Interesting developments in the indictments, thoughts on the Propulsion case and my major personality defect

by Ron Gurfein

Tidbits: There are some interesting developments in the indictment story. The defense attorneys’ responses to the many indictments handed down by the Southern District of New York involving horse racing have disclosed that they will fight the legality of the wire taps in some of the cases as their basis of defense.

To me, if this turns out to be a successful defense, it is a crushing blow to the prosecution. The most damning evidence in the cases are the phone conversations that give insight into the true intent of the perpetrators.

In other news on the subject, the New York State Gaming Commission medical director Dr. Scott Palmer DVM ordered the testing of all the New York-based horses involved with the individuals named in the indictments. He found 77 per cent of those tested were all positive for the drug Clenbuterol although it never appeared in their individual veterinary reports. Dr. Palmer states that this is proof that the drug is widely used as a performance enhancer and not simply as a relief from chest congestion. It has always been believed that Clenbuterol has the same long-term effect as anabolic steroids and will bulk up the muscles of an equine athlete.

In the first major hearing in the Southern District, government prosecutor Andrew Adams claimed that there well could be further charges brought against the already charged defendants as well as the possibility of a new wave of fresh indictments.

In the hearing, that only involved about half the indictees, all charged plead not guilty.

They included: Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro, and Chris Oakes the most formidable of the defendants.

I will not bore you with the courtroom details but most of the discussions involved defense lawyers complaining about the vast amount of discovery presented by the state. Obviously, this is a good thing.

Basically it all comes down to a tremendous amount of time allotted for trial preparation that will push the finality of the situation well into next summer. I will stay on it as it will be an interesting ride to say the least.

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R.I.P. Scottie Harris, a good friend and one of the truly great characters in Kentucky harness history. Scottie, aside from being a top horseman, was to me like the Mayor of the Red Mile for decades. His smile, quick wit and genuine kindness will always be remembered.

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The first reports on Lasix ban are all POSITIVE. To all of you that have predicted gloom and doom and refused to lend your support of the Integrity Act because of the fear that the sport would crumble with the banning of Lasix, the first major test is over.

The Breeders’ Cup 2-year-olds all ran without the use of the drug and there were no major incidents of severe bleeding. On top of that fact is the assessment by many of the trainers that found their horses racing without the drug came out of the races with a lot more energy.

The true test will come in 2021 when all the stakes races are competed without the use of Lasix. Stay tuned.

Mvh Gosta Paterson (Sweden) asks: re: Propulsion Gate… After Propulsion was low-nerved trainer Tony Alagna was supposed to report it to the race office. Can you check if it has been done? Can it be confirmed by any documents? Was it possible to obtain this information before the auction? These answers may weigh on the degree of guilt of Daniel Redén.

I have spoken with Tony Alagna and everything was done and reported in a timely and proper fashion. The problems that have arisen were not with the trainers but were purely procedural.

Immediately following the surgical procedure, Tony informed the racing office at the Meadowlands that the horse had been nerved. Subsequently the race office posted it on their bulletin board so the information was public knowledge. Unfortunately, the USTA does not receive that sort of disclosure until the conclusion of the meeting. That is where the cluster f—k begins.

Without the information coming from the Meadowlands in real time it is impossible for the association to enter the procedure on a horses papers. It is the timing that is the culprit in a case as this not any one individual.

Very few logical things could have happened to avoid the horrible situation. One would not expect that Daniel Redén would be looking at the records in the race office nor would he be asking about nerving. As far as Tony Alagna is concerned I am sure he had no idea whatsoever that a nerved horse could not race in Sweden.

There is a paper trail if you wish to pursue it. You could contact the Meadowlands and ask if they keep the bulletins and request a copy. That would prove the story in its entirety is correct.

To this writer, Daniel Redén is 100 per cent innocent of any malicious intent in the matter. When he selected the colt for purchase I am certain that finding out whether he had been nerved was nowhere in his mind. The over-bearing decision by the Swedish Trotting Assn. should be referred to a proper court and reversed.

Dean Adams asks: I was looking into past records and I was surprised to find you really never trained a big stable. Was that by design or were there other factors?

I would have to answer that both were in some way relevant.

For the most part, big stables lost much of their popularity with the demise of the big training facilities. The loss of Pompano’s training side and Ben White Raceway may not have been a determining factor but they didn’t help the big outfits.

Barns such as Haughton, Dancer, Popfinger, Silverman, Sholty, etc. with their sets of eight on the half hour were gone until recently with the rise of Burke, Alagna, Miller and Takter.

In my era of Grand Circuit training, the big guns such as Sylvester, Erickson, Takter, Toscano, Smedshammer, and Holloway, the only giant stable that existed was Erv Miller and that was mainly due to the fact that he was training 50 Illinois-bred colts and the others stuck mainly to open stakes prospects.

I would say a large barn in those days was 50 head. I stayed mostly in the 25 range.

Not just by choice, but I had a major personality defect that wasn’t evident in most of my fellow trainers.

That defect was, I was a bit too caustic. I was a horse trainer, not a baby sitter, not a psychiatrist, and truly not a friend unless I wanted to be. I am a very social person but I want to spend my time with people I enjoy, not be forced into social situations because of business.

My other problem was I felt that if a horse was in my care and I deemed it a losing proposition for the owner I should be able to freely say, sell the animal without severe recriminations.

I blew off possibly one of the biggest owners in the sport in George Steinbrenner. John Cashman, visited my office every day at 6:30 a.m. One day he told me George wanted to send me some horses. The next day the truck comes with five head, one worse than the other. About a week later after exhausting all possibilities I called and said to George, ‘Four of the colts are awful, either bad gaited or just no talent One was very nice but needed green grass for at least three months.’ He asked me to try them for a couple of months, to which I replied, ‘I promise you they will be no better in 60 days then they are now.’ The next day the truck comes to send them to another trainer. We all know the rest of the story, but the bad news is I never trained another horse for George Steinbrenner again.

To me there are two kinds of owners. The ones that if you say your horse is no good, they immediately put it in a sale. I like that.
Then there are the ones that say thank you and send it to another trainer. I hate that.

Believe me I had no fear that someone was going to improve on my training it was just an ego thing that someone would think I was wrong.

Every year I went west with my entire barn after the Hambletonian and if I had a horse than was non-competitive on the Grand Circuit I would tell the owner to move the horse to another trainer, that was a normal yearly ritual, but I like it when the choice is mine.

Point of interest. There was one horse that I thought was better when he left my barn and I thought I missed something. I was right. The trainer of said horse is one of the indicted individuals that will soon be doing hard time or singing for his supper.

Alan Kelley asks: it’s been forever since you have given us a book. Please give us some new reading suggestions.

Sorry I just can’t. It’s been two years since I proposed Where The Crawdads Sing and justly received lots of positive feedback as it remained near the top of the NY Times Best Seller list for all that time. I usually read a book a week, but have been on a bad streak and down to half that. It seems all my favorite authors Grisham, Silva, Connelly etc. are all suffering from brain lapse. They are all writing but not much worthy of praise is resulting. This too will change stay tuned.

On the other hand, there are some television series that I have found profoundly intriguing.

The Queens Gambit offered by Netflix is the story of an orphaned Lexington, KY girl who learns to play chess from the janitor of her orphanage as a pre-teen. Subsequently, she rises to the best in the world while fighting a drug and alcohol addiction. It takes place in the 1950s and ‘60s. The story is based on a novel by Walter Teis, famous for The Hustler, the story of “Fast Eddie Felson” played by Paul Newman in the movie with the same name. Well worth watching.

The Undoing, from HBO has an all-star cast led by Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Southerland. It is another fabulous offering. It is a murder mystery and into the fourth episode this writer can make a case for everyone in the cast being the murderer. A must see.

Thank you all again for the kind words. Please keep the questions coming in. Don’t miss the amazing card at the Meadowlands tomorrow night. There will be more than $2.6 million on the line and possibly year-end honors. Have a wonderful week.

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