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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Drug Testing and the Unfairness of Racing Life

Give trainer Gary Machiz credit for his column  in today's HRU where he talks about drug testing.  It is rare when a trainer publicly goes on record with the issue of medication violations.  In the article, Machiz suggests we scrap the current testing regime and test every horse before a race.  If a horse comes back with a 'cloudy' test, he is scratched and must re- qualify fourteen days later after producing a 'clear' test.  If the cloudy test is the result of an error in medication, other than the loss of a start there is no penalty but if the test comes back with a true positive, then sanctions would be handled out. 

Of course, the only problem is the cost involved.  Instead of testing three or four horses a race, you are now testing every horse on the racing program, perhaps 100 vs. 30.  That involves money, one of the reasons Pennsylvania got rid of pre-race testing several years ago (the cost).  However, if integrity matters shouldn't Mr. Machiz's proposal be considered? 

In yesterday's DRF, Derick Giwner takes objection to the current twelve horse races at the Meadowlands and the banishment of Mr. Garcia-Herrera.  As Giwner suggests, the wagering hasn't really increased in the twelve horse fields and he wonders what the sense of continuing them is.  Well, the public has spoken in the past that they want larger fields to wager on so the only way to see if they will support such races is to give them a chance.  I would argue that less than a month is not a sufficient test.  With regards to the second tier horses hitting the board so infrequently, the distance of the race is part of the problem but I would also assign some of the blame on self-fulfilling drives by the drivers.  If  after another month or so betting doesn't improve on these races, then management needs to consider either stretching out the races or jettisoning them.  At this point any such action is premature.

Giwner also wonders why Mr. Garcia-Herrera has been excluded from racing at the Meadowlands while he was not last year; especially when he has had no serious offenses since he came to the East Coast.  Let's not kid ourselves, it is all about Lou Pena; Gracia-Herrera will admit they are friends and he took over some of his horses last year at Yonkers when Pena was given his walking papers.  Is Garcia-Herrera an unfortunate victim of guilt by association?  Perhaps.  However, when you are a track operator whose only advantage over many tracks is perceived to be integrity, who you associate with does matter, especially when there is a problem with beards in the industry.

Is it fair?  Perhaps not, but if I recall, we learned in elementary school when the troublemaker wouldn't own up for their action and the whole class was punished that life isn't fair.  I would suggest others look at Mr. Garcia-Herrera's problems as a cautionary tale.

Over on the running side of racing, I'm glad that NYRA is looking at solutions for the seemingly high number of breakdowns on Aqueduct's inner track during the winter months even considering the installing of a synthetic track.  However, I can't help but wonder if they are missing the most obvious option; no winter racing. 

By racing this time of year, NYRA is depending on a cheaper class of horse to race which are more prone to having breakdowns.  If NYRA took the winter months off, these horses with soundness issues would have a three month period of rest, rather than racing in the sometimes frozen-tundra.  There is plenty of good racing in the Southern parts of the United States which would keep their customers wagering, and at the same time allow gamblers to whet their appetite for when the horses returned north.


JLB said...

I have no idea if Garcia-Herrera has integrity, or not. But I do notice a half-dozen trainers at the Meadowlands who have significant black marks on their record, and wonder why they are allowed to race. I have alot of faith in Jeff Gural's efforts to restore integrity in his corner of the harness racing world, but still, the presence of these names makes me wonder.

Harry Lare said...

Guilt by association? Herrera gets banned yet D.R. Ackerman as far as I know isn't?
Herrera not banned last year, get's no positves that I'm aware of yet get's banned this year?
Gural in my opinion is out of control and needs to explain why.
Seems to me to be more to it.
I can only draw my own conclusion and it stinks.

Pacingguy said...

One reason Herrera may have gotten asked not to come this year vs. last year was at the start of the year, Pena wasn't in the trouble he found himself in.

You should know no one explains why people are asked not to come over; it leads someone open to civil action and no one does that on purpose.

The fact is it is a private property issue. One either believes there is a set standard that is being followed or you suspect it is a case of playing favorites.

I think there is a standard policy involved. Granted, it may not please everyone. But this is my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own.

Pacingguy said...

In a matter of fairness, I checked Pathways and can report I didn't see D.R. Ackerman with anything major penalties listed.

Harry Lare said...

My mentioning D.R. had nothing to do with positives. Guilt by association. Isn't D.R. and Pena friends?
Wouldn't it make sense for D.R. to be banned also?
The guilt by association doesn't wash with me.