Robert O. Read, Daily Racing Form, 1954-06-23


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► I 1 I ROBERT O. READ ~| Robert O. Read is chairman of the Board, of Directors of the Horsemens Benevolent and Protective Association. Mr. Chairman, Members of the National Association of State Racing Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen: When I was asked to talk to you today, my reaction was what new contribution can I make to your organization? When I think of the hours of your time that have been consumed by representatives of the chemists, the veterinarians, the breeders, the trainers, and by the reports of your many committees, all most important and relating to the innermost workings of a complicated industry, I felt sure that a representative of the Horsemens Benevolent and Protective Association representing the group most directly affected by your acts and deliberations should explain and discuss some of its problems with you. First I want to assure you that the time you have given us has been more than appreciated and I am sure that the information you have given us, be it a little guarded once in a while, has done a great deal to improve relations and understanding between your own individual commissions, operators and all the various segments of the racing industry. Formed in 1940 Our organization is not an old one, having been formed in New England in the fall of 1940. We now have a membership of approximately fifteen thousand horsemen and cover all of the locales where thoroughbred racing is conducted in the United States and Canada. Since the establishment of our association we have distributed more than one and one-quarter millions of dollars from our benevolent funds. During our last fiscal year, which closed in November of 1953, over 15,000 was spent in these endeavors alone and I am sure that you gentlemen realize that whereever racing is conducted our organization has assumed the complete responsibility for the welfare of those associated with the industry. Only recently when a disastrous fire swept one of the barns on the grounds* of the Michigan Racing Association, our organization lead the efforts to alleviate the suffering occasioned by this holocaust and 3,000 was made available to the victims. In -addition to our benevolent work, our ROBERT O. READ | organization has co-operated with other interested groups in endeavoring to solve some of the many and varied problems relating to our industry. There is not, in my opinion, any group in racing or, for that matter, in the entire sports world, that has begun to approach the record of achievement of the HBPA in alleviating the distress of the unfortunate connected with the industry. One of the most important matters I would like to discuss with you today is the selection of capable officials to oversee the j sport. The HBPA has long been concerned Continued on Page Forty-Six Continued from Page Five with the quality of racings officiating, and complaints continue to come to our organization, and our directors have given much time to the study of the problem. I have personally discussed the problem with capable leaders of racing, and they, too, are quick to recognize the need for improvement in our officials. Favors Vanderbilt Plan Our organization recommends the plan originally proposed by Mr. Vanderbilt before the Thoroughbred Club of America last fall. We believe that racing would benefit to a great extent if the hiring of the stewards, with the exception of the state steward, were taken out of the hands of the racing association themselves. It is our opinion that the selection of such officials should be placed in the hands of The Jockey Club and that organization should assign them to the various operating tracks. It was particularly interesting to me when I learned from Mr. Phipps address before the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders Association that Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada and Washington have requested competent stewards from The Jockey Club pool to serve as states stewards. In the same speech he stated that at the present time The Jockey Club is now providing stewards for 10 tracks, and in the case of the Michigan Racing Association is not only providing the two association stewards, but also is furnishing the state steward. It is our associations belief that under this plan the quality of racing officials would of necessity improve, for a man of high caliber could be assured of enough work to merit his devoting himself to officiating. With the present system of haphazard selection, such an opportunity is not available, and few men of outstanding ability and integrity will devote themselves to a profession that offers no better economic reward than that currently offered in this field to most of the men therein. Under the present system track owners are subjected to a great deal of political influence in the selection of their officials and we have had instances called to our attention where pressure was brought to bear on the officials by track management in spheres where such officials should never have been tampered with. In my opinion the quality of officiating is of paramount importance to all of us connected with racing; we have seen the sport reach new highs in each of the last few years and this popularity can be made to suffer by incompetent officials more concerned with retaining their jobs than they are in doing a good job. Claiming Rule Discussion During the last month I have visited several tracks now operating under "the revised claiming rule as adopted by many of our midwestern states. In each area this claiming rule was the topic of heated discussion and the feeling of opposition to the new rule was practically 100 per cent. In one area I was advised that the commission had adopted the rule for the sake of uniformity, but the commissioner went on to point out that uniformity had not been achieved due to the variances in the penalties connected with the claim. In some areas the horse claimed must be raised 25 per cent above the claimed price for thirty days and in other areas for a period of sixty days. In both Illinois and Michigan I was advised that the requirement that claimed non-winners be raised 25 per cent in claiming prices for thirty days was keeping a substantial number of horses away from the races at a substantial financial cost to the horsemen and was working a hardship on the racing associations in their efforts to card attractive races. This complaint was especially well understood when at Lincoln Fields a general meeting of the horsemen was called in order to fill the next days Saturday program when the track condition was deplorable due to several days of heavy rains. During the meeting most of the horsemen present complained that there were horses ready to run, but that they couldnt run in their proper classification due to the operation of the claiming rule and there was no reason to risk them in an improper classification. - Our Associations directors and committeemen have studied this problem and the majority of them feel that a claiming rule that provides that a horse in a claiming race may be claimed at the claiming price for which it is entered by anyone bona-fidely racing at the meeting and that the winner of such claiming race only be required for the following thirty days to race for 25 per cent above the claimed price is fair and equitable. We feel that this rule is fair to the horsemen and advantageous to track managements. But more important than either horsemen or managements the rule is fair to the racing public, in that it keeps horses racing in their own classification and not "over their heads". We further feel that the revised rule was instituted to overcome certain abuses of the former rule and we recognize that those abuses did in fact exist, however, we do not feel that this new rule was necessary to correct such abuses. If our stewards would have done the job incumbent on them the abuses and abusers would have been easily recognized and conferences between the stewards and abusers would quickly have gotten to the core of the problem and corrected it and it ! " 1 would not have been necessary to tamper with a rule that in our opinion is basically sound. One more matter that we respectfully direct your attention to and that relates to the stimulation rule. Here again we find a complete lack of uniformity among the several commissions and although this hiatter has been discussed for years we seem to be little if any closer to an intelligent answer to the problem. Many jurisdictions still" operate under the " 48 hour rule" and officials in such areas have no alternative other than immediate suspension of any horsemen involved. The possibility of injustice which results in such automatic suspensions seems to me to be so readily apparent that explanation should not be necessary, however, it evidently is not so apparent to many of your commissions. Our organization has long maintained that the imposing of an absolute responsibility on a trainer is not a tenable position. Our stewards and commissioners should in my opinion mete out severe punishment only when the trainer is by conclusive evidence found to have participated in the administration of a stimulant or a depressant to a horse. New York has found the best solution to this problem by leaving the decision in such cases to the discretion of the stewards and our organization believes that since the stewards are given arbitrary powers in practically all other instances where interpretation of rules is necessary, that they should also be given the right of discretion in stimulation cases. In a further attempt to accomplish justice in these cases I would again like to recommend that a list of drugs and medi-cinals be prepared so that your commissions who certainly are not versed in the various reactions of drugs can be guided in your studies when such cases arise. In the past your suspensions have been meted out in cases where vitamins and anti-his-tamines have been found and where there was no scientific proof to show that the speed of the horse was affected; in such cases irreparable harm was done to the reputations of the persons involved when there was no showing of participation on their part in any wrongful act. Recommendations Listed In conclusion the HBPA asks that you study the points we have discussed and of course in this brief time we could by no means thoroughly discuss all of the matters we would like to have mentioned. In an effort to be of further assistance in your deliberations, we recommend the following items for your consideration, but time prevents a thorough presentation at this time. 1. We suggest that your commissions inspect the facilities in the stable area-including toilet facilities, water supply, barn conditions and sleeping arrangements prior to granting a license for a race meeting. We all recognize that the Turf Club may be brighter and newer than the Queen Mary, but that its no guarantee of the back side conditions. 2. We suggest that managements meet with our HBPA committees at least ninety days before the opening of a meeting to discuss purse distribution and the condition book, thus reducing the possibility of misunderstandings after a track is ready to open. 3. We suggest that horsemen -be notified at least thirty days before the opening of a meeting whether or not stall space has been granted after an application therefore has been properly made. 4. We suggest that the monies from fines and pony leads be paid to the HBPA benevolent funds where the law is such that it can be done. 5. We suggest that further studies be made to assure an equitable division of monies between stakes, programs and overnight distributions, and we strenuously recommend the policy of better purses for better horses. 6. And last, but by no means least, our association asks that you gentlemen use your influence to stop the ever increasing tax burden our industry is asked to bear. During the past year we have seen further increases in taxes passed in several states and if we who are interested in the sport do not use our best efforts to stop this tide of taxation, all of us will suffer and the sport will suffer irreparable harm. It has been a real pleasure to again have appeared before your group and on behalf of all of the members of the HBPA we thank you for the opportunity of being here today.

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