TDN Letter to the Editor: Vicky Leonard

22nd Nov 2023
Reading time
3 mins

Trust in institutions, across all industries around the world, has reached an all-time low.

Why? Well, as Jason Litt said in his Letter to the Editor, it’s because the ‘old guard’ have not been held to the same standards as the rest of us in terms of performance, accountability, and transparency. Too arrogant to admit failure, too entrenched to change and too shrouded in secrecy.

Confidence in horse racing’s industry leaders has evaporated, just like the confidence and favourable opinion the public.

So why wait for these very same institutions to fix our problems? The same thinking and lack of action by the same people that brought our industry here, won’t lead us out.

Instead of a top-down approach, let’s flip it over and drive change from the bottom up – take the power back to the people. Real industry people. The ones braving the freezing cold to tend to a mare giving birth, the ones sacrificing sleep to nurture an ailing horse, the ones demonstrating their commitment by investing in our racehorses and ensuring exceptional care.

Never underestimate the power of a community of committed, passionate, thoughtful people to make real progress happen. Let’s become the change we want to see.

So how do we actually earn back the confidence and favourable opinion of the public?

Transparency is the antidote to distrust. When an industry remains silent, people assume it has something to hide. Our industry bubble is currently perceived by the public as hiding many things.

In Australia and New Zealand, we also face the common obstacle of public mistrust in horse racing. The activist narrative gained traction with their sensationalized content and inflammatory misinformation that grabs attention and fuels the flames of distrust. It perpetuated because we failed to answer the genuine concerns of the public. Our leaders kept their heads in the sand, responding too slowly (or not at all), and with opaque answers.

To combat this fire, we launched Kick Up a year ago, armed with facts. Our mission: to dismantle the wall of secrecy that separates the horse racing industry from the public. Kick Up strives to reshape the perception of horse racing by providing transparent access to factual information, while promoting awareness of positive advancements and initiatives. We empower the community to defend itself and proudly share its remarkable stories, while also holding our leaders accountable in areas where improvement is needed.

2023 has been tough on the industry. Churchill Downs was a challenge, then Saratoga was heart-wrenching.

But let’s look back at 2023, not as the year where we felt the imminent demise of our industry, but as the year that changed the game. Rock bottom, the solid foundation on which the industry was rebuilt.

It’s time to Light Up Racing.

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