Monthly news & updates
August, 2021
Spotlight On: FHBPA Board Member Ron Spatz
When Ron Spatz found his first job at the racetrack, he was not in search of a career. Spatz was a typical 20-year-old on break from college, looking to make a little money and enjoy the Jersey Shore. Growing up in Union City, he’d always liked animals. “I’d bring home every pet I could find – dogs, cats, turtles, frogs,” he said. But he never expected the highlight of that summer vacation to be working with the horses.

“Something happened that summer,” he recalled. “Being around the horses, they just drew me in. I went back to school for a few months, but I knew that was not where I wanted to be. The racetrack, that was it for me. I’d found my niche.”

He left Monmouth College and an unfinished degree in business administration behind, and never looked back.

Spatz celebrates five decades in racing this year, the last four as a trainer in South Florida. He has spent the last five years dedicating his time and energy to the industry as a Board member of the Florida HBPA.

“I didn’t have a lot of interest in running for the Board, to be honest,” Spatz said. “I had friends who were on the Board, and there was a lot of dissension, a lot of conflict. But [then-Board member] Bill Kaplan came to me and said, ‘you’ve been in racing a long time, don’t you want to give something back?’ I thought about it, and I realized he had a point. I had more free time, so I talked myself into it.”
Spatz takes his role seriously.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act:
What We Know, and What We Don’t
The 2021 Racing and Gaming Conference at Saratoga, held Aug. 16-17 at Saratoga Race Course in New York, kicked off with two panels on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. At the end of the first morning, there had been more questions raised than answered.

What led to the implementation of federal regulation for Thoroughbred horse racing? Currently, the 33 jurisdictions that host Thoroughbred racing are governed by rules adopted by each state. There has been significant progress in crafting nationwide standards for medication and safety. The National Uniform Medication Program, which was launched in 2014, created a Controlled Therapeutic Substance List and Guidelines, required accreditation by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium for all testing labs, mandated third-party administration for Lasix, and established a penalty system for multiple medication violations. The 2019 Mid-Atlantic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities has produced regulations, protocols and best practices designed to protect the horses, the jockeys and the integrity of the sport.

Unfortunately, participation in these programs is not mandatory. While many states are fully on board, there has not been unanimous support and implementation.

Alan Foreman, the Chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, was one of three members of the first panel at the Racing and Gaming Conference, along with Patrick Cummings, the executive director of Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, and Pete Sacopulos, partner at the law firm of Sacopulos, Johnson and Sacopulos.

Foreman has been at the forefront of the national initiatives and was long an opponent of federal regulation, but he has changed course.

“We have not moved as society has moved,” Foreman said. “The public doesn’t accept that we’re doing right by our horses. We never really recovered from the breakdowns at Santa Anita, and then we had the Servis and Navarro indictments and the positive in the Derby. The hits just kept coming. Now we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix this for the next generation. It’s a monstrous undertaking, and we can’t accomplish it independently and voluntarily.”

Cummings added, “We’re playing with different rules in different states. You can say that bettors need to be attentive, but you’re not doing your customers a service with the state by state approach.”

Foreman concluded, “HISA is not perfect, but you can't let the perfect get in the way of the good.”