Reaction to the doping indictments and more

HRU Feedback (2020-03-15)

March 15, 2020

Dana Parham: Commissioner needed

Twenty-seven people indicted, two others arrested, too many are part of the standardbred industry. Horses being drugged resulting in their death. Pennsylvania governor attempting to cut state money given to racing for purses. Animal rights groups on a mission to end ALL racing. Track handle is laughable while takeouts are at ridiculous levels. We have NO ONE in charge. I don’t see how this sport survives if we don’t get our act together soon.

Here are my suggestions: We get someone from outside of racing to be our commissioner. We pay him or her a seven-figure salary to guide our sport and make the tough decisions that are needed. All successful sports are led by a strong commissioner. Boxing and racing are rudderless ships.

Attention all Owners, Trainers, Drivers, Jockeys, Racetrack Owners and Operators:It is not a right to be part of racing, it is a PRIVILEGE. With privilege comes responsibility!Thanks to the 29 people indicted, we have been handed a great opportunity to right the ship. It is up to the owners to lead the way and a no-nonsense commissioner would send a message that we are finally serious, that we care about the future of our sport and the great athletes (our horses) that make our sport special. It’s enough to make Doves Cry.

—Dana Parham / Odds on Racing

In the aftermath of the arrests

Here are some things to think about going forward. Okay, so far, the Feds have busted 29 people, some harness, some thoroughbreds, for doping racehorses. First of all, I’d like to give kudos to Jeff Gural, who banned some of these trainers from the Meadowlands, and his other two tracks, Tioga and Vernon. Gural got a lot of criticism when he did that, but not from horseplayers.

Let’s get something straight here: when a doped up horse wins a race, that race was a fixed race. That’s right, folks. According to federal law, that’s considered “tampering with a sporting contest.” As of now, we don’t know exactly how the courts are going to prosecute these alleged horse doping crimes, but we do know that if these men are proven guilty of doping, that means that they’re race fixers, and that’s a felony.

Another point I’d like to make, many people in the industry are constantly talking about spending more money on drug testing. Obviously, drug testing is not working, because these trainers had their horses tested. It’s unfortunate, but if a racetrack wants clean racing, it has to have some sort of surveillance. Once again, Gural hired a private investigator to help weed out the criminals. Also, we still have to address the Lasix issue. Thoroughbred racing is starting to phase Lasix out. Harness racing has to decide if it wants to continue to allow horses to be drugged on race day. These recent arrests are a black eye on the industry and maybe it’s time to starting showing the public that we don’t have to race our horses on drugs, which, by the way, is how they race everywhere else in the world, with no race day meds. And, this is a good opportunity to find out if Lasix can be used to mask other drugs. Ask the alleged race fixers if Lasix made it easier for them to hide the drugs they were giving the horses.

Finally, from now on, all racetracks have to start doing a better job at keeping the races honest. It may be time for the industry to get behind the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754), which would create a national uniform medication program for the entire horse racing industry. I also propose that we create a point system for trainers, and owners. Every time your horse gets a drug positive, you get points and after a certain amount of points are accrued, you’re not allowed to own or train race horses ever again.

Let’s get real here. Everyone with at least half a brain knew that certain trainers were doping their horses. Why let them race when you know that they’re doping? Obviously, you can’t kick out every successful trainer, but some are blatantly obvious. Thoroughbred trainer Jorge Navarro is the worst, in my opinion. He has a lifetime win percentage of 28 per cent and he claims ordinary horses and turns them into superstars practically overnight. For years, everyone knew he was drugging horses. The fans call him “The Juice Man”. Several of his horses have died from drug abuse. Tracks like Monmouth Raceway, where he was the perennial leading trainer, should have banned him years ago. Let’s get smart about our product and our image. Let’s start protecting the horses, the bettors, and the honest owners and trainers. Let’s not kill racing.

—Bob Pandolfo / Northampton, PA

To Ron Gurfein, Re: Nick Surick

Ron,
As a regular HRU reader (and a 35-year reporter in the ‘Fake News Media,’ although in Canada) I recall how outraged you were last year when Nick Surick was briefly suspended. He was quickly reinstated, but there’s evidence now that Nick’s tremendous recent success is not because of good feed and liniment.
What say ye now, in defense of Mr. Surick? Is it all a big mistake?
When will you acknowledge that harness racing — a game that small bettors like me love and continue to stick with, even though we know we’re being cheated by chemists and trainers who use their concoctions — needs to make a pre-emptive strike against the cheaters?
Whose side are you on?
Will you and the Burkes and Takters and Moreaus of the standardbred world acknowledge that cheating is one of the biggest reasons why the betting whales have abandoned our game? I bet $20 a race. Unless and until the guys who bet $2,000 a race come back, our game is f – – – ed, buddy.
You are a shill for them, until I see otherwise.

—Jack Lakey / Toronto, ON

Bettors dilemma – to bet or not?

Well, with all the investigations, testing and scrutiny by all matters of authorities, we find ourselves in a should we bet or shouldn’t we bet conundrum. Common sense would seem to dictate we pause until all four feet have dropped. One would think that if you’re an unscrupulous trainer and you have been using non-approved animal medication, this would be the time to pause its usage and with that decision we should see performances all over the map. But, with the current state of many track officials burying their heads in the sand it could be business as usual. So ask yourselves if this is the kind of “maybe-world” you want to risk your hard-earned dollars in? Like the coronavirus, maybe for the time being we let it run its course.

Well over a year ago, I suggested that a certain leading Freehold trainer seemed to be winning at a statistically impossible rate to which Mr. Surick was kind enough in this very venue to respond that his supernatural numbers and percentages were the result of smart class placement. In looking at the recent indictments by Federal US Attorney Geoffrey Berman, it would appear Mr Surick “Got Some ‘Splaining to Do.”

Make no mistake, these federal indictments could and should be the tipping point needed to begin the cleansing and transparency this industry needs so badly. Keep in mind that millennials will not be entertained by 3-card-monte type racetrack games. A new day of integrity and transparency is here, either change the business-as-usual or move out of the way of meaningful entertainment.

—David Perry / Dearborn, MI

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