Bill Casner's op/ed today in the TDN regarding federal legislation didn't hit a single, he pretty much blew the cover off the ball. He laid out, with precision, some of the reasons he is for such legislation.
"Without having a central professional organization that is dedicated to creating gold standards for testing with the authority to conduct out-of-competition testing and administer punishment, we will continue to have those trainers who will seek an edge and we will continue our slide into irrelevance. Whether we want to accept it or not, the public views horse racing as drug-infested with impotent testing."
Casner is right, in my view, on several points, including, "The trainer’s mentality is that if it is not on the illegal list and won't test, it is okay to use."
That's right up there with my favorite quote from a trainer I know regarding soda and cobalt: "If a little of something works, a lot of it must really work."
We've seen bad things in this sport numerous times, and numerous times the perpetrators - who are cheating, no two ways about it - don't get sent off to suspension land, or probably more apropos, jail, they get year end awards. I think the worst part of the issue is not the sheer number of bad people in the sport - there are really not that many - it's that these people (after miraculously winning) have a barn full of horses within three months. Honest owners bang their heads against the wall, and just like a horseplayer gets ground down with high takeout, they just stop investing in horseflesh.
I don't love this legislation. I think the lasix angle in it is a red herring, and I worry about federal oversight. I especially worry about what happens if harness racing gets lumped into that legislation (lasix is not abused in harness racing because the horses race so frequently and only those who truly need it tend to be on it). But in the big picture I agree with Jeff Gural that fear - jail time, etc - is the only thing that will stop the bad people in the sport. As the Lance Armstrong incident showed, no positive test was needed to change the entire sport of cycling - the entire sport - when the feds had the bit between the teeth. I believe that there is a possibility that they will change horse racing as well.
Bill Shanklin wrote a good piece on Pete Rose, and horse racing. His last paragraph was a doozy:
"When it comes to provocative image-laden issues like race-day medication, insider betting, and aggressive whip use by jockeys, my opinion or your opinion is anecdotal and irrelevant. What counts is how such matters are viewed by the betting cohort and the general public. An enterprise that does not maintain a generally favorable standing is on a slippery slope if not doomed."
Slots and racing, why is it do damn hard to understand? Why is it do hard to do right? Plainridge, Tom LaMarra noted on twitter, cancelled Thursday's card due to casino traffic. You can make that up. It will never cease to amaze me that a track like the Big M - with no slots - is the number one promoter of the sport in all of harness racing; that tracks like Balmoral with no slots try have decent rakes, while Pennsylvania slot tracks are a scourge to every horseplayer in existence; Woodbine creates ridonkulous 25% juice pick 5's, cancels D barns while on the government teat, and on and on. It's not dissimilar in Thoroughbred racing. I know it should stop surprising us - the harvesting business strategy is in use with slots, sadly - but if you like the sport and want to see it succeed, it's truly one of the most disappointing parts of the business.
Chris Kay, who seems to keep saying things that are just really, really odd, noted that Saratoga might cap attendance, say on Travers Day. I am for this policy for a number of reasons, but Alan's rant opposing my view is top-notch.
DFS article about its future, and it's bang on. The rake will have to be cut or attrition will set in. Horse racing should've been doing the same thing.
Have a nice Thursday folks.
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