‘We’re Going To Make Some Things Happen’: Harness Breeder Offers $250K In Matching Grants For Racing Investigators

For some people, the federal indictments of over two dozen people in horse racing for drug adulteration and misbranding were a confirmation of long-held suspicions — that racing wasn’t as clean as it should be. For Hanover Shoe Farms president and CEO Russell Williams, it was a call to action.

Williams is the grandson of Hanover Shoe founder Lawrence Sheppard, who launched the Standardbred operation in Hanover, Penn., when he was a junior partner in the Hanover Shoe Company. The farm burst onto the Standardbred scene in the 1920s and emerged as one of the sport’s largest commercial breeders. Hanover Shoe has been the country’s top breeder by U.S. Trotting Association figures year after year. He is also the president of the U.S. Trotting Association.

As such, the allegations in the indictments, of Standardbred and Thoroughbred trainers doping horses while escaping the detection of pre- and post-race testing, offended Williams deeply.

“Here at Hanover Shoe farm, we sell about 230 yearlings, or that’s what we’re going to sell this year,” said Williams. “We try to raise them right and love them and take good care of them. To send them out into the world to be subjected to the things described in those indictments … it breaks our hearts.

“We’re going to show them we’re not going to say goodbye to them when they leave here. We’re going to put this challenge grant down and make some things happen.”

At a teleconference meeting of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission Tuesday afternoon, Williams announced that Hanover Shoe will offer $250,000 in the form of a matching grant program to fund investigative services in racing. Those funds would ultimately be available not just for surveillance in Pennsylvania, but nationwide. Williams’ goal is to fund an agency similar to or including 5 Stones Intelligence, which according to The Jockey Club contributed intelligence work to the FBI investigation, eventually resulting in the indictments.

“The state racing commissions are chronically underfunded,” Williams said. “They’re left to do their jobs in a less than ideal legislative and regulatory environment, and the tradition among horse people has been not to police themselves. So what would be the number one thing that would help? It’s got to be good investigation.

“Even if there was a federal authority, they’re not going to know who to go after without good investigation. If you read the Horseracing Integrity Act, they don’t have the power to activate the FBI.”

Williams said he hopes that funding will ultimately come from the Thoroughbred side of the racing industry as well.

“If all the racing breeds got together on this it would just be awesome,” he said.

Williams said the project is still in its initial planning stages, but the $250,000 matching figure would likely run for a year, with additional grants possible in future years.

“We’re working right now on the design of the business model,” said Williams. “We have to find a structure that will protect the administration of the money from allegations of conflict-of-interest. It looks like there must be some sort of third-party oversight. Also, there will be no pulling punches: what the investigations find must be dealt with correctly and intensively in every case. So that’s the hold-up.”

Initial reception to Williams’ announcement on the commission teleconference Tuesday was positive.

Although the logistics are still in the works, Williams encourages anyone interested in contributing to the fund to email him at rcwilliams@hanoverpa.com

The post ‘We’re Going To Make Some Things Happen’: Harness Breeder Offers $250K In Matching Grants For Racing Investigators appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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