Friday, February 27, 2009

Common Sense on Integrity

Recently the AAEP released their thoughts on racing, and how to put the horse first. Many of their recommendations I agreed with, some not so much, but I applaud the effort. One thing I do believe that we need to do better, and we don't need vets for this, (we need only racing) is apply common sense on integrity.

First off let's state a couple of things I believe are fact. 99% of people in this business want to win fairly. The one percent ruin it for everyone else. Horsepeople love their horses - most would not even get into the business or have it any other way. Sometimes those good people - the majority, get dragged down with the 1%, and I believe this is wrong. And I believe it is racings fault.

If a positive is announced - say a slight banamine overage where there was no intent whatsoever to cheat - there is a cry from virtually everywhere that the person "cheated". This is never, ever challenged. There is never, ever education that goes on after a positive like that. We just let everyone say that trainers cheated the public. All sides, horseman groups, tracks and commissions, should find a way to make sure the public understands that an overage, or a mistake, is not an intent to be the devil incarnate, or to hurt a horse.

Conversely, I think all sides should be against, and stand firm against the evil in the rare time it exposes itself. If it is proven beyond a doubt that Joe Blow jacked a horse with god-knows-what to steal from fellow owners and bettors, and mistreat his animal, he should be sent packing. No one wants to see a horse treated like a pin-cushion for financial gain. No one.

It is insanity that someone with snake venom that can kill drivers/jocks if a horse breaks down (not to mention kill a horse) might get six or nine months, and some puny two part per billion overage for a vitamin can get someone three months. And they are both called "cheaters".

How do we implement policies to make sure the public knows the difference and we help our game? I have a couple of ideas.

1) Employ an action plan on innocuous positives. We all know that during the off time a horse can be treated for literally dozens of things. Most with over-the-counter items (which are still illegal on race day in many cases). Educate horseplayers that horses are tested more than an olympic athlete for virtually everything. Educate them that when someone gets a penicillin positive they were not trying to cheat, they were trying to get a horse to feel healthy after getting an infection, and they treated him with respect. If Pete from down the road has a trace caffeine positive, educate the patrons that this had no bearing on the race he came third in. Tell them that the level of caffeine would not wake up a mosquito, but let them know that their money is so important to us, that this person still will receive a penalty. The commission rulings should be laser-like and filled with information, as well. The goal being - full transparency so the patrons feel confident - but details that say exactly what the positive is, and explain how/why that effects a horse. If the person did not mean to cheat - tell the patrons that! Let's change the mindset.

2) Make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed for the nefarious violators. If someone was harming a horse, get rid of them. Good-bye, see you later, go work at Wal-Mart. Use your private property rights, your legal expertise, whatever you have to but just get rid of them. And to the horseman group, should it be of their satisfaction that they are guilty: stand with tracks and bettors against them, and do so publicly. Society can not stand when a horse, against his/her will is given something dangerous for financial gain. Get rid of these people and speak with one voice. They are bad for racing, and bad for horses.

I believe that horseman organizations, grooms, tracks, bettors, trainers and everyone else are on the same side. We get too bogged down in the details and we seem to think we can not handle the truth. Treat our patrons with respect by being transparent, and do likewise with horsepeople. Transparency and education can go a long, long way.

6 comments:

Cangamble said...

What I find amazing when I think about it, is that , for example, those who use illegal drugs in horse racing aren't charged with a criminal offense, from jockeys using buzzers to trainers using snake venom.
If anything, it is defrauding the public.

Frank said...

Good post, Pocket.

There's a big difference between a cheater and a guy who made a mistake. In flat racing, we tend to treat everybody as a guy who made a mistake, even when they're obviously criminal. But, with the pendulum swinging as it is, we're almost certainly going to end up going to the other extreme, and that'll be too bad.

Anonymous said...

What a sharp post!! Yes the truth would be nice, and to apply the truth to both a mistake positive and being absolute in our punishment of those who are trying ot defraud the public and others. We have lost the shame factor of being caught cheating and it is high time we make it shameful and counter productive to cheat. And I guess while I am on a tear, how about criminal charges to these guys, let the real justice system have a go at them because racing is a privilage NOT a right!!
Regards, Rebecca

Wind Gatherer said...

Well, when you make sense like that, nobody is going to take you seriously.

Where does one draw the line on the repeat, innocent overdose? At some point, a trainer has to be determined, either negligent, incompetent or a cheat. How many honest mistakes is the game willing to accept?

Pletcher and Asmussen are excellent horsemen in their own right and I don't think winning a MC20000 is their idea of a good time but at some point, where there is smoke, there is fire

Pull the Pocket said...

Don't know. More than once or twice you should be in trouble one would think. If you cant control your employees or read a calender maybe racing is not for you anyway?

Some of these yahoo's who drop tons of time off the barn change are doing more than missing a cut off time for bute. It is those people I hope we can find a way to get rid of forever. They do not deserve the honour of working with horses.

JMO

Anonymous said...

Drugs and Thugs. Nothing much has changed, though hand-wringing and proclamations abound.