Aqueduct February 28

Given all the cancellations at AQU, it’s been hard to discern who is in form and who has mostly been watching TV and eating oats. Hopefully we’ve turned a corner and we’ll have some consistency.

Race 1      1-3-6

Pulpit’s Express is dropping to the bottom level after showing poorly at the $32K level in his last two. He has some potential excuses – he stumbled at the start two back and brushed at the start and raced wide in his last. But if he lost those last two because of troubled trips, why give the horse away today? Jacobson is not above dropping a horse to get a win, but this looks more like giving up. He was more of a turf horse in California, but he wasn’t much better than a mid-level claimer there. If he wins the race I’m not surprised, but he won’t get my money. Holy Invader is certainly no better than a $10K claimer these days. His last two have been a little better than looked, and he does have better recency than some of these. Lubango has a nice pressing style but seems to be having problems getting to the wire first. He would be no surprise at all. Solly’s Mischeif has been popular at the claiming box lately. Gullo took him last out for $16K and drops him to his lowest level. He’s been consistent and is another with the numbers to win this race.

Race 2      5-2-8

Miss Lucky Lauren goes second time for Bruce Brown. She had no chance last out from a wide position and she won’t get bet much today coming out of a MCL event. I think the last race was a good learning race and she’s a little better than looked. I’m willing to take a chance that Brown is moving her up for good reason. Papa’s Missile lost his chance at the start and should be better today. Naughty Grace is the horse with the most experience and that may be enough for her to get a piece.

Race 3      3-7-5

Prime Time City has plenty of early foot. He was off from June to February and expectedly faded. He should improve today and in condition his numbers top this group. Hidden Warrior is making the big drop for Linda Rice. She made this move yesterday and the the horse threw in a thoroughly disappointing performance. You’ll get odds on here – think it’s a good bet? No Nukes is 0 for 6 on the inner and 1 for 23 lifetime, but did make a big close last out. A minor piece is possible.

Race 4      4-1-8

Suckitupbuster was in the chasing position – got by all but the winner and stayed on with some courage. Finished with a good number and should be the main danger today. Both in the Bruce Levine entry are dropping out of MSW and that may be enough to propel one of them to victory. Rockjaz was gelded since his last out. In his first start he had all kinds of issues – he hit the gate and was five wide around the turn. He was snatched out of that race by Scott Schwartz who hasn’t had a great meet, but the combination of the the ultimate equipment change and the trouble first out make him interesting at 10-1 ML.

Race 5      2-6-4

As much as I dislike putting Brass Pear on top, he’s got the speed, the finish, Ortiz and a three race win streak. He’s flourishing under Nevin’s care. Round gets ths services of Junior Alvarado and Mott has been able to keep the horse working steadily. He doesn’t have an inner start but he definitely fits in this field. Chapman just missed last out. He loves the inner and Englehart is almost 50% in the money this meet.

Race 6      7-4-9

Bet U Can’t Find Me had a great 2014 at FL with 12 of 16 first or second.  Her first on the inner this year was an even effort and she was grabbed by Dennis Lalman  off that effort. Lalman has been good with limited runners. She’s competitive at 12-1 here. Coast of Sangria is a win sort. Her last race on a sloppy track was a good effort and the drop back to $16K should help. Tarty to the Party was claimed last out by Jason Servis who is 32% first off the claim. Given his last was his first start off a layoff, and he’s got a maintenance work inbetween, he’s worth a look.

Race 7      8-4-5

Flag on the Play just broke his maiden and returns at a reasonable $35K for is NW2L race. He had shown some seconditis, but now that he’s figured out the win formula I like the potential to repeat. Cornelio stays for the ride. Super Nicky just missed to the talented Awesome Lute last out and should be the front runner here. He’s shown he can stay to the end. Street Gent showed good speed last out and drops way down today. He’s not been at this distance in his life, but may have the class to win today.

Race 8      2-5-8

Son of a General is looking for two in a row and is jumping up substantially to do it.  He’s had some success on the inner but there is some concern about a bounce. Still, a repeat puts him right in the mix. Classic sense is looking for three in a row. He hasn’t finished worse than second in seven months and has been perfectly handled by Chad Brown. Doesn’t stick out on figures but does on heart. Wealth to Me ships from Laurel to the inner. In nine races he has only finished out of the money once. Cornelio is familiar with the horse. He’s got plenty of outs.

Race 9      1-2-4

Wild Freud is starting to look like a money burner but he is the fastest horse in the race. I’ll give him another chance. Wild Ham puts the blinkers on today. He took a bad step at the start of his last and although he wasn’t going to beat the top two he held off the rest of the field. Cash Buyer moves from an open $25K MCL to a state-bred. I like his chances a lot better with this group.

Aqueduct February 27

Lots of favorites yesterday and a couple of the better priced horses just didn’t catch my eye. Looking for some good prices today.

Race 1      7-6-1

March Too is dropping out of a ALW NW1X after easily winning at the $25K level. Irad takes the mount for Linda Rice and that probably signals serious. He’s listed as the favorite and deservedly so. First Ranger has a good turn of foot and probably is placed at the right level here. He beat a few of these last out and no reason to expect the tables to turn today. Money Machine had some trouble last time at the $50K level. Should be in a good spot turning for home.

Race 2      6-1-2

Jackie Black won by an incredible 35 lengths last out. That may have been as much a reflection of the field as her ability. Still she got a number that stands out in this field and if she is that good she is a winner again. Golden Gem is listed as the ML favorite off a second in the Franklin Square. Has a couple of good works since that race and gets the services of Jose Ortiz. In Spite of Mama has been knocking around at the OC $75K level with moderate success. Her figures are similar to some others in here, but she does have good tracking ability and some promise to move in the stretch.

Race 3      9-1A-3

Chairman Now is almost a 25% winner lifetime. He had been off close to two months, came out on the inner and led for a half before backing up to fourth. He’s had some success at the mile distance and has the good front running rider Chuck Lopez up.  At 10-1 he’s worth a look. Snake Pit is the fastest horse in the race but will have to have some luck to draw in.  His stablemate Duke of the City has plenty of front running ability but may have a lot of other speed to fend off. Love to Run beat a similar field last out and may be the speed of the speed.

Race 4      6-3-1

Culminating was claimed last out by Bruce Levine and returns at the same level today. She’s stretching out but should be well-suited to the distance. Downton Alley showed good speed when stretching out for the first time and hung on for third. She drops slightly in claiming price today but faces a few horses that may push her a bit too much up front. Real Deal Lady ran into monster winner Jackie Black last out so it is difficult to tell just how good she is. She gets Lasix today and a slight jockey upgrade to Jeremy Rose.

Race 5      7-1-2

Amulay has been consistent for a while now and finally got an extended break. Should help her today. If she runs to her best figure she should roll over this field. Lady Gracenote won at the $40K level two back but didn’t scare a state-bred ALW group last time. She tends to be close but hasn’t been cracking the winners circle too often. Agawa just missed at this level last out and has the numbers to be competitive here.

Race 6      6-9-2

Battle Notes ran well first out and should improve with the experience. Full of Mine is coming out of the same race as Battle Notes and actually finished closer to the winner. It may be those two slugging it out to the wire. Ziggy Moondust adds blinkers today. Has the numbers and should benefit from a the longer trip last out.

Race 7      3-5-8

Lulu Rocks came back on the inner after a two month hiatus and ran a nice second at the the same distance and level. He’s got three good works since and should be ready to roll. Decesion Point had a lot of success last year at FL and Pennsylvania and has two thirds in two starts on the inner this year. In his last he broke outwardly and stayed wide throughout but finished a decent third. Mighty Zealous finished second in that race after leading most of the way. He had a clear lead in the stretch in that one and still got beat a length. He’s held on previously, and that gives him a chance.

Race 8      8-10-2

Tonite Tonite takes the blinkers off for this one. He stumbled at the break last out and while no horse was beating the winner, Qui C’est Moi, the stumble probably cost him a better placing. At 8-1 I’ll give him the nod over this field. Wishandaprayer was second in that race after prompting the early pace. He held his speed a little better in that start and perhaps will improve enough today to finish on top. Billypaysthebills should be one of the front runners but he hasn’t showed the most heart in the stretch.

Aqueduct February 26

Holy Trifecta, Batman. Look who’s back handicapping. I’m sure to be a bit rusty, but I’m sure to pull a couple of rabbits out of my hat. I’m not promising I’m back full time – I still have to finish basketball – but I’ll be posting more and more often until I’m back full time.

Race 1      1-6-3

Let’s start the day with a long shot. Ecoach is listed at 20-1 on the ML. She’s making her second start since October and has an interesting mix of plusses and minuses. Her win clip is 37%, but her performances on the inner have been less than inspiring. She was probably in better races at FL, but she has definitely tailed off since she turned 6. I think the last race was a little better than looked, and despite being off four months her effort was encouraging. She was in the same race as horses that will be far lower odds and I think the difference is enough to make a small investment in her favor. Discreet Force ran to the front last out and did well to hold on to second. Same race may give her the front spot today. Island Candy was the winner of that race and has shown both an ability to lead and to track. Given 6 of the 8 starters are coming out of the same last race, a similar result is not unlikely.

Race 2      2-8-5

The second has a few money burners and disappointments.  Aleander has the figures but is making his twelfth attempt to break his maiden. He’s five and not a winner and at 7-2 doesn’t make for an inspiring bet. Retire Fifty Five is also heading in that direction, as well as having a case of seconditis. Those two can certainly be part of the tri or super, but I’m going to leave them out of the win slot. I going with Hollywood Idol. He’s only shown a modest amount of talent in his first two, and it appears that he’s had some physical issues to overcome. He started out in the Pletcher barn and shifted over to Jimmy Jerkens for his only start of 2014. He puts on blinkers for today’s start and that should help him focus. He been bet a little in both of his starts, and it’s a good sign he has been working regularly for this race. He’s a horse that was thought to have a lot of talent, he’s well bred for the distance, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he threw in a good one today. Chase the Love got a good figure off his last race, but it has to be a concern that trainer is pretty pathetic. His first two starts were on wet tracks, and the last wasn’t too bad at all. He gets first Lasix today, and that may give him a lift. Zingarelli is a Kiaran McLaughlin first timer who is nicely bred and has a good workout pattern, although nothing beyond a half mile. McLaughlin is fair with first timers. A chance but I don’t think 5-2 is appealing.

Race 3      3-8-9

Brad’s Ruby has four starts on the inner with a second and a third. She’s been with a lot better in the not too distant past – this is as low as she’s been. I like her last and she has a decent maintenance work. She should be the one to catch. Appearance had a nice start at this price a month ago and was able to get a maintenace work in five days ago. She’s been fairly consistent with her figures, but like most in here doesn’t standout. Charming Eyes is listed as the favorite off a win and a second in her last two on the inner. She looks as good as anything, but doesn’t inspire 2-1 odds.

Race 4      8-5-4

War Hero makes his first start for Eddie Kenneally and comes back at the same price. He’s got a series of races faster than anything else in here and looks solid as the favorite. Hold Everything makes his second start for DJ after winning for slightly less last out. No reason he couldn’t repeat. Drum Roll is making his first start for Jeremiah Englehart after a year on the shelf. Englehart is a little better than average with layoff horses and while the workouts haven’t been eye-popping they have been steady.

Race 5      7-3-6

Evrybdymstgetstonz is dropping into a state-bred OC $75K after leading half the race and finishing third in the Grade 2 Matron last October. If she hits her previous figure today she sticks out in this field. Graeme Crackers had trouble in the Franklin Square but showed some heart by closing. She certainly figures better than the other three that came ou of the same race. Bourbonstateofmind has a nice turn of early foot and is probably better at the sprint distance.

Race 6      11-8-3

With the scratches of 3 and 11, I’m  going to add the 9 Barrel of Dreams into the mix. She’s dropping out of MSW and cuts back in distance to a sprint. She showed some early foot last out and held a little longer before doing her usual fade. I’m hoping that race gave her a little more bottom and she shows more stretch courage today.

This race is pretty wide open. Miss Bellamy looks like the speed of the speed and has the best last out number. Probably won’t be the favorite and may actually be value. In this race I’m looking for something with value. Secret Militaire is a bit chancey but the 12-1 ML makes her a bit more intriguing. She’s jumping up from $20K to $40K but she has a good front-running rider in Chuck Lopez. She just has that look of a horse starting to get better. Not About the Nail drops out of straight maidens and may turn out to be the best horse in the field. Should be in a good spot to fire on the front runners.

Race 7      8-4-3

Bullheaded Boy had been running in state-bred stakes before Pletcher dropped him into an OC $75K. Hard to tell what his best distance is, but it looks like at best he’ll have to press and make a move in the stretch. Gets extra consideration for having Irad up. Copernicus easily beat a MCL $40K field and was grabbed by RuRod. He fits here today. Deficit Hawk strongly won his maiden but disappointed at the odds on fav in the Rego Park. Violette has him working well and this field may be a lot more to his ability.

Race 8      2-10-4

Don’t Blame Her puts the blinkers on and is dropping way down after making her first two starts in MSW races. Should have high early and has been getting better late in races. Wonderish is another dropping out of MSW, although they were at FL. May be looking for a drier track. Moonlight Fantasy is a five start maiden who is going first out for Jacobson. She was hard to load last out and if she calms a bit today and expends he energy in the race she’s a contender.

Brave New World

The January 30 issue of ESPN the Magazine did a cover story on Alex Rodriguez. There seems to be no residual doubt Rodriguez was deeply involved in using performance enhancing drugs. I don’t mean therapeutic drugs like butazolidin. I mean drugs that had only one purpose – to give him a physical edge.

Earlier in the issue writer Mina Kimes did one of those pieces that writers often do. I call them, if only someone as smart and clever as me was in charge, all the sport’s woes would be fixed pieces. It’s amazing how many people not in charge apparently should be in charge. I should know. I write enough of those pieces.

Her proposal was for a sports czar so that sports teams couldn’t blackmail their home cities into giving them millions of dollars as a payoff to not move their operations to another city (usually Los Angeles). Another great idea that we can add to the trash heap of good ideas coming from frustrated writers with all the answers and none of the power.

Whether or not my stuff compares to Mina’s stuff, I’m sure her editor is light years better than mine.

Speaking of A-Rod, I’ll bet you didn’t know that MLB allowed him to treat his low testosterone with injections of the synthetic version. It was the illegal juice on top of the legal juice that did him in. If you watch enough of TVG or HRTV, you start to wonder how you ever managed to make it this far without testosterone supplements, super beta prostate, Cialis or some other wonder treatment that will restore you to the peak of performance. Just be thankful you aren’t a racehorse subject to the protocols of trainers and the subsequent criticisms of the naturalists. I’ll take my Cialis and sit in a disconnected bath tub on top of a plateau watching sunsets without hearing about it, thank you very much.

Lately I’ve been stuck in a rut writing about the tussle between trainers trying to stay clean but getting pinched by racing’s own version of Torquemada, the Association of Racing Commissioners International and the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.

I understand the water, hay, oats people. Their position is simple – horses should be running only if they are healthy and drug free. They want to see the animals competing based on their inherent talent and ability, not some artificially induced state of euphoria. In their minds, what could possibly be wrong with that?

If they win this battle, they might make their next mission to go after the cortisone, torodol and, what the hell, baking soda taken by professional human athletes. I don’t think I’m going to ever convert over to WHO. I honestly believe that whether the athletes are human or equine, there is a way to safely and effectively use therapeutic medications, and not punish trainers who use them they way they were intended to be used. A trainer who winds up with a picogram medication violation and points for a legal drug (fluphenazine) that the owner administered in the correct dosage 53 days  earlier has, in blunt terms, been screwed by his chosen profession.

There are abusive trainers out there. There are trainers willing to “cheat” to get an edge. The unfortunate thing is that they are probably known to other trainers who have their own version of the “blue line” and refuse to turn them in to track authorities. Trainers willingness to tolerate the bad guys only winds up putting all of them in the same bucket, giving ammunition to the anti-medication crowd. We need to get the real bad guys out of racing, but that is a much smaller percentage than the anti-drug folks would have you believe.

I had a fascinating conversation with someone on Twitter about something called epigenetics. Epigenetics is an emerging field of research that is looking to tie environmental factors to genetic responses. I know. This sounds a little more complicated than whether horses peak third off a layoff. This explanation comes from Manolis Kellis from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The epigenome is the additional information our cells have on top of genetic information. It is made of chemical tags that are attached to DNA and its packaging. These tags act like genetic controllers, influencing whether a gene is switched on or off, and play an instrumental role in shaping our bodies and disease.”

These epigenomic tags are attached as a result of exposure to environmental factors, potentially including drugs we put into our system. This field of research has excited the WHO folks, who are hoping epigenetics “proves” that Lasix has weakened the breed.

There’s only one problem. I asked Manolis Kellis if it was possible that running on Lasix has weakened the breed by somehow passing along these epigenomic variations. He said,

Trans-generational inheritance of epigenomic marks is still a hotly debated area. Our cells go through two rounds of reprogramming specifically to erase epigenetic marks, both during gamete formation, and during pre-implantation development…Thus, it is highly unlikely that the epigenomic marks we study here escape these two cycles. There is some evidence of trans-generational inheritance. Some of it could be environmental. Some could be mechanisms that escape these processes”

I’m sure the epigenetic folks will focus on hotly debated. I’m focused on highly unlikely. Whatever genetic triggers Lasix may stimulate while the horse is racing, the probability these are passed on is very low. We know this anecdotally because we have not seen dramatic or chaotic genetic changes in humans, horses, or any other animal for that matter. What we’ve seen is the effect of environmental exposures on individuals, leading to things like high blood pressure or diabetes. It perhaps makes sense that if a respective gene is passed along and the progeny are exposed to the same environmental factors, they may wind up with the same conditions, but that underscores the more likely culprit if you believe the breed is weakening – lack of diversity in the gene pool.

That will be a discussion for the next blog.

Who’s the Boss?

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  The Who

I used to say that whatever job you have, the first thing you demand is that your boss be the person in the company most qualified to be the boss. Even if you are a customer of the company it is critical to believe the person in charge is capable of making sure the company provides the best customer service possible.

The boss walks a fine line between keeping his employees and shareholders happy and making customers believe the company also has their best interests at heart. When either group has complaints, even if those complaints are off the wall, the groups expect the boss to at least listen. They expect the boss not to be arrogant or dismissive. They expect the boss to be measured and wise in his response. They realize that they may not always get their way, but they will respect decisions that are made with sincerity, thoughtfulness, and fairness.

If you follow the public media, taking potshots at racetrack management  is a common occurrence. If Twitter had been around since the 50’s the documented list of complaints, real or imagined, would be volumes longer.

Management has done plenty right. As is normally the case, good decisions rarely get mountains of praise, but bad decisions will unleash a volley of negative response. But it is different now than it was in the 50’s. Then the sport was still closer to the summit than the base. The big three (baseball, horseracing, and boxing) were still the big three. Football and basketball were years from becoming the mega-sports they are today.

If you told track management in the 50’s that by 2015 they would be a minor sport struggling at many levels, you’d have been laughed out of their offices. Why is attendance lagging? What are the real problems? Drugs? Too many tracks? A balkanized structure in which states govern with a myriad of different rules? Takeouts that are too high? Too many overlapping post times? An aging customer base? In-breeding that has weakened the breed?

If you did a survey, all of those things would show up on the list, and they are problems, but the basic issue is that the racetrack experience is no longer an essential part of horseracing. On any given day, the percentage of dollars wagered at locations other than the racetrack approaches 85%. Except for the boutique meets like Saratoga, the on-track experience in 2015 is often not much different than it was in 1955, other than warehouse sized video screens and better betting machines. In fact, racing in many cases is taking place in the same facility it did in 1955. Racing has lost its appeal as a gathering place for race fans and has been reduced to its one critical element – betting. How did you fall in love with horseracing? Was it no more complicated than you could bet a horse? Or did it have something to do with the atmosphere of the track? That first time you heard thundering hooves. The smell of cheap cigars. Surly tellers.  We’ve lost the one thing that hooked us. We loved being at the track. It was the place we felt at home. How do you attract new fans, young fans, when the experience has no more romance than a video game?

I’m not suggesting we go back to the 50’s when you could only make a bet at the track, but there has to be a place where the racetrack experience becomes real to budding fans. Horseracing has to be different – better – than a lottery ticket or a slot machine. The stars of the sport must become an essential part of the experience; it must rival the other sports for fan attachment.

It is rarely marketed as a sport, especially on the racing channels. If you knew no better you might think he raison d’etre for racing channels is to promote their affiliated betting sites. How much of the day is devoted to education? How much of the day is devoted to the beauty of the athletes? As long as racing makes its sole line of promotion gambling, it misses the opportunity to promote itself as a sport. The NFL may be as popular as it is in part because of betting on games, but it doesn’t market itself as gambling but as a sport with team loyalty and star power. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

The irony is racing is trying to attract a younger generation by marketing the sport to them as an opportunity to spend money they don’t have. Despite a society that venerates older people by giving them discounts on everything as if they were on the edge of a financial cliff, the reality is that there is no generation so financially well off as the one comprised of people looking in the rear-view mirror to watch their disappearing middle age.

The medication rules being promoted by ARCI  and RMTC will help some people believe in the integrity of racing, but all the medication rules in the world are unlikely to ever satisfy the animal rights people who firmly believe the one thing a horse was born to do, run, must ultimately end up as abuse if the running occurs on a racetrack. And as I have pointed out, despite the ARCI promises of fair medications rules, the implementation in places like Maryland hasn’t been quite so smooth.

The solution to balkanization can take many forms. There is a faction that believes there must be a central authority for all tracks with a uniform set of rules, sort of a Roger Goodell for horseracing. There is a faction that believes over time if we do nothing in particular the small tracks will continue to fade away until there are only the mega-jurisdictions left. Sort of a Darwinian approach – the strong will survive.  There is a faction that believes the entire idea of horseracing should be taking a back seat to the real gambling money-maker, casinos. The one solution I never hear is some form of revenue sharing, much like the National Football League does to ensure small market teams have an equal financial ability to compete.

The high takeouts? This is in fact complete ignorance and disdain on the part of states. Despite the studies that consistently show lower take means higher profits, it is harder to sell than space heaters on the equator. This is really the place where bettors can influence tracks. Player boycotts have generally been ineffective because bettors will simply not give up playing the high takeout tracks en masse. If you are betting tracks in Pennsylvania with a trifecta takeout at 30%, YOU share equally in the criticism. Stop betting there and perhaps they will change.

Perhaps the most difficult problem to solve is the betting menus at many tracks. Unless a track is handling Belmont, Gulfstream, Saratoga, Santa Anita or Del Mar type money, the first thing a track should look at is consolidating pools. There should be no separate show pool but a combined place/show pool that plays to the first three horses across the line. There should be no races with separate quinella and exacta pools, but one exacta pool. A $1 exacta box is the equivalent of a $2 quinella. And if someone whines they would be lost without a $1 quinella, perhaps they are undercapitalized to be betting, The minimum bet for most of the 20th century was $2, even when middle class people were only making $80 a week. Now that even the minimum wage pays four times that much, bettors still demand a ten cent minimum on some bets. You figure it out. Smaller tracks often do a bang-up job of discouraging betting by having pools too small to provide an incentive to act. Unfortunately, unless some group of major bettors gangs up on management, those in charge are unlikely to change the betting menu.

There are a lot of really smart people who care deeply about the game out there. If the bosses are smart, they will find them and listen to them and change the things that should be changed.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over by the train if you just stand still.

They Shall Reap the Whirlwind

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”       Hosea, 8:7

If you want to start an argument among horseplayers, vets, owners, trainers or racetrack management, just say “drugs.” In many quarters, even legal raceday medications, Lasix in particular, are under great fire. There is growing support for the idea that racing in America can be drug free.


It is an idea based on a belief that we can be Hong Kong or Europe if only we could muster the will to give it a shot. I’ve pointed out why we cannot become Hong Kong (see Some of the same arguments apply to why we cannot be Europe either.

It is an idea based on either a misinterpretation of pharmacological studies or simply ignoring that horses get ill just like humans do, and the right thing to do is care for the horse the same way you would care for yourself – with medication you can obtain either by prescription or over the counter. If you’ve ever had an infection, if you’ve ever sprained an ankle, if you’ve ever had an asthma attack, if you’ve ever had a wisdom tooth removed or had even minor surgery, you know the importance of having medications to deal with the pain and inflammation. The 26 medications on the RMTC approved medication list are there because they help manage the health of a horse.

Pharmacologically though, these therapeutic medications can stay in your system long after they have stopped having the appropriate effect. As I’ve said before, if you are measuring in picograms (trillionth of a gram) you can take ibuprofen yesterday and still have it show up tomorrow, long after it stopped working to reduce swelling or pain.

It is based on the idea that, given any opening, trainers would indiscriminately inject horses to build super animals, muscle-bound like four-legged Schwarzeneggers, impervious to pain and running through injury. Even if that were a real concern, it would only be for an incredibly small number of trainers who could be found and run out of racing. Those who are trying to get you to believe that trainers are giving horses banamine and 24 hours later the horse is running through injury as if it wasn’t there are peddling propaganda that would be comical if there weren’t so many people ready to believe it. Believe the science, not the anecdote.

Mostly, it is an idea that all racing is Saratoga or Gulfstream or Del Mar. It isn’t and we all know it. If your entire opinion is based on racing at Belmont or Saratoga, you may want to remember there are 98 other tracks out there, most of which aren’t Belmont or Saratoga. I pointed out that Hong Kong could get through an entire year’s worth of races with full fields with less than 2,000 total horses in training. North America couldn’t make it through a weekend of racing in August with only that many horses in the stables. On a miserable Saturday in January 18 tracks are running races. In one January week we will run more races than Hong Kong runs all year. If North American tracks decided to run 83 days a year, sure we could probably identify enough high quality horses to run without any raceday medication. If we were all willing to accept that racing in every state other than California, New York, Kentucky, Florida and maybe one or two others would have to revert to fair status perhaps we would be able to go completely drug free.

If you think there are people out there who aren’t working toward making racing at non-major venues non-viable, think again. Getting medications to be illegal at picogram levels everywhere ultimately leaves the mega-track owners with the oligopoly they one day hope to have. That’s not just my opinion – that is a widely held opinion on backsides from Key West to Seattle. The irony is that many small-state racing commissions are adopting standards that ultimately will drive away the horsemen they depend on, either because those jurisdictions are being threatened with denial of certification or because they have been pushed into believing anything short of a medication ban is bad for racing. Believe me, I’ve talked to trainers who have told me no less. I’ll be doing an in-depth piece on this topic in the near future.

I made the point about a compromise for dealing with Lasix in my article, To Lasix or Not to Lasix There is a solution if you are willing to limit drug free running to the biggest meets and loosen up for the B and C level tracks. But if you expect to run completely drug free at C level tracks, you are being overoptimistic, if not unrealistic. The horses are at these tracks for two primary reasons. They belong to the equivalent of hobbyists who have farms and want to run locally, but don’t run year round, or the owners and trainers have stock that doesn’t have the talent to compete at the highest levels. The point is that there is a way to have your cake and eat it too in North America.

Which brings me to this weeks topic – anabolic steroids. Maryland has been in the news lately because four trainers were cited for the presence of stanozolol in their post race samples between mid-November and mid December. Why all of a sudden are we seeing these positives? Because Maryland has adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward steroids. RMTC induced them to be the test case for zero-tolerance.

And with good reason too. According to the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), there were three – that’s right, three – positives for steroids in the first 10 months of 2014. Practically an epidemic. Apparently the old rules, which generally allowed therapeutic injections as long as they were 30 days before a race, were simply not catching enough scofflaws.

Before someone makes the mistake of thinking I believe we should be allowing anabolic steroids without restriction, let me disabuse you of the notion. My argument is that the old 30 day rule, which could have probably been moved to 40 days without too much static from trainers, was perfectly fine. It would allow for reasonable therapeutic application while assuring the racing public that no horse was gaining an advantage. It would also avoid the obvious problem – trainers wouldn’t have to “pre-test” the horse to make sure there wasn’t a stray picogram left in the system. The zero-tolerance rule has the effect of requiring trainers to keep horses that have been treated in the barn two to three months, OR stop using steroids altogether, even when they are indicated as the best therapeutic treatment for a horse. Anyone who has had a cortisone shot knows exactly what I mean.

Four trainers- Scott Lake, Hector Garcia, A. Ferris Allen III, and Jerry Thurston – were cited by Maryland after the new rules went into effect for the steroid stanozolol.

Stanozolol, marketed until recently as Winstrol, is used by trainers mainly as an appetite stimulant and as an aid in recovery after surgery (and an awful lot of male horses have surgery, also known as gelding). It has been used by veterinarians preferentially in cases of “failure to thrive.” However, it obviously has the same effects that anabolic steroids are known to have when it comes to muscle building, (and roid rage) and for that reason it is important not to allow horses to run while the steroid is having a performance-enhancing effect.

Winstrol is no longer manufactured, so stanozolol has to be made at a compounding pharmacy, and as you might immediately discern, the formula can vary slightly, meaning the amount of time it can take for the drug to metabolize out of a horse’s system can vary from 20 days up to even 90 days in rare circumstances. This metabolizing time becomes important as we will see later.

Garcia claimed surprise at the positive, insisting he knew of no one in his barn who applied stanozolol. That is the trainer version of someone must have broken into my house and stolen my homework. It carries no weight with the stewards. Lake seemed to be pushing the envelope and got nailed. His complaint is more about the harshness of the penalty than the unfairness of the standard. But the situation for A. Ferris Allen III was entirely different.

Allen’s horse, Richard’s Gold, was treated post-surgically with stanozolol and was entered to race 37 days later. The application of the drug was noted on medication sheets, and all this was confirmed by the testimony of the administering veterinarian. No one was trying to hide anything. The veterinarian advised Allen that 30 days should be sufficient to meet the medication rules and this was based on the veterinary practice’s experience with administering over 500 doses of stanozolol and never seeing a positive. Of course, that was before the rules changed.

When Allen was informed that his horse had tested positive, he requested that a split sample be tested, and although initially Maryland didn’t want to give him the numerical results of the tests, eventually they told him the first test was 40 picograms and the confirmatory test was 60 picograms. Arithmetically, the confirmatory test was 50% higher than the original test and that kind of variability is not unusual. Of course, with a zero-tolerance standard, it doesn’t matter as long as the amount is greater than zero.

Let me put that in perspective. A trillion seconds is over 31,000 years. A trillion grams is over 2.2 billion pounds (if I did the arithmetic correctly). You can back calculate, if  you want, the weight of a trillionth of a gram in pounds, but I can tell you there a lot of zeros between the decimal point and the first positive numeral. If you combined the weight of every living human being, all seven billion of them or so, they’d weigh a bit over a trillion pounds. If you took one four year old and stuck him in the middle of a group containing everyone else in the world, you’d have the equivalent of 40 picograms. If I took one-trillionth of the blood in your body it would be an amount so small you couldn’t see it without a very powerful microscope. So 40 or 60 picograms is a really, really small amount. To paraphrase Dr. Steven Barker, the pre-eminent equine pharmacologist, show me someone who can measure down to 40 picograms and I’ll show you someone with a new mass spectrometer.

Frankly, when racing commissions tell the public a complete ban on steroids is necessary to protect the integrity of racing, it ignores both the therapeutic value of such drugs and the pharmacological reality that at low picogram concentrations there is no impact on performance.

Ferris Allen made a good point about the fine and the days he was given. Allen, who happened to own the horse that tested positive, said losing the purse was punishment enough. Getting fined on top of that is like double dipping. If Allen is upset, it is that the loss of the purse, loss of his ability to make a living during the suspension, an additional fine on top of all that, the hit to his reputation and its effect on his ability to attract quality clients, and the assignment of four penalty points, was out of all proportion to the actual violation.

Ferris Allen is another of an increasing number of trainers who are getting caught up in what may ultimately be a fight for the survival of small tracks and small stables. There is a 100 picogram  minimum level for a stanozolol positive in a number of jurisdictions, and there is no reason it couldn’t be adopted by all jurisdictions, instead of the the zero-tolerance standard being pushed by ARCI and RMTC.

Let’s punish the people pushing the envelope or out and out cheating and mete out fair justice to the others caught up in the fervor to fix racing’s problems, both real and concocted.

Drugs in Horseracing: Who’s Causing the Problem?

Scott Lake, once THE mega-claiming trainer in the Mid-Atlantic, was initially suspended for 60 days by the Maryland Racing Commission for having a horse test positive for the steroid stanozolol, sold as  Winstrol.  Maryland recently adopted the Racing Commissioners International (RCI) rules developed under the National Uniform Medication Program (NUMP). You know how each state has rules for how many points a driver can accumulate before losing his license? NUMP is the same concept except not only does each violation accumulate points, it also comes with a suspension. The more points you accumulate, the longer each subsequent suspension is.

Lake had a stanozolol positive at Penn National in June, which earned him four points on the NUMP scale. The second positive at Laurel in December earned him another four points, jumping the initial 60 day Maryland suspension to  120 days.

Lake appealed, although his main argument seems to be with the fairness of the cumulative aspect of the penalty. Lake suggests that the same violation should get the same penalty for all trainers, apparently irrespective of previous violations.

It’s an interesting topic for argument, but I have two issues I’d rather discuss. First is the inconsistency regarding regulatory levels in the various jurisdictions. I’ll give you a real life example.

A trainer (nameless for the moment but one that I will eventually doing a big story about) was found in violation in Pennsylvania for the drug fluphenazine, a class 2 medication. The drug is used to calm down horses  with behavioral issues. The particular horse in question had flipped on multiple occasions during training and the stable veterinarian recommended fluphenazine. Fluphenazine, sold as Prolixin, is an anti-psychotic drug used to treat schizophrenic type behavior, and while you can argue about whether it is the best choice given other treatment options, it is a relatively cheap and effective treatment for the type of behavioral problems this horse had.

The horse in this case responded well to the treatment. The trainer then decided to look for a race for the horse, but first checked with his vet to make sure he wouldn’t violate any medication rules. The vet, Maryland based, assured the trainer that Maryland rules required only a seven-day waiting period after the treatment. The trainer entered the horse in Maryland 21 days after the treatment, and the race didn’t fill. He then found a race in West Virginia and again the race didn’t fill. Finally he found a race in Pennsylvania, 35 days after the horse was treated. Unfortunately, the vet wasn’t fullly familiar with Pennsylvania rules regarding fluphenazine, and the trainer didn’t do any research, so he assumed 35 days would be plenty of time between treatment and race. The horse won, was tested and came back positive for fluphenazine.

The problem was that in Pennsylvania there was a zero-tolerance rule for fluphenazine. In the hearing the trainer was told there was a 180 day waiting period for the drug. In almost all horses, fluphenazine will completely metabolize in 45-90 days, so while the people in Pennsylvania provided advice that was a bit too conservative, it is likely under a zero-tolerance policy any horse would almost certainly test positive after only 35 days. Was it the trainer’s fault he didn’t know the rule? Technically, yes. But the fluphenazine had long since stopped having any real physiological effect on the horse, and having adjacent states with such disparate standards has to drive trainers in the Mid-Atlantic crazy. The fluphenazine made the horse capable o racing where it wasn’t previously, but it didn’t make horse run faster.

Once again, I’m going to go into a lot more detail about this in a comprehensive future report, including some surprising opinions from leading equine pharmacologists, but at this point the trainer is stuck with a Class 2 violation even though the horse almost certainly won on its own ability. Pennsylvania’s rule in this case was the equivalent of getting a speeding citation for going a quarter MPH over the speed limit.

The second issue is that there is a substantial difference between a positive for theraputic drugs and drugs that have no other purpose than to either enhance or depress performance. The drug Lake was cited for, stanozolol, is an accepted theraputic medication, although as a steroid it can have performance enhancing effects. In humans it is known as a “cutting” drug, meaning it builds lean muscle mass while reducing fat. In horses it is often used to stimulate appetite. The injectable version has a half-life of about 24 hours, meaning it would be a while before a horse’s system was completely clear of the drug. In fact, it would show up well after the drug had stopped having any measurable physiological effect.

ALL DRUGS ARE PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING and given modern measurment technology that can detect picograms (trillionths of a gram) it may take months before some drugs become unmeasurable. If you took ibuporfen for a headache yesterday, it would be detectable tomorrow even though four hours after you took it the headache returned.

Many owners, especially at the smaller tracks, simply can’t afford to take essentially clean horses out of training for an extra three months while the picograms reduce to zero.

I don’t want to blame the storytelling press – after all, they just report the news, not make it – but they are not fully doing their job when they don’t report the level at which the violation was measured and the likelihood that level was performance enhancing or depressing. It is important that the racegoing public understand when a positive is technical and when it is substantive. Trainers are pilloried for positives, but how often do you see a story taking a racing commission to task for punishing a trainer for a positive at a no more than a trace level? I know I’ve written about Doug O’Neill and the oxazepam violation that would have been laughable had it not been so costly.

Too many trainers are winding up with violations that are for trace levels of theraputics and that do not impact performance in the way a high level of a Class 1 opiate would. Subsequent violations result in excessive penalties. Too many trainers wind up with “points” for violations that no trained equine pharmacologist would call performance-affecting.

I don’t know enough of the details surrounding Scott Lake’s violations for stanozolol to know if he is a “cheat,” he got caught up in not paying close enough attention to medication standards in the different states, or if he just pushed the medication evelope a little too hard. Fining and suspending trainers who are trying to keep their horses on the track with legal, theraputic medication, and who are racing them well after the theraputic effects have dissipated is not in the best interest of racing. It creates the appearance of rampant drug abuse.

Racing commissions rightfully work to keep the game clean, but there is no shame in reserving the harshest punishments for only the truly guilty. In a subsequent post I’ll go into detail about how racing commissions can do a fairer job of only punishing those who deserve harsh punishments. In the meantime, let’s expect more than a regurgitation of the racing commission press releases from the mainstream press. Let’s provide enough detail to know whether we’ve been protected or a clean trainer has been caught up in the system.

Gulfstream February 7

With NYRA having trouble with the weather, not to mention the auxiliary gate getting stuck in the snow, I figure time to take a shot with GP. We’ll see how well my handicapping holds up down south in Florida.

Race 1      4-2-8

Dee’s Causeway has had three consecutive races with trouble at the start, which is cause for some concern. Her last two workouts before her November race debut were from the gate, suggesting an issue. In her last race, her turf debut, she was off a step slow but rushed into the race and ran evenly, beaten less than three lengths. That switch to the turf was a tonic for the horse, and a little improvement puts her right there.  The blinkers go on today, and perhaps that will help with focus. The trainer jockey combo is nothing to get excited about, being in the 10% range, but this is about as easy a field as she is likely to get. She’s at the right claiming price. Tumminia will garner favoritism by virtue of her front running ability and best last race number. No reason she can’t win today, but at the price she won’t be much value. Sexual Appeal (wonder how that one got by the Jockey Club) has been off since August. She puts the blinkers on, gets Lasix for the first time, changes trainers, and has a decent set of works for the return. 20-1 ML horse is worth a look.

Race 2      7-3-8

Jay Eye See has had a little bit of trouble being a groom instead of a groomsman, but he is rarely not in the race. He has an in-between look, not a route horse, but not necessarily a sprinter, so the seven furlong distance seems like it might be right for him. He was claimed last out by his previous trainer, usually a good sign. I wouldn’t bet him with gusto, but I like his figures and I like the pace he was on last out. Indian Brut broke his maiden on the slop at AQU in impressive fashion and came back at GP at today’s distance to finish second in a decent allowance race. He broke slow in that affair but managed to rush up near the front and finished well. He should be the favorite and won’t be good odds, but he will be solid in the horizontals and verticals. Pomeroy’s Package wired a cheaper OC field last out in an impressive time. He should be with the front runners and may hang on for the win.

Race 3      7-8-5

It’s Not Me has won four of his eight starts and looks like the speed of the speed. He only has one dismal start on the turf, but his last on the synthetic was powerful and provides reason for optimism. Souper Colossal actually had the lead at one point in the BC Juvenile but was swallowed up by most of the field. That was his only loss in four lifetime starts. He looks like more of a sprinter and has a win at five furlongs. Pow Wow Pal broke his maiden at five furlongs in an off the turf affair and did it in impressive wire to wire fashion. Wesley Ward has been having a good meet and should have him wound up and ready to roll.

Race 4      10-1-6

Performance Bonus had a troubled race first out but still finished second behind Classy Class. He should like the stretch out to a mile and Chad Brown is having his usual successful meet. The only thing Brown is better at than first time starters is second time starters. Vandalize goes first out for Pletcher, who is dynamite with young maidens. I like the speedier works early in the sequence and the mix of four and five furlong drills after that. He should take to the mile and while Castellano and Johnny V go elsewhere, Zayas is a competent sub. He gets the rail so he’ll have to fly early. Key to the Bridge is 20-1 on the ML but Brian Lynch is 25% first out. I like that quick three furlong early in the workout sequence and I like the breeding for the mile trip.

Race 5      5-3-7

El Botas was a first timer at the turf sprint last out and looked good drawing out after getting pressed early. Despite his lack of experience at this level, he is at the top of his game and could be the speed of the speed, although he should get a tussle from Bold Thunder up front. Green Mask finished second to Bold Thunder in the Turf Dash at Tampa in his first try at five furlongs. In that race he broke tenth of 12 and had the unfavorable outside tracking spot. If he gets a better spot out of the gate today he is the danger. The change from Clement to Wesley Ward shouldn’t hurt at all. Prudhoe Bay has a second at this distance in two starts but is coming out of two G3 races, winning the Jersey Shore in August. He’s been off since September but looks like he’s been working reasonably well for his return. He should be one of the ones trying to close for the win.

Race 6      4-10-8

Flashy Jewel is 12-1 on the ML. He vied with 1/2 favorite Royal Sun for the lead in his last, and was checked in the stretch when the eventual winner Tradesman came over. Tradesman was ultimately disqualified and placed behind Flashy Jewel. Flashy Jewel wasn’t going to beat either of the top two, but he ran well considering he was being intimidated between horses in the stretch and lost all chance after checking. I think this race is a better spot – there’s no Royal Son or Tradesman here. Like the experience, speed and works since last. Danzig Moon is coming off a three and a half month break for Mark Casse. His last was interesting – he totally missed the break, held back and closed to only miss by a length and half. A clean break would bode well for him. The Son Wind hasn’t show a lot of heart in the stretch but they have been solid efforts. Some chance today.

Race 7      5-3-13

Chiltern Street goes first time for Wesley Ward. He’s had a good series of turf works and Ward has looked strong with his first time starters. He’s well bred for the turf and the distance. Muhaawer has been sharp in the morning and Kieran McLaughlin has had a good GP meet. He’s moderately bred for the turf but well bred for the distance. Irish Cat is another with the workouts and the breeding to be a factor. Chad Brown and Rosario make the horse look better than the 10-1 ML.

Race 8      12-6-10

Tapicat had an abbreviated season last year, and while Mott isn’t high percentage off a long layoff, she has won coming off the rest previously. She’s certainly classy enough for this field and if she is back in top shape she’s the one to beat. Triple Charm won 2 of 4 last year but did not win her first in 2014  off the year and a half layoff. I think that was excusable, but clearly the horse has some physical delicacy. Still, I like Clement and the workouts and she’s another who is dangerous off her best. Patsy’s Holiday is the Pletcher entrant and is 2 for 4 at GP and 1 of 2 at the distance.

Race 9      7-4-11

I could have picked six horses in this race and not felt confident of the winner. Of the horses that have started, Sir Alfred looks best. He has one start on the slop for Pletcher and looked good vying for the lead between horses. The experience should serve him well in today’s contest. Centauro Star cuts back half a furlong today. Last race he broke slowly, didn’t rush, closed steadily and finished a decent second. Since then he was gelded and shows three nice workouts, the last a bullet blowout. Like his chances today. Rare Art is a Chad Brown first timer spectacularly bred for the sprint. I like his workout pattern, especially the last four furlong breeze.

Race 10      4-8-3

Starstruck makes her 2015 debut after a disappointing 2014. She switches from the Larry Jones barn to Nick Zito. She’s likely the best horse in the race on her best day, although you can never be sure which Starstruck is showing up. Sandiva ran a great race in the Tropical Park Oaks, breaking from the 13 post and hanging on gamely for the win. She was a Group 3 winner in Europe and I don’t think we’ve yet seen her best in America. Scampering already has a start at GP in 2015. She was anxious loading in that race, probably left all her reserves at the starting gate. Can’t underrate the prowess of McGaughey in Graded Stakes, and although this horse has struggled a bit at the level, she should be keyed for her best.

Race 11      3-10-5

Confrontation has five wins from 10 career starts and just missed four weeks ago in the Hal’s Hope to the talented Lea, one of today’s Donn starters. Looks like the value at 5-1 ML. Valid pressed the pace in the Hal’s Hope and may be the frontrunner today. He doesn’t give up easily and will be the one to pass late. Mosler is a newly turned four year old who seems to be getting better. His first turf race showed promise and he gets first Lasix today.

Race 12      3-4-1

Imagining tends to run toward the front in turf marathons, but is likely to be more of a closer at today’s distance. He lost his last to horse of the year contender Main Sequence in the BC Turf and he did just miss to another starter in this race, Lochte, in last year’s edition of GP Turf Handicap. He’s a proven commodity off the bench and should be coming hard at the leaders in the stretch. Grand Tito just missed to Mshawish in the Fort Lauderdale four weeks ago. The extra sixteenth should be in his favor and I look for him to turn the tables today. Mshawish is riding a two race winning streak and has won three of his last four. He’s got talent, but may have a tough time resisting some of the better closers.

Race 13      2-4-1

The Donn came up as a very competitive race. The Todd Pletcher trained Commissioner faces his first test as a four year old. He ran a spectacular race in the Belmont, losing by only a head to the talented Tonalist. He laid off until January where he ran a nice third in an OC $62. It seems likely Pletcher was only trying to give the horse a conditioner in prep for this race, and given the two nice four furlong works since that race he should be on top of his game for the Donn. Castellano bails in favor of the other Pletcher horse, Constitution, and that is of mild concern, but nothing wrong with having Johnny V as your backup. Lea was in great form at GP in 2014 and picked up right where he left off in the Hal’s Hope a few weeks ago. This horse has nothing but heart and anything less than a competitive run would be a surprise. If he has a down side it is that he would probably prefer a distance less than a mile and an eighth, but he obviously can negotiate since he is the defending champ in the Donn. Constitution was the Florida Derby winner at GP but injury kept him off the Derby trail. He came back in an OC $80K in October, a typical Pletcher prepatory move. In that race he stumbled early on and wanted to go-go-go to the front but was wrangled by Castellano. He faded slightly at the end, seemingly a common outcome for horses that use a lot of energy fighting to use their speed. His race in the Clark was almost a winning one, losing only to the very talented Hoppertunity and another Donn  starter Protonico. If he’s learned to relax on the front end he represents a major contender.

When the Mob Rules There Are No Rules

I was reading about the alleged rape at the University of Virginia in which the members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity were accused of staging a gang rape initiation ritual. The story appeared in Rolling Stone and the outrage that emanated after the publication was no surprise. There is inevitably a rush to judgment in such cases, and the fraternity paid by having their house trashed, windows broken, and being forced to move to hotels. Pretty much the same thing that happened to the Duke Lacrosse team. Considering the non-stop media coverage of the Rolling Stone story and the vitriol spewed on social media sites, the guilt of the frat boys was a forgone conclusion.

The only problem was none of it was true. The members of Phi Kappa Psi realized within 24 hours of the story being published that not only were they innocent of the alleged charge, the incident never occurred. At that point, the fraternity decided to not say a word for fear of making things more difficult. They shut-up and took a public pounding. Much of the credit for exposing the fraud goes to T. Rees Shapiro from the Washington Post, who did what Rolling Stone did not – finally talked to the fraternity members. Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the Rolling Stone reporter, blithely ruined the lives of innocent people in the name of sensationalizing what may be a legitimate problem, just not in this case.

We’ve all watched old Westerns where a mob insists on instant justice for someone accused of a crime. We’ve read and seen real pictures of black people who were lynched in the 20th century. Lately we’ve watched video of groups like ISIS beheading hostages guilty of little more than not being a zealot bent on ruling the world. In each of those cases the vast majority of us are repulsed, and immediately see the wrongness of pronouncing someone guilty before knowing all the facts or because they are in some way different. We know mob justice is wrong, but sometimes we are helpless to stop ourselves against the tidal wave of public opinion. If you were one of the people who thought Phi Kappa Psi deserved to be stoned the day after the story came out, you might be feeling, at the least, sheepish. Given an opportunity, the system would have properly investigated the allegations, found the facts, and meted out any punishment. Unfortunately, the only crime in this case was committed by the fake victim and the reporter who didn’t do her job.

Yet in horseracing we are often quick to rush to judgment when it comes to trainers. David Jacobson generates such enmity that over a thousand people signed a petition asking that he be thrown out of New York. Jacobson was suspended in 1981 for failing to provide a horse named Hugable Tom with proper care and was kept out of racing until 2007. Since he has been back he has been the poster child for everything wrong with racing. The petition cites his three medication violations for phenylbutazone and clenbuterol and his numerous fines for “failing to conduct business in a proper manner.” Let me tell you, the list of transgressions meriting a fine by the stewards is almost endless and I’ve previously mentioned things like a male stablehand being fined $50 for using the ladies bathroom because, in his mind, the men’s facility was disgusting. The fine would have been higher except he did remember to put the seat down when he was finished.

Jacobson’s heinous instances of failing to conduct business are usually not specified by New York, but in one case necessitated the scratch of his horse resulting in the cancellation of a race (at the winter meet at AQU by the way). That’s right, it was Jacobson’s fault that AQU had to cancel a race. His other offenses included things like

  • not having the proper colors for his horse in the paddock;
  • not having the proper foal papers;
  • using an unauthorized blinker;
  • a turf shoe violation.

He also ran a horse in Pennsylvania in violation of New York state racing rules. Figure that one out.

Oh, and his drug violations for clenbuterol and phenylbutazone – they occurred in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland, not New York. That’s right, he hasn’t violated New York’s medication standards since 2007. In a subsequent piece I’m going to go into great detail about the failures of laboratory testing and how the results are misued by racing commissions.

The petition also cites five horse deaths as the final nails in Jacobson’s coffin. However, not once does it mention the evidence that the deaths of these horses was clearly a result of Jacobson’s negligence. They died, Jacobson was the trainer, he needs to be ruled off the track.

So what has the New York State Gaming Commission figured out? Well they haven’t figured out what medications he is abusing. They haven’t figured out how Jacobson was culpable in the racetrack deaths of his horses. And believe me, New York has looked at Jacobson the way CSI looks at evidence. In fact, the most New York has on Jacobson is that he is guilty of the equivalent of a series of parking tickets in that state.

Am I defending Jacobson? I am defending his right to due process. I am defending his right to be judged on the facts of his transgressions and the severity of the violations by a proper authority, not a mob of people hopped up on their own righteousness. He may be innocent or guilty, but there is a right way to go about proving that.

Jacobson is not a sympathetic figure. His father, Buddy Jacobson, was famously quoted as seeing horses as nothing more than machines, a way to make his living. He felt no great attachment to them in the way many horse lovers do. While David has been circumspect enough to not express the same negative feelings toward the animals, he is stained with the unavoidable problem of being Buddy’s son. New York never forgave Buddy Jacobson for leading the nine-day strike by stable workers, and it is not a stretch to suggest some folks still carry a grudge. Jacobson does seem to run his horses at short intervals, and to many who are not licensed trainers that is all the proof they need to label Jacobson as abusive. Ignore the fact that the horses are checked by the state vet before being allowed to start. The state apparently shares no culpability in the mind of the mob. New York dealt with trainers like Jacobson by installing a 14-day rest rule for the AQU winter meeting. That wasn’t enough for the mob. Nothing short of the death penalty will be punishment enough.

Do you know how much pressure there is on trainers, especially those with sizable stables, to fill out fields at AQU in the winter? Do you know about the bartering that goes on between the racing secretary and the trainers? Enter Horse A over here, and I’ll write a race for Horse B. As much as New York may dislike trainers like Jacobson, they need them to run a successful meet.

If the mob had petitioned NYRA for a proper investigation and hearing, fine. If the mob had asked for a public meeting to discuss Jacobson, fine. Frankly, I’m tired of those who may even sincerely believe they are the defenders of the sport calling for summary justice against those they have convicted in their minds. You aren’t helping by singling out trainers. You are reinforcing the notion that cheaters abound in racing. You provide the cynics and the haters with one more reason to oppose the sport. Do it the right way. Investigate cases. Find the evidence racing commissions have ignored.

If Jacobson is abusing horses, running them when he knows they are hurt, or improperly medicating them, I am going to be the first to call for racing to deal with him. Just show me the incontrovertible evidence. But until then, my focus will be on the fairness and competency of the racing commissions, many of which hide behind the absolute insurers rule and do ridiculously poor investigations. I will not be part of the mob who follows the ironic dictum of Sheriff Cobb in the movie Silverado.

“We’ll give him a fair trial, followed by a first class hanging.”