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I've been asked to make a speech next month and I'd like your help.
I've been invited to speak at the Jockey Club’s Round Table Conference in Saratoga Aug. 23 about “the way Thoroughbred racing medication issues are perceived by bettors, the public and the media.” In order to collect and present a representative range of viewpoints, I invite readers to share their opinions and recommendations on this thorny topic -- right here in the comment section of this post.
I'm hesitant to frame what I hope will be a lively discussion here by posing any questions at this point. One of the things I'm curious about is which aspects of the entire topic are of your greatest interest or concern. Since I've got 52 days until the speech, perhaps I'll come back to you with some more specific queries before then. For now, I'd just like to see how the discussion begins and where it goes.
If your comments exceed Typepad's capacity to display them all, I'll keep reposting this item with a new comment section as often as necessary. I don't want anyone's contributions to drop off the bottom of this page if we get to 101 responses.
I thank everyone in advance for participating and helping out here. I know many of you feel passionately about this issue, and I appreciate your taking the time to make your voice heard.
Lets allow everything as long as it's declared. Certain folks would be run out of the industry, and the problem would diminish.
I would like to see a ban on all raceday medications, but after removing all the horses that need Lasix or Bute from the racing population, I'm not sure I would want to wager on the small fields. Banning raceday meds from graded stakes would at least ensure that our best horses are competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world.
Steve The rest of the world has trouble taking us seriously when almost every horse is on raceday medication. We are the outliers - and weak ones at that.
Mr. Crist; Who better to answer this question than you? Seriously. Think about it not as the Editor of The Daily Racing Form but rather as a bettor. I am curious how you consider horses/trainers when constructing your Pick 4 and Pick 6 wagering strategies. How does the current perception/reality affect your selection processes? Therein lies the answer from a wagering standpoint because the betting public is primarily interested in profit. As for the media or the "public", the answer to your question is not knowable because of all of the different and competing interests comprised by the tens of millions of people represented in those groups. They all have different primary agendas (separate and distinctly different from the bettors). This is a tricky assignment, but I may be of assistance to you in your laudable undertaking. Feel free to email anytime at email@example.com
Dear Steve, and, all due RESPECT to my beloved fellow horse players, what a group of HYPOCRITES, As you sit there and type a letter to Steve, your feeling pretty good , AFTER your Caffeine fix, and your daily BLOOD pressure medication, NOT to mention your CHOLESTEROL PILLS, FOLLOWED, in the evening by a few cocktails, you people got a lot of NERVE talking about drugs. We the horse players have ENOUGH problems to WORRY about. When I bet a horse I ASSUME it's on some kind of "ROCKET FUEL" let it be lassix or GUMMY BEARS, it really doesn't matter. If a trainer wins at a higher rate than the other guys, the PERCEPTION is HE is USING something. This has BEEN going on for the PAST 50 years, how many times has Bobby Frankle been a victim of an investigation? only to find out he can out train 99% of the trainers.The TRAINER should be held ACCOUNTABLE, not the rich ARROGANT owners, who made the vast MAJORITY of their money in "other" businesses, they wouldn't know which end of the horse to feed, at gun point. Let's see, we let the Jockey's use drugs, with a slap on the wrist,( see P. Val) the trainers get away with it, what the hell do you think the Perception by the public is. And above all, ARROGANT race track owners are the real "MORONS" that are destroying this great game of ours, and THEY don't give a DAMN. True change can ONLY happen if the owner of the track cares, or truly understands their customers.We the horse players have to stick together so we can DISAGREE later. I have told my story on this blog before, how ONE person can make a change that, BENEFITS all. When R.D. Hubbard bought Hollywood Park, I wrote him a very TART, to the point letter. Much to my surprise he INVITED me to see him. I asked him to change the FORMAT of the pick-6, that started in the 2nd race EVERYDAY, I said, let a person hit the double BEFORE you ask him to INVEST in your heavily promoted pick-6. He liked that idea and ORDERED the CHANGE on the spot. Owners of race Tracks like R.D. Hubbard, who have a DEEP concern for the common "man in the stand" is EXACTLY what this game is lacking, and until these arrogant, spoon Fed, "Out of touch" owners wake the hell up, this game WILL continue it's UNNECESSARY decline.I urge ALL of you the time to act is NOW. So drink another cup of coffee,pop your pills, but don't just write to Steve' blog, Take time and send a letter to all those Race Track owners, and DON'T worry about what you say, just tell it like it is, WITHOUT us there is NO game. The power is in the Pen.......LOL
Read this article about a recent presentation at the HBPA convention and much of your speech will write itself. http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/51476/horsemen-chemist-drug-problem-exaggerated According to the rogue Louisiana vet and the HBPA speaker, the public perception problems with drugs will go away if we simply relax our drug testing so that fewer positives are called. Brilliant. This shows what a huge disconnect exists between horsemen and the fan base/media.
I could rant and rave about the harm that drugs have done, but I am going to try amnd look at this logically. Fans want to see full cards and healthy horses that they know are not being abused. They also want to see formful performances. Trainers and owners want to try and make money in a sport where the vast majority do not. Racetracks seem more interested in simulcasting... which does not appear to be working as they wouold like. So what to do? Well I see the integrity of the sport as paramount. Having unhealthy and medicated horses coupled with some trainers with unbelieveable statistics has resulted in numerous small fields and 1 to 5 favorites in cheap claiming races. Medications are not the only problem facing racing... but they may soon cause fans to look at the record book the same way they now look at basebasll. In other words, the histrory and the statistics no longer matter. The greats of the past like Man O' War, Dr. Fager, Whirlaway, Secretariat, Affirmed,Forego, etc... sink further down in the records as the number of suspicious stakes winners with sudden form changes grows. I think we can all agree that things are broken when a suspect trainer claims a horse that 4 other trainers have not been able to turn around and makes him a winner with a huge Beyer 3 days after the claim. The NTRA and all the tracks need to coalesce around a plan that eliminates drugs and finds ways to provide better purses for the lower class horses. Let me close with this short note... On Breeders Cup Day 1 last year we went to the Meadowlands to watch the races. We got their ealr and when the TV's came on there were only a couple of TV's showing the Breeders Cup. When we went to alert them they gave us a bunch of excuses about the simulcast and changing channels. Ther biggest day of racing all year and they don't have sufficient TV's focused on the Breeders Cup. Man... Raciongs problems go alot deeper than medications.
Tell them this: perception is everything. A disparate group as you are to address will see only from their interests. Snake venom and eight belles. Do we remember?? The public does.That same public that dashes off to casinos everyday. Are you listening???
My perception on the medication issue is that it is manipulative, and used to gain an advantage by some trainers. The big trainers who gain advantages stay one jump ahead of the technology to detect it. At smaller tracks race day medication is much more important and necessary to the trainers of cheaper racing stock, than those at the bigger tracks with higher quality animals. Also, I don't think medication violation detection is on a level playing surface. Tracks in West Virginia don't have the resources to run extensive tests like those in New York or California. Unfortunately in each racing jurisdiction knowing (or perceiving) who the guys are whose horses "wake up" with great regularity does factor into the handicapping scheme of things. Therefore, I guess that we have come to accept cheating as a fact of live in our industry. I like the suggestion that race day medications be prohibited in graded stakes races. A horse dependent on drugs that needs them to compete at that level, is inferior to one who does not. This would contribute to improving the breed and our champions would have the complete package of talent, ability, and soundness.
I believe that the bigger problem in racing is one of marketing. It is a great sport,intellectual challenge, and social gambling opportunity. It is true, as some of the posters have said, that cleaning up the game won't matter if there is no audience. That said, many years ago when I was in school, this from a Psychology professor: "The one less committed to a relationship is the one who controls the relationship." The deans of racing are less committed to our "relationship" within this game than we are. Those of us who love the game for what it could be are frustrated by the lack of caring by those who could affect the changes needed, but we still use the forum Steve has given us to try to help. Bettors and fans who have abandoned the relationship do not read this blog. They are gone. Those of us who love the game (fans and enlightened owners, trainers, officials) will be the subordinate partner until the economic pain is so great that the fractionalized authority in the US comes together to do what is right for the horses and the public. Until then, handicap and manage your money judiciously....or should I say, juice-ishly.