Horse racing could learn from the Olympics how to put together a clean image, according to Travis T. Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Tygart was the keynote speaker at The Jockey Club's annual Round Table Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Sunday. The discussion, attended by many in racing's power structure, traditionally serves as a forum for tackling the sport's biggest issues. This year, the talk centered on drug policy and the shifting perceptions of medication use in horse racing.
Tygart told attendees and Web listeners that uniform rules, drug testing and research, as well as intensive investigative and educational initiatives, have helped clean up the Olympic movement. Those could benefit racing, which is suffering from declining interest in everyday racing, although the sport's biggest days, such as the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup, draw bigger ratings and more betting than ever.
A win-at-all-costs culture has taken over the system, he said according to a news release, and "if you stay stagnant, the cheaters will get ahead."
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The Jockey Club also reviewed efforts made during the past year to bring fans back to the sport. Two social media games based on horse racing are to launch this week.
But James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, said marketing will be successful only if Thoroughbred racing reforms its medication rules.
"We can provide the best service possible to our respective customers," Gagliano said. "We can reach out to new fans. We can attract new owners. We can procure sponsorship and television programming.
"But I assure you those marketing efforts will be seriously and dangerously compromised if we do not reform our medication policies and improve our drug-testing standards and our penalty system."
A replay of the Round Table conference is available at Jockeyclub.com, along with new recommendations for racing rules.
On Saturday, The Jockey Club announced that the size of the Thoroughbred foal crop in 2013 probably will hold steady at 24,700, the same as the 2012 crop was projected to be last year.
But Matt Iuliano, Jockey Club executive vice president and executive director, also downsized the foal crop estimates for 2010 and 2011 by 1,500 foals for each year. The number of Thoroughbred foals for 2010 is now thought to be 28,500 and the estimate for 2011 is now 25,500.
"The rate of registered foals produced from the number of mares bred has not met historical rates for these two foal crops," Iuliano said.
Like 2012, the 2013 foal crop would be the smallest since 1971, when 24,301 foals were registered, according to The Jockey Club.