LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s horse racing leaders and two of its biggest voices in Washington announced a new centralized government on the sport on Monday.
The Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority will effectively replace the current governing model, where more than 30 states enforce their own rules within the sport. To give this authority teeth, the Federal Trade Commission will oversee operations, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency will enforce drug rules and hold most of the board seats.
The authority will oversee two main aspects of racing; doping and track surfaces.
"If we want to preserve horse racing and its future, we needed to act," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during the announcement at Keeneland. "We owe it to the horses; we owe it to the trainers; we owe it to the jockeys, breeders, and fans to make thoroughbred racing as fair and as safe as possible."
McConnell was joined by the heads of Keeneland, Churchill Downs, The Breeders' Cup, VP of The Jockey Club, and Congressman Andy Barr (R, KY-6).
Forms of the Horse Racing Integrity Act have been mulled about in congress since Barr introduced it in 2015. He and McConnell said a bipartisan group will re-write some of the law to mirror the new authority’s guidelines.
"The industry is responsible for 44,100 direct jobs and 16,394 indirect jobs in Kentucky," Barr said at the announcement. "So, we must secure its future."
According to McConnell and Barr, both the bill and the new authority have bipartisan support from legislators in horse racing’s biggest states.
The National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association (HBPA), which represents close to 30,000 owners and trainers, responded to the legislation, saying no representative horsemen's groups, horseplayers, or veterinary leadership organizations were consulted about the legislation.
"The greatest concern of the National HBPA is protecting the health and safety of horses. If Senator McConnell is serious about hearing from tens of thousands of real Kentuckians, as well as horsemen across the country, we stand ready to meet with him," read a statement from the National HBPA's CEO Eric Hamelback. "We certainly hope he will meet with us since those pushing this bill have mischaracterized the industry and our views in the past.
"As CEO, I can tell you we were never consulted on the recently-announced Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. Contrary to an erroneous statement made by another elected official at today’s announcement, the HBPA was not made aware of any “compromise” negotiations until a deal had already been reached, nor has the Board of the National HBPA even been asked for its support."
The statement also said the National HBPA will reserve final judgement.
"Because the legislative text has not yet been released, the National HBPA will reserve final judgement, but we caution our elected leaders to not be misled by the wealthy few who continue to promote federal legislation in service to their own, private interests. Based on what we heard today, we are concerned these elite few continue to hold the reins," Hamelback wrote.