06/07/2012 11:01AM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Security barn irks trainers

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Tom Keyser
Security officials check trainer Doug O’Neill’s supplies Wednesday as I’ll Have Another settles in to the Belmont Stakes detention barn.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The requirement that all horses in the Belmont Stakes reside in a detention barn for 72 hours before the race has angered a number of trainers in the race who say that those staffing the barn lack necessary horse sense and that the atmosphere is not conducive to horses performing at their optimum.

The latest contretemps occurred Wednesday afternoon, when the security staff at the barn told Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, and Michael Matz, trainer of Union Rags, that they could not cook their oats before feeding their horses. O’Neill, who has outwardly maintained an even keel over all the hoops he has been required to jump through leading up to this race – no nasal strip for his horse, moving to the security barn, exhaustive requirements for licensing for his personnel – finally had enough and threatened to pull his horse from the race, pointing out that I’ll Have Another needs his oats cooked to avoid colic.

Minutes later, permission was granted to cook oats, so Oatgate was averted.

“They yell about Lasix and things like that, but the biggest problem is uniformity,” Matz said Thursday morning. “Why can’t we have the same rules for the Triple Crown races? They didn’t have this for the Derby. They didn’t have this for the Preakness. Why are they making a big deal here?”

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board announced May 30 – 11 days after the Preakness, only 10 days before the Belmont – that a detention barn would be set up for the Belmont Stakes horses. It forced trainers to alter their schedules. Matz, for instance, was not planning to arrive here until Thursday from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, but he was forced to come a day earlier.

“They knew all along the Belmont was on June 9,” he said.

All 12 runners had to be in the detention barn by midday Wednesday. With the exception of when they go out to train in the morning, they must remain in that barn until the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

The barn was chaotic Thursday as most Belmont horses went out to train just after the renovation break and came back to be bathed at similar times.

“It was like traffic going into New York City,” said Bob Baffert, trainer of Paynter.

“I don’t know that they are able to relax like they would in a quieter barn,” Matz said.

That atmosphere, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, is the biggest drawback to the detention barn.

“If a horse next to you is raising hell, what can you do?” said Lukas, who has Optimizer in the Belmont. “They could have put a security guard in front of every horse at his own stall and accomplished the same thing. It’s all perception. It’s not an ideal situation for a security barn.

“What happens if a horse gets stirred up in there for two or three days? A guy is betting his money believing a horse will run like he did in the past out of his own barn, so how is that protecting the public?”

Lukas said having the Belmont horses, and only the Belmont horses, go to a detention barn was hypocritical in that no other races Saturday, or even this year in New York, are subject to that requirement.

“I’ve got Hamazing Destiny running in a $400,000 race Saturday,” he said, referring to the True North for older sprinters. “So that’s not important?”

MJP More than 1 year ago
Does anyone really believe that NYRA would've done this if Pletcher or another NY-based trainer was going for the Triple Crown? Btw, why aren't ALL of Dutrow's horses in the detention barn?
Mark More than 1 year ago
1. The New York Times prints an editorial OPENLY ROOTING AGAINST I'll Have Another in the Preakness. 2. NYRA tells Doug O'Neill that IHA can NOT use his nasal strip even though using said nasal strip is legal in New York. 3. NYRA pulls this B.S. with the detention barn only for the Belmont Stakes. 4. Belmont throws some unraced maiden on the track during IHA morning workout and the horse comes within inches of slamming right into him. 5. NYRA's tedious requirements for licensing personnel. 6. Insisting the horses eat raw oats as opposed to cooked. Do you think the NYRA would have pulled all this crap if it was an East Coast horse vying for the Triple Crown? To make matters worse, the NYRA agrees to another 3 year bloated contract for the maintenance workers union who threatened to boycott on Belmont Stakes day. The New York Racing Association is ABSOLUTELY PATHETIC!!!
paul More than 1 year ago
NYRA is a joke. Their former president and CEO, Hayward, was fired because he knew NYRA was overcharging bettors to the tune of $8 million with an increased takeout that should have been lowered by one percentage. They still haven't settled their contract dispute with the maintenance and starters' union for over two years. Putting the Belmont horses in the detention barn is the last straw, if you pardon the pun.
Julio Mauricio More than 1 year ago
Face it folks, there will NEVER be a Triple Crown as long as NYRA is around. This is also why Breeders Cup was kept out of NY ;-/
Donald Byrne More than 1 year ago
More sensible would be for the NYRA to put on security guards on each horse in their own barns. 3 eight hour shifts for 3 days on 12 horses. A minor investment to avoid all the hoopla and animus of a poorly conceived detention barn. Unfortunately, neither the NYRA or the Stewards have enough common sense to take the most practical steps.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Not even the freakin name was sensible. You mean to tell me that you want the world, who is for the most part naive to horse racing to know that the horses are kept in a DETENTION BARN??????? You might as well call it a concentration camp!!!!
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
New York is the shiiiddiest state in America. You know what else is going on in NYC?? Hmm?? Anybody that is black or hispanic that took the NYC Fire Department exam from 1999-2006 and did NOT get hired will be given a cash payout. There is 128 million dollars to be paid out. Its just further evidence that New York goes to the absolute extreme to make people, usually insignificant people, happy.
Tom Stift More than 1 year ago
What if a horse gets sick and they have to scratch half the field when they catch the bug
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
let's be clear... the old nyra would never have made the decision to implement the security barn. cuomo took over to clean it up and is taking a stand. racing will be clean when run in ny. if it drives out trainers and runners because they cannot compete... then it doesn't actually qualify as a real sport. he will say good riddance. i will agree. i doubt he is shocked that IHA pulled out. he dared them to be clean. he is calling the bluff. he is winning. i support him.
DrSmoke120 More than 1 year ago
What a joke. Looks like the TSA took up residence at Belmont. Next they will be groping the horses junk.