Recent rulings from various state commissions/track stewards.
In Minnesota: “Richard Magee was the driver of Steady Breeze in the 3rd race [at Running Aces] on 7/8/21; welts were discovered by Dr. Taylor when Steady Breeze arrived in the test barn.”
Welts. Magee received a mere 1-day suspension and $1,000 fine.
In Oklahoma: “AFTER FINISHING 1ST IN THE 2ND RACE AT WILL ROGERS DOWNS ON MARCH 22, 2021, THE RACE DAY SERUM SAMPLE FOR THE THOROUGHBRED HORSE ‘STAUNCH ELABORATOR’ TESTED POSITIVE FOR CAFFEINE.”
Caffeine. Owner/trainer Wayne George was fined just $1,500 and has been allowed to continue along merrily, having raced Staunch six times since.
In Wyoming: “The horse Sb Holly Wood finished second in the 4th race at Wyoming Downs on June 13, 2021. Luis Gonzalez was the trainer [and co-owner]. Following standard procedure…the Stewards ordered Sb Holly Wood to be taken to the test barn for collection of blood and hair samples to be tested for prohibited substances. Sildenafil [Viagra] was confirmed in the blood sample.”
Viagra. Gonzalez received a mere 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine.
This is horseracing.
Tuesday, during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, Tom Chuckas of the Dept. of Agriculture revealed that recent raids at Parx uncovered “a significant amount of contraband…dealing with medications, unlabeled, compounded or expired…needles and syringes and some other things.” Racing Commissioner Russell Jones told the Thoroughbred Daily News: “No names were given to us but I know they found a lot of (expletive)…a lot of evidence, syringes, whatever you call that stuff.”
Parx, like PA’s five other racetracks, is being propped up – to the tune of almost $250 million a year – by state taxpayers. That’s money that should be going to education, infrastructure, and the like. Meanwhile, 177 horses have died at Parx over the past four calendar years (’17-’20); Parx led the nation in kills in 2019 with 59.
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I have long maintained that drugs in racing is given far too much attention. Yes, the (obviously) nonconsensual drugging and doping of racehorses is a wrong, but it’s only one of many – and not even close to being the worst. For the apologists, it represents an out: All we need do is clean up the meds, like baseball did with steroids, and all will be right with the world. For some advocates, it’s a clear case of missing the forest for the trees. Still, occasionally a drug rap is so big it merits all that attention.
By now, most of you have heard that Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, this year’s Derby “winner,” has tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone. Even if the split comes back negative and this does not become only the second drug DQ in Derby history, watching the industry squirm and its biggest, most successful trainer go apoplectic will have been satisfaction enough. Mr. Baffert to Sports Illustrated:
“We did not give it to him. The vet, no one, has ever treated him with it. This is a gut punch for something I didn’t do. It’s disturbing. … I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but there’s something not right. I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do our own investigation.
“I do not feel safe to train. It’s getting worse and to me, you know going forward, how do I enjoy training? How do I move forward, knowing something like this could happen? It’s complete injustice but I’m going to fight it tooth and nail. I owe it to the horse, to the owner and our industry. … These contamination levels—I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know not everyone is out to get me—but there’s definitely something going on. Why is it happening to me?”
Why indeed, Bob. Why indeed.
Last year on Arkansas Derby day, two of Bob Baffert’s horses, including Division 1 winner Charlatan, tested positive for lidocaine and were subsequently disqualified. Baffert was fined and suspended. Yesterday, the Arkansas Racing Commission lifted that suspension and restored his horses’ wins. By doing so, Mr. Baffert’s earnings were also restored – some $330,000, which dwarfs the $10,000 he paid in fines. This, of course, should come as no surprise to anyone who follows racing, for this is, as Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal suggests, Teflon Bob.