Ontario horse owners questioning AGCO ruling
(Editor’s Note: The following letter was originally sent to Harnesslink and then later sent to Harness Racing Update to publish regarding a case in Ontario that the letter writer believes is similar to recent allegations of mistakes at the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission and reported on in the Paulickreport.com)
I, Anne Shunock, Tammy Aspden and Linda Wellwood, read with great interest your article today “Pennsylvania Harness Regulators: Questions of Cover-Ups And Conflicts of Interest.” (in Harnesslink).
You see, we are in a similar circumstance except that we have been ordered by Mr Jean Major, Registrar of The Alcohol And Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), to repay purse monies to a horse that tested positive for a class 2 drug. Our mare, Magic Of Brussels, was second in a race at Georgian Downs June 2015 but in December 2015 we were placed first by the Ontario Racing Commission because Heathers Shadow who had won the race tested positive for Oxilofrine with CPMA.
In January 2017, we were notified by phone that Mr Major had reversed the judges decision even though CPMA maintained the positive certificate stayed the same.
When we raised questions a response came from the legal department from AGCO saying there was a testing error. When we asked for clarification we were told the Registrar has absolute discretion to make this decision. This escalated to the point that we were suspended because we had not repaid the purse money by a date set by AGCO counsel. We appealed and it was stayed.
It came to a point that we needed to retain a lawyer. We contacted Mr Dan McMahon who came to our rescue.
Fast forward to April 2018 when the case was heard by HRAP, Horse Racing Appeal Panel. Our witnesses included Mr Rod Seiling, former head Ontario Racing Commission, who stated he did not know of a case where a horse with a positive test retained its purse money.
AGCO presented no evidence against us or any witnesses.
We won our case, but AGCO is not finished with us yet. They have now retained outside counsel and have filed a notice of application to divisional court for judicial review with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice — arguing the panel has no jurisdiction to hear cases that include the Registrar.
We are concerned about cover-ups and the new attitude by AGCO applying their own opinion on positive test certificates rather than accepting the scientific evidence that these are positive tests by CPMA, which was the normally accepted process with ORC (now AGCO since April, 2016).
Interestingly, we were not the only race with this positive test. There were three others, but we seem to be the only ones who question the decision.
The (Pennsylvania cases) seem so similar to our situation, except we are at the other end having to repay money to a positive tested horse.
We believe strongly in honesty, transparency and integrity in the horse racing industry.
— Anne Shunock, Tammy Aspden and Linda Wellwood / Ontario
Big difference when betting Big M
There are two things that cannot be ignored for much longer if harness racing is going to survive — better purses at the Meadowlands and more stakes races on the 7f/8f tracks. Bettors like myself look forward to the big nights/day cards at the big ovals. The bigger the field, the bigger the handle, the bigger the payoff. Two races in a row on the Meadowlands Pace card serve as primary facie evidence. The 12 horse/9f Golden Girls handle and payoffs are what we play for. A 1-5 shot finished 4th and the exacta, trifecta and superfectac prices are probably the highest we’ve seen in harness racing this year. Then McWicked wins the Haughton at 3-5 and we still get a $1k superfecta for a $1. In summation, for the bettors, harness racing is less than average without The Mecca. Neighboring PA and NY, DE to the south and now OH in the midwest have a slot luxury that still doesn’t generate bettor interest like NJ does. CA and IL along with NJ has the ovals/potential to make for boxcar payouts, but respective state leaders are either incompetent or compromised. Sports betting is good, but not nearly enough. Enough is enough. Save harness racing by supporting the states with the infrastructure to keep the game alive. Slots or purse supplements to level the playing field NOW!!!!
— Blaine Macmillan / Cypress, CA
Miles responds to Williamson’s letter
RE: (full story here) in response to Williamson’s letter criticizing Mike Miles’ letter.
Brian Sears has the right to earn a living. He has options. He doesn’t have to drive at the Meadowlands. Mr. Gural is isn’t stopping him from driving other tracks. Mr. Gural is only trying to have him drive MORE at the Meadowlands. You fail to realize without Mr. Gural there is NO Meadowlands. He is only trying to put up the best product he can.
The Meadowlands needs help. I am sure he asked Brian to drive more and he refused. It’s like a relative or friend you help out to when they needed help. Are they going to turn their back on you when you ask for a favor? I hope not! I little compassion and humility go a long way.
Mr. Gural is NOT asking him to drive ALL the time at the Meadowlands. Brian Sears can STILL drive other tracks.
Lastly, your argument about steaks is ridiculous. If Morton’s wants to stop selling steaks that is fine. I just go elsewhere. Morton’s isn’t giving me a free steak, I am paying for it. Brian Sears is given an opportunity, he isn’t PAYING for it. No one is putting a gun to Mr. Sears head to drive at the Meadowlands. If you were a business owner you would understand. If you don’t like Mr. Gural’s policies then don’t bet the Meadowlands.
— Mike Miles / Elmhurst, IL
Heading for better bettor honesty
Harness racing is continuing to try and earn our respect, then the curtain is pulled back on how much those in charge really care about us. It’s always about the money, when questionable racing is called into light and there’s no place to hide, what is the excuse? Let’s look at the 10th race this past Saturday (July 21) at Yonkers where the powers at be place the # 5 horse ahead at the finish of the race favorite #1. We listen to the announcing handicappers say Mr. Smith on the #5 just got photoed out for the second time on the program and then the override is announced. It appears that honesty got jettisoned at the same time as the passing lane. Also notice that the finish of several of their race finish line displays used the camera that was replaced months ago, supposedly in order to give us a more representative perspective. Please KEEP your better purses and better drivers I’m headed in the direction of better honesty.
— David Perry / Dearborn, MI
Even more on PA Harness Week
Harness racing’s in big trouble. Everyone knows that. They need more fans, but are lost as to how to get them. Which brings me to why I’m writing to your fine publication that I read every week. I was not going to bother writing until I saw some other people writing about the new (but definitely not improved) PA Harness Week TV show! I watched the show for years and it was fun to watch on Saturday mornings. Even my wife, who’s not a fan watched. So can somebody tell me who the genius was that decided to fix what wasn’t broke in the first place? Why would they take an entertaining show off and then replace it with one that’s just one race after another? I don’t get it. I like harness racing, but I’m not a degenerate! Even Heather’s bubbly personality that I always loved is now gone. And so am I.
— David Weisberg / North Wales, PA
Watching PA Harness Week without Steve Ross, is like watching Two and a Half Men without Charlie Sheen!!
— Bethany Harris / Oreland, PA