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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

News and Notes - September 28

- The implications of Weightgate reached clear across the country as the CHRB (I told you that I wasn’t going to spell out California Horse Racing Board anymore) will hold a meeting on the subject of jockey’s weights. The comments by CHRB head Richard Shapiro shows that the casual reporting of weights is not a phenomenon limited to New York.

"I think it's foolish that we deceive ourselves and the bettors about how much weight the horses are actually carrying," Shapiro said. "We're not asking the jockeys to carry any more weight, and we're not asking for minimum weights to be increased. We just want the accurate figures out there so there's no confusion." [Daily Racing Form]
Albany Law School’s Racing and Wagering has their “initial take” on the whole weightgate affair, a comprehensive (if not properly proofread [like I should talk]) primer on the laws, people, and issues involved, available for pdf download here. The article says that the focus of the indictments are on the weigh outs – before the race – rather than the weigh ins afterwards. This would make the comments I quoted from Matt Hegarty’s piece in the Form the other day about riders picking up weight from dirt, mud, or polytrack (or not) during the race irrelevant. Still, equipment such as safety vests and helmets are not to be included in the weight outs, and it’s not clear if the prosecutors are making allowances for them.

The Albany Law School piece takes a look at the charges involved, and questions if some of them are really applicable here.
[Sports tampering] requires under Section 180.50 of the Penal Law an “intent to influence the outcome of a sports contest.” Even assuming the clerks did what they are accused of, maybe all they were doing was giving riders breaks....They might not have cared one iota about who won the race. It also requires tampering with an animal. The term tampering is not defined, and it may be that utilizing a jockey weighing 4% more than he is supposed to weigh is not tampering with an animal.

Falsifying business records involve similar issues. These entries of weight by the clerks are clearly records, but are they business records. NYRA has no business duty to create or even maintain these scale sheets or proof programs on which the weights were recorded. It is unlikely that anyone at NYRA has ever done anything but file these records away....Even though “business record” has an expansive definition under Section 175.00.2 of the Penal Law, a business record has to have the “purpose of evidencing or reflecting its condition or activity.” It is uncertain whether these notations evidence much of anything.
I was wondering here the other day if any of the riders had ridden out of state around the time of their alleged overweight rides, and the report comes up with one inconclusive instance. Herberto Castillo, who, according to the article seemed generally “unable to make 118” in August 2004 according to the indictment, rode at Delaware on September 4 at 116 and at Woodbine on September 18 at 117.

- Brian Sears, harness racing’s leading driver in North America by earnings, has been suspended by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission for six months after failing a random drug test for an unspecified substance at the Meadows on August 13. Though the ruling was issued on September 21, the news of it has been limited to dribs and drabs, very odd. The usually comprehensive US Trotting Association site just posted an item about it yesterday (buried amidst the news headlines), and promises to post the full text of the ruling on Friday. I know it's crappy news for the sport, but it's news nonetheless; if Jerry Bailey flunked a drug test I'm sure it would be all over the thoroughbred sites. The suspension begins on October 3, and will prevent him from driving in any jurisdictions that honor suspensions issued elsewhere, and that would include Ontario and New Jersey at the very least.
At the end of six months, Sears will be eligible for a conditional license, which would be reviewed annually for a period of five years, and during the time his conditional license would be in effect Sears would have to sign a waver and release consent, authorizing the Commission to obtain personal information that would ensure compliance with the ruling and the conditional license.
Sears has earned over $11.5 million this year, and was taking aim at the single-season earnings record of $14.1 million - which was set by John Campbell in 2001. [NY Daily News]

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