle and introduce them to the sport we all love so much. We could:

1.       Take them to lunch at our track or favorite simulcast center, or

2.        Bring them as our guest to one of the premier racing days at our home track, or

3.        Take them into the paddock before a race or for morning coffee to watch workouts, or

4.       Find a way to get them a tour of the backstretch.

Just think if those three become racing fans what we might have accomplished. Some data suggest that today there are 20,000,000 racing fans in the country. If we all try and only one of our fan efforts succeeded, racing’s fans will have doubled its fan base in one year. It is unlikely that any other racing marketing effort with any amount of money could have the same impact.

This can be our 2023 New Year’s Resolution.

To paraphrase John Kennedy’s inaugural address: racing fans, “ask not what racing can do for you—ask what you can do for racing”.

We must try before the 12th round!