Breeders’ Cup: Commitment to Fair Competition

by | 10.30.2013 | 9:42pm
Strict security protocols are in place at this year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park
Strict security protocols are in place at this year's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park

As a racing fan, I look forward to the Breeders' Cup with great anticipation each year. And there are several reasons for that.

I get to see some of the world's best horses, trainers and jockeys competing. There are full fields in every race. There is the mystique of international competition and, yes, even the prospect of rooting for the home team (North American-based horses).

And, of course, there is the challenge of handicapping, trying to figure out which horse is most likely to outshine all others in his or her event.

There is another aspect of the Breeders' Cup that appeals to me and draws me in, and I am quite sure many others share my perspective. And that is the unparalleled commitment made each year by Breeders' Cup, the host track, and the regulatory commission to ensure fair competition.

On a professional level, I am particularly interested in this year's event in the wake of a poll I conducted earlier this year for The Jockey Club among approximately 800 avid bettors. I presented the findings at the Round Table Conference in August, and I'll briefly revisit some of those results:

  • Drug and integrity concerns aren't just “image” or long-term sustainability problems for Thoroughbred racing. They are also a mortal threat to the business model.
  • There are widespread concerns about drugs and the integrity of racing – and more among frequent and big bettors than anyone else.
  • Eighty-six percent of big bettors, those who bet more than $10,000 each month, said they considered illegal drug use when betting at certain tracks and states.
  • Seventy-six percent of bettors said they avoided betting at some tracks and states.
  • Eighty-two percent supported the idea of publishing all drug testing results, with all drug levels included in the reports, to demonstrate that the sport is clean.
  • Sixty-five percent of big bettors strongly support new, massive fines for trainers and 75 percent supported longer suspensions for trainers.
  • Among big bettors, 79% supported more out-of-competition testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

 

This group, and really any other big bettor or casual fan of the sport, should take great comfort in knowing what steps are being taken to ensure the integrity of the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park on November 1 and 2.

According to Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), the following protocols will be in effect for the 30th running of the Breeders' Cup:

  • As it has done for the past 20 years or so, Breeders' Cup will have an international team of veterinarians on hand conducting pre-race inspections throughout Breeders' Cup week. This year, they will come from England, Canada, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • Out-of-competition testing will be conducted at 10 different locations, even some international venues. Twenty-five percent of all horses pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup will be tested randomly, and the samples will be analyzed before race day.
  • TCO2 testing will be conducted on every horse approximately 35 – 40 minutes before the horse is scheduled to compete.
  • The first four finishers in every race, and any others the stewards select, will undergo post-race testing for illegal drugs. Processing of those results will begin the afternoon of Sunday, November 3, and the results are expected back Tuesday, November 5.
  • Breeders' Cup and the CHRB will have their own teams of investigators from around the country on hand, and starting 72 hours before they are scheduled to race, every horse competing in the Breeders' Cup will be under constant observation by security personnel. That observation will be in force until the horse reaches the test barn or its own barn after the race.

 

While it may be unreasonable to expect state racing commissions to afford such vigilance, this is a model program that other racing venues should aspire to imitate as closely as possible.

It would be good for the athletes, good for the sport, and, in both the short term and the long term, good for the bottom line.

Robert Green is a Principal at Penn Schoen Berland, the nationally known research-based consulting firm whose clients include political figures such former President Bill Clinton, former Senator Hillary Clinton, and corporations such as Microsoft. He has examined drug and integrity issues for The Jockey Club in recent years. 

  • taxicab

    Good read.
    I agree with all of the findings from the 800 avid bettors.
    All of their thoughts are spot on.
    To follow up….
    It sure seems like “squeaky clean” trainers such as, Mott/Mandella….etc., do very well in Cup events.
    On the other hand, shortcut trainers struggle.
    Mike Mitchell/John Sadler/Jeff Mullins/ Tom Amoss have never won a BC race.
    Coincidence…..?

    • HogHater

      Not to mention other “super trainers”, some of whom are 1 for 25 since 2009 (only win coming in the now-defunct Juvenile Sprint)

      • taxicab

        @ Tinky/HogHater……Agree 100%.

    • Tinky

      Oh, and Todd Pletcher has won seven…out of 94 starters. Derby? One for 41.

      So to recap, a perennial leading trainer who typically wins at around a 25% clip has, on the two biggest days on the American racing calendar, won at only 5%.

      Are there several variables to consider? Yes. Does heightened security found on such big days play a role in the disparate percentages noted above? Draw your own conclusions.

  • 14151617

    Bill before Congress for Race Horse Protection from Drugging.
    Since Racing like the Walking Horses can’t clean up their act the Government is going to step in and HELP.

    • nu-fan

      Can you provide bill number? I’d like to get my elected officials to co-sponsor it, if they haven’t already. Thank you.

      • 14151617

        HR 2012 and S 973

  • Andrew A.

    It will be interesting to see how certain Trainers do under 72 hour surveillance. To the best of my knowledge Bob Baffert has never won while having his horses under 72 hour surveillance and he’s had some pretty short prices. I know a lot of handicappers now factor the 72 hour surveillance into their handicapping. I doubt Baffert will be shut out forever and should get at least one winner this time.

    If anyone on the list has the Trainer statistics while under 72 hour surveillance I would love to see them. And if I’m wrong about Bafferts record then I’d like to know that too (He may have one winner but nobody has been able to tell
    me for sure).

    • HogHater

      Other than Secret Circle in the 2011 BC and possibly Lookin’ At Lucky in the 2010 Preakness (72 hour watch?), I can’t think of any additional Baffert winners.

      • Andrew A.

        Thanks for the information. Are we sure 2011 B.C. had 72 hour surveillance?

  • Hamish

    Does anyone know if the complete survey and responses are available to see? Probably lots of pertinent and useful information contained within.

  • nu-fan

    Great article but this also applies to some of us who are not “avid” betters.

  • SaratogaSid

    Pre-race Lasix is legalized doping. Lasix is a designated doping agent by all of the major anti-doping agencies. Horses medicated with pre-race Lasix in America suffer more catastrophic injuries than horses racing without Lasix, and this is the reason all doping agents should be forbidden as they are in Europe, Asia, and Australia where, as expected, horses break down less often.

  • Jim M

    Just another thought about fairness. It appears from looking at Santa Anita charts for the last couple of weeks that the racing surface will have an extreme speed bias. Same as last year. Even the turf course appears to greatly favor early speed. Perhaps the Breeders Cup should take over track maintenance in the weeks leading up to race days. Much the way that the USGA does with golf courses before the US Open.

  • Terri Bey

    Great job. Can the track folks who evidently souped up the track be under 72 hour surveillance too?

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