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Monday, February 26, 2007

Putting Teeth in Suspensions

- Steven Crist takes a look in the Form at the "toothless suspensions" that we've recently seen Richard Dutrow mock. But in contemplating a more effective alternative, he writes: This is not to say there is an obvious better way to proceed.

The throw-the-book, zero-tolerance crowd has proposed tougher penalties, such as barring a suspended trainer's horses from competition or forcing them to be turned over to independent trainers and moved to different stables. These actions, however, would only punish owners and horses who had absolutely nothing to do with the infraction that prompted the suspension.

Some argue that these harsh measures would discourage owners from giving their horses to trainers who have had positives, but there is no evidence that these suspensions are having any such effect. [Daily Racing Form]
It's true that a suspension of the horse would hit innocent owners hard; not to mention the horses themselves (though some might say that any owners who give or keep their horses with a trainer with repeat violations would have only themselves to blame.) But I think that Crist hits upon a punishment that could strike a more proper balance. By disallowing a suspended trainer's assistants to enter horses at all, but permitting those animals to run for a different stable, you would certainly create an inconvenience and possibly some financial cost (and certainly one in terms of time) for the owners; enough, it would be hoped, to encourage them to exercise discretion in their selection of trainers. But it would stop short of the draconian measure of banning their horses altogether and thus depriving them of the opportunity to earn purse money.

Whatsmore, under the current system - and perhaps even under one which would result from banning the horses altogether - the suspended trainers merely resume their duties with their horses and systems still in place. But under this idea there's no guarantee that the owners will ever move their horses back. So the trainer would face a real possibility of suffering some debilitating long-term effects from a suspension instead of merely incurring a temporary cost of doing business.

This may not be a perfect solution. If the suspended trainer has a large barn, it could create logistical hazards at certain tracks, and some owners may be unable to find a trainer they feel is suitable for their stock. But it would certainly be a more meaningful punishment, and perhaps it's a good starting point for discussion.

- Buffalo Man is off the Derby trail.
“He took a bad step,” said trainer Cam Gambolati Monday morning. “Fortunately, it’s not life-threatening or anything like that and he should be able to come back. He could make it back sometime in the fall.” [Bloodhorse]
- A half mile in 48 seconds (2/35) for Invasor at Palm Meadows on Sunday. Kiaran McLaughlin told John at Not To The Swift last week that he would ship his champion colt to Dubai around March 20.

- According to The Downey Profile, Todd Pletcher is considering Twilight Meteor for the Lane's End. The colt did win on the Polytrack in his only non-grass start. "He looks like a horse that can go both ways.” These days, however, a horse might have to do a three-way (turf, Polytrack, dirt) in order to be a Derby horse.


Jim L said...

I would still like to hear from Team Valor why they have horses with Todd Pletcher when Ralph Nicks, a former trainer for Team Valor, was caught earlier this decade.

Team Valor pulled all horses from Nicks after NYRA banned him, so what is the difference between Nicks and Pletcher?

Pletcher served time. The stewards ruled he was using illegal medication.

It is pretty ridiculous when you see Pletcher's posse win at the same rate that he did, and the same for Blasi who took over Asmussen's outfit. And, of course, Dutrow who just laughs and laughs, flies to Brazil to soak in some sun, and will return to NY once it gets nice and toasty, winning himself all the way to the bank. And I still find it absurd that Dutrow was able to play his horse 2 or 3 years ago in the PLACE slot. The horse did win, but he knew the horse would run very well, and the place price came back greater than what he would have lost if his horse had only finished second. He was able to play BOTH Win and Place, and it was reported on the DRF that he collected over $20,000 on those bets, wagering $2,000 each on Win and Place.

Anonymous said...

They need to tougher the penalties, one way or another.

Dick Dutrow would just give the horses to his brother. Race track is a small world, they would get around it somehow, they all have close buddies that would gladly take care of their friends owners for a month or two.

Problem with all of these plans is that under the current rules the trainer could appeal the suspension until all of the horses in his barn are retired, so no punishment would actually occur.

Denying stalls to all horses in the barn might be effective. Horses could ship in and run, but would need to get out of town for the duration of the suspension.

The only leverage the tracks have over trainers is stall allocation. Perhaps, first offense you subtrack ten stalls for one year, escalating for multiple infractions?

Trust me, that would get their attention.