- 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.
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.