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Letters to the Editor
Blame more properly placed on tote company
It is amazing that even now, almost two years since the Breeders Cup Pick Six betting scam was cracked by the joint efforts of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the New York State Police, the venerable Racing Form still does not understand how the crime happened. This is clear from your recent front-page story on August 15, 2004 ("New York's broken system").
Any objective look at the facts shows that data manipulation inside the tote company, not touch-tone betting at Catskill OTB, compromised the system. And while it is true that Chris Harn and company thought they could get away with their betting scheme in New York, the bottom line is that they didn't.
Our investigators at the New York Racing and Wagering Board, together with the State Police, acted quickly to bring Chris Harn and the other perpetrators to justice. Within 72 hours, we knew what happened. And it took only a week later to cement the evidence necessary to cause an arrest and effectuate a successful prosecution of the case.
The Racing Form was correct in its assertion that weaknesses existed in the wagering system, but the article should have placed more significance on the vulnerabilities that existed inside the tote company. The fact that a tote company employee in Delaware could come in on his day off, turn off the tote company's backup recording device without approval, and then access and alter wagering information in a system handling more than $10 billion annually in wagers from virtually every major racing jurisdiction cannot be ignored.
No doubt the Breeders Cup Pick Six betting scam was a needed wake-up call for an industry that had ignored calls to modernize the tote system. But the National Thoroughbred Racing Association reacted promptly and the work of its Wagering Systems Task Force is not only overdue but essential to the future well-being of parimutuel wagering. We in New York are pleased to be assisting in this effort and are pressing for a system of uniform tote standards to be instituted by regulator states.
It's disappointing that the Racing Form did not provide their readers with all of the facts in its article. This letter should, in some measure, set the record straight.
Edward J. Martin
New York State Racing and Wagering Board
Take our money, but protect us
I have three major comments after having read your Sunday, Aug. 15, front-page story, "New York's Broken System":
1. It is amazing to me that the three men caught fixing the Breeders' Cup Pick Six ticket even had a realistic chance to get away with it. It is also amazing to me that, given the opportunity and the $80,000 with which one of them had apparently already collected, the men simply didn't make more than the minimum required $1,152 in bets to disguise the ruse. Had they done so, by wagering on three or four horses in each of the first four legs (instead of just the one), then gone all-all, the ticket would at least have appeared to be legitimate.
2. I'm an "average Joe" who likes to bet a little leisure money on the horses. I and the many thousands like me are the fuel that drive this sport's finances.
What infuriates me is that those on the "house" side of the ledger can't wait to implement ways to squeeze more money out of people like me (phone wagering, offtrack wagering, Internet wagering) without actually investigating if they can control them. The pick six scandal is the epitome of greed and bureaucracy gone wrong.
3. All I keep hearing from the racetrack executives is that they "want to protect the horseplayer" by providing a legitimate service with safeguards in place to protect against any kind of shenanigans. Why is it then that I am subjected to a wagering system that can be so easily infiltrated and exploited, and without sufficient explanation?
Here's an idea: Why don't they just actually try to run the business honestly? They're going to get their money out of us sooner or later, so why not take precautions first? Is that too much to ask for?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Disqualification puts damper on big day
Arlington Million Day was another unfortunate incident in our great sport. On a day that horse racing received some great coverage in the mainstream (ABC's two-hour coverage of the NTRA National Pick 4), we had to witness one of the worst DQ's in a big race in history.
DQ's should occur when placings are affected. Despite what Kent Desormeaux said, Kicken Kris was not going to get by Powerscourt, and anyone with any sense could see that. I've watched the replay numerous times, and it just was not going to happen. The top four finishers would have been exactly the same with or without the incident.
Michael F. Barone
Stewards should have spared the rod
I was surprised that Mike Watchmaker brushed over the disqualification of Powerscourt so matter of factly ("Europe tops U.S. on the turf," Aug. 18). As someone who did not have a financial interest, my opinion can be objective. Powerscourt was clearly the best horse and was clear of Epalo when he began to drift in. While Powerscourt was under a right-handed whip, so was Epalo, who was also tiring badly. When the winner makes no contact with another horse and is clearly the best, the stewards are being "activist" in their decision and the winner and betting public are penalized unfairly. I wonder if the judges fell for Desormeaux's act after the wire, or if Jerry Bailey would have been taken down for a similar ride?
Great Neck, NY
Racing injuries: Time to take action
How can I go to Del Mar and enjoy my day if so many horses are vanned off the track after a race with injuries?
In three days, six horses were vanned off:
Friday, Aug. 13 - race 1, Atten Hut, trained by Jeff Mullins; race 6, Zam Zam, Mike Marlow.
Saturday, Aug. 14 - race 4, Jackpot Belle, Steve Knapp; race 5, Pittsburgh City, Kristin Mulhall.
Sunday, Aug. 15 - race 2, Wetherly, William Currin; race 6, Investingold, David Hofmans.
Wetherly suffered a fractured leg and had to be euthanized.
These injuries occurred on both grass and dirt.
Assuming that the trainers mentioned are very qualified for their jobs, then why is this happening so often?
It makes me wonder if the track superintendent is qualified or watching close enough. Then I wonder if the horses state veterinarians say are "racing sound" actually are racing sound.
Something must be done immediately to prevent the overwhelming amount of injuries to horses.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Glenn, I think your idea about how to gather information/data on non-medicated horses post race is a good one. Have you tried to contact a University like Cornell or Tufts or UPenn. You could very well get this done if they want it. Why not talk to the vets at New Bolton? Maybe if the University vets are backing the idea and then proving that Lasix just doesn't do what everyone thinks it does, the racetrack vets will feel more confident about advising their clients the same.
My name is Glenn Thompson and I am a trainer and the author of the book "The Tradition of Cheating in the Sport of Kings" I have been training for over thirty years and feel that if we do not clean our own house and do it in a hurry, we are going to lose more of our precious horses and fans.. I think that the biggest issue that we all face is the drug problem with racing and the biggest drug issue concerns the use of lasix. The lasix issue is a very complicated issue and even though people claim to know the truth, no one really knows. I took a couple of horses off of lasix this summer to try and find out where I stand and to feel confident that they would not bleed, I also did not give them any of the prerace meds, bute, banamine, azium ect. I feel that the prerace meds set a horse up to bleed. I had surgery this past year and the doctor really stressed not to take any nsaids within a week of the surgery due to the risk of bleeding. We allow our horses to get the nsaids 24 out from the race and then scratch our heads and wonder why they bleed!! The two horses that I did this with, Herculon and Mad Dancer, did not bleed. It is a trade off as both horses did have minor problems that the prerace meds might have helped and you have to wonder if the 20 to 30 pounds that the horses lose because of the lasix would make a big diffrence. The sad part is that on the days that they ran, they were the only horses for the whole day that ran without lasix.In hindsight and thinking it thru, I feel that Herculon would have run better with the prerace meds and lasix and Mad Dancer was better off without it. Both horses recovered from the races much better than they did when they got the lasix, so I felt very good about that and could bring them back on a quick return if needed. My honest opinion is that only about 25% of the horses would bleed if they were not given any of the prerace meds and if the prerace meds are in play then 75% will bleed. My opinion as well as all the other trainers,owners,vets and gamblers means nothing without proof so I came up with an idea that I feel will resolve the issue and let us know the direction we need to take within three months. The idea is to have 10 racetracks across the country have 2 races per day that are drug free or limit the drugs. These races will either have a bonus for the trainers or simply enhance the purses so we get the maximum parcipitation. Have 2yo, 3yo, 4yo and up, fillies and colts,long and short.Have races where prerace meds are allowed but no lasix,have races where we run where nothing is allowed at all. After each race, every horse in the race is scoped by a Racing Commision Vet and have the records very well documented.In three months we will have a ten to twelve thousand horse research project that will let us know exactly where we stand and let us know for sure, what needs to be done. We will not be counting on some small study that was done in South Africa years ago. I know that this will be a very expensive experiment but feel that it is the most important thing we can do and hope that the racing community can pitch in and get it done. While I have your attention, I am going to plug my book. It is a very quick read, less than an hour, in it I claim that I feel that 85% of the trainers are giving their horses illegal drugs on race day. I tell owners how to tell if their trainer is cheating. The book came out in November and since then, not one trainer or vet has challenged my claim. Also in the book I have a chapter about the tragic death of the champion horse George Washington who was put down in the Breeders Cup Classic at Monmouth Park, where I train. A top racing official violated a very important safety protocol that allowed George Washington to race that day. He should have been scratched the day before but was not. I thought an investigation would have been done after my book came out but much to my dismay, that top racing official is still running Monmouth Park and the exectutive director or the New Jersey Racing Commision who told me that he did investigate the tragedy, never spoke with me or my friend, the clocker. We were the most important people you could speak with so I'm not feeling to confident about his investigating skills.The website for the book is www.sportofkingsbook.com. Since the book came out last year I have lost most of my clients and am down to three horses. I am going down to Aiken, SC in November and am looking for clients that share my values. If you care more about your horse than you do about money, I have about 15 stalls left that need to be filled. We do hold two track records at Monmouth Park with out horses coming out of Aiken. The first one is with a horse named Two Notch Road, whom I purchased for $2,500 out of the Fasig Tipton sale in Maryland. He holds the record for 1 1/16 on the turf. The second one is for a horse named General Perfect who set the course record for 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.