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Leaders Brainstorm At Summit

Published: July 13, 2015 9:38 pm ET

Last Comment: July 14, 2015 3:31 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

On Monday, 40 key industry stakeholders met in Columbus, Ohio, to exchange dozens of ideas on how to address the problem of declining foal crops and the challenge of attracting new owners to harness racing at a summit organized by the U.S. Trotting Association.

Many of the participants commented throughout the day on the value of the gathering and the need to leave the meeting with an action plan and agenda.

“It went well and there were a lot of interesting ideas discussed,” said USTA President Phil Langley. “Obviously, we had a group that wanted to work together to get things done. Now we have to find out what we can do to execute what everyone agreed on.”

A number of the participants emphasized the need for owners, breeders, horsemen and racetracks to work together on these important initiatives and the importance of making the racetrack experience a good one to attract potential new owners.

A major initiative that was unanimously agreed upon was the reallocation of purses to increase money for maiden and non-winners races. Tom Luchento (SBOA of NJ), Myron Bell (Brittany Farms) and Tom Grossman (Blue Chip Farms), as well as USTA directors Nick Salvi and Jim Reynolds, all spoke on the need to create better economic opportunities for owners of younger horses.

Other owner-related topics agreed to pursue are: cooperation from the tracks and horsemen to work together and with the USTA to better educate the public on benefits of horse ownership through new owners’ seminars; working to improve web presence of horse ownership information; utilizing racetrack and racino contact lists to distribute horse ownership information to potential new owners; development and distribution of videos highlighting the excitement of horse ownership; as well as providing additional free ownership benefits including automatic notification of horses entered, free program pages for races entered from TrackMaster and free replays of those races.

In addition, Myron Bell from Brittany Farms explained his Grand Slams of trotting and pacing concept. Both series, one for each gait, would involve seven or eight major races to include bonuses for the winning horses with an additional bonus for a sweep.

At the conclusion of the all-day summit, USTA Chairman of the Board Ivan Axelrod informed the participants that the USTA would be sending each of them a summary of the meeting next week, so that an action plan could be developed.

Following were the attendees at the USTA Summit:

Myron Bell – Brittany Farms
Bob Boni – Northwood Bloodstock Agency
Murray Brown – Hanover Shoe Farms
Bob Carson – Writer
Tom Charters – Hambletonian Society
Eric Cherry – Owner
Mike Freibert – Bluegrass Staking
Teena Freibert – Bluegrass Staking
John Gallinger – Standardbred Canada
Kevin Greenfield – Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association
Tom Grossman – Blue Chip Farms
Ellen Harvey – Harness Racing Communications
Rob Key – Converseon social media agency
Milt Leeman – Owner
Mark Loewe – Penn National Gaming
Tom Luchento – Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of N.J.
Joe McLead – Sugar Valley Farm
Dot Morgan – New Vocations
Virgil Morgan, Jr. -- Trainer
David Reid – Preferred Equine Marketing
Robert Schmitz – Ohio State Racing Commission
David Siegel – TrackMaster
Steve Stewart – Hunterton Farm & Sales Agency
Ann Straatman – Seelster Farms
Janet Terhune – Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame
Joe Thomson – Winbak Farm

(USTA)

July 14, 2015 - 3:31 pmTaking an example of poker,

Taking an example of poker, NASCAR or even professional(?) wrestling, someone has to step up and spend some money. That someone has to be willing to take a risk for the sake of the industry. They have to buy the TV time and expose a national audience to horse racing beyond a simulcast signal. They have to produce a professional broadcast television production and quit waiting for someone to knock on their door and hand them a solution. You can't keep doing the same thing over and over and expect change to happen.
I have worked in the horse racing tv production for more than 15 years and have seen little or no involvment from drivers, trainers or owners, at least from my prospective on the West Coast of Canada. Some US tracks have spent a great deal of money to put on a tight show, both on track and simulcast but many others just go through the motions.
People have to get into ownership because they want to be part of the excitement, not to make money. We all know owning a horse is a money losing proposition except for the top 20% or so. Most things in life are but we do them for the excitement even if we, in the end, lose money.
The advisarial system of horseowners, track operators and betters has to end.

July 14, 2015 - 4:29 amA very large group focused on

A very large group focused on two dispate but important goals. You need owners/buyers (demand) to buy foals and race horses (supply). Only an elite group is able to enter racing at the foal level. The concept of expanding this market with opportunities for higher purses for non stake caliber horses is a good one, so that prospective owners can bear the cost. Still the upfront costs, training and vet bills are out of reach for most. More challenging is a handful of trainers and owners earn a disproportionate share of purse money. On the other side is the fan base. Re-establish it and owners will surface. Grand Circuit racing needs more national exposure. Figure out how to expose these races on a national level. Fans will follow top horses, the trainers who train them and the drivers who drive them. Oddly higher purses don't correlate with increased wagering. However, innovation does. Yonkers is an example with its trotting races marketed internationally. On non racing nights or when there are inconsequential overnight racing top drivers should be shuttled to different racing venues to drive. Kinda of an odd thought, but I would be excited to see Campbell, Sears, Tetrick, Miller1, Miller2, Miller3, Pierce, Filion and/or Gingras show up locally. This is the type of thinking and planning we need. Along these lines the driving legends recently raced at Goshen. Give them recognition and exposure. Card a purse race and call them back for the Meadowlands Pace night or the Hambo. Just hearing their names and stats in a post parade would be eye opening for many.


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