In my last column posted on September 20, 2018, I wrote about the voided claim rule. The results of this rule would void any claim if the horse dies on the track. It also permits the claimant the option of voiding the claim if the horse is placed on the vet’s list coming out of the race.
This rule has proved effective by decreasing the frequency of trainers dropping a horse with “issues” into a claiming race in the hope that their problem will soon become someone else’s.
To date, nine state have implemented the voided claim rule: California, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Arkansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Washington.
Besides encouraging all remaining commissions to pass this rule, there is another effort the racing industry can initiate to make this valuable rule even better.
In 2014, Equibase began collecting data on claims that are voided. It was a progressive step that has yielded very few results. This is because this data is captured only when the chartcallers at the tracks (Equibase employees) are notified that a claim has been voided. Data collected thus far would indicate that only California has been reporting voided claims in any significant numbers.
Why bother reporting?
Information on claims is considered an essential handicapping tool to many horse players. Statistic are often kept on a trainer’s results immediately after claiming a horse. Some horse players will drill down even deeper to ascertain a trainer’s success rate when raising or dropping a horse in class after a claim.
The fact that a claim was voided is certainly a fact that some horse players might find helpful.
Some may argue that such information would not assist a horseplayer or that it might be misinterpreted. Maybe so, but that is true with many handicapping variables.
I believe horse players deserve this information. It might be helpful; it might not. That should not be for us – regulators, track operators, horsemen, etc. – to decide. Put the information out there and let the public decide. They are the ones who are risking their money.
What needs to be done next?
Obviously, we need to get all commissions to adopt the voided claim rule.
Beyond that, the Association of Racing Commissioners International (RCI) should amend its model rule on voided claims to require two things. One, require all tracks (or the regulators) to report all voided claims to Equibase. Two, require all tracks to include the voided claim information in the past performance lines of their official programs.
Claims can be voided for several reasons other than the horse’s dying on the track or being placed on the vet’s list. These other reasons are mainly administrative and have nothing to do with the condition of the horse. Sometimes a claim is voided because the claimant has insufficient funds in their account to cover the claiming price. A claim can also be voided due to a mistake in filling out the claiming form or depositing it after the deadline.
It will be necessary to code voided claim information in the program to make clear the reason for the void. I suggest that a simple three-code designation could be used. If a horse dies the code would be v-d. If it is placed on the vet’s list, use v-v. If for any reason not related to the horse’s condition, the code would be v-a (for administration) or v-o (for other).
Of course, these codes could be tweaked or expanded. The point is to have any code accurately reflect the reason the claim was voided.
Is this a big deal?
In the world of horse racing regulation, nothing in this proposal screams urgent!
That doesn’t mean it is not important or that it should not be pursued.
I believe racing regulators tend to perceive regulation differently for other people in the business.
If you are not a regulator, you may think of regulation only when; (1) it affects you personally, (2) it involves a high-profile issue (think: Lasix versus no Lasix, or out-of-competition testing), or (3) someone screwed up and everyone wants to know how it happened and who’s to blame.
On the other hand, a regulator knows that an effective regulatory program is built brick by brick by brick. Whether you are creating a new program from scratch or improving an existing one, each step is incremental. For example, an incremental step in improving the voided claim rule could be to add bleeding as a reason for voiding a claim. California has done this.
This proposal of mine is just another brick.
And it’s not heavy lifting.
So, let’s get it done.