Op-Ed

Andy Barr: Legislation helps ensure integrity, economic future of Thoroughbred racing

Triple Crown winning American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza riding, won the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. The horse's exceptional winning streak is attracting new fans to the sport.
Triple Crown winning American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza riding, won the Aug. 2 William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. The horse's exceptional winning streak is attracting new fans to the sport.

When I was elected to Congress, I dedicated my service to becoming a champion for the signature industries of Kentucky. No industry is more synonymous with our commonwealth than Thoroughbred breeding and horse racing, which has long been a source of jobs and opportunity for the people of Kentucky.

Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, in particular, holds claim to the title "Horse Capital of the World." Ten of the 12 Triple Crown winners were foaled in the 6th District, including American Pharoah. Lexington is surrounded by more than 400 beautiful horse farms. And Keeneland is home to both the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes and the 2015 Breeders' Cup World Championships.

As chairman of the Congres sion al Horse Caucus, I regularly share these facts with my colleagues.

But advocating for this industry requires more than just celebrating a proud heritage. The horse industry contributes $25 billion annually to the American economy and generates nearly 380,000 jobs. So with the privilege of representing the Horse Capital of the World comes the responsibility of fighting for its future.

In 1978, Congress recognized through the Interstate Horseracing Act that horse racing is a national industry defined by interstate commerce. That is still the case today. Approximately 50 percent of all starts by Thoroughbreds in 2014 were made by horses that competed in more than one state.

And 90 percent of wagering on races in the United States comes from simulcasting and off-track betting, much of which occurs across state lines.

Yet American Thoroughbred racing continues to labor under a patchwork of conflicting and inconsistent rules governing medication policies and practices across 38 jurisdictions. Immense disparities exist in state-based rules governing prohibited substances, testing, lab accreditation and penalties for violations. These different standards in different states have created an uneven playing field and a perception of unfair competition.

Industry organizations such as the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium have worked admirably to address this problem on a voluntary basis by developing uniform model rules.

Unfortunately, adoption of these model rules has been sporadic and inconsistent. This lack of uniformity has impeded interstate commerce, compromised the international competitiveness of the industry, and undermined public confidence in the integrity of the sport.

With renewed public interest following American Pharoah's amazing run to the Triple Crown, now is the time to build on the progress made by the consortium and finally achieve uniformity in the rules of racing. That is why I, along with my co-chair of the Horse Caucus, Rep. Paul Tonko, D.-N.Y., have introduced the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act, legislation that would establish an independent, nongovernmental anti-doping authority charged with implementing a national uniform medication program with input from the industry.

The yearlong process of developing this legislation has been deliberative, thoughtful, inclusive and bipartisan. We have listened to our constituents and engaged the industry at all levels. We have performed due diligence on successful international regulatory models. We have taken into account feedback and made changes to earn endorsements and address concerns that made previous efforts to reform the industry unsuccessful.

The result is a broad and diverse coalition of support including The Jockey Club, Breeders' Cup, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Humane Society and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

My vision is that a new golden era of Thoroughbred racing is not only possible but readily achievable with reform that tears down barriers that divide the industry and unites the sport under a single, uniform set of medication rules and procedures.

By enacting these bipartisan reforms aimed at uniformity, safety and integrity, we will lay the foundation for future growth, popularity and international competitiveness.

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