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Owner proposes certification plan for horsemen
Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - by Tom LaMarra, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent

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Tucson, AZ --- A longtime Standardbred owner offered a plan Dec. 6 for a professional certification program designed to encourage and retain racehorse owners.

Bill Wright, chairman of the Illinois Horse Racing Strategic Planning Council and former trainer and driver, discussed his proposal during a racehorse ownership panel at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming in Tucson. Wright spent 33 years in senior management positions with Caterpillar Inc. and got back into horse ownership upon his retirement.

“I believe we have a major image problem, whether it’s described as an integrity problem or a lack of professionalism,” said Wright, who at one time owned up to 17 horses but now keeps three to five at a time. “We need to continue to identify and penalize (offenders) but should also vigorously and publicly reward the good guys.”

Wright, who in partnership owned Classic Photo, who finished second to Vivid Photo in the 2005 Hambletonian, said various professions offer or require certification. He said a horseman who is designated as a “Certified Professional Horseman,” or CPH, would be known as an “honest, knowledgeable, and qualified professional. It would be a mark of distinction.”

There would be a general certification process not linked to regulatory licensing. The process would be voluntary. Wright said the certification process could be used for any racing breed but would require oversight by an organization or organizations.

“Integrity is more than just race penalties,” Wright said. “We need to appeal to people’s sense of decency and fair play. This is really out-of-the-box, and it’s hard to buy into at first, but think about it.”

Wright and Karl Broberg, a Thoroughbred owner and trainer, acknowledged the challenges faced by owners who love the racing business but struggle to break even. They discussed high veterinarian bills, the competitive purse disadvantages of racing in non-gaming states, and a need for uniform regulations.

Wright used the Illinois horse racing alliance as an example of what can be accomplished. Though the governor has vetoed legislation authorizing racetrack slots in the state, the fact the measure made it through both houses is evidence of what can be accomplished.

“We had a chance because we all worked together,” Wright said. “We saw each other as partners, not competitors. We’re in a beautiful business; there’s nothing more beautiful than a horse. I think (progress) is achievable, but horse owners need to pitch in.”

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