The California racing industry was taken aback Monday, when chairman Richard Shapiro announced his resignation from the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). Clockers' Corner was naturally buzzing with the news the next morning, most people realizing that you don't know what you've got until it's gone.
While it's very easy to sit around and criticize the decisions of the men and women who serve on our racing board, it's next to impossible to find someone willing to take on such a job. To do so takes an extraordinary amount of courage and conviction, something Shapiro demonstrated over and over during the last four years.
Responding to an email I sent him expressing my sadness at his resignation and thanks for all he has accomplished, Shapiro responded in part:
"Please understand, it is not my desire to leave the sport, only the Racing Board. I have come to the conclusion that the CHRB is limited in its ability to direct the reformation of the business, to develop the plans necessary to improve the economics of the game; and therefore if given the opportunity I would like to find a place to help create a better business model as we all move forward. Racing is a wonderful game, with great people, but we need to be dedicated to change, some of which will not be easy; but without developing such a plan, I fear we will not create the rules, and secure the help we need from Legislators and others to allow us to sustain and grow ourselves."
Some Voices at Clockers' Corner...
"I don’t think people realize the extensive amount of time and expense that Richard donated in an effort to do what was best for the industry. Nor are they cognizant of the pressures created by the totally unfair and unwarranted criticism that he was willing to endure. His position as Chairman of the CHRB turned into a full time unpaid job. Only his friends are aware of the overwhelming stress the job placed on him. Throughout it all he remained a gentleman to friends and enemies alike. Most changes in this industry come from the participants. Richard Shapiro was the first Chairman of the CHRB to initiate and accomplish major innovations. I suspect it will be a long time before racing again benefits from such unselfish and important efforts." -- Ed Halpern (Executive Director, California Thoroughbred Trainers)
"When they replace Mr. Shapiro, I'm sure we're not likely to get the same kind of aggressive, motivated behavior that this man had." -- Jim Gremke, owner
"Thanks for a job well done. You are going to be missed. It's nice to see somebody in a position of authority take the initiative and not be intimidated in enforcing the type of changes you made." -- Gary Stevens, Retired Hall of Fame Jockey
"I have been training in this state for the past 20 plus years, and know that only his detractors will speak out, and that the uninformed won't realize what a great contribution this man made to the industry here, to the horses here, to the fairness and kindness of our sport. By being proactive, outspoken and honest, and a "getter done" kind of man, he opened himself up to a ton of criticism, and when things didn't go exactly as planned, he took a raking over the coals.
He changed the racing landscape in California. The medication reforms passed under his administration alone made for the most level playing field in the U.S. The installation of safer tracks led to the cleanest run Breeders' Cup I can remember. He should be thanked by us all, and if you see him at the races, thank him for all the hours and sweat he gave for free." -- Howard Zucker (Board Member, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and former Chair, Track Safety Committee)