Gural shocked by treatment of Adrienne Hall
I am shocked at the treatment that Adrienne Hall (full story here) has received on social media and the comments that I have seen because she decided to cooperate with the Feds and help put Fishman in jail where he belongs.
While everyone is concerned about our decision to allow her to race, my main concern is are we going to have enough owners and trainers to race at the Meadowlands once we find out who was buying drugs from Fishman and Grasso. The list we have seen from Fishman hopefully represents mainly horsemen who bought legal therapeutic medication or used his company for blood testing. Unfortunately, I am sure there will also be horsemen on the list who bought illegal performance enhancing drugs.
While I have no idea if they are going to be arrested, they are certainly not going to be allowed to race at my tracks and maybe others in the industry will follow suit.
What people criticizing (Hall) don’t seem to understand is that when you present evidence to a jury you have no way of knowing how it is going to turn out even if you have a great case. The FBI and the U.S. attorney felt they needed someone to testify they used Fishman’s product and they saw improved performance. I have interviewed her personally and have spoken with others who know her as well. She loves her horses and made a mistake but owned up to it and made herself available when she was contacted by the FBI.
In all the years I have owned racetracks, with the exception of one or two horsemen I am friendly with, not one of the thousands of owners trainers grooms drivers who I am sure have seen something or know something that might have been helpful in catching these criminals has ever come forward. The fact that she is getting crucified on social media and the press is a disgrace and just shows how much trouble we are really in as an industry. Her life has become hell since the Fishman trial and I am sure she regrets agreeing to cooperate.
Being such a small player, she was never at risk of being arrested or charged with a crime as they are only interested in major players.
Hopefully, we will be able to identify all the people who bought illegal drugs from Fishman and Grasso soon and the only people left to race will be those horsemen who are honest. Since I am used to it, I do not mind being criticized even though I am spending about $250,000 annually between (security director) Brice (Cote) and 5 Stones to try to keep drugs out, which is more than all the other harness tracks in North America are spending, but I would appreciate it people would take into account that this is a woman who loves her horses and everyone I have spoken to who knows her has confirmed that.
Jeff Gural / owner Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs
Russell Williams: Don’t be misled, Adrienne Hall should be excluded from horse racing
The story from Adrienne Hall in your recent issue (full story here) is an entertaining read, but no one should let it mislead or distract them from the reason she should be excluded from horse racing. The transcript of Hall’s testimony in the Fishman trial on January 27, 2022 has been publicly available for some time (and it can be obtained from the USTA). I will refer to page numbers in that transcript. At trial, Adrienne Hall gave a rather different side of the story, testifying pursuant to a written agreement with the Government under which she would not be prosecuted if she testified truthfully. (772-73).
At the time she approached Fishman, Hall already had a history of using performance-enhancing substances on her horses. (842, 859). Hall stated that she reached out to Fishman to get his help pre-racing her horses, meaning to get drugs to give to her horses to improve their racing performance. (793-94). Hall knew that administering the different forms of “blood builders” that she obtained from Fishman was not allowed and could result in loss of her license if she was caught, but she did it anyway. (777, 803, 805). Hall was not naïve. She had a conversation with Fishman about whether his products would “test.” (810). Evidently satisfied on this point, Hall met one of Fishman’s runners in a parking lot to get blood builders known as BB3 and TB-7. Hall administered Fishman’s substances to her horses intravenously. (816). Asked why she did not ask a veterinarian to do this, Hall replied, “I think it would have been stupid . . . the vet would have gone to the commission and told them what I was doing.” (817).
Adrienne Hall’s sworn testimony was that she administered performance-enhancing substances on race day to her horses in violation of both state and USTA rules. (803). “I could lose my license,” she said. “I would probably most definitely be suspended and fined.” (805). The USTA suspended Hall based on her own sworn testimony. Our rules and bylaws provide Hall with a right of appeal and the opportunity to explain why her testimony was not truthful or to give some other reason that her suspension was erroneous.
Russell C. Williams / president United States Trotting Association
Faraldo on “folly” of Gural’s new stakes rules
On the latest folly from the Meadowlands Guru…
The new Meadowlands policy “any persons who the FBI determined to have purchased performance enhancing drugs” will not be eligible to compete in the stakes and the money you paid in forfeited.
Just a couple of things to consider:
- The FBI is not the one to determine the ultimate facts and as we know many people are on the Fishman list may or may not have purchased any such medications. According to the FBI’s pharmacology expert, Lasix is performance enhancing. Will the purchase of Lasix now disqualify an owner from racing his/her horse in a stake race at the Meadowlands? And does that include the forfeiture of the previous paid in stakes money? Remember there are horses for which payments were made before this list was publicized in court by the FBI. Also, remember, that there are indeed innocent owners who merely paid a bill, submitted to them, as well as trainers who found an economical source of permissive meds to save their owners money.
- What litmus test will be utilized to determine whether the FBI is correct on its characterization of what is performance enhancing when they can’t identify what the “performance enhancing” drug was?
- In view of all this, consider the arbitrary and hypocritical determination that will be made by the guru at the Meadowlands, like the one we recently saw that if you admitted to injecting horses on race day and using “performance enhancing” drugs even before hooking up with Dr. Fishman, you can race at the Meadowlands without differentiating between stakes or overnights. Assuming an admitted user can race in overnights but not stakes, how does that figure?
Understanding that owners purchase yearlings with the dream of winning stakes races should (they) consider paying into any stakes where the rules can change after they paid in and then were declared ineligible?
On top of this, consider the latest that certain very talented drivers must report for duty at the Meadowlands by March 4th or they too will be determined ineligible to drive in stakes races there in 2022. What is an owner paying for if he can’t have one of these clearly most sort after top drivers. What if other tracks decided to bar drivers from their tracks stakes, early or late closing events unless they raced at their tracks every Friday and Saturday evening? How many tracks can a driver be beholden to? Complacency in all of this is as bad as the actor committing the act.
Joe Faraldo / president of the SOA of New York
I think you should have a writer investigate the daily vitamin supplement needs and minerals that all athletes and horses take as standard health aids. It is unfortunate that horses don’t swallow pills easily or effectively and injectables are used. Now each day I swallow several vitamins, supplements and medical over the counter pills for allergies [seasonal] and pain relief. They are not banned illegal or harmful.
Now many trainers use the same supplements to maintain and improve post-race recovery time in the harness horses. It is unfortunate that they self-inject the animal, but they do it for economic reasons, not nefarious ones. I think the public lacks the understanding of the drain a race puts on the animal, and human athletes all engage in similar enhancement. The short of it is every needle found is not for evil intent.
Joel Kravet / New York, NY
Racing in Florida
I am glad to see a legislator trying to keep harness racing alive in Florida (full story here). Since the deal to redevelop Pompano Park looks like a done deal, alternatives must be considered if harness racing is to survive in Florida. Since most betting on racing is now conducted off track the location of the track anywhere in Florida should workout, especially if the permit holder is also allowed to conduct casino type games and slots at the track’s physical location.
As mentioned in the article, the major cost would be to construct new facilities like the grandstand and other support facilities. It would seem to me that the most easy choice would be to allow any of the old dog racing tracks that would have the space to expand the old dog track into at least a half-mile harness track get preference to get a harness racing permit. In those cases they would still have an existing grandstand building that could be reused, thus reducing the capital cost to build a new track from scratch. Obviously, there would still be other extensive costs to do this, especially if the permit holder had to construct on site backstretch facilities. However, depending where the new track is located they may be able to run without on-site stabling. Since there are several training facilities located in the state horses could ship in from there. I hope something can be done since especially in winter Florida has always provided an alternative to cold northern tracks that run in winter.
John Chambers / Lansdowne, PA