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Penn National Trump Tweets

In case you hadn't heard, there was a trial last week in federal court regarding Penn National trainer Murray Rojas, and the verdict came down:
  •  A Pennsylvania-based trainer has been found guilty of "misbranding" animal drugs and related conspiracy counts after a split verdict in a long-running, high-profile case involving alleged race-rigging at Penn National. However, a federal jury on Friday cleared trainer Murray Rojas of the most serious charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which could have left her facing jail time.
The result is fairly straightforward: those trainers (and despite what you may read in the racing press about this, there are many) who use raceday meds - through prerace or otherwise - should be on the lookout for Elliot Ness. However, proving pure fraud which will land you in the big house is pretty hard to do. Still, the case clearly shows that things have changed. Business as usual in some barns isn't business as usual at all.

What's more interesting to me is not the case itself, but the reaction to it. On one hand we have the racing apologists, who don't even want to seem to say a word about the case, with a tacit "boys will be boys" support for such actions. On the other, we have those who believe what the federal prosecutors proved happens at Penn National (as seemingly a matter of course) is the worst thing in the entire world.

Both narratives, in my view, are a little too polarized.

If you believe prerace - in the form of brown bottle backstretch garbage, or vets charging $400 a pop for a "cocktail" on race day (which in many cases is 100% legal) - is not an issue at all you're probably part of the problem. If you believe everyone who tries to keep up in the cutthroat claiming game is some sort of John Wayne Gacey of the equine set, you're probably not doing the game any good either.

The answer probably lies somewhere in between.

No, raceday prerace should not be excused if the game wants to be where it needs to in modern society, and in fact, as an investment vehicle for horse owners. These practices need to change, and the penalties need to be severe for those who push envelopes. But let's save the jail time for those truly doing the really bad things, like pain killing which can result in horse and jockey death, or importing heavy drugs to defraud the public and fellow horse owners.

The reactions to a Trump tweet that's uncouth or offbase is often excused by a bunch of people. On the other side you'd think the man committed murder. It's uncanny, based on bias or otherwise, but it always leads to the same place - nowhere. With Penn National, excuses or over-the-top reaction with little in between will probably cause similar to happen. Being balanced and introspective is, in my opinion, the only way the sport will solve its myriad problems.


Comments

Anonymous said…
But taking one side or the other in team sports betting is what is done. Middling, and even passing a game is not common. The same is typical of most racegoers: more choices but still basically taking sides and trying to play every race possible. Dutching in a logical way seems to be too much work for most, except for maybe the highest rollers using offshore platforms.

In the US it has become all about taking a side for anything, even demanding others take a side. The rise of sports betting handle certainly seems to have mirrored that rise in attitude, though I'm not saying it's the cause. Still, it's easy to do; you don't have to think too hard. It's also proven to be shortsighted and destructive.

US folk for compromise and moderation nowadays are few and low-profile. John Boehner, former US Speaker of the House, was able to put together a budget with opposing Democrats only to have it rejected and was kicked out for it by his own party.

Joseph de Maistre, not Alexis de Toqueville, said "Every nation gets the government it deserves". By extension, Every nation gets the quality of sport, including horse racing, it deserves.