09/03/2009 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Full disclosure a crucial facet of a better game

An Aug. 30 letter to the Racing Form, "A drug clampdown needs real teeth," commented on an ad by the California Marketing Committee that quoted me extensively extolling the virtues of betting on races in California.

I have no connection with California racing or the organization that paid for the ad. I work with the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Safety Committee to try to root out cheaters, and my statements about there being very few suspicious move-ups in California were based strictly on scrutiny of the handicapping data I produce and publish. I stand by the quotes, but the letter's author will probably be surprised to learn that in general I agree with some things the letter contained about the drug issue in racing.

Specifically, the letter brought up the trust issue - tracks asking horseplayers and horsemen to trust that they are doing all they can to stop cheating. Why should we have to trust them? Why should we have to trust that drug tests are actually being performed, that the right type of test is being performed, and for the right drugs, that they are being performed on an appropriate number of horses, that positives aren't being buried, and that offenders are being sanctioned? The tests are being performed to protect the public, and the public is entitled to full, detailed information as to exactly who has been tested, how, for what, what the results were, and what was done about transgressions.

These results should be posted on the websites of the various racetracks on a timely basis. Until they are, those of us trying to figure out how people are cheating - and all us serious horseplayers know they are - are stabbing in the dark, since we don't have any information to work with. The recent actions of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, though well intentioned, have actually made the problem worse - they have created a second layer of "trust me." Now we have to trust that the NTRA is doing the job in checking on the tracks, and that those tracks are doing what they are supposed to be doing, and reporting it properly to the NTRA. And because the NTRA has made certification a matter of following a specific process, rather than achieving the desired result, at least two tracks have been certified as kosher that have a large number of extremely suspicious jump-ups coming repeatedly out of certain barns. The problem has not been solved, not even close.

The public has a right to the information. If the NTRA wants to do something truly useful, it will make tracks publish full details of testing in order to get or maintain certification. The NTRA should not resist this for fear of embarrassing racetracks - it represents the entire industry, not just the tracks, and by far the largest and most important group in the industry is horseplayers.

Jerry Brown - President, Thoro-Graph Inc.