RUS looks to gain footing in New York

by Helene Gregory

Editor’s Note: Helene Gregory has written a press release on the current state of Racing Under Saddle in the United States. The views contained in this release are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

East Windsor, NJ — As the 2013 season of Racing Under Saddle is getting underway, there is some information I feel I have to share with the harness industry.

The RUS/Monte in the United States is something we want to move up in priority as last year we saw a tremendous interest in this “new” form of racing trotters.

To be able to move on and be able to have pari-mutuel wagering, there is a need to change the statute of the stated wording of how to race a harness horse. These words below are deleted in our proposal; they exist in current law.

“and shall not include any form of horse racing in which the horses participating are or mounted (by a jockey).”

New York state has been presented with a bill just recently to do just this, but it needs support from our leaders from harness racing.

The bill has number A07709A and reads:

Introduced by M. of A. Pretlow — read once and referred to the Committee on Racing and Wagering — committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee.

An act to amend the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law, in relation to harness racing.

The people of the state of New York, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:

Section 1. Subdivision 3 of section 301 of the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law is amended to read as follows: The term “racing,” as used in this article, shall be construed to mean utilizing only (horse racing in which the horses participating are harnessed) horses that are registered with a recognized breed registry as Standard (harness) and where the Standardbred horse is attached to a sulky, carriage, or similar vehicle, and shall not include any form of horse racing in which the horses participating are or mounted (by a jockey). This act shall take effect immediately.

The following is a memorandum of support for bill A07709A, an act to amend NYS Racing Law to allow competition and wagering on “Racing Under Saddle” at New York’s harness tracks.

The Standardbred Owners Association of New York, representing New York State harness horsemen, supports an act that will amend New York’s Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law to allow competition and wagering on “Racing Under Saddle” at New York harness tracks — in which Standardbred harness horses race with a mounted rider, rather than attached to a sulky or carriage.

Under current law, the definition of harness racing limits this unique horse breed to racing attached to a sulky, carriage or similar vehicle, and effectively prohibits the practice of RUS with a mounted rider. In 2010 Yonkers Raceway hosted an RUS exhibition/promotional event which created a great deal of interest. However, RUS has remained a novelty with unrealized potential solely because of the inability to pay purses.

This form of racing would benefit Standardbred racing, harness tracks, and New York State in the following ways:

  • Extend horses’ racing careers and give carriage horses a chance to develop a racing career under saddle
  • Expand available horse population to benefit tracks that deal with perpetual shortages
  • Create larger fields, which utilize more horses and generate more interest
  • Give NYS a significant advantage over our regional counterparts who also arbitrarily prohibit RUS
  • Generate significant new interest in New York Standardbred racing and extend markets for pari-mutuel wagering

In order for the above to occur, the specific prohibition under NYS racing law against harness horses being ridden “under saddle” or mounted should be removed. This proposal specifically limits such racing at harness tracks only to registered Standardbred horses (and, obviously, only at a trot or a pace). Such changes will allow licensed harness tracks to conduct either harness races or RUS races and will allow wagers to be made and purses to be paid under the same regulatory guidelines currently in place for the conduct of harness races.

This is a common sense policy change that will immediately enhance New York’s critical agriculture and horse industries, at essentially no taxpayer cost. Please do not hesitate to call the SOA’s Joe Faraldo at 718.544.6800 or Yoswein New York at 212.233.5700 should you have any questions. Thank you for your consideration and support of A7709.

As of now, a RUS race in New York state is not even allowed to race for any form of purse, each participant has to make equal amount of money for the races to be held on a pari-mutuel track.

With the trend we saw last year, and add a purse structure and the ability to fit 10 RUS horses behind an eight-horse starting gate, there is a huge chance that gamblers and trainer/owners will welcome this new form of racing.

We have a chance here to introduce the females in our sport and that have been lacking in the past and also create interest from riders’ friends and families.

Also, we want the other people in the world to see that we have adopted something that they are familiar with in their countries.

The United States have always been one foot ahead of other harness racing countries as far as breeding and quality of horses, why are we not doing the same with the Racing Under Saddle? As an example, a stallion cannot stand stud in France unless he shows marks in both regular and under saddle races.

This could be a whole new market for young riders and also females to participate in our sport and introduce new people to harness racing.

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