08/24/2012 11:50AM

Saratoga Day 31: 8/24/12


As bad as The New York Times's recent "news" stories about racing and medication have been, its editorials on the subject are worse. This morning's latest dishonest tirade reaches new lows in willful misinformation.

Since March, the Times has pulled out all the stops in depicting American racing as an exercise in animal cruelty, with absolutely no context for its repeated claim that virtually everyone involved in the industry is murdering horses at a record rate. Making no distinction between the legal, regulated administration of therapeutic medications, and the rare instances of actual doping and perfidy, the Times blames it all on "a culture of drugs," and has a nasty one-two punch going: Its reporters paint a false picture, and then its completely uninformed editorial writers take it three steps further, embellishing the already distorted "news" with righteous condemnation.

According to the Times's editorial, there is a "rampant doping scandal that is threatening the American racing industry." Its source? Their own flawed reporting.

Many of those who thought the Times's series of attacks on the sport might be tolerable if it brought about some positive changes changed their minds after a universally-discredited article last month that tried and failed to make a case that I'll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont because he was improperly dosed with powerful painkillers. In fact, he received nothing illegal, improper, or different from virtually every horse in training. Rather than retreat from its premise, which was rejected by veterinarians and horsemen from every camp in the medication debate, the Times editorialists doubled down on it this morning:

"The tragically foreshortened career of the colt I’ll Have Another in the recent Triple Crown races laid bare racing’s easy culture of doping and toothless enforcement of penalties against trainers."

No one in an official capacity in racing calls them out on this routine misrepresentation. Industry "leaders" do nothing but shake their heads and call it "sobering" while failing to challenge it, enabling and encouraging a continued assault on the game that would not be tolerated in any other arena the Times covers. The silence encourages regulators to meddle through unnecessary, grandstanding nonsense like the "increased security" for horses running in the Travers; invites the Federal government to undertake what would be a disastrous takeover of the sport; and encourages politicians to withhold and withdraw funds from the sport.

We will return to our regularly scheduled programming with first post at Saratoga at 1 pm.



1:20 pm: Today's early pick-4 does not appear to have any odds-on favorites, and I'm taking a spreadier approach:


1:32 pm: Bozique, 5-1 at the time, just scratched at the gate for race 2. If you used her in the pick-4, you get moved to the post-time favorite, who appears to be 7-5 Go The Distance.

1:34 pm: ...who just reared up and threw Junior Alvarado at the gate, also causing Desert Traveler to rear and lose his rider, but everyone appears okay and the two horses are being reloaded.

1:36 pm: ..and by the time the horses had gone an eighth of a mile, No More Fives had become the 8-5 favorite with Go the Distance drifting up to 2-1...

1:37 pm: ...and No More Fives led from start to finish with Go The Distance a late-closing 2nd.


2:25 pm: Dominguez somehow found his way to the rail from the outside post, slipped inside the early speed on the turn and held off 6-5 Professor Fate to win the 3rd on Reserved Quality -- 4th at Parx four days ago -- at $6.90. Think that makes 16 of the 22 races here starting Monday that have been won by horses 3-1 or lower. 


2:45 pm: make that 17 of 23 after Bridgetta ($3.30) ran away from a sorry collection of statebred maiden-claimers in the 4th. Your willpays:


3:20 pm: Thought Ampersand would be favored in the 5th but The Thinker was favored in every pool. Race turned out to be a thriller between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices, and it was Ampersand ($8.10) outfinishing 7-2 Gimme Credit and 5-1 Hear the Footsteps, with The Thinker nowhere to be seen -- perhaps worth keeping in mind when a slew of horses who finished behind him return tomorrow on the Travers card. The Thinker''s race Aug. 4 came up a fast one -- his time of 1:35.14 wasn't far off the De La Rose stakes in 1:34.87 -- but the first six finishers all ran sharp new tops if it was as fast as it seemed.


4:30 pm: Just finished first pass through Travers Day card and there's plenty to keep you busy. Here's a little pocket-sized set of lineups for the four stakes races, the 9th through 12th, which constitute a $1 million guaranteed pick-4 and the 2nd through 5th legs of the pick-6:


(HiW=Highest Winning Level)


5:40 pm: Turbulent Descent ($2.90), the lone G1 winner in the field, won her first start for new connections in the G1 Ballerina, scoring by 1 1/4 lengths. Derwin's Star was a good second at 8-1, with early leader Acting Happy third and Nicole H. a disappointing and distant fifth as the 5-2 second choice.

Turbulent Descent had made only one start this year, winning the Desert Stormer at Hollywood June 17th. She was subsequently sold to the Coolmore group and switched from trainer Mike Puype to Todd Pletcher. She is a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, a race in which she finished 5th after an eventful trip last year as the 7-5 favorite. The 4-year-old daughter of Congrats has now won 8 of 12 career starts, incliuding G1 triumphs in the Hollywood Starlet at 2 and the Santa Anita Oaks and Test at 3.

Your willpays into the last race before Travers Day:

The slim chances of a $73k carryover to Saturday rest on the withers of longshots Shewresckstheplace, A New York Phillie and Difficult Creek, the only uncovered runners among the dozen in the 10th.


6:15 pm: No carryover, as Bluegrass Rumeor ($13.20) opened a big early lead through 6f in 1:10.89 and just held off the late charges of favorites Let the Kitten Run and Picture Book.

A baker's dozen races tomorrow, with the 1st at 11:35 am and the 13th at 6:25 pm. I'll be doing my final Talking Horses of the meet in the Carousel starting at 10:05 am.



john deksnis More than 1 year ago
Anonymous: You've expressed insightful comments that I agree with in full. But I do wish you'd sign in under your real name. For the "too much medication" problem to ever be meaningfully addressed, thoroughbred owners (which is what you seem to be) who see things as you do, need to step forward and take a stand.
James Ronan More than 1 year ago
Have to agree Steve it is certainly frustrating to hear this constant carping from those whose own transgressions under the guise of journalism is and should be embarrassing to them. How about a real inciteful investigation into all those politicians, hangers on and editorial writers and stock-holders outside the racing industry who would likely personally benefit it they could only steal as much revenue as possible from both the casino and horse racing industry. That's what this is really all about out and out greed as always. Let's examine those people "very closely"...
Nancy More than 1 year ago
The NYT also did some fantastic (in the true sense of the word) "reporting" on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, if I recall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steve, I think that a big problem is what defines doping in the racing industry. The racing industry decided to try and spin the overuse of meds by coining the phrase "regulated therapeutic medications". Clearly it has only worked on racing insiders, such as yourself, and has allowed you to conclude that there really isn't too much medication used since most all of the meds used are "regulated therapeutic medications." That list includes way too many meds. When was the last time that you actually looked at a monthly vet bill on a "sound" racehorse? I see them all the time and fight with my trainers over the number (and cost) of the "regulated therapeutic medications" that are on my vet bill (I can assure you that it isn't just bute and lasix (btw, all the fight over lasix is a joke since there are many other (more expensive) "regulated therapeutic medications" alternative to lasix if bleeding is the primary reason one uses lasix). Just because some commission, who has conflicting duties (making good policy vs. wanting racing to continue knowing that there is a dwindling number of thoroughbreds), decides to call a drug "therapeutic" doesn't mean that it is safe and isn't abused (it just makes violations involving the use of "regulated therapeutic medications" result in minor fines and encourages unscrupulous trainers to abuse them). Yes, some of the "facts" in the Times story are not true, but the overall jest of the article is absolutely true.
Arlene Baker-Horcher More than 1 year ago
Steve, I respect your stepping up and defending the racing industry, but having worked within the racing industry, I have to say there is some "clean up" to be done. For the most part there are trainers and owners who do the right thing for the sport and for the horse, no doubt. As for I'll Have Another, I agree that was a very bad rap if you will he got totally unsupported. I think drugs in racing need to be better controlled and in some cases eliminated. Putting an unsound horse on the track is unforgivable at best. You are a respected industry voice. Thank you.
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
Re the New York Times' ongoing assertions that I'll Have Another was routinely dosed with powerful painkillers: Since the reported facts clearly don't support that contention, it would seem there are grounds for a variety of lawsuits by I'll Have Another's connections. So, what is Mr. Reddam waiting for? I would think The New York Times needs to be strongly responded to at once.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
as a lover of the sport it pains me to say this but im glad the times is actually voicing some of the discontentment of racing fans in regard to the overmedication and outright cheating that we all know occurs,and they are absolutely right when they write about lax enforcement and thoothless enforcement of penalties against trainers (and i would add jockeys).i understand that the ill have another article was amateurish and sensationalist,but lets be honest dopping in horseracing is rampant and testing is at best inefficient,and defending the status quo is not in my opinion what the racing form should be doing if the times is getting it wrong the form should get it right and unmask the dirt instead of doing what the racing officials are already doing wich is blowing smoke up our you know whats.
Yuwipi More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed the interruption of regularly scheduled programming Steve. With the decades long historical record of bipartisan criminal activity emanating from Albany I shudder to think where this whole process will take us. Wondering if the New York Times might want to consider a tabloid format. It would take so much of the pretension out of it. Safe trips and plenty of winners for all tomorrow on what promises to be a great Travers day card.
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Is it me or is the relentless parade of chalk more rampent this year than past? Anyone else getting choked out by the favorite or 2nd choice winning 75% of races lately? Steve, have you adjusted your bets with the chalk festival that's been happening this meet? It makes me not even want to play on Travers day. When was the last time a favorite or 2nd choice lost a stake? Can't remember one since the Whitney.
Mitch McMahon More than 1 year ago
I agree, man. I can't have t both ways tho, because when crazy bombs land all day i lose faith in the form. My issue is you just can't tell when certain trainers are entered to win, or to be see, or to appease owners. Thank god for dale Romans, tho.
Tim More than 1 year ago
Hey Steve, I feel you regarding the New York Times, but be clear about this -- their slanted, crappy reporting on horse racing is a microcosm for ALL of their reporting these days. It's the yellowest rag on the rack. You'd be better off reading People Magazine than the New York Times for objective reporting.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
Steve, How come no mention how Javier Castellano came out again 6 or 8 paths in the 2nd race to force the 7 to go inside. This wasn't the first time Castellano's done this. Maybe it wouldn't have changed anything but can't they at least look at this ( you are supposed to keep a straight path). That wasn't the worst thing today, Castellano strikes again in the 5th, after closing quickly to grab the place spot in what was essentially a 3 horse win photo he stopped riding and stood up before the wire( watch the replay). You'll see him standing in the irons in the photo. Alan Garcia did this on Monday on Santonio d'oro missing 2nd by a nose(he also was standing in the irons in the photo). When is someone going to stand up and say something?