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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Man, I just had to let the dog out....

Well after about an hour and twenty minutes the morning session concluded in the Congressional Hearing Subcommittee on horse racing and the first panel appeared to be on the same page with respect to the banning of drugs, a centralized regulatory body, and the absence of reporting. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) chaired the morning session for committee chairman Bobby Rush who is ill. Rep. Rush obviously sent in a note to be excused, as she scolded the absent Rick Dutrow for "never informing this committee or committee staffers" that he would not be attending and expressed that she was "disappointed by his absence, given his stature.."

The tone was set by Schakowsky throughout her opening remarks to "work with us" and implement "uniform tough standards." Rep. Whitfield (R-Kentucky) reminded the panel that they have the Interstate Horse Racing Act in their back pocket and the ability for government to get more involved as "90% of the $15 billion wagered each year" is through simulcasting (thus through the Act). Therefore, the Federal Government sets the vehicle (simulcasting) for the revenue and it can forge uniform regulations. Representative Joseph Pitts (R- Pennsylvania) reiterated that message saying "Horse racing is the only industry allowed to conduct interstate gambling" and you need to come up with "immediate long term solutions to these problems, or we'll turn elsewhere." Hmmm. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) really put it to the industry asking "Are you folks going to step up to the plate?" and "We don't want to come in and regulate you, regulate yourself." Encouraging words for the industry, if they do indeed step up to the plate. He started saying the hearing is a "wake up call."

All of the panelists pretty much said the industry is broke and needs fixing, just not governmental fixing. I thought Randy Moss was very well spoken and that he had more of a "degree of objectivity" and quoted politician Fred Thompson saying "I don't have a dog in this hunt, but I know when it's been barking up the wrong tree." He focused on the fact that their are "38 different strategies" speaking about the different state regulatory bodies. The most prominent statements were "Nobody's in charge!" and "The Army needs a General!" by owner/breeder Arthur Hancock who said that "chemical horses make chemical babies" to defend his position to "remove drugs from our game." Funny analogy by Jess Jackson when discussing in-breeding that "we look for Arnold Schwartzenegger for the upper body, and Don Knotts' knees and legs." He made a point to state that Curlin ran and won drug-free in Dubai, but didn't deny that he has run on drugs in the past. The Jockey Club's Marzelli seemed the most uncomfortable and appeared to be the panelist most on the defensive when questioned on the various topics and the role his agency plays. He seemed to put up road blocks, more than the other panelists...

So the first session ends and I had a lunch commitment and also went to let my dog out and boom the second session is over at 1:30pm. Are you freakin kidding me? That's it?? For a more in-depth report on the second session a live blogger was on site for the entire hearing and has excerpts on the 45 minutes featuring the second panel, which sounds like it was a snooze-fest.

So here are this mornings' panel awards:

Most Drunk for the Hearing
Jess Jackson. The Saratoga Resident, another industry pal and I were emailing all through the first session and couldn't determine which of his wines he had downed prior to the panel session. Cut off several times for long rambling speeches. We went with his cab, as a best guess.

Best Staffer
Our email poll of three, definitely selected Rep. Stearns' hot staffer, who was sitting directly behind him. Unanimous and distracting. Wonder who is conducting the intern interviews?

Most Likely to Be the Biggest Sweatball on the Subcommittee
Dutrow was the early favorite, before scratching. But I'd give my vote to Marzelli who seemed to be on the hot seat during panel I. Waldrop probably was a worthy candidate for this award had I been able to watch the second freaking session, so I had to throw him out.

Most Likely to Come Back as a General in his Next Life
Jack Van Berg. Zero Tolerance Baby. Mr. "Stiff Penalties" laid it all down. "Abolish all medications." The dude is old school and I liked his schtick.

Best Recovery and Longest Death Stare
Chairwoman Schakowsky after asking Marzelli a question that was obviously a dumb one regarding breeding regulations in foreign countries (there are none). She stammered something about Germany, got dissed by Marzelli, gave her intern the death stare, and moved to the next question forgetting she even asked it, calling it "unclear." Nice work chairwoman.

Best Delivery
Randy Moss. By a wide margin. Like 31 1/2 lengths worth. He was witty ("I'm not the football player."), articulate ("states have proven unable and unwilling to rectify many of the problems") and objective ("not just performance-enhancing drugs, ALL drugs")

Well, I must say it's the first time I ever watched C-SPAN3. Who knew they had a third channel? But at least it was televised.

Did anything get done today? Maybe a loud call (threat?) for the industry to get their act together, would sum it up best. I think it would be in the best interests if a "National Racing Commission," as mentioned by Richard Shapiro, was formed to promulgate some uniform rules that had to be mandated by the states so that the government doesn't have to get involved. Doesn't that make sense? Shouldn't the government be more focused on the oil crisis or the slumping economy or something more important than this? Time will tell. But the industry "powers that be" should move on this sooner rather than later. Banning drugs would be a good first step.

1 Comment:

SaratogaSpa said...

Nice, concise wrap up. I was on the road today and your take gives me a good idea of what happenned


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