Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc.





The battle between HISA and HPBA seems like a street fight without a reason. Since the beginning of HISA, the HPBA and partners have been fighting seeming not to win but to wear HISA down. They have continually voiced their concerned to anyone willing to listen. However, in court HPBA seems more focused on shutting HISA down with the macroscopic argument of unconstitutionality, than resolving concerns. This is a high stakes approach to address concerns which have a high risks of failure. Why are they continuing with what seems like endless litigation, when they might have some legitimate concerns to address, if presented differently?

ThoroFan supports HISA not because it’s the best solution, but because our sport needs a real wake-up call. For the last few decades fans have seen their sport slide without rudder into non-existence or at lease ill relevance. It has a stabilized handle without adjusting for inflation. Yet, racing has shown very little growth since McKinsey first admonished us. The unacceptable death of horses while racing or training brought an elevated attack against racing by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (P.E.T.A.). The press with some public support torpedoed racing in California. The Department of Justice’s extensive investigation of bad players in our sport yielded arrests of nearly 30 (and counting) industry folks. We are beginning to see the fruit of their labor ripen with long prison terms issued for some of the early convictions and pleas. No stakeholder of racing or fan can claim unawareness of these cancers on racing. Except for a loud voices of protest, racing figuratively turned it attention away from the right treatment for these diagnoses. The frustrated Jockey Club issued a stern warning to the industry. Fix it or they would be forced to ask the government for help. When racing didn’t they did.

HISA legislation passed in 2020. What did we expect? A group of opponents of HISA have been trying to unravel it since the beginning. If we listen to them, they want a better approach. The approach they want is the one the Jockey Club offered them. The industry should fix it. However, that option has expired. Now we have the Government fixing it through HISA. What can racing do now.

The HPBA is trying to issue their “WANTS” to HISA: transparency, fair costs, industry-based rules and equal representation on HISA Board and Committees. They all seem credible. In fact ThoroFan harbors a couple of their concerns ---transparency and equal representation, albeit from a different perspective. HISA undoubtedly needs to be more open with the public on their operations. HISA CEO Lisa tries when interviewed. However, she is cautious considering the legal scrutiny her organization is under. If we could pause the battling in court, maybe both sides could be more open and transparent. Certainly, such a move would help.

Although the concern for equal representation and fair costs reminds us of the early days of the American Revolution, “Taxation without Representation”, but it is not like it, at all. The cost issues of HISA seem directly associated with their assigned task which are only necessary because the industry did not react like the Jockey Club admonished them. If they had, this likely would not have been a horsemen or states concern, today.

Equal representation stands out as a fair concern that even ThoroFan shares in part. When the HISA nominating committee was formed ThoroFan reached out immediately. We introduced ourselves as perhaps the only non-profit (501(c )(3)) Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc and through links documented our purpose, goals and activities. When they solicited recommendations for the HISA Board and Committees we polled membership and engaged our Board to recommended people (Fans) that meant their criteria. We recommended two veterinarians, a healthcare professional, and a law professor. The Nominating Committee selected none and never acknowledged our efforts to help. If other stakeholders were treated accordingly, we can certainly appreciate their frustration.

So here we are. Let’s all of us work together to rectify previous practices and find the right path forward for the sake of our sport. Litigating and allowing judges who know little about sport and likely have never attended a race or wagered on its outcome decide our future makes little sense. Sure HISA could have done better, but they are trying to follow the legislative mandate given them.

In the case of HISA, “let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good”! (Voltaire in the 1700).