2017 Annual USTA Meeting
February 25 – 28
by Marilyn Breuer-Bertera, District 2 Chairman
Each year when I return from the USTA Annual Meeting, I try to keep our Michigan members updated about discussion and activities at the meetings.
Following a hotly contested presidential election and two rounds of balloting by the board of directors, Russell Williams was elected president for the completion of a term which will run for two more years. Russell is a longtime board member, attorney, and chairman of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company. He is also chairman of Hanover Shoe Farms and a grandson of its founder, L. B. Sheppard. Mike Carlo of Northville Downs is a new board member as a District 2 Track Director; however, a vote within 60 days on a By-Law Proposal to reorganize track directors, could possibly eliminate that seat on the board.
The USTA meeting was held in conjunction with the Harness Horsemen International meeting, and I had an opportunity to chat with representatives from many of the individual state and Ontario horsemen’s associations. The United States Harness Writers Dan Patch awards banquet was held on Sunday evening. The USTA staff was well represented with award winners. Barb Brooks, a 62 year employee and recently retired USTA Assistant Registrar, received a standing ovation for her long-time service to the harness industry. Barb has probably helped many of you over the phone.
Marketing and Promotion. John Ford, CEO of Bet America, provided statistics showing that handicapping contests do have a positive impact on pari-mutuel handle. Good news, since I see that Northville Downs is hosting a qualifier for the World Harness Handicapping Championship.
New owner initiatives and fractional ownership groups continue to be a USTA initiative. We heard details from a few new ones. The USTA has many resources and ideas, and will provide whatever assistance necessary to anyone who would like to form one of these groups or just have questions about getting started. If you are interested, contact the USTA office or myself, and I will put you in touch with staff who can help.
The social media contract with Converseon ended last September, and Allison Conte has taken over those duties, along with increased emphasis on the Harness Racing Fan Zone.
Registration and Ownership. The number of mares bred in Michigan last year was actually up slightly to 221 from 206 in 2015. Foal crops across North America continue to decline, and horse shortage is problematic everywhere.
On-line services continue to expand and foal registration and release of mating certificates may now be completed on-line. There is also a new feature on your on-line account page called the Owner’s Dashboard. One of the features allows you to download free program pages for any horse you own that is in to go. Most owners received an e-mail last week with specific
instructions. They are also working on an e-sales portal, which will allow on-line ownership transfer of horses purchased at a public auction.
Dr. Katie Flynn gave a presentation on microchipping. Thoroughbreds are requiring microchips as a means of identification beginning this year, and other breeds will probably follow shortly. Microchips are not only used for identification purposes; but can also monitor medical information, such as temperatures; retain documentation, such as Coggins test; and can be useful for traceability in cases of equine disease outbreaks.
Rules/Regulatory. One of the rule changes that was approved was that charted lines will now indicate if a post position is a second tier. With many tracks now racing trailers, this will be important handicapping information. There is an updated Trainer/Driver study guide available for those of you planning to test.
Some projects that USTA staff will be working on in the coming year will be quality control in the race charting area for data integrity, and a complete audit of the website. Mike Tanner, Executive Vice President, compared the USTA website to a house that has had several additions over the years. Everything is there; but, perhaps a little disorganized. All the website information will be carefully reviewed for proper placement and efficiency of use. I am sure most of you view the website at least once a day for a variety of reasons.
If you are interested in the full committee reports from the Annual Meeting, they should be available shortly on the USTA website. As always, if you have any questions, need assistance with a USTA issue, or have an idea to make racing better; contact the USTA office or one of your directors. Preliminary plans are to hold the USTA District 2 meeting in the Fall at Northville Downs—hope the convenience will allow many of you to attend. Have a great summer!