I have not explored the recent decision regarding Plainridge Racecourse allowing harness driver Walter Case - who recently was released from prison - a spot to drive horses. Why haven't I? Because I don't really know what to think.
Case's history is well publicized. After receiving thousands in fines for kicking horses, and having a terrible drug problem, he attacked his former wife with a steak knife in 2004. He was released October 22nd.
From a frequent contributor to this blog, Greg, we see the passion of one side of the argument:
We Have Seen The Enemy, And It Is Us
Harness racing can't seem to help itself sometimes; it has to do things that no other sporting institution in the world would do. The latest chapter in that ongoing saga is the fact that Walter Case, Jr., who is still on parole for stabbing, yes stabbing, his wife will be allowed to drive multiple horses on Friday at Plainridge Racecourse in Massachusetts.
This decision by Plainridge and the Massachusetts Racing Commission is so mind-boggling, it's hard to get your mind around. Andrew Cohen reported on his blog that the Plainridge's President and CEO is one of Walter's old buddies, so naturally when he felt the need to get back in the bike, that was the first place he looked, and despite the protests of other horsemen and even the president/CEO’s own staff there, Case was given a pass by his “old-boy network” connections. Despite all that, it was the Massachusetts Racing Commission that had final say, and instead of nipping this in the bud like the should have, they unbelievably signed off on his license.
Do the people who run horse racing at Plainridge and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts not understand that Case has not completed his sentence yet? They will have a paroled felon in front of your patrons tomorrow. Furthermore, do they not understand that the future of racing in Massachusetts is on the line here? Animal-rights activists already got dog racing banned in the state by running a slick ad campaign that convinced voters it was the the right thing to do. You can bet that they will use this to make the same case about horse racing-what could be better publicity for them than the state allowing a felon and a serial horse kicker to drive there?
Case is an unbelievable talent, but that should not mean he's given chance after chance after chance to screw up, which he always does, and to illustrate this, if he was truly committed to going straight, he would not be seeking to work with his brother Tim Case, who has had a list of positive tests so long that it would make any rule-breaker blush. That's not going down the road to recovery, Mr. Case, that's just doing the same thing you've always done - putting yourself above the sport.
Andrew Cohen at his blog has many posts chatting about this issue. His view?
But what about the way in which he treated horses and others around him while he was driving back in the day? Just a casual look through the USTA's Pathway search engine reveals that on August 11, 2001, Case kicked Gallo Blue Chip-- let me write that again, Gallo Blue Chip! Dozens of other horses were similiarly treated and Case's rap sheet is long and notable.
In my humble opinion, and putting aside the crime for which Case now has paid, tany driver who kicks Gallo Blue Chip isn't welcome in my barn. But that's just me. Should the regulators in YOUR jurisdiction allow him in? Let's talk about it.
Kelly Spencer on her blog offers her thoughts, and they are tough:
When you stick a steak knife in a woman’s back, the world approaches you differently. Forever. No one is obligated to grant Case the opportunity to pick up where he left off on the racetrack. How fussy are we entitled to be? I can’t fathom how granting Case a racing licence weeks after his release from prison for such a heinous crime does one iota of good for harness racing.
Here is a one on one interview with Case via Trot/StandardbredCanada.
Here is a current article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
So far I think the web, which is usually a pretty good indicator of reaction, has been negative. It is yet to be seen what happens with this story.