Many people in and outside of the industry feel illegal medication is a big problem in the sport. How can we possibly clean things up? Currently, the individual racing commissions license trainers (and drivers) and the license permits the individual to participate in the sport in the state. Unless the track specifically rules a trainer off; a trainer is allowed to enter horses at the track, assuming the track is not publicly owned in which case, good luck trying to exclude someone licensed. Even when privately operated, you can expect an excluded individual to head into court seeking to be reinstated. When it comes to the racing commission suspending a trainer, it goes almost without saying that the trainer will ask for a stay and failing to obtain a stay, they head to the courts to delay the implementation of a suspension. Even when suspended, there is a good chance a beard will be training the stable.
What if we changed the way things worked? A license by a racing commission to train makes you eligible to be hired by a racetrack, it does not guarantee you the right to participate in racing in the state. Sample Track decides it wants to hire fifty trainers for their upcoming race meet as contractors. Each prospective contract trainer would be interviewed as if being hired for a job and will provide their schedule of training fees. With this information and a review of a trainer's fines and suspension list, Sample Track will hire the trainers they want to hire for the year as contractors. Those contract trainers will be the only ones eligible to enter horses in overnight and late closing events. Part of the contract a trainer would sign is a provision that if a medication positive comes up the track has the right to dismiss them. A contract for the current racing season does not guarantee a trainer will be hired for the following year. The racing commission will still continue to issue fines and suspensions.
If an owner wishes to race at Sample Track, they must select one of the approved contract trainers and no one else. If a horse comes from Another Track and was trained by an unapproved trainer, the horse would have to be under the control of an approved trainer at least two weeks before starting in a race. An owner not satisfied with a particular trainer for a horse? They are free to move the horse to another approved trainer. For every horse started by an approved trainer, the track will pay the trainer the paddock fee. At the end of each month, a copy of the bill being sent to the owner will be sent to the track for review to ensure the trainer is charging the quoted rates. If a trainer does come up with a drug positive, the track will have the right to fire the contract trainer at which time an owner would have to choose another approved trainer or race elsewhere.
For early closing and stakes races, other trainers will be allowed to enter horses into those races but a horse being trained by an approved trainer may not be transferred to an unapproved trainer for the particular event.
The advantage of this system is a trainer will think twice before using illegal medications on their horses as the contract they sign may get them fired. If fired under the terms of the contract, the trainer does not have the right to appeal to the racing commission or the courts for a delay in their firing and since owners will be able to transfer their horses to an approved trainer, the chances of a beard being used is greatly reduced.
Once the trainer situation is straightened out, a similar process can be implemented for drivers; needing to be approved by the track before participating there But that is a topic for another day.
Tioga Downs has indicated that they will be retaining the same takeout rates from last year. To know one's surprise, Vernon Downs has not agreed to the same takeout reduction Tioga implemented last year.