Photo by Sarah Andrew

Mark Casse Shares His Thoughts on the Benefits of HISA for the Industry

Over the last few months, I have read and heard numerous concerns about HISA’s involvement in the thoroughbred industry. Purported issues range from, “we don’t need the government in our business” to, “these new rules are too burdensome,” to “they should have asked horsemen to be involved in the rulemaking.”

I believe most of those complaints come from a place of misunderstanding about what HISA is trying to accomplish and also how imperative it is to our livelihood that we have a centralized set of rules.

As someone fortunate enough to be in direct communication with HISA, I wanted to take a few minutes to provide you with my insight.

First and foremost, HISA’s biggest concern is the welfare of the HORSE, thus the reason for better health records, vaccinations, etc. I understand those requirements are burdensome and adds extra administrative work to our plates. As a trainer of a large training operation racing in two countries, I personally can attest to the difficulties of collecting this type of data. However, the rationale behind this is to protect you as a trainer, the one who has ultimate responsibility for the actions of the employees in your shed row.

Let’s also address the new testing procedures. What excites me the most about HISA is the way the new testing procedures will be conducted, with one collective set of rules (versus running with different rules from state to state and sometimes from track to track). Included in this unified rule set is that drug positives will no longer be treated as “black and white.” The Horse Integrity Welfare Unit has the authority and flexibility to decide if a positive sample occurred via trace contamination. Trainers will avoid paying fines and getting suspended over environmental contagions. The new rules should also relieve trainers of being falsely accused and sentenced in the court of public appeal. The goal is to also simultaneously deter true cheaters, who will now be admonished quickly and decisively.

I recently attended my second advisory board meeting for HISA and came away from it more convinced than ever that it’s what we as a sport, need to not only prosper but, to survive. We cannot continue to let cheaters be rewarded. We have seen two of the biggest names in our game charged for not playing by the rules. In my opinion that is just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who believes that our industry doesn’t need cleaning up doesn’t live in reality.

Here’s the unfortunate reality of our sport: The public is losing faith in our product, our foal crop is shrinking, we are politically toxic, influential non-profit organizations are publicly protesting outside our gates, and racetracks are closing. So if we want our business to continue for another generation, we need to change. If you have a better option and/or actual strategies on how to improve the system, I am all ears. Call, text, email or grab me by the arm the next time you see me-I relish the opportunity to make our sport better.

Unlike what some people think, the status quo is not an option to enable our industry to survive.

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