Although horse racing contributes substantial monies to state economies, horse racing as an industry is highly regulated and is not without its critics.
Observers of the gambling industry often propose changes to the horse racing industry in large part to ensure that horse racing continues to fulfill its entertainment objectives. Some of the salient issues relate to collecting taxes on live racing, simulcast wagering, and horse racing track reconditioning and improvements.
Most horse racing tracks have no formal controls on declarations. Owners, who abuse this privilege to enter horses with poor chances of reasonable competition, endanger all race participants and bring the royal sport in to potential disrepute. No genuine horse racing enthusiast would like to see a proud animal falter helplessly in the face of insurmountable competition. Nothing can be more heart rending than seeing a horse refuse a steeplechase hurdle out of sheer exhaustion or even fear. The lives of the most professional jockeys can be in jeopardy because an unfit competitor hangs at a bend. It is time for horse racing organizers to self-regulate in order to prevent inappropriate declarations which spoil the confidence of punters.
Age is a clear qualification that is both meaningful and easy to enforce. Horses over a median age for a particular event should be allowed only if exceptional speed and trip ratings and timings justify their declaration. This will improve the quality of horse racing and give punters sporting odds at the same time. Race horses are bred to thrive on competition, and they can give of their best when in a field of near equals in terms of strength and endurance. Older horses and those which are still to reach their peaks can still compete in different classes of horse racing, but should not suffer the ignominy of competing against others of their kind which are vastly superior in physical terms. This kind of qualification is routine in athletics and the principle should apply to horse racing as well.
Just as horse racing stewards review jockey performance to check for degrees of interference, recordings of events can be used to grade race horses, pitting near equals against each other rather than leaving the field open for irrational declarations which can spoil the quality of competition and safety standards on the track as well. Steeplechase declaration requirements should be most stringent of all with proving trials for horses similar to what we see for human competition in the most grueling sports. Wasting rules and retirement provisions for horses should be addressed simultaneously, because financial pressures may induce more owners to make unwarranted declarations rather than poor judgment alone. It is in the long term interests of horse racing that owners are not left alone to foot large bills for retiring their horses in good time. Such moves will meet pressing demands of activists who promote animal rights and will also prepare the ground for future horse racing with cloned and genetically engineered horses. Support for the sport could dwindle if potential punters lose confidence in the nature of competition behind betting odds on offer from bookmakers. Horse racing could also be burdened by bureaucratic controls of outside regulators if organizers and enthusiasts do not take sustainable and defensible steps on their own. Controls on declaration standards will impact safety as well, safeguarding jockeys and helping to reign in spiraling insurance costs in the bargain.