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Monday, March 12, 2007

Cause and Effect

- The annual joint meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Harness Tracks of America was held over the weekend. An interesting point raised by one of the panels was the fact that by funneling slots money strictly to purses and not earmarking some proportionate percentage to drug enforcement, the industry is actually encouraging cheaters.

“As regulators, as much security and maintenance we try to provide, we’re overmatched,” [California Horse Racing Board Chairman Richard] Shapiro said. “Subsidies give horsemen a bigger prize, and the integrity problem starts before horses even get to the track. Sales horses are on steroids because we’re breeding a fragile horse; we’re killing the breed.”

Delaware Harness Racing Commission Administrator Hugh Gallagher agreed that slots-fueled purses lure cheaters...

“The motivation for drug abuse is worth the risk,” Gallagher said. “There’s a tremendous amount of money out there.”

“The best trainers aren’t necessarily the best horsemen,” Shapiro said. “They’re pretty darn good chemists.” [Thoroughbred Times]
And this could portend the start of a vicious cycle. Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs president Bobby Soper told the panel that his company would not invest in the racing side of its racino business until that segment can demonstrate increased demand and positive cash flow. But persistent reports of cheaters utilizing medication can have an adverse effect on that demand, a phenomenon currently on display up at Woodbine, where there have been a rash of drug positives and suspensions on the harness side. The handle on harness racing is down from nearly $109 million at this point last year to $97,647,029.
Woodbine officials admit wagering on its harness product has been in a free fall for the past 18 months and much of that is attributed to credibility issues.

"What shot do you have when you don't know who is juicing and who isn't?," said the self-described "former big player" at Woodbine, who has dramatically scaled down his wagers.

"The inconsistency defied any logic and any handicapping fundamentals. Some of the performances were too good to be believed and impossible to justify and quantify."

The bettor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says he once routinely bet $100,000 or more a week on Woodbine/Mohawk races and that he profited doing so.

"Now, if I bet a couple hundred a night, that's a lot," the bettor said. "I may as well play on-line poker. At least I have an idea of what I am up against." [SLAM! Sports]