01 February 2008

PA Horse Racing Commission marks milestone

Despite the fact that, when I visit a track, it is usually in West Virginia, I generally limit my reading of racing commission news to that of my own dear commonwealth, Pennsyvania.

Sometime in the not too distant past, the December minutes of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission were added to the state's website. The meeting minutes make fascinating reading. Really. As with minutes of almost any committee, task force, or bake sale organizers, there's little explanation of decisions and actions ... and my imagination just starts filling in the blanks with all sorts of unlikely scenarios.

However, there's also a bit of interesting information buried between the various approvals of track schedules and wagering formats. For example, as of January 1, 2008, Clenbuterol has changed to a 24 hour withdrawal time prior to race-day in PA; Amicar is no longer allowed as a race day medication in PA; and come April 1, the State of Pennsylvania will prohibit the use of steroids in thoroughbred race horses.

And who knew it was the 40th anniversary of the PA Horse Racing Commission -- and pari-mutuel wagering -- in the Keystone state?

Racing Commissioner Richard Abbott, that's who. And, from the meeting minutes, it sounds like he was genuinely moved by the Commission's arrival at this milestone. He talked a bit about Pennsylvania's rise from a Commonwealth with "no real tradition in Thoroughbred racing prior to 1967" to "a tradition of enlightened and measured growth which has placed us in the forefront of the racing world." I'm not sure recent visitors to Philadelphia Park would agree, but I suppose a little hyperbole can be forgiven when you turn 40, right?

Commissioner Abbott also waxed lyrical about the contributions of all of the Commission's hard-working staff; I found this part particularly endearing:

"I cannot name every employee of the Commission but you would probably be surprised to see how many there are and each serves a vital role. From the euphemistically title “Farm Workers” who collect the post race samples, the licensing clerks, investigators, Veterinarians and Administrative officers at the racetracks to the Directors of Enforcement, Licensing, Wagering Integrity and the Breeding Fund and their staffs, all of the Commission employees work diligently to protect the integrity of the sport that we all love and from which most of those in the room derive their livelihood. The Commissioners thank each of them for their dedicated service from a sweltering afternoon at Philadelphia Park in August to a February night at Penn National they perform their duties admirably."
Maybe it's the cold medicine I've been downing like candy, but this just makes me smile. And it reminds me to say thanks, too. I can't imagine living in a state without any tracks - or off-track wagering facilities. So, here's a shout out to those legislators who made it happen back in 1967, and those who continue to support it today, and those Commission employees who work "to protect the integrity of the sport." But for the love of Pete, would someone at the Commission please look into adding the quinella to the wagering options?