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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Early Returns

- A reader writes: How many believe we'll see Biancone back in the winner's circle on Breeders' Cup Day(s) 2008?

My understanding of the settlement that the trainer reached with Kentucky authorities would prohibit that from happening. The one-year suspension technically didn't begin until Nov 1, though in effect it started prior to the Breeders' Cup. The 2008 Breeders' Cup will be run on Oct 24-25.

The compromise settlement permits Biancone, after the first six months, to serve as a bloodstock agent, consultant or manager although he is not allowed in nonpublic areas at race tracks. So in theory, the only way we could see Biancone during the Breeders' Cup telecast is if he finds a good angle for the TV cameras and waves his arms and jumps up and down.

But I suppose that if Eric Ledford can be back driving at the Meadowlands, then anything is possible. This was a case in which the state authority actually did crack down, suspending the driver and his trainer-father for 10 1/2 years for possession of Arasnesp, a blood doping agent, as well as syringes and a shockwave therapy machine. (More background in these old posts, here, here, and here. [unfortunately, the links are mostly dead])

But Ledford pled guilty to lesser charges, specifically to "aid in possession of and/or failed to report the possession of a controlled dangerous substance," which essentially means he pled guilty to not turning in his father (trainer Seldon) while having knowledge that he possessed Equipoise (an anabolic steroid, which is legally administered by veterinarians). [NY Daily News]
His suspension was then reduced to a year. Meadowlands Sr VP Dennis Dowd told Bill Finley that the courts had been too lenient with racing cheats.
“This is America and you have an obligation to give due process and people have a right to appeal.....The sadder thing is the courts don’t understand the game or the process and the quality of proof that is often required are higher than you can actually get. Ledford got caught doing something, but what he got convicted of doing was not that egregious.” [NY Times]
Though the Ledfords had the drugs, there was no proof, other than common sense based on the dramatic form reversals that occurred, that they had administered them to their horses. Similarly, there was no proof that the cobra venom found in Biancone's barn was anything else than what the trainer claims - property of his vet that was in his stable unbeknownst to him. I'm sure that the KHRA considered the likelihood that Biancone could ultimately succeed in the courts when reaching the settlement that mitigated, somewhat, the terms of his suspension.

The nature of the evidence in the Ledford case seemed so damning at the time of the arrests that New Jersey police announced that they had "dealt a crushing blow to illegal activity in the sport of harness racing."
"By taking down one of the top finishers in the sport, Operation Horsepower will create a ripple effect that will be felt throughout the entire horse racing industry," said Major Jim Fallon, commanding officer of the Special Investigation Section. "Based on the attention these arrests have created, everyone who lost a race to a Ledford horse may now be asking some serious questions," he added. [NJ State Police]
The serious questions being asked now are not the ones that Major Fallon had in mind.


Anonymous said...

I miss those HUNCH bets,,,,,,,I mean those entertainment hunch bets

Anonymous said...

When is NY going to follow the other tracks' leads and ban steroids?

Anonymous said...

Steroid abuse is NY's "dirty little secret" albeit they are not alone just the most visible. Personally, I think it is barbaric to treat these gifted athletes with such substances. There will be many big name NY trainers, you know the ones that are keeping the Kentucky breeder's happy by loading their stallion's offspring with "juice", but sooner or later it must stop. In Washington, D.C., Congress has already formed a sub-committee that is focused on steroids in horse racing. As an industry, we have a timeline to rid the sport of the drug, and if we don't, the Feds would be glad to do it for us. Too much focus on the NY franchise issue and not enough on this time bomb we have for the most part chosen to ignore.