RSS Feed for this Blog
RSS Feed for all TBA Posts

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Where's the Beef?

I spent Thursday evening reading the Assessment by the NTRA's Independent Monitor on the first year of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance. It's not a quick read or an exciting one for that matter, but I managed to get through it. It was actually a tad more exciting than the Steelers-Browns game. Now you know if you've been reading this blog, that I have been skeptical of this program from the get-go. Maybe it's because all but one track has been fully accredited. Maybe it's because they have made it more of a PR thing to stave off the wolves after the Eight Belles and Barbaro tragedies (first four tracks included the triple crown tracks). So what did we learn from the Assessment of the first year by the high powered (see: expensive) law firm of Akin Gump?

- We learned that the Accreditation process is thorough and costs way more than they are charging the tracks ($15k). However, they don't disclose what the average cost of a track audit is.

- The extent of the findings weren't earth-shattering, here are some examples: (1) some gates needed to be padded; (2) some outriders weren't wearing their helmets or safety vests; (3) one track strengthened its rule on safety helmets and vests; (4) one track stepped up a medication rule and; (5) some track vets weren't updating the Injury database.

- Thirteen tracks were accredited with two pending. (55 tracks were involved in the onset of the program).

- Akin Gump was hired to be the independent monitor and no less than four lawyers were involved with setting up the Code, monitoring accreditation results and performing onsite monitoring.

- Participation in the program is lacking in two categories: (1) It appears only the high end tracks have completed the application process and gone through the reviews; the lower end tracks have been silent and not very active in the process and (2) Funding is lacking. Several industry factions have not jumped aboard from a monetary perspective, leaving the NTRA reeling from the high cost of the program.

- The report makes several recommendations in the closing pages, summarized as follows: (1) an annual review of the code and the standards should be performed; (2) follow up "surprise" or monitoring audits should be required for accredited tracks to ascertain they are upholding accreditation and the standards; (3) the Independent Monitor should increase his presence in the audit process; (4) enhancement in communication is required to the general public and stakeholders to distribute results of the reviews; (5) form a working group to enhance participation from some of the member tracks; (6) industry needs to find a funding mechanism; and (7) expansion of the mission to handle the integrity aspect.

So the above raised the following questions and comments from the Space Station:

- How much was Akin Gump paid and how much did the entire program cost? With only $15K/track in revenue, this had to be a tremendous cost center for the NTRA (who is cutting their budget by 25% in 2010). (Of course, their 2008 Form 990 still hasn't been posted to guidestar, so we have a year to wait to even find out through public disclosure)

- What did the average audit cost?

- Where in God's name do they think they can fund this from? Who's not kicking in?

- The word "Integrity" is not addressed in the Code at all. Where is the horseplayer protected?

- The findings (a couple safety helmets and a padded gate?) seem a little light...where's the beef?

- The report talks a lot about audit rigor, but only one track "failed" (Pimlico) which if my memory is correct, was due to a technicality relating to a state law. Doesn't this seem odd?

- Can they really do anything to the lower level tracks to force their participation? Why aren't they completing the Alliance applications? Who are the lower level tracks they speak of in the Assessment?

My skepticism remains....I posted a few of these questions over at Waldrop's blog...maybe we'll hear something.....but don't hold your breath.


The_Knight_Sky said...

Good stuff.

Apparently they are embellishing the good stuff like "noting tracks that which have properly padded gates".

Well if you're an accredited track,
they you should have done that and much more.

When was the last time the industry took a look at the starting gates? Does it not watch the head on replays? The crashes, the stumbles, the horses running on loose shoes due to banging into a maiden (Big Brown in the Belmont stakes).

Who will be the next Barbaro, breaking from the gate and being reloaded without comprehensive inspection? The Puett Gates need to be addressed and soon.

Steve Munday said...

Thanks for writing about this; I was wondering how the Safety and Integrity Alliance was working out.

I think their website may need to be updated: you mentioned 13 tracks were accredited but NTRA's website only listed 12.

Do you think smaller tracks aren't requesting accreditation because they're afraid of failing or simply don't want to incur the costs associated w/ compliance?

Maybe horseplayers should only bet tracks that are accredited? Of course, it'd be nice if "integrity" was addressed.

But before drawing too many conclusions, I need to follow your lead and go read the report. Thanks again.

EquiSpace said...

TKS: Good point on the starting gates and thanks for the kind words.

Steve: Per pag 28 of the report they state that "...having 13 tracks accredited to date with two pending is good progress but that significantly more racetracks need to be accredited to fulfill a primary purpose of the Alliance." Not sure why the NTRA website would be inconsistent with the IM's report?

I think it's both regarding your question about the smaller tracks (cost and fear of failure as is speculated on pg 29).

There's currently no incentive to participate or ramifications if they choose not to....

Thanks for stopping by!

malcer said...

Haven't struggled through the results report, but I did read the entirety of the SIA's initial code, so I'm pretty sure I don't have to.

The problem is that the SIA has almost no actual influence. The code is minimalistic to the point where most major tracks fit its accreditation standards by simply not violating their respective state laws.
The greater (although less public) problem is with the less-supervised small-market tracks and those face hardly any negative consequences if they simply opt to stay out of the SIA program. The other problem is, as you pointed out, with integrity enforcement, something about which the SIA has no formal competencies whatsoever.

Thanks for the post!


blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online