For photos from the Meadowlands contact

Monday, January 2, 2012

Exclusion: Good or Bad for the Sport?

Editor's Note: Updated for spelling errors and adding the section about a possible test of gambling in restaurants and bars.

With the recent news that Lou Pena has been excluded from the Meadowlands, the question people are asking, is Exclusion good or bad for the sport?

Before we proceed further, let it be understood I am talking in general terms and not speaking to the merits of the Pena exclusion.  I also don't know why his exclusion caused such news; after all he was excluded from Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, so the fact the owner of those two tracks made the same decision at the Meadowlands should not surprise anyone.  Also, while not yet apparent, rest assured there have been other trainers (and possibly) drivers that have been uninvited from participating at the Meadowlands or have had terms (super secret probation) on their participation.

Let's be perfectly clear, if not for the controversy regarding Lou Pena, we would not even be having this discussion.  Racetracks, that are privately owned, have private property rights and thus have the right to say who is able to come on their property, the same way a homeowner can ask someone who comes to the door to leave and if they don't leave, have the police called and have the intruder charged with trespassing.  You don't have to have a reason or disclose the reason you want that person off your property,  Now, when it comes to more 'public' places such as businesses, you still have the right to ask someone to leave provided the basis of their exclusion is not based on the matter of race, religion, or creed. 

There are multiple reasons someone can be excluded.  It can be violation of track rules, legitimate suspicion but no proof of wrongdoing, or definitive proof of wrongdoing which impacts the perceived integrity of racing at the track.  A person like a track representative of the horsemen association which the track has a contract with may not be excluded for performing his duties as a association representative.  Some people are upset because a reason is not publicly given for an exclusion.  This is out of respect of the excluded person so not to injure the person's opportunity to work elsewhere and the fact an exclusion may be subjective; the same way an employer has the right to hire or not hire a person for a job.  Now horsemen are independent contractors, and since tracks are employers, they have a right to exclude an independent contractor if it doesn't fit their business plan. 

Of course, horsemen associations do have a right to negotiate a contract which outlines the conditions which allow the track to exclude a person.  In this case, there is no such limitation.

In my opinion, exclusion is good for racetracks provided the basis for elimination is consistent for all players.  The lack for a publicly released reason for excluding an individual is best so not to deny a person the right to make a living elsewhere.  Remember, exclusion is a subjective policy and not an objective decision; another track may not find  the sane reason for exclusion at track A is an issue at track B.

For those of you who have been a sleep with regards to the state of  gambling in the State of New Jersey, you should read this.  In the meanwhile, consideration is being given to start a limited test of allowing restaurants and bars take bets on in and out of state races via automatic betting machines.


Dagisan said...

I agree with most points you make in your posts.

However, I take issue with your defense of not identifying the rule(s) that a person has violated causing their expulsion in this case. It is a copout and the tracks or whomever is making such decisions need to have the stomach to make public the details of what has happened. I am willing to bet dimes to donuts that track leadership, industry titans, etc. talk in the backrooms, hallways, etc (why should this industry be any different than any other, people are people????) and they all know what happened and why.

As such I do not think the publication of the facts surrounding such a decision will impact anyone's ability to continue employment elsewhere (and that brings up the point that maybe it should, but I digress).

And why should the public who lays their cash down at the window not be in on such pertinent facts?

Do you think anyone who lays a wager would not want to know?

Let us not lose sight of the goal. Here we are trying to increase the popularity of the sport and yet here we go again making the sport appear shady and dark, obscuring the facts and almost justifying all the negatives that everyone for years has had over betting on standard bred racing.

IMHO we need to be the sport that polices itself and does so in a very public way.


Pacingguy said...

Unfortunately, sometimes exclusion happens due to the 'smell test'. If such facts were made public, I suspect the tracks would face slander charges and a whole lot of trouble.

In a way, it is like they suspect you have been stealing at work and they give you the option of getting fired and a bad report for future employers or resigning your job and not saying anything bad about you.

Anonymous said...

I think exclusion is good because so often racing commissions have been either unwilling or unable to regulate racing by effectively punishing rule breakers. But does it do any good to exclude a trainer if he simply puts his horses into the name of an assistant or beard and goes on with business as usual?

Pacingguy said...


In the old days, you used to see in programs the local trainer and the main trainer (Tr - John Doe, St - John Smith). What should happen is if John Doe gets a positive, his employer gets suspended as well and all his trainers at all locations that work for him. Remember, an asst trainer is an agent for the trainer so it wouldn't be unheard of legally. Of course, there is a chance that the stables will just 'break up'.

I think we are going to head to the day trainers and drivers are employees of tracks and if someone messes up, they get fired. Don't need a commission ruling, as employees they employed at will and may be fired at any time.

The question is how do horses get assigned to the horses?