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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Handling Post Race Positives

An acquaintance of mine mentioned to me one problem harness racing has is with disqualifications after a race is declared official; in particular medication violations. After all, what is the point? The race is already official; payoffs are made so other than annoying a gambler whose horse came in second and now after the fact is placed first? Are we really serving anyone’s interest by changing the order of finish after the fact? Especially, when a violation of the trainer’s responsibility rule may take more than a year to settle thank to all the appeals can take over a year to settle?

My friend has a point. Why not skip changing the order of finish but take the money away? This way, we can actually increase the penalty the owner suffers to the point where the owner may actually hold a trainer responsible for any violations. Here is a proposal on how we can modify the way we handle post-race medication rule violations:

  • The USTA will now track Race Earnings and Actual Earnings. Race Earnings will be defined as earnings the horse earns as a result of the order of finish in a race. Actual Earnings are the earnings actually paid out to the horse. Race earnings are what will be posted in race programs.

  • In the event a post-race medication violation occurs, other than changing the order of finish, the existing rules will remain in effect. Meaning, if indicated, the purse will be redistributed with any fines and suspensions being issued. On the past performance line, there will be a denotation next to the horse’s final time indicating the time has been disallowed. The time disallowed denotation will remain unless a drug test has been found to be in error. No adjustment will be made to Race Earnings, but the Actual Earnings will be adjusted to reflect the change in purse distribution. Other than the time disallowance, the ruling may be appealed by the trainer.

  • Race conditions based on earnings will use race earnings, not actual earnings when determining eligibility.

What would be the advantage of not changing the order of finish and using race earnings instead of actual earnings? It would penalize a horse that was incorrectly medicated with performance enhancers and not penalize a horse that played by the rules.

Let’s say a horse already had three lifetime wins on his record and in his five prior starts he has race earnings of $4,000. The horse is entered in non-winners of $6,000 in the last six starts with a purse of $12,000 and he wins, earning $6,000. Under the current rules, the horse would be disqualified and the purse money returned; once again being eligible for the same class he just competed in. If we adopted the new proposal, while the purse money would still be returned, the win (but not the time) and money originally earned would still be credited to his race earnings. Thus the horse would no longer be eligible for non-winners of four races lifetime and would not be able to qualify for non-winners of $6,000 in last six starts or other classes; being forced to race in winners over $10,000 in the last six starts. Hence, the owner not only loses the purse money, but is forced to race in a higher level than he currently should; perhaps having to race several times to qualify for the proper level. Instead of being able to race his next start in the proper class and work his way up. This may cause an owner to think twice about using a trainer; especially if the violation was deliberate.

Conversely, if a horse couldn’t win a race, why should he and the owner be penalized by being put in a higher class than he actually belongs? Let’s say the horse that finished second in the race with the horse above also had earnings of $4,000 in the last five starts. The horse’s second place finish would mean the horse’s next start can be in non-winners of $7,500 in last six starts. This horse who may not have won the race anyway under the current rules would be forced into winners over $10,000 in last six starts instead of a legitimately working his way up in class. Using the new rules, the horse would be able to compete in the non-winners of $7,500 in last six starts.

As you can see, changing the way we handle post race positives may discourage the deliberate administration of performance enhancers, yet not penalize horses whose trainers did not violate the rules.  It is worth considering.

Whipping to be Banned in Five Years?  We discussed the whipping issue in our discussion of the Zielinski report.  Now, last week at the Asian Racing Conference there was an official who claims whipping will all be be banned within the next five years.  Whipping is going away, like it or not.

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