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Langley Re-Elected Association President

Published: March 15, 2015 6:56 pm ET

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Phil Langley was re-elected as president of the U.S. Trotting Association by a 38-13 tally over challenger Jason Settlemoir during the general session of the USTA Board of Directors meeting on Sunday (March 16), held at the Hilton-Easton.

Langley was re-elected to a fourth consecutive term -- his first in which there was an election -- and vowed to continue his current platform of leading medication research and social media marketing.

"I ran on my record," said Langley after the election. "I think I've done a good job. I get along well with the directors and with the staff. We will continue to make progress. The last three or four years -- with the work of (CEO) Mike (Tanner), (Communications Director) Dan (Leary), (Director of Registry and Member Services) T.C. (Lane) and (Director of Information Technology) Sherry (Antion-Mohr) and the rest of the staff -- everything has improved and we will continue doing it."

During a break in the session, the directors went into executive session and approved the extension of Tanner’s contract through 2020.

In the other officer elections, Ivan Axelrod (chairman of the board), Barbara Brooks (secretary) and Richard Brandt (treasurer) were all unopposed and retain their respective seats.

Ed Martin, president of Racing Commissioners International, presented five topics to the board: the relationship between RCI and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, cobalt research, compounded substances, federal regulatory intervention, and proposed a possible joint effort between RCI and USTA to share data and streamline processes. He understood the USTA's desire for separate medication thresholds and regulations from other breeds.

"In our model rules, we have a separate section for Standardbreds," he said. "The way you have structured things is certainly consistent with our model rules."

Rob Key, founder and CEO of Converseon, the social media consultancy that the USTA voted to hire in 2013, gave a summary report of the presentation he made Saturday to the Communications/Marketing Committee, emphasizing that the past year and a half were spent building the foundation and finding the people to move the social media marketing plan to the next level.

"When you build a car, you've got to build an engine," said Key, who mentioned that along with the USTA's $250,000 investment in Converseon last year, his firm spent more than $459,000 in additional funds in order to reach the goals set forth when the plan was adopted. "We built the engine in 2014 with the Harness Racing FanZone and the Ambassador program.

"The question in 2015 is where are we going to drive the car and how fast are we going to go."

Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council, gave legislative updates at the national level on such topics as changes to the tax code, horse slaughter, immigration paperwork processing and Internet gambling. A full update can be found on their website at horsecouncil.org.

Ohio State Rep. Jim Buchy, a former horse owner and a longtime political friend of harness racing, gave the opening remarks. He stressed that those in the harness racing industry should never forget that the sport is built on the horse, and the horse is a vital part of the agriculture industry, both in Buchy's home state of Ohio and around the country.

"We need to look at going back to our roots," said Buchy, who was first elected to the Ohio House in 1983. "Don't ever forget that we are in this room because farmers raced their horses against each other a couple hundred years ago. That led to the county fairs, and that is where we need to look to expand our fan base."

Buchy suggested some areas of focus for harness racing leaders in order to continue to enjoy the level of economic prosperity that the Ohio harness racing industry has recently seen.

"It's absolutely imperative that the integrity of the sport continues to be positive," he said. "The fans have to know that we have honest racing on the track and we're respectful to the animals."

In his report to the board, Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner summarized the association's busy year, including the launch of Online Entry, the expansion of the social media initiative, and increased medication funding and research. One major undertaking was the sale of the Columbus office and the subsequent move to the northeast suburbs of Columbus, a four-month undertaking that did not result in interruption of service to members.

"Out of everything that has happened this year, how our staff reacted to the move, and never took their eyes off the ball, that might have been our biggest accomplishment," he said. "We continued to deliver near-flawless service to members."

Five new directors were introduced to the board: In District 2, Scott Peine, director of racing at Hoosier Park, was introduced by District Chairman Ken Marshall. In District 6, Joe Pennacchio, president of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association, and Brett Revington, director of racing operations at Pompano Park, were introduced by District Chairman Alan Leavitt. In District 9, Steve O'Toole, general manager of racing at Plainridge Park Casino, was introduced by District Chairman Don Marean. In District 12, Nick Salvi, stakes coordinator for Gural Racing, was introduced by District Chairman John Brennan.

Former District 9 Director Paul Fontaine and former District 6 Director Jay Sears were named Directors Emeritus in a proclamation by USTA Chairman Ivan Axelrod.

President Langley presented President's Awards to the following recipients: Ellen Taylor of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation; Joe Faraldo and Alex Dadoyan of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York; Bob Galterio of Yonkers Raceway; and Paul Fontaine, USTA Director Emeritus.

District 8 Director Kim Crawford and District 9 Director Don Marean were both honored for 20 years of service as directors.

Meetings continued throughout the afternoon, including the Registration and Owner/Breeder Committee, the Driver/Trainer Committee, the Regulatory Committee and the Pari-Mutuel Committee.

In the Registration Committee, Lane presented the registration report to the committee members, noting a decrease of the foal crop from 7,744 in 2013 to a projected 7,352 in 2014.

"Although the numbers may not be flattering, they are what they are," he said.

Lane also gave a report from the World Trotting Conference, which he recently attended in Australia. He said that along with the United States, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Union Europeenne du Trot (UET, comprised of 20 countries in western and central Europe) and Canada are on board to begin exploring sharing pedigree data between countries.

He added that the major roadblock was a personnel issue; other countries do not have the manpower to compile and disseminate the information, so the countries involved are taking the next 30 days to determine the logistics of such an endeavor.

"The winner of the Inter Dominion (Australia's most prestigious race) was a Bettors Delight, but nowhere will you see that information here in the U.S.," said Lane. “That is ridiculous.”

David Carr, the manager of the USTA information and research department, gave an update on the USTA staff’s effort to create an automated pedigree page. The page would be made available on Pathway, as well as to sales companies and breeding farm websites. Even when posted on a website, the pedigree would update regularly.

"I think it's a great product and they are on the right track," said Committee observer David Reid, sales manager of the Tattersalls and Lexington Selected Yearling sales. "We were behind the times, but these new products show that we are starting to catch up."

Ellen Harvey, the USTA's coordinator of Standardbred support services, gave an update of the rapidly growing Full Circle program, whose 6,070 horses enrolled are more than the same program of the saddlebreds, Morgans and American Quarter Horse Association combined. She also noted the five-year anniversary of the Save Our Standardbreds program, which has assisted in the rescue of 136 horses that were receiving criminally poor care.

A motion was also passed to further study the research and logistics of stem cell storage.

In the Driver/Trainer Committee, Lane told the committee that USTA’s Online Entry program has now successfully taken entries of more than 178,000 horses by some 1,200 trainers at 140 racetracks.

Committee member and District 2 Director Steve Oldford gave a positive update of the amateur driving clubs. He said that the eight U.S. driving clubs are seeing more members looking to buy more horses, especially in Florida. He said the movement is growing and a new website was created: amateurharnessracing.com.

“In 2015, with the help of the race secretaries, the amateur drivers will race at 40 racetracks in the United States and Canada," he said.

The Regulatory Committee voted on rule change proposals 1-8 (rule change proposals can be viewed here), approving proposals 5 and 7, rejecting 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 and amending 3.

The Committee also voted to grant a Provisional associate judge’s license to Dave Magee, a recently retired Chicago-area driver who became a judge for the Indiana Racing Commission without first serving the requisite two years as a racing official, per USTA rules. The Commission has determined that Magee will take the first available Racing Officials Accreditation Program course, which is in 2016.

In the Pari-Mutuel Committee, Antion-Mohr told the committee that her team has adjusted the past performance records to be able to offer final-quarter times for horses that had raced in distances other than a mile. When needed, the half-mile point of call is removed to accommodate the final quarter time.

District 3 Director Chris Schick updated the board on the Strategic Wagering Committee, which is up to 28 tracks that have participated in the series of guaranteed-pool wagers.

Lane told the committee that all USTA data will be changed over to accommodate the transition to timing in hundredths of a second (Pathway, program pages, pedigrees, etc.). Antion-Mohr added that Standardbred Canada is not currently planning to participate in the conversion, so the USTA will convert imported Canadian lines to hundredths and convert the exported lines back to fifths for Canadian data.

Meetings conclude on Monday (March 16) with the Rules and Finance committees yet to meet. The full board will meet again at 11 a.m. to present the committee reports and approve the budget for 2015.

(USTA)


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