The Role of Government in Racing
Governor Steven L. Beshear
Governor Steven L. Beshear — Governor of Kentucky

Stuart S. Janney III:

Thank you, Kathy, for a very strong set of recommendations.

Governor Steve Beshear has been a great friend of Thoroughbred racing in his home state of Kentucky throughout his two terms in office.  He realizes the importance of the medication issue to this industry, not just in his state but across the nation. 

He's led the way to critical medication reform in Kentucky, and you'll hear about that now.

We're very pleased to have the governor here in Saratoga for the Round Table Conference, and to welcome him as our speaker this morning. Governor... 

Governor Steven L. Beshear:

Thank you very much. First of all, it’s an honor to be here in this historic place, at this conference, but also to witness the historic transition of leadership here at The Jockey Club.

So, first on behalf of about 4.4 million Kentuckians, I want to thank Mr. Phipps for your leadership. He has led this Jockey Club to a new level of leadership in this industry.

I want to congratulate Stuart Janney on stepping up as the next chair, and I'm confident, and I know that you are, that his leadership will continue to build on that great legacy that Ogden Mills Phipps has left us.

If I could take a point of personal privilege, I would also like to say how proud we are that one of our own, Bill Lear of Lexington, has been chosen as Vice Chair of The Jockey Club. I know it's an honor for Bill; it's also an honor for the entire commonwealth of Kentucky.

You know, during my eight years as Governor, I traveled around this world to try to bring jobs to Kentucky, and it's been interesting to discover what other parts of the world know about Kentucky.

I can assure you that everyone in this world knows of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many more are learning about a wonderful brown liquid that we make in Kentucky called Kentucky Bourbon.

And just for your information, 95% of the world's Bourbon is made right in Kentucky. The other 5% is counterfeit.

I've also been surprised to find out how many people around this world know about the Kentucky Derby and about our Thoroughbred industry.

Now I know all of you here know Kentucky well. You know that I'm the Governor of a state where the equine industry, according to a 2012 study, had an economic impact of almost three billion dollars, and generated over 41,000 jobs.

For a state the size of Kentucky, those are big numbers. Kentucky's home to about a quarter of a million horses. We ride them for fun, we work them, we show them, and most of all we race them and we bet on them.

The horse industry, and in particular the horse racing industry, is a part of our DNA. It's part of our heritage. It's part of our identity. People call Kentucky the horse capital of the world, and we're obviously very proud of that title.

We're home to the Kentucky Horse Park, the Rolex Three‑Day Event, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the Kentucky Derby. Historic tracks like Keeneland and Churchill Downs, and of course an array of picturesque farms that present the iconic images of Kentucky to the rest of the world.

And let me tell you, when you're standing in the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby with millions of people watching and you hold that trophy in your hands and you present it to the winning owner as I've had the privilege to do now eight times, it's difficult not to get overwhelmed by the history, by the euphoria, by the glory, and by the magnitude of that moment.

To put it bluntly, there is no state in this nation with more at stake, both economically and emotionally, as our industry wrestles with the issue of medication and its impact on safety, integrity, and trust, and yes, I said trust, because we do have a trust issue.

So we shouldn't stick our heads in the sand about it. Everybody has seen these surveys that have been done about our industry. This industry's credibility problem extends across the board among horse racing fans, bettors, big and small, outsiders looking in, and even those on the inside who own, train, and race horses.

Inconsistent state‑by‑state rules and regulation of performance‑enhancing and performance‑affecting drugs have created the perception of an unfair and an undecipherable racing field. It is one of the reasons for the declining fan base.

So if we're going to increase that base and thus the financial viability of horse racing, we have to step up and address that perception by creating a strong and uniform regulatory landscape as it relates to medication.

I'm proud that Kentucky, during my administration, has been at the forefront of this effort within the confines of our own borders. We've had great leadership at our Kentucky Racing Commission with Chairman Bob Beck who couldn't be here this weekend, but we have a couple of our members in Tracy Farmer and in Ned Bonnie, and our Executive Director, John Ward, is here. They have led the way so that Kentucky could lead the way.

We reconstituted and reinvigorated the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council.

We were one of the first states to require that Lasix be administered on race day only by a racing commission employed veterinarian.

We've instituted a rigorous pre‑race examination protocol, there by substantially lowering the catastrophic rate.

We've developed a testing method called filters off to obtain a more complete picture of all medication used.

We're one of the few states to adopt uniform medication standards.

We recruited to our state a world class lab, and we've been willing to pay the higher cost of comprehensive tests.

And finally, our racing commission has passed regulations that allow our tracks to card non‑Lasix races, an option that is working its way through our regulatory process.

But our industry is at the point where meaningful further progress requires movement on a national level. Why? Well, very simply and very frankly, because our collective experiences over the past few decades has demonstrated conclusively that individual state racing commissions just can't get this job done.

So let me be clear: Kentucky endorses and embraces the need for broad‑based reform that includes, not only uniform medication rules, but also common testing rules and procedures…the required use of certified labs, consistent enforcement in penalties, the creation of a national medication regulatory authority, and a system that responds quickly to address ever‑changing trends in the drug landscape.

And folks, the only way that we're going to achieve those changes is through federal legislation. One of the bills pending in Congress which contains just such broad‑based reform is the Tonko‑Barr proposal.

As you all know, that proposal is supported by The Jockey Club, by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which is composed of Breeders' Cup Limited, The Humane Society of the United States, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, The Jockey Club, and the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance.

Now, it's not a finished product, and we all know that. Thorny issues need to be discussed and worked through. But worked through is the key phrase.

Look, I'm an attorney by profession, and in my profession there are lawyers who are known as deal makers and there are lawyers who are known as deal breakers.

Now, as an industry, as a collective body of states and racing commissions, we could look at this proposal as a deal breaker. Finding holes and using those holes to conclude that it just won't work, and then abandon the effort.

 Folks, that would be a huge mistake. Let's not be deal breakers. Let's be deal makers.

We need to look at this proposal as a framework, a framework for positive reform, and bring as much of the industry together as we can to improve it where we can, to make it more feasible, to see it as an opportunity to help preserve this industry.

Look, we've come a long way in the last 30 years where once the chief concern seemed to be pushing a horse to win a given race on a given day, no matter what the long‑term cost.

Now the welfare and safety of the horse, as well as the integrity of the competition are our high priorities.

Not coincidentally, the number of race day fatalities in Kentucky has dropped by almost 40% since I took office in 2007.

When it comes to policy and regulations, more of us are asking the right questions, and more of us in Kentucky see ourselves as stewards of the horse. This has not been at the expense of our industry; in fact, it has strengthened our industry.

So I congratulate The Jockey Club, the new Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity and all of you that are involved in these efforts. More needs to be done, and I'm here to ensure you that Kentucky will continue to lead and continues to lend its voice and its credibility to this effort.

As the Coalition has said, with the safety of our horses, the integrity of competition, and the general perception of the sport all at risk, we can't afford to wait any longer.

Thank you.

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