Harness racing’s common-sense sage returns.
It’s been too long since we’ve checked in with harness racing’s no-holds-barred, truth-teller Ray Schnittker. We reached out the other day to find out if anything was eating him and it was good to hear the horseman hasn’t mellowed.
Item #1 — Do you really want the feds running horse racing?
It should be noted that Schnittker is a long-time USTA director and the USTA opposes implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). But Schnittker doesn’t oppose HISA because that’s the USTA position. He has other concerns.
“The head of our federal government is Biden and Harris and we’re going to be way down the food chain on this. They don’t look like they are brain surgeons to me. Who are they going to get to run this that’s not going to be half-assed corrupt and the job is nothing but a political thing?” Schnittker asked. “When someone tells me, ‘Let’s have the federal government do it,’ I’m watching our president and vice-president right now and I probably lost $200,000 yesterday in the stock market. If they are supposed to be our two sharpest people, then what are we going to get to run our thing?’
“They are just going to put some other politician or somebody in there and they are going to do absolutely nothing. Then, they are going to charge us $140 to test a horse every race.”
While Schnittker believes drug testing rules should be the same in every state — which is a prime directive of HISA — he also thinks the state racing commissions should do the jobs they’re already being paid to do.
Item #2 — Hold horsepeople accountable when they break the rules
“Jesse James was probably a good guy,” Schnittker said. “All the guys that get into trouble in our game, I’m actually friendly with, had beers with, but there’s no accountability on anybody getting days or anything.
“If you get four months or something like that, you just switch it to someone else’s name and blah, blah, blah and you just go right along… There’s definitely no accountability and I don’t know how you get around it, but I know when I was a kid that when you got days, you got days. The commissions aren’t doing anything.
“Maybe, start fining people, like, $300,000 for a positive. I don’t mean positives like Bute or some stupid s – – – like that, which I think is bulls – – – half the time, but real positives – Class 1 drugs.”
Schnittker said he gives Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs owner Jeff Gural a lot of credit on the accountability issue. “He does throw people out of his place, but then they go to Yonkers and there’s no accountability there,” Schnittker said.
Item #3 — Head numbers need to be eliminated at all tracks
“One more thing, the head number thing. We supposedly did away with it at the USTA and there’s still tracks using it for identification,” Schnittker said, adding there’s a danger to all when the head numbers fall off.
“There’s nothing good. Plus, a groom, the thing comes down and could slice their head open… The head numbers drive me nuts. It’s like ‘Are you kidding me?’
“A lot of tracks still have them and the classic line is so they can identify a horse. Okay, you’ve got a thoroughbred and you’ve got a jockey with colors, same as we’ve got, and they have no trouble telling you who won the race and who was second. They never had head numbers.”