03/07/2018 4:19PM

Losing bettor sues harness trainer over positive test


An Illinois man has filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey-based Standardbred trainer seeking more than $31,000 in compensation for bets he lost in a 2016 Meadowlands harness race because the winner of the race tested positive for a banned drug.

Jeffrey Tretter, a Granite City, Ill., resident, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey against trainer Robert Bresnahan and J. L. Sadowsky LLC, the company that owned Tag Up and Go, who won the fourth race at the Meadowlands on Jan. 15, 2016. The lawsuit alleges fraud and violations of both state and federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization laws, which are commonly known as RICO laws, seeking both compensation for the lost bets and punitive damages.

The suit states that Tretter placed a variety of online wagers on the Meadowlands race on the horses that finished behind Tag Up and Go in the second, third, fourth, and fifth positions. Bresnahan was later barred from the Meadowlands for 60 days after a blood sample pulled from Tag Up and Go five weeks prior to the Jan. 15 race tested positive for the banned blood-doping drug erythropoietin. The positive test and the ban were not announced until Jan. 31.

The lawsuit claims that “but for the illegal entrance of Tag Up and Go into the race, Mr. Tretter would have won in excess of $31,835.50.” The lawsuit states that Tretter’s winning bets would have included win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets. Tag Up and Go won the race at odds of 6.50-1, and the next four finishers all went off at single-digit odds, according to a chart of the race.

Racing commissions and racing regulations have long held that bettors have no recourse in the case of a horse testing positive following a race, even in the case of disqualifications. In this specific case, because Tag Up and Go tested positive in a test administered by the Meadowlands under its own house rule, the horse was not disqualified, and the result of the race stands to this day.

The lawsuit is being funded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the large animal-rights organization which has often adopted novel approaches toward furthering its goals. PETA said in a statement that the plaintiff “approached PETA with his concerns about the effect of the illegal substance on Tag Up and Go’s performance.”

“This lawsuit may open the door to hundreds of similar lawsuits across the U.S.,” PETA said. 

Although several racing officials with knowledge of the sport’s case law said that they could not remember a case being pursued in this fashion, one longtime racing lawyer, Alan Foreman, said he doubted that the approach would be successful. Foreman specifically said that the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit using this approach would have to prove that he or she has standing to bring the suit against the trainer, a determination that he called a longshot.

“It’s only groundbreaking if [PETA] is successful in arguing the case in front of a judge,” Foreman said. “I just don’t see that happening here.”