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Monday, June 16, 2008

A Look at Panel I - Congressional Hearings

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the panels prior to the hearings on Thursday so I would have a little background information on the called witnesses. So here's Part I of a two part series, looking at the first panel requested to testify in front of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection on Thursday in Washington. I'm not sure if it will be televised yet, but the Audio Webcast can be located here.

The Overseers

The Chairman of the Committee is Bobby L. Rush (D-Illinois) currently serving his eighth term as a US Representative. He was the unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Chicago in 1999, served in the US Army from '63 to '68, is a former minister, insurance agent, Chicago city councilman, deputy chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and swashbuckler (I made up that last one). The Ranking Member of the committee is Edward W. Whitfield (R-Kentucky) and as I was typing this blog, a story broke on allegations of conflict of interest over steroids in racing. Wow, timely. He is in his seventh term as a US Representative. He served in the Army Reserve from '67 to '73, was a private practice attorney, business executive, attorney adviser to the Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission in the early '90s, and was a former member of the Kentucky state house of representatives. His wife, Connie Whitfield, is the vice chairwoman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority and chairwoman of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council. In 2007, she received the Pew Award for her tireless efforts to strengthen regulations regarding race-day medications.

The Witnesses

Allen Marzelli - The President of The Jockey Club, the breed registry for thoroughbred horses, since 2003. He was the youngest person elected as an officer of The Jockey Club. Prior to joining TJC as a controller, he worked at my alma mater, Deloitte & Touche, and was quickly promoted to CFO. He is a proponent of banning steroids on race day and the need for a national structure or oversight commission. He has pointed at problems such as the lack of strong, uniform medication policies across states, wagering integrity and pricing problems that have resulted in the Churchill-Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group "rift" as some of the priorities that racing needs to focus on.

Richard B. Shapiro - Chairman of the California Racing Commission, who also was on the witness list for the 109th Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Thoroughbred Horse Racing Jockeys and Workers: Examining On-Track Injury Insurance and Other Health and Welfare Issues. His Board required California's major tracks to install synthetic surfaces to make them safer for horses and jockeys. His tracks have been under fire, as of late, due to the inability to hold large amounts of moisture. Most recently Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet suffered numerous cancelled race days due to surfaces not being able to handle large quantities of rain. He will most likely be asked questions regarding the safety surrounding synthetic surfaces and statistics surrounding breakdowns and fatalities.

Arthur Hancock - Member of one of America's oldest horse racing families. His grandfather founded Claiborne Farm and his father "Bull" expanded it into an influential breeding farm that had a heavy impact on European racing. Hancock owned and raced '89 HOY Sunday Silence (winner of 2 of 3 classics, lost the Belmont to Easy Goer). Co-bred '00 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Member of The Jockey Club and Board of Directors of Fasig-Tipton Co. Will most likely be asked questions related to breeding practices and its impact on the sturdiness of today's race horse.

Jess Jackson - Founder of Kendall-Jackson wines, and owner of the world's best race horse (Curlin) IMHO. He and his wife own Stonestreet Farm in Woodford County and one of Lexington's showcase properties, when he paid close to $18 million for the Buckram Oak Farm. He has been buying interests in or seasons to some of Kentucky's top stallions and sire prospects over recent years. He and his wife created the Jackson Curlin For Kids Fund, to share Curlin's success with charities targeting children in Kentucky. His line of questioning is expected to surround breeding and drug use.

Randy Moss - ESPN racing analyst since 1999. Moss has been a newspaper reporter, handicapper and columnist for 20 years, at such institutions as the Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as ESPN. His knowledge of horse racing is quite broad with stints in track management as operations director at Oaklawn Park, a jockey agent and as a part-time publicist for the Kentucky Derby, Breeders' Cup and Louisiana Downs racetrack. He is an University of Arkansas at Fayetteville graduate and has focused on television since 1999. He is a well rounded, knowledgeable horse guy and I look forward to his testimony.

Jack Van Berg - Hall of Fame Trainer (age 71) who has won over 6,000 races over his career, including the Kentucky Derby and BC Classic with Alysheba. An old school trainer who has spoken out quite boldly about the "rampant abuse of drugs" in the game today. A big proponent of eliminating drugs and zero tolerance, this will be the focus when the spotlight shines on him.

Richard Dutrow, Jr. - Wild card (joker) in the deck. New York-based trainer who has been NY's leading trainer three times since 2000. Trained such nationally known horses as Offlee Wild, Saint Liam and Big Brown. Served a sixty day (reduced) suspension in 2005 for two drug positives and a claiming violation. The NYS Racing and Wagering Board also fined Dutrow staff members in connection with his '05 violations. In 2007 served an additional 14 days and was finded $25K for violating conditions of his suspension based on having unauthorized contact with his stable. His major clients include IEAH Stables, Melnyk Racing and Frank Stronach. He no doubtedly will be asked about Winstrol (maybe he'll do his homework this time), his previous violations and his training techniques when it comes to medication. Look for him to pawn it off on the vets and plead ignorance.

Tomorrow we'll preview the five witnesses on Panel II.

1 Comment:

suebroux said...

I appreciate your thorough preparation of the upcoming Congressional hearings. Originally, I was going to wait until the movie comes out. :)

However, I find it interesting that the Federal govt is mucking around since there is no central governing agency for horse racing and it is a State issue ...

Man, I sound like a Libertarian!


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