Monday, June 30, 2008

Horse Slaughter, Sadinsky & Maggi Moss

We have written about Richard Fields, the owner of Suffolk Downs before. He is trying his best to revitalize racing in New England. He also seems to care about the horses, as well.

In the thoroughbred times, Suffolk is beginning a zero tolerance policy on horse slaughter.

Sam Elliott, the track’s vice president for racing, has informed the leadership of the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association that any trainer found to have sold a horse for slaughter will have his stalls revoked and be denied stalls at any time in the future.

Is this doable? One would think it would be very tough to manage. And we all know the issue is bigger than the game right now. There are only so many homes and so many fields for our retired equine buddies to roam around in. However, putting it on the front burner is never a bad thing.

There was an editorial in the Niagara Falls Review about the Sadinsky Report. Some quotes:

According to the report's authors, the industry itself is principally but not entirely to blame for the situation it now finds itself in.

The roots of today's problems trace back to the days before the heated competition for gambling dollars came with the introduction of commercial casinos in Ontario 14 years ago.

"The curse that came along with the blessing of near exclusivity was that a culture of entitlement grew up within the the horse-racing industry," the report reads.

"Various stakeholders considered that with a virtual monopoly, they didn't need to concern themselves overly with their customer base and most of their energy was consumed by arguing with one another as to how the revenue should be shared."

In short, the industry never quite understood the Golden Rule of capitalism: The customer comes first, and is always right.

We can not argue much of that.

In reading the report, and if Cangamble's assertion that this means purses will get more of the slots take, I have a problem with that. No where has it been shown that increases in purses have increased handles. We have tried that for a decade. At Woodstock on Saturday there was a purse of $20,000 in the sixth race. Total handle for the card was $11,758. In fairness, the report did speak of purse pooling to hopefully correct some of these inequities.

I believe that we need to spend money in our business like a business. To grow our fan base. That would mean investing in new delivery mechanisms, new marketing, and the player. Those are things we have never seemed to get 100% behind. It's about time we do.

Owner Maggi Moss is defending Steve Asmussen in the case of his positive for lidocaine.

“I think this is much bigger than Steve,” Moss said June 27. “I am taking it on for the love of racing because I don’t like the way things are going. This is getting very big. I think there a lot of misunderstandings.”


I agree with that portion. Lidocaine offenses are zero-tolerance in Texas and many other jurisdictions. If you have a pebble of the drug, which the article states is found in many innocuous things, or if you are jacking a horse with a nerve block freeze to steal purse money they are treated as the same thing - a class two. To me that is nonsensical.

Dr. Steven Barker at the LSU testing lab agrees.

"I've looked at the scientific evidence, and there are questions I have that I think need to be addressed," said Barker, who said it appears to be a small amount of lidocaine in the Asmussen case from the documentation he hâs seen. You have levels where you can start to make reasonable scientific conclusions about, instead of just saying, 'We found it. You're guilty.'The claims of 'well, we're a zero-tolerance state,' in this day and age are just totally unacceptable and antiquated.

"Lidocaine is a fairly common substance in our environment. There are products out there that contain lidocaine that people can mistakenly use and come in contact with a horse and lead to trace level contamination and a positive report. "Now is that the same as somebody administering lidocaine to potentially perform a nerve block on a horse that's racing? It's not."

We have enough problems with the public understanding our game. We have EPO, we have pain-killers like venom. Those are used for one thing only, to steal purse money and defraud the public. To see headlines about banamine, or other therapuetic medication overages treated the same way in the press and with commissions does us all a disservice. We should be educating the public about these things. To illustrate a small overage of lidocaine tell them to go buy some of this and put it on their child's arm when they fall off a swing. Then take the kid to the gym the next morning and see if she can bench press a moose. That can be worth 1 year in our game - or double what Patrick Biancone got for having snake venom in his fridge - a drug that can make a horse run 'til his leg falls off.

A system can not function unless common sense prevails, at all times, not just some of the time. I don't often cheer for defense lawyers (like most in our society), but this time I am. I hope they get some of these things changed for the betterment of the game we all love.

2 comments:

Cangamble said...

About Suffolk, I don't know why they are just going after the trainer, when it is the owner's horse and owner's decision to get rid of the horse...and get anything for it.

You bring up a good point about the use of illegal drugs. Defrauding the public.
When you think about it, why isn't this a case for the real courts. If it was, and the culprits had to go to the expense of hiring a lawyer and maybe face a criminal record and even jail time they may think a lot harder about breaking the law.
Even going a step further, when you apply for an ORC license they ask if you have a criminal record. Not sure if they issue to people with criminal records though.
Bottom line is why isn't drugging a horse an actual real crime?

Pull the Pocket said...

Hi CG,

There have been several harness guys (and the A One Rocket case in t-breds) where some criminal stuff happened. It is 100% different than Dutrow and Asmussen tho. Those were over the counter type stuff, whereas the others involved intent to fix a contest.

The courts rarely come down hard on it tho.