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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Notes - Feb 1

- Governor Spitzer's budget proposal includes $23 million for NYRA to continue their operations through the end of the year; this according to Buffalo News reporter Tom Precious, who does an excellent job reporting on the franchise situation for If approved, that would lift at least one of the clouds hanging over New York racing these days. However, the last I read was that NYRA had enough cash to get through mid-February or so, and the budget process will not nearly be over by that time.

The budget also assumes that money from an Aqueduct casino will start flowing by April 1, 2008; and the first deputy budget director is quoted as saying that the state is "working" on finalizing an agreement with NYRA. Of course, NYRA's franchise expires at the end of this year, and it may or may not be around to finally benefit from the slots when they do come on line. With NYRA's court cases on the land issue and the state's stalling on the racino's approval pending, I imagine the negotiations must be rather awkward.

However, the governor is proposing a 6.3% increase in total spending, along with property tax reductions, as well as health care cuts that Governor Pataki has failed to get approval for in the past. So any new revenue stream would be crucial, and you can always depend on those gamblers to help foot the bill. I'm guessing that with little to lose at this point, NYRA is in a position to stand firm against any requests in the negotiations for them to modify or drop their suits.

The budget also refers to a "VLT expansion program." Spitzer budget aides said there is some discussion of expanding VLT offerings downstate--which could include Belmont or somewhere else.

- Trainer Richard Dutrow, who served a 60 day suspension in 2005, the year his Saint Liam won the Eclipse for Horse of the Year, has been banned again. This time it's for an excessive amount of bute in one of his starters last fall. The idea of harsher penalties for repeat offenders doesn't seem to apply in racing. Perhaps a "three strikes and you're out" rule would magically reduce the number of positive drug tests.

- Another workout for Street Sense; this time a half mile in 50.80. No word on whether he blew. Nobiz Like Shobiz breezed a half in 48 seconds in preparation for Saturday's Holy Bull, in which he will be the first major Derby contender to appear in a race in 2007. You don't often hear trainers publicly question a work time in these cases, but Tagg told the Form: "I wouldn't have minded it a little bit faster.....He does things so easy. I've just got to make sure he's done enough."

However, in the same article, trainer Dave Vivian, in explaining why he wasn't anxious to test his Tropical Park Derby winner Soldier's Dancer against Tagg's colt, said:

Cornelio [Velasquez] also rides my horse, and he told me he's been breezing Nobiz Like Shobiz and that he's really special, that every time he works him he always seems to have something left."


Anonymous said...

Dutrow is in the same category as Lake for me - yes i know he is abetter horseman. While you could argure that thier horses get over bet (because they are known juicers) and therefore provide value elsewhere the element of the unknown is just that much more prevelant. The game needs harsher penalities for abusers.

Anonymous said...

I agree in principle with zero tolerance, but the problem is that most of these positives are for therapeutic medicines completely legal to use between races, in this case bute. Horses often breeze on these drugs, and the withdrawl time may differ from horse to horse so mistakes do happen.

This is very unlike human sports, where enhancing drugs such as steroids are illegal to use at any time.

There are certain drugs that have no therapeutic use, and for those I totally believe in a three strikes and your out policy, but to compare those to an accidental bute overage is unfair.

Alan Mann said...

Anon -

That is an important distinction. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Jim L said...

The NFL has strict guidelines, making them even stricter. Players are responsible for everything that goes into their bodies. Everything! Accidentally take a supplement? You are deemed a cheater. I'm all for bans in horse racing. The 3 strikes and you are out rule should apply to therapeutic. A further comparison -- if we ever see a pitcher like Gaylord Perry, the old-timer who used to doctor the baseball; he is no different than a juicer. He is cheating. He is also no different than a guy who consumes an illegal supplement.

What in God's name would ever happen to the sport if say, a future Barbaro was on the juice? He runs lights out in a stake, then the next big race he breaks downs, but the post-race sample comes back later on and says, "He was juiced."

What I am getting at is that lots of horses are put down after breaking down, like Barbaro, but it would seem a certain amount of these might have been running on meds in order to get them on the track.

Uniform testing is what is needed, along with discipline to meet a standard of equality for all.

Alan, you should check out the details on the expanding suit involving Baffert. James McInvagle is going to have a big time legal team working on this case.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the comments posted. I guess my point is that there are known juicers in this sport and something significant needs to be done about it (you don't think Pletcher is still calling the shots). It is envitable that some big horse is going to get caught up in one of these trainers web of cheating. Look at what just happened to a major star of standardbred in Sweden. Beacsue of a positive test, the horse is banned for life. If our sport does not start coming down on some of these trainers and actually kicking some out you are going to have a situation where the friggin Derby winner gets busted. Can you imagine....

Anonymous said...

In achieving full zero tolerance you will essentially ban therapeutic medicine between races, in which case field size will drop dramatically. I doubt the sport is willing to live with that ramification.

There is a movement for universal standards, with which I totally agree. Trainers should not have to deal with different rules in each jurisdiction, which only adds to the confusion and leads to accidental positives.

There is also the issue of accidental contamination. A poppy seed bagel, now banned by most trainers in the barn, can result in an opium positive, coffee a caffeine positive, or a partying employee a cocaine positive.

These types of issues do not exist in human testing, as humans have control over what they put in their bodies.

I do not mean to appear soft on cheaters, I totally believe more serious sanctions are warranted when a true cheater is caught (current sanctions are a joke), but we must be careful not to treat a small overage in bute the same as a milkshake or other non therapeutic drug positive.

Do you realize how much pain medication football players take on game day? And how much caffeine a baseball player takes now that amphetimes are banned? And how much pot a basketball players inhales :)?

True juicing is absolutely evil, but accident can and do happen.

Anonymous said...


I do believe steroids should be totally banned in thoroghbreds, they are rampant from the sales ring to winners circle.

They have little therapeutic value and in my opinion a major cause in breakdowns. The added muscle is not natural on a horse and simply can not be supported by the frail muscular - skeletal system.

Anonymous said...


I am sorry for going overboard but am over-caffeinated this morning myself, thank god they dont test accountants!

They do not test for EVERYTHING in pro football. If you do not think every player in the super bowl is not juiced on some combination of NSAID's and stimulant you are naive. And the drug in question that began this thread is bute, and anti inflammatory legal on race day in some jurisdictions.

Anonymous said...

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I say limit trainer stable size to a level where it is possible for a person to actually feed every horse themselves, say 20-30. Impose strict liability to the trainer. 3 strikes and you're out for therapeutics, 2 strikes for all others. This should eliminate the "mistakes happen" excuse. With manageable stable size, the horse is within complete control of the trainer and strict liability can be enforced. The short cut way would be to suspend/punish both the trainer and the assistant trainer.