Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Presidential Delusions and A Call for Congress

Over his last couple of articles, NTRA president and CEO Alex Waldrop has looked like a person slipping into delusion.

It started out a with a Joe Drape article in the NY Times, itself a follow-up to an article a few days earlier by another Times writer (which was, if anything, too modest in it’s well-founded criticism), both shining light on American racing’s still-rampant drug problem. Waldrop’s response was, frankly, maniacal. Responding with a five-point memo, he tried to disprove the criticism as baseless, but the only thing obviously baseless was his own line of reasoning. In his blog response, Alex didn’t offer the usual comments-section, instead trying to incite his readers to attack a Times reporter with hatemail.

This kind of counterproductive response triggered criticism of Waldrop by turf writers, fans and horsemen. Even now, facing attacks from people he couldn’t possibly accuse of trying to destroy his effort, Waldrop missed the exit sign. Instead he did what he has done as NTRA president: staying the course and admitting no fault, finally repeating and even adding to his points in a Bloodhorse article. The title? "Unprecedented progress". The real question now becomes: Who is Alex trying to fool?
His five-argument defense would likely be hopeless, not to mention morally repugnant, if published in a mainstream press release. In an industry media outlet it is nothing short of ridiculous. What racing fan is gonna believe Waldrop’s conclusion that the sport has basically solved it’s drug problem, or that 55 racetracks signing a non-binding declaration of intent constitutes a major step forward for Thoroughbred safety? After all it’s been barely weeks since the racing secretary of one of the nation’s major racetrack operators publicly announced that an unprecedented (but not in any way trend-reversing) record of breakdowns was just an unfortunate side effect of the business.

If there was any proof needed that racing’s current institutions won’t solve the problems outlined almost a year ago by a congressional comittee, the NTRA’s president has accomplished it.


  1. Hi Malcer,

    Thanks for posting the link to your blog in your comment on my blog. I am looking forward to catching up on yours this morning over some coffee.

  2. I appreciate Waldrop is in a tough spot. He heads a trade group with no regulatory authority; the Safety Alliance will take time to register any effects; there has been progress. But to claim that race-day medications have been "virtually eliminated" and downplay legitimate concerns erodes the fragile credibility he has, the little patience observers have, on the subject.

  3. Jessica: That's exactly what upsets me too.

    A more capable NTRA president could in fact have used the Times articles to advance his cause. He could have pointed out that he has tried everything in his power (which he probably did) and the effect is still unsatisfactory. The Times writers were basically calling for stricter drug controls. The obvious entity which could be entrusted with such authority on would be the NTRA, but instead it's own president/CEO is sabotaging his organization's progress

  4. Two things about Waldrop's response made my head explode: One, that he could say medications had been "virtually eliminated" and two, that he insults anyone who wants action by lumping them in with the extreme animal-rights activists. He also has previously insulted the whole world by saying non-medication jurisdictions were "inhumane" for not allowing the stuff. The frustration level just continues to rise....