Full medication uniformity is just a train ride away

rick-violettePosted: Nov. 29, 2016

The National Uniform Medication Program (sadly nicknamed NUMP) is moving. We can all agree it should be moving faster, but at least it is heading around the far turn and into the stretch. In comparison, federal intervention has not even assembled behind the starting gate.

What can we do to urge NUMP to the finish line? Here’s an idea:

The racetracks, with the support of their state regulators and horsemen’s groups, could make a firm commitment. As of a reasonable date, the standard for sending or receiving simulcast signals would be full NUMP compliance. After that date, the members of this voluntary coalition, with the backing of their regulatory bodies, would no longer enter into simulcast contracts with racetracks in states that have not adopted all four points of the program–the Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule, full laboratory accreditation, third-party Lasix administration, and the Multiple Medication Violation Penalty System.

You would assume that the major racing jurisdictions would want to lead the way and set the high standard that is the goal of all of racing’s stakeholders. New York should carry the banner on this venture, but it should not bear it alone. Those who have criticized the NUMP initiative for moving too slowly will now have the opportunity to draw that proverbial line in the sand and say, “Get on board, the train is leaving the station, with or without you.”

If the major states, led by New York, California and Kentucky, could commit to this plan, the jurisdictions that are lagging would have a difficult choice to make: Do the right thing for the welfare and integrity of the horseracing industry and adopt NUMP, or remain noncompliant and lose the opportunity to share in the simulcast revenue with the members of this national coalition. The financial implications of staying in the station–losing out on the marquee signals, unable to simulcast the Triple Crown races or the Breeders’ Cup–would be devastating.

The members of the coalition, including the racetracks and the horsemen, would not be immune to economic effects. But this plan would expose all stakeholders to any potential financial burden, not just the horse owners, as the funding for federal legislation appears to do.

You remember the federal legislation, right? The bill that is not even close to being presented to Congress, let alone voted on? The language with regard to funding states only that it will be based on an “estimated amount required per racing starter” with no hint as to what the total budget or the fee per starter might be.

Govtrack.us, which tracks federal legislation for the general public, now gives the bill a 1% chance of being enacted, down from 2% when it was first introduced in July of 2015. The trumpeting of 20% bipartisan support in the House of Representatives is misleading and meant to be so. That’s still fewer than half the votes needed to pass it.

We are still waiting for the Senate’s companion bill to be unveiled. Even if the legislation were to pass, implementation would be years away. It faces constitutional and anti-trust challenges that would just waste more time and money.

The “Get on the Train” plan raises the standard for our industry and puts uniformity and NUMP on the fast track to fruition without reinventing the wheel and without federal government involvement (we all know how dangerous that is). It does not require modification of the Interstate Horseracing Act, which would be like playing Russian roulette with five bullets.

It seems to me that now is the time to put up or shut up. All aboard!

Rick Violette Jr. is President of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and NYTHA