Integrity not relative

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TwinSpires Staff

March 1st, 2018

By Dick Powell

The Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) announced that 64 more current and retired trainers signed their petition to support the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 2651). It brings to mind a story about Reggie Jackson of the New Yankees bragging about having an IQ of 160 and the legendary Mickey Rivers said, “What, out of a thousand?”

That aside, the push is on for more industry stake holders to get on board to an effort that would create the Horse Racing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HADA), which would be part of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).  

Besides the issues of who HADA would report to and how independent they would be, the constant selling point is that America has to get in line with the rest of the world. Really? Here is what has been going on in the rest of the world.

Australia just saw another scandal where text messages indicated that starters in the Melbourne Cup (G1) had been “Milkshaked” as well as dozens of champion horses. These were part of a wider scandal in Australia where eight people have been charged with 271 breaches of the Australian Rules of Racing.

Where I give Racing Victoria’s Integrity Department credit is that they actually took the time and trouble to intercept text messages and if USADA performed a similar role here, I would be all for it. Except, who decides who gets their text messages intercepted and who doesn’t. 

None of these horses tested positive for “Milkshaking” since Australia does not do gas testing (TCO2) after races. If caught with tubing equipment, a trainer can get a 12-month suspension but there is no test for it LIKE THERE IS IN AMERICA. 

Ireland saw that the Irish Horse Racing Board was unable to test for excessive levels of cobalt and TCO2, according to The Racing Post. And this was two years after the IHRB had formed an anti-doping task to examine testing procedure protocols. The testing labs were not adequate and it cost Irish racing about 500,000 euros.

Here is what The Racing Post editorial board said about the episode on Wednesday: “Such shoddy management and implementation of what should be a fundamental aspect of Irish racing’s regulatory policy is hardly consistent with assertions that this is a sport or industry in which we are world leaders. Sadly, that line rings a little more hollow every time a hole is punched in the good ship integrity.” 

And in Great Britain, where we were the first to report over here that they do not conduct drug testing on every race but brag about how close they are getting, they took a firm stance on anabolic steroids after the massive Godolphin doping scandal in 2003. Zero tolerance was to be given to anyone caught using steroids. 

So two months ago, over four years later, they finally had a horse test positive for steroids but instead of a ban between one and 10 years, trainer Hughie Morrison was given a 1,000 pound fine by an independent disciplinary panel.

So, they got problems, we got problems; everybody got problems. Here’s my problem.

Go back and watch race 8 at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, February 18. Look at MOONLIGHT BANDIT’s past performances and you will see a need-to-lead type that has never shown the ability to pass horses. 

Out of the gate, Jose Ortiz had Moonlight Bandit chasing the pace and because he was two lengths behind the leader through the first half-mile, Moonlight Bandit began to drop back as expected. MARTINI KID took a clear lead in the stretch but suddenly was in trouble as someone was closing fast. 

We had to look at our programs a second time to realize that it was Moonlight Bandit re-rallying in the stretch of the one-mile dirt race for bottom claimers. He passed horses and won going away and we were left scratching our heads.  

The trainer? Jorge Navarro. Vegetable Juice or V-8?

Integrity is not a relative thing. You don’t achieve it by having more of it than the competition. It is an absolute thing and when you watch and wager on a race like Gulfstream Park’s eighth race on Sunday, you wonder if anyone is looking out for us. I would support USADA if I had any inclination the people who ignore such travesties are not the ones they will be reporting to...