- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The chairman of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission said Monday that the agency is “at a crossroads” following the ouster of its longstanding executive director by state officials who are looking for new ways to revive the sport’s popularity.

Executive Director Joe Gorajec was removed from office by the five-member commission on Saturday, Chairman Thomas Weatherwax said Monday.

Weatherwax told the Indianapolis Business Journal that commissioners felt Gorajec was too focused on enforcing regulations and did not pay enough attention to marketing and promotion of horse racing.

“It just takes a little different attitude to take it to the next level,” said Weatherwax, a former Republican state senator who stepped down as a legislator in 2008. “We’re going to be doing more to promote and market our business and get more people involved. Everything I’m telling you is economic development.”

Gorajec is known for his tough stance on regulatory issues, including drug use and medical care for racehorses. Weatherwax said he was set to meet Gorajec and discuss his job responsibilities last week, but Gorajec canceled that meeting.

A message left for Gorajec Monday at a number listed to him was not immediately returned.

Commissioners, who are appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, will now launch a national search for a replacement. In the meantime, Gorajec’s assistant will fill his old role.

Weatherwax said nearby states like Ohio have done a better job of promoting horse racing. Indiana has two “immaculate” horse tracks, one in Shelbyville the other In Anderson, that ought to be promoted more, he said.

“We’re being challenged to grow this industry,” Weatherwax said. “We have got all the tools in place, but Ohio is eating our lunch.”

Ray Paulick, publisher of The Paulick Report, a Lexington, Kentucky-based publication that covers horse racing, contends Gorajec is getting fired for doing what he’s supposed to do.

“In my opinion, (the firing) is because Gorajec has done too good a job in regulating horse racing and attempting to ensure integrity for those who participate as owners, trainers or bettors,” Paulick said. “He has stepped on toes, and some of those toes may belong to people who have friends in high places in Indiana politics.”

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Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, https://www.ibj.com


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