Monday, November 25, 2013

People Seem to Be Wishing for Hong Kong

I remember, oh it must have been five or six years now, when a neat video was pasted on the chat board at It was a little grainy, but it showed a horse with his head out of his stall, watching the horse who was beside him, who was chowing down out of his feed bucket. When the horse finished, this little rascal stuck his head in his pals bucket and started eating too.

Maybe you think it was one of those funny youtube videos, but it was much more than that. The horse who stole his neighbors food was a Hong Kong horse that had to race the next day. His neighbor's horse was a fellow trainers. It turns out there was a supplement in that feed bucket and it caused a positive test, hence the brouhaha.

This video (and testimony) clearly showed evidence that the trainer in question did nothing wrong. After all, how can one account for that? There was no intent, nothing. It was a freak occurrence. Freak occurrence or not, the trainer was suspended. I remember being shocked and somewhat saddened for this honest fellow. But that's the way they do things.

When reading Arthur Hancock's plea this weekend (along with the Pennsylvania news), and the 101 or so comments which accompany it, it struck me. I think a faction of people - and not a minority - want us to be Hong Kong.

They seem to want five or ten or fifteen supertracks with backstretch stabling, where no one goes in or out, where trainers who don't watch what their horses eat will be sent on the next plane to the Singapore Turf Club if they mess up. They want supertracks under security where if a vet does something wrong they're on the next plane too, or even worse, in a Hong Kong holding cell for "screwing with the public".

They seem to want video surveillance done 24 hours a day. Where nothing gets put in a horse without bettors, management and fellow participants knowing about it. Where if a horse is lame he is not injected and jammed in the box he has to pass a test first to show he is sound. Where those same horses vet records are published so bettors can read about the health of the horse they are wagering on. Where a jockey not trying hard in a race can land him or her with six months off.

Forget about the logistics, and the lawsuits by horsemen groups and the fact that without a lot of investment and a probable shock implosion of the breeding industry it can likely never happen. When I read the comments, the frustration, the incendiary comments from insiders, and all the rest, I think that's what people want. And it appears they don't care what kind of negative shock that would have (in the short term) on racing.

I am not smart enough to know where things are headed. Maybe this is a blip and no changes for racing are in store. Maybe the status quo will prevail. But right now to deny there is a groundswell of anger towards the way this sport is administered and ruled when it comes to raceday meds and everything else, I don't think you've been paying attention. When some factions are so frustrated they are willing to blow up the game that earns them money, and is the game they've always played - and these people have the ear of Congress - this seems very, very real.

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