Andrew Cohen's piece in the Atlantic is getting a lot of play the past 24 hours. If you have not read it, it's here. In one section of his piece, he speaks about the mushy middle.
  • So it is from the third category of horsemen and horsewomen, the far-too-silent majority, the good people who see wrong but won't give their all to right it, where serious reform must come if the sport is to survive and thrive.
This narrative has provoked discussion on social media, and elsewhere. There are a lot of non-zealot, mushy middle, well-meaning people who have taken this as a criticism; like they've done something wrong.

Let's analyze this.

Look at the history of the sport, at times. 
  •  Delahoussaye has a lengthy list of rulings in the Association of Racing Commissioners International database going back to 1984, when his license was revoked for a felony conviction. He was eligible for reinstatement in 1993. Since then, he has had at least two suspensions for possession of needles, syringes, and injectable drugs (one in Ohio in 1998 and another in Michigan in 2000), and in 1998 he was banned by the Ohio Racing Commission for one year for an incident at Beulah Park when he was ruled to have “mistreated, abused or engaged in an act of cruelty to a horse” and used an “appliance other than whip for the purpose of stimulating speed.” The appliance was described in court documents as a “wooden stick with stripped electrical cords stuck to it.” A veterinarian and two assistants testified seeing a horse at Beulah Park “jump two or three feet in the air” and then witnessed Delahoussaye unplugging an electrical cord from the wall. Delahoussaye appealed the case but ultimately lost.
Note the last line. "He lost"

But in 2010, six years later:
  •  A former horse trainer at Penn National Race Course charged with illegally doping his steeds with Red Bull-based “milk shakes” and other performance-enhancing stimulants won’t be going to jail. Two grooms who worked with Delahoussaye testified that they saw him administer the illicit milk shakes and snake venom to horses to boost their performance. One groom gave police bottles of a performance-enhancing substance that Delahoussaye had given him, according to the jury.
  •  A consent order accompanying Delahoussaye’s ARD admission bars him forever from training race horses in the state. It doesn’t prohibit him from practicing his trade in other states. 
Someone gets convicted of "abusing a horse" (along with other violations for years) and they let him back in to, well, do it again. Then he is caught, again, then he is finally not allowed to work with horses, although not in all states.

Think about that. If a man was convicted of drunk driving a school bus he isn't going to drive a school bus any longer. That's common sense. If for some reason the man is allowed to drive a school bus again, it will result in a firestorm. Some grandmother who teaches Sunday school and runs the church bake sale will go Blasi on their ass. Others will follow. The media will report it. Calls will be made. Something would get done.

In horse racing, we expect the same thing. I'm sorry, that's not going to happen, and has never happened. The above episode was news - for a day. The horse racing commissions didn't run with it, the media was apologizing, or hoping it went away - silence.

What's the "mushy middle", who are beating up themselves, supposed to do when no one has their backs? What's that church going, horse training grandmother supposed to do when this is treated like nothing? They become lonely voices in the wilderness.

This malaise is not the fault of the mushy middle. For those of you hand wringing, quit thinking you've done something wrong. It's not your fault. Racing has put you in the position because when well-meaning people see something so egregious and sociopathic like "plugging a horse in" results in a wrist slap, they go about your business, trying to make a living, trying to do the right thing. That's what happens when no one has your back.

It's different today in racing. Commissions, like those in Ontario have made great strides. In Louisiana and New Mexico, class I's are being treated with long suspensions, not six month ones. This is mostly being done without overreaction, i.e. some "mistake" a trainer makes that is not his or her intent is still being adjudicated with some common sense. The lynch mob has not won (nor should they ever win).

For the mushy middle, your time seems to be coming. It'll be a lot easier to have your voices heard as commissions and others who are stewards of the sport, want to hear you. Shouting at a brick wall gets old real fast.


Sal Carcia said...

Have we seen any responses from any of the authorities of the game other than they will look into the charges made by PETA? I haven't seen much.

My fear is the blame for what is more than likely industry practices is being focused on a couple people.

I think the focus needs to shift here away from the "bad apple" theory to how to change industry practices that compromise horse and rider safety.

Eric Poteck said...

The bricks which comprise the wall are starting to chip and fall away...slowly, but it is happening.

Perhaps in a perverse way Peta can be thanked.

August Song said...

Gural-like tactics may need to be employed until everyone in the sport of horseracing gets the message.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall Mr. Cohen being outraged when his OWN harness trainer was suspended for a positive test last year; in fact, his opinion column seemed to cease right about that time.

I also remember Mr. Cohen being "outraged" that a certain trainer took a horse from one his friends, and improved the horse dramatically; while implying that this certain trainer must be cheating in order to improve this horse so significantly, he failed to be "outraged" that his FRIEND (a very wealthy individual) continued to race this particular horse - a formerly classy campaigner that had broken his knee, and probably deserved a wonderful retirement, rather than a senseless comeback attempt in cheap claimers.

Mr. Cohen's message in the article is legit; but maybe HE shouldn't be the messenger?

Anonymous said...

Awesome article you wrote here. Speaks for a lot of people I will say. Darryl may have been banned from actually being on a racetrack but hasn't stopped him from training racehorses entirely as he currently does just not inside the chain link fence of a backside. Anybody caught ELECTROCUTING any animal coupled with his numerous infractions and lengthy crimal actions shouldn't be allowed near animals of any breed not to mention the very animals he's admitted yo hurting 2 mikes from the sight of his last illegal act. PETA should focus on that attrosity.


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