The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) will sunset its active operations, announced its founder and chairman Craig Bernick.
TIF executive director Patrick Cummings has accepted a role leading the new National Thoroughbred Alliance (NTA), an initiative launched by Mike Repole.
“After more than five years of advocacy and successful improvements initiated through TIF and with Pat’s progression to a new role, I thought now was an opportune time to wind down TIF’s active work,” said Bernick.
“I can’t say enough great things about Pat Cummings and how thankful I am that he agreed to come back from his work in Hong Kong, lead TIF, and accomplished as much as he has over these five years. We didn’t have a blueprint but I am so proud of how it all turned out and wish he and Mike all the best in their new initiative. I have every expectation that it will be successful and improve the sport for all of its participants.
“It is important to preserve our papers and reports as a reference for the future, so we will maintain RacingThinkTank.com.”
TIF’s advocacy began with a series of foundational white papers with the intention of driving awareness of four key issues – attention to pricing for bettors, rules evolution and transparency, modernizing wagering products and improved access to accurate information.
TIF’s first paper, “Penny Breakage” became the inspiration for Kentucky legislators to include a clause in a sweeping pari-mutuel taxation reform package which rounded down winning dividends to the penny, as opposed to the dime. Kentucky became the first state in America to adopt such a provision, which alone has yielded more than $7 million returned to winning horseplayers on Kentucky races in from its win, place and show pools alone since its implementation in July 2022.
In its second publication, “Changing the Rules,” TIF advocated for North American racing jurisdictions to adopt the internationally-recognized interference philosophy known as “Category 1.” Oklahoma became the first to do so in September 2022 and has operated Thoroughbred racing since, without controversy or changes in riding, but a reduction in the number of demotions, over the last 13 months. An increase in transparent reporting around such incidents was also central to this topic and has become a reality in some states, led by Oklahoma’s stewards.
Both topics, inspired by TIF’s work and advocacy, were leading successes for the organization, and more jurisdictions are actively considering following the leads of Kentucky and Oklahoma in these initiatives. .
“Customers always decide the fate of businesses, and of course for any business to thrive, it has to present a product that is competitive on quality, price, and service,” Bernick said.
“Everything TIF has advocated for would make the horse business better for the sport’s two optional participants - racehorse owners and horseplayers. The horse business will only survive if we attract these core participants - in what is now a strikingly more competitive landscape.”
TIF also pushed for modernization in racing’s wagering and information businesses, advocating for the evolution of fixed odds options to complement pari-mutuel betting, a daily reality now for New Jersey-based horseplayers, as well as a pursuit for more affordable, modern options for racing data.
Myriad wagering issues were addressed, responded to, or resolved because of TIF involvement, led by Cummings. This included raising awareness to the need for common-sense policies and wagering options while also drawing attention to flaws or concerning developments, such as incidents of pari-mutuel pool manipulation, which led several operators to cease offering pools subject to manipulation.
TIF’s landmark 12-part series, “Wagering Insecurity” drew praise from readers for highlighting still existing deficiencies in America’s pari-mutuel betting system.
TIF routinely lobbied for the elimination of jackpot-style bets which drive effective takeout rates to usurious levels. In recent years, several tracks have dropped the jackpot provision on bets, including Keeneland, Horseshoe Indianapolis, the tracks of the New York Racing Association and most recently, Santa Anita and Del Mar. Sound policies which encourage and build mass market participation through wagering were at the heart of TIF’s suggestions.
Major papers highlighted the concurrent growth of computer-assisted wagering (CAWs) and decline of mass market participation via wagering. The 2020 publication “Racing Not Only For (the) Elite” introduced the subject while “Sharks & Minnows” drew attention to alarming data from the state of California reflecting how much betting participation had changed in recent years and the need for racing operators to enact proactive policies to better manage the evolution of high-frequency betting.
“It was an absolute pleasure to lead TIF’s efforts over the last five years,” said Cummings. “On behalf of all of TIF’s supporters, our board of directors and especially horseplayers, my sincerest thanks go to Craig for launching TIF and backing his vision to seek improvements in areas that have long been ignored. I am so thankful for the support from Craig, our board, and several invaluable advisors who were all instrumental in our achievements.”
“While our work helped to accomplish some American firsts with the support of forward-thinking legislators, operators, regulators and many others in the racing industry, there are still some glaringly obvious issues that exist, including many in the wagering space. I look forward to tackling those in an ongoing capacity in my new role and helping deliver more to improve the sport for those who love it and commit so much to it.”
TIF’s work was accomplished with spending of less than $750,000 over its operational period.