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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Serious About Drugs?

- Trainer Michael Dickinson, whose eclectic ways drew national attention during his Triple Crown campaign for Tapit last year, has been suspended by NYRA for 7 days for the detection of an anti-inflammotory agent in a horse he ran at Belmont last July. But the action isn’t expected to have much of an effect on his operations.

The enigmatic trainer uses the privately owned Tapeta Farm, where the contents of the racing surfaces have long been a closely guarded secret, as his base of operations.

Dickinson has been denied privileges to the grounds of all NYRA tracks, but that ban will not carry over to Tapeta. He runs the bulk of his horses in Maryland and can send an assistant along during the ban.[Bloodhorse]
This seems like a slap on the wrist of the kind given to Tom DeLay last year, and indeed, Bill Finley writes on this weekend to question whether the industry is really serious about stopping drug use.
The most useful tactic tracks have is surveillance. If someone is watching a suspected cheat and his or her horses 24-7, they can't get away with any nonsense. But racing seems afraid to use this weapon, either because it is too cheap to pay the costs involved or it doesn't have the backbone to take on trainers, especially the more prominent ones.

It can't be that hard. Harness racing, which has taken the drug menace far more seriously than thoroughbred racing has, has made very effective use of detention barns. Horses are required to go to a special barn either 24 or 48 hours before they race and they are watched every minute. Detention barns are used for roughly 90 percent of all stakes races in harness racing. Some harness tracks also use detention barns on a random basis, choosing two or three races a night after the entries are drawn.

Yet, the thoroughbred game has made almost no effort to put a detention barn system in place. At the very least, they should be required for all graded stakes races.

- Distinctive Trick (Distinctive Pro), took the Fred Cappy Capossela at the Big A yesterday. In past years at the track, they would run replays of old NY races throughout the day with the race calls by the man the feature race was named after, but no more. Just another feature race on a grim winter Saturday with only 4,129 in attendance, and I’m not at all adjusting to nor accepting of these miniscule weekend crowds in New York, it’s depressing and shocking still. Not far away, the Meadowlands had more than twice that for their Saturday night harness crowd (though honestly I’m not sure how they count their crowds with the track being open all day for simulcasts). Distinctive Trick has a half brother named Cargo Ship (A.P Jet), a NY-bred winner of over $100,000, and check out the pedigree on this one, via the Pedigree Online Thoroughbred Database ( He’s inbred 2x2 to full sister and brother Taminette and Known Fact, who are both by In Reality out of Tamarette, who is also the dam of stakes winner Secrettame, the dam of Gone West.