Finding material for this blog is never difficult. Besides the obvious – naughty trainers, routine breakdowns, slaughtered retirees – practically every time a racing insider opens his mouth, gifts (for me) fly out. On 8/26/13, the Paulick Report relayed the story of a husband and wife training team in a bit of trouble with Pennsylvania racing officials for a Lasix violation. (Although not a vet, the wife was preparing to administer Lasix to one of their horses, and too close to race-time, at that.) While admitting the error, Mike Rogers insists his wife was just “trying to help the horse.” But unable to leave it at that, Rogers goes on to unwittingly indict his entire profession:

“[Strong Resolve] had bled tremendously before. This BS that horses don’t bleed is insane. They actually bleed so much, they’re drowning.”

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Lasix is controversial. There are some who argue that because running horses bleed, “naturally,” it is inhumane to withhold therapeutic furosemide. Others, though, see it solely as a diuretic performance-enhancer, one so entrenched in American racing that attempts to ban it on raceday invariably meet stiff resistance. Either way, racing looks bad: If primarily used to make horses run faster, it’s a superfluous medication, meaning all dispensing veterinarians are breaching ethical standards and should have their licences revoked. But if, on the other hand, what Rogers says even approaches the truth, each and every Thoroughbred owner and trainer in the U.S. should be arrested for animal cruelty.

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From Argentina comes word that two Thoroughbreds tested positive for oxazepam, a drug more commonly used for anxiety and insomnia in humans, after separately winning Classic races on August 3rd. Oh, and one of the horses, Koller, also reportedly had cocaine in his system. Cocaine. The horses’ trainer, Martins Alves, is suspended while awaiting a retest on August 29th.

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To state the obvious, this is not the same as Lawrence Taylor doing blow on gameday. What a fully autonomous athlete does to his body is really none of my concern. What a trainer does to his enslaved racehorse, however, is, and giving him cocaine should qualify and be prosecuted as animal cruelty.

By any measure, Thoroughbred trainer Don Roberson has been successful in his chosen profession: 1,190 wins, almost $11 million in career purses, and 27 in-the-money finishes this year alone. But it’s equally safe to call him a cheat, a cheat who puts the animals in his charge at grave risk. Roberson has just begun serving a two-year suspension in Delaware for a July 13th stable search that yielded “injectable medications, syringes, and needles.” This, though, should not surprise: According to the website Thoroughbred Rulings, Roberson has been fined multiple times in multiple states for various administrative infractions. And for drugs…

9/30/08, West Virginia, phenylbutazone (or bute) overage, Seaboard (who finished 1st)
5/29/10, Iowa, phenylbutazone overage, Black Gulch (who finished 1st)
2/19/11, Louisiana, methocarbamol present, Smokey Belle (who finished 2nd)
6/17/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Christina’s Dream (who finished 2nd)
6/28/11, Iowa, failure to declare correct medication, Pick a Tizzy
8/13/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Let’s Get Crackin (who finished 2nd), suspension
6/22/12, California, phenylbutazone overage, Karen’s Good Boy (who finished 1st)

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Because horseracing leaves each state to do its own thing, Roberson’s abuses of the pain-killing, injury-masking bute were reported and penalized as “first offenses” – $200 in West Virginia and $250 in Iowa, no suspensions. And in California, since trainer Roberson had “no similar violations during the last 365 days [and promised not to do it again], an official warning was given.” Not even a fine. This is just one of the ways trainers mock the “system.” While good that one state has finally banned him, Mr. Roberson remains free to practice everywhere else. This is horseracing.