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Monday, January 16, 2012

"Bearding" and the Reality

I spent all day thinking about this subject, and quite honestly, I chucked a column on the problem with bearding.  I did some research on one particular high profile case and found a certain trainer got possession of a suspended trainer's horses with the rules followed.

Now, certainly the racing commission does not have these rules with anticipation of the original trainer getting involved and I am sure there are many times the old trainer follows the rules and stays out of things, maybe it is someone who worked for him that has taken over; that is the way things are set up and if there is a problem, blaming the tracks is not the answer; the issue is with the racing commissions.

While most trainers follow the rules regarding trainer suspensions, there are those few who undoubtedly 'cheat'.  They do so at their own peril for if they were to get caught, the original and current trainer would have the proverbial book thrown at them.  However, let's face it; the rules have not kept up with modern technology.  In the old days, if there was any suspicion of bearding, the racing commission could demand the records of the home phones and they could check who was calling who.  These days, there is the Internet, cell phones (including disposable phones) that make such tracking much harder and perhaps the biggest problem in tracking who is doing the real training is the fact many tracks closed their backstretches.  Clearly, tracking those that are tempted to cheat is much tougher.  While suspending trainers is the way to go when there are medication violations, Ontario racing officials have the proper answer to the problem; suspend the horses as was done with Crys Dream this past year.

Owners need to be accountable when they select a trainer.  Anyone who signs up can access Pathways and see the record of a trainer and how many infractions they have.  From their 'resume' an owner can decide on who to hire.  If a trainer gets caught for a medication infraction, the trainer should continue to be suspended, but the horse who was the subject of the infraction, should be suspended as well.

Suspension may be a harsh penalty, but the only way you are going to get the problem of medication violations solved is if the owners share in the penalty.  When they realize they are not going to get a free ride when a trainer gets caught, maybe then owners will watch who they hire to train.


Anonymous said...


It's called Risk-Reward Ratio.

It is conceivable that "All" trainers cheat in one form or another. Simply reviewing the ones who have been caught is an exercise in futility because it basicallly ignores those who are skilled enough in "NOT GETTING CAUGHT."

Let's at least try to be honest in this pursuit. Lou Pena, despite his past misdeeds, has managed to improve his winning percentage WITHOUT getting caught. Using your theory we can conclude he's doing a good job and should be given horses.

Mark Kesmodel and Joe Anderson were among the more high-profile trainers caught in the NYRWB "STING" operation which revealed the use of the over-the-counter drug Afrin in countless horses during a 10 days period. So unlucky was Kesmodel that he was bagged giving the medication to the exact same horse his "beard-trainer" had given it too just 7 days earlier. Kesmodel's misfortune was returning from a prior suspension on the wrong day of the week.

Some horsemen will tell you that these "drug-offenders" did nothing out of the ordinary and that the NY Board simply was trying to give itself publicity and therefore ensure future funding from the state.

Were they cheating?

In the strictest sense of the word-YES

But how would you react as an owner if these horses were not allowed to race in the future because the trainer was suspended?

What we have here is a potential legal nightmare which quite frankly no state, track or ruling body wants to be part of. So don't expect anyone running to "fix" this in the near future.

The question of who to blame for beard trainers being allowed to exist is puzzling. You conclude that this is a "racing commission" issue. Ironically you are willing to pardon the "best business interests of the private racetrack owner" from considering these circumstances and acting appropriately.

In reality there doesn't have to be a major investigation. The simple fact that you can easily find ALL of Kesmodel's horses in the same exact location as they were prior to his suspension, should be proof enough that it's still his show and that Mr. Fraley has just taken the title for "Program Purposes" only.

It would appear that Big M management as well as Yonkers management, isn't overly concerned with beards filling in until suspended trainers return.

Horse Ulcer Prevention said...

The horse is a marvelous athlete and a delightful companion animal. However, horses are not always cared for properly, even by well-intentioned owners.

Pacingguy said...

At this point, I would give the Meadowlands a pass, they just took possession of the track less than a month ago and may or may not address this.

The legal battle can be avoided if you get an owner's release like the trainers sign, agreeing to race at a certain track they agree their horse will be suspended along with the trainer if their horse comes back with a positive and advise them to choose their trainer carefully.

I can't speak as to who medicated whom in the Kesmodel barn, the trainers responsibility rule makes it the program trainer's doing. I would like to see assistant trainers get suspended along with the trainer, but no one lists their assistant as the assistant trainer, something the racing commissions let trainers get away with; perhaps because horses are shipped in. The only time an assistant trainer needs to be listed is if the trainer doesn't come to the track that day.

As for Fraley, are you making the assumption he is in contact with Kesmodel? He legally took control of his stable with NYSRWB permission. What should happen is the stable be closed down and owners should be forced to choose new trainers.

Pacingguy said...

BTW, if you have read other comments by me in the past, I have said the penalties in the rule books are outdated and need to be updated, including indexing fines based on a driver/trainer's earnings from last year. The the risk/reward ratio gets changed in favor of risk.

Anonymous said...

What assumption?
If the horses, equipment and all other related items remain in the exact same place and just the trainer's name on the program changes, what do YOU believe?

There's no law preventing Kesmodel from speaking with Fraley. Technically he's not allowed to train these horses and it's easy to conclude he's not physically sitting behind any of these horses during his suspension. But as you have already stated-how difficult is it to text, email or call from another person's phone to get the message across?

The truth is that the Meadowlands, Yonkers or any other track could contact the owners of these horses and ask for physical proof that horses have been "moved" and that Kesmodel is not their trainer and won't be their trainer when his suspension concludes. If they can't get those assurances they could act against Kesmodel and these horses at the time Kesmodel comes off suspension.

Pacingguy said...

I like your idea.

Tecnically, the suspended trainer is not to be involved directly or indirectly which means phone calls are technically verbotten. But as I said and you concured. How do you prove it doesn't happen.

If the tracks still had backstretches, they could revoke stall space for the suspended trainers, forcing horses to move. When the suspension is over, then they could reapply and hope stall space was available. However, when everyone is forced to stsble off grounds, it is a weapon tracks are not allowed to avail themselves of it.

commonman said...

In Michigan,racing rule 431.1295 Trainers;responsibilities;positive test presumptions says that it is the trainer of record who is responsible for the care and safety of the horse and must assure "each horse trained by him or her is protected so as to prevent any horse from receiving a prohibited drug".Other than being required to be financially responsible,there are no other rules that define what a trainer of record is required to do. It is not rare to find one trainer being the listed trainer of horses that race at different race tracks,throughout the country, simultaneously,and it is obvious that the same trainer can't be in different locations all at the same time.Questions relative to where the horses are stabled,or where the equipment is stored, or who puts the harness on the horse and jogs the animal are irrelevant. The courts have already defined and answered some of the questions related to having horses race in another trainer's name after the original trainer has been excluded. The U.S Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit,in Bernard T. Scott v.Charles H. Schmidt of the Illinois Racing Board opinion, dated September 17,1985,stated "the stewards imposed the less serious penalty of excluding Scott from Illinois race tracks. Exclusion is less serious than suspension because a person excluded may still race his horses on Illinois tracks,albeit through other owners, trainers, or drivers" and anyone who claims otherwise needs a good lawyer.