Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Are Major Changes (Still) Needed at the CHRB and TOC?

Most of you remember the Players Boycott of California racing in late 2010. California had just initiated one of the largest takeout hikes in racing history. Although some of the media reported this was a "strike action" whereby horseplayers simply wanted a better deal, if you read the fine print, this was not the case at all.

The boycott of California racing was not done to hurt California racing. The boycott was done to help it, by hoping to force change in the various organizations like the CHRB and TOC.

From the third item in the Boycott proclamation, as reported by Ed Zieralski was about a restructuring of the alphabets:
  • Players Boycott proposes a new "Gambling Board" to advise the CHRB on all gambling related matters such as new bets, takeout rates and scratch rules. Organizers see this board including an economist, a track official, and a player representative. They don’t believe the present CHRB members understand gaming issues. Players Boycott believes that experts should be the ones making gambling-related policy for thoroughbred racing in California.
At the time we proposed someone like a Barry Meadow to be a watchdog for the end consumer of the product. Barry is a smart person and world class gambler who has been around racing all his life. If a first time gelding is not reported, he would be a worthy person to be looking into a new policy. If a new bet was to be issued, he'd be equally worthwhile. If horseplayers are worried about horses racing lame or sore, he would as well. Certainly his perspective on the Baffert matter currently being discussed would at the very least put customers at ease.

Now two years later, with the recent news regarding the TOC, CHRB and the associated Ray Paulick and Bob Baffert feud, we believe this was especially prescient. We'd submit, if they looked into changing the leadership and putting people in charge with specific, professional skills at that time, they may not be in the position they are today.

California racing - its short fields, its infighting, its lack of trust in any form of leadership - has caused a vacuum. That vacuum has consumed the industry there where it seems no one trusts anyone, and nothing can get done in any positive fashion.

How can they possibly right the ship with the present structure? How can they get competitive takeouts, better field size, costs of doing business reductions, racedates, new tracks, old tracks, stabling and all the rest that's need to be done in a multi-billion dollar industry if they stick with the status quo?

Just like two years ago when the Players boycott was taking place, players believe that there needs to be an overhaul. There are good people in California racing - people who are smart, passionate and dedicated to the task at hand. They need to be moved from the background to the forefront. They need to be in charge of restructuring the sport in the Golden State, and lead like leaders do.