Industry Reactions to ‘Disturbing’ PETA Video: Three States Launch Investigations

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A nine minute, 30 second undercover video produced by PETA is at the center of the investigation A nine minute, 30 second undercover video produced by PETA is at the center of the investigation

Following are responses from industry organizations contacted by the Paulick Report for comment in the wake of allegations of animal cruelty and other charges by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals against Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen and his chief assistant, Scott Blasi.

The allegations, originally detailed in the New York Times, followed a four-month undercover investigation by a PETA operative who gained employment in the Asmussen stable and compiled more than seven hours of secretly recorded videotapes and 285 pages of notes. Accusations of wrongdoing include animal cruelty, labor and immigration violations, plus charges that jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. carried an illegal electrical device in races.

PETA filed complaints with multiple federal and state agencies, including the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and New York State Gaming Commission. Statements from both organizations (see below) said they are conducting formal investigations as a result of the complaints. A third state regulator, the New Mexico Racing Commission, is voluntarily conducting an inquiry into the actions of Asmussen and Santana, because each is licensed in New Mexico.

Stan Bowker, steward for the Arkansas Racing Commission at Oaklawn Park, where Asmussen is leading trainer and Santana leading rider at the current meet, told the Paulick Report officials there have yet to decide what course of action, if any, to take in the wake of the allegations.

Chris Kay, CEO and President, New York Racing Association: “The New York Racing Association is concerned by the allegations that have been brought to The New York State Gaming Commission. We support the Gaming Commission and will fully cooperate with its investigation.

“The New York Racing Association takes the health and well-being of its equine athletes very seriously. Accordingly, we have taken action over the past year, in cooperation with the Gaming Commission, to ensure and enhance their safety. More recently, we have been privileged to have the expertise of newly appointed New York State Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer as we look to set the standard for equine safety regulations in the industry. We pledge to continue to work in partnership with the Gaming Commission and all industry stakeholders to promote the safety, integrity and transparency of our racing.”

Philip L. Hanrahan, CEO, National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Inc.: “So far we have only heard PETA’s allegations. We have not heard Mr. Asmussen’s or Mr. Blasi’s responses to the allegations, nor has the adjudicative process run its course. Until these events take place, any statement would be premature.”

Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America: The TRA’s position is the mistreatment of horses and the intentional violation of rules should be punished by swift and severe penalties.

Any allegations of mistreatment or callous disregard of the welfare and safety of horses and human participants should receive full investigation and prompt action.

Furthermore, in 2012, TRA members voted unanimously to advocate the Uniform Medication and Penalty Model Rules, developed by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and approved by the Racing Commissioners International (RCI).  By the end of 2013, those policies had been adopted by many of the leading racing states, and efforts continue to ensure unanimous adoption in the current year.

The TRA urges all racing commissions to press for the immediate adoption of the Model Rules for the benefit of the sport, the racing public, and especially the racehorses in competition.

Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild: “The Guild’s main focus is, and will continue to be, safety for both horse and rider. Jockeys must be confident that the horses they ride are in the best condition, free from illegal medication or procedures that are not being properly administered in compliance with the rules and regulations that have been created by the industry, such as improper and abusive use of shock-wave therapy. Over the last several years, the Guild has worked with state racing commissions, the Association of Racing Commissioners International, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, The Jockey Club, and the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance advocating for severe penalties for medication violations and supports tightening of race day medication rules. Once the due process is completed, if any individual is found guilty of abuse, neglect or any other rule violation, they will suffer the consequences.

“The Guild has in the past and will continue to make riders aware of the consequences of violating any and all rules pertaining to jockeys.”

Craig Fravel, President and CEO, Breeders’ Cup Ltd: “While the individuals involved are entitled to due process after a fair and impartial investigation, much of the alleged behavior depicted in today’s news accounts is unacceptable, deeply troubling and, we believe, not a reflection of the way we strive as an industry to properly care for our horses. The vast majority of participants in Thoroughbred racing work hard to care for the animals entrusted to them in an ethical and responsible manner and to comply with veterinary best practices and regulatory standards.

“We believe that it is imperative that Thoroughbred racing in the United States aggressively pursue adoption of the uniform medication rules that contain important reforms relating to the administration of therapeutic medications and that the multiple violation penalties associated with these model rules should be implemented as quickly as possible.  Moreover, the administration of medication to horses should be done in the context of an established veterinarian/patient relationship subject to guidelines requiring individual diagnosis and treatment plans.  Finally, we strongly believe that workers in our industry should be treated fairly and with respect and that employers in our industry should comply with applicable laws governing the workplace.

“At its annual World Championships, Breeders’ Cup has worked to set best-in-class standards for safety, security, race-readiness and testing.  Breeders’ Cup will continue to support medication and other reform efforts to ensure that a culture of respect and care for the animals is the norm and that those who do not comport with regulatory and ethical standards do not find comfort or shelter in our business. They put at risk the good work and reputations of many other industry participants.”

Jeff Blea, DVM, 2014 President, American Association of Equine Practitioners: “After viewing the video, I found numerous items to be disturbing and tasteless. My personal experience on the backside of the racetrack is that many horsemen and horsewomen sacrifice tremendously for the horses in their care; the horses are their priority.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners strongly advocates that all veterinary treatments and procedures be based upon an examination and medical diagnosis. Transparent and direct communication between the owner, trainer and veterinarian is essential for the well being of the racehorse.

Everyone involved in the sport of horse racing has a fundamental responsibility to respect the horse and put the health and welfare of the horse first, in all aspects of care.

The Jockey Club: The Jockey Club is aware of a recent media report involving disturbing allegations of animal cruelty and related matters.

The Jockey Club fully supports and assists law enforcement agencies, the courts and racing regulatory authorities in the investigation of matters involving animal cruelty. Furthermore, pursuant to the Principal Rules and Requirements of The American Stud Book, The Jockey Club may deny any or all of the privileges of The American Stud Book to any person or entity when, among other things, there is a final determination by an official body that such person has committed an act of cruelty to a horse or violated applicable statutes or regulations regarding the care and treatment of a horse.

The Jockey Club has long held that for the health and safety of the athletes and the integrity of the sport, Thoroughbreds should only race when free from the influence of medications in their system. The Jockey Club remains committed to the comprehensive national reform of medication rules, laboratory standards and penalties currently underway in 19 racing jurisdictions that enhance transparency and severely prosecute those who operate outside the rules. The Jockey Club will continue to aggressively pursue these reforms until they are uniformly adopted for all North American racing.

National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (joint statement): “The allegations and incidents described in today’s report by The New York Times are very disturbing. While we have not been given the opportunity to review most of the documents referred to in the story, we will not defend or condone any proven cases of abuse or neglect. The attitudes and actions alleged in the story are not representative of the overwhelming majority of participants in our sport who care deeply for the horses they own or train and conduct their business affairs in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

“We urge the industry to aggressively pursue the nationwide adoption of uniform therapeutic medication rules, penalties and testing reforms. These reforms are already being adopted by the majority of major racing jurisdictions and we urge all other states to move quickly to adopt them as well. Once implemented nationwide, these reforms will help to ensure a higher degree of health and safety for horses and riders and integrity for the sport.”

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission: The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has received documents from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regarding allegations of animal cruelty by licensees at Churchill Downs. The commission staff is currently reviewing the information.

The KHRC takes allegations of cruelty to animals very seriously. When our racing stewards are notified of any possible activity that involves cruelty to horses at licensed facilities, the stewards take prompt action to investigate and take the appropriate action. The KHRC strongly encourages anyone who has knowledge of, or suspects incidents of abuse to animals contact the commission immediately.

The KHRC will conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations and take appropriate steps once that investigation is concluded.” 

New York State Gaming Commission: The New York State Gaming Commission has undertaken a formal investigation into allegations of abuse and mistreatment of thoroughbred race horses in New York State by licensed individuals. The investigation was initiated after the Commission was provided undercover evidence of alleged violations by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

“The allegations and footage provided by PETA are extremely troubling and we are fully investigating the matter,” said Robert Williams, Acting Executive Director of the New York State Gaming Commission. “PETA has offered to assist the Commission in its investigation, and we welcome such cooperation. We expect that all other parties involved will be forthcoming as well. If the results of our investigation find that licensed individuals violated the State’s laws and rules, the Commission will consider all options.”

On Tuesday, March 18, PETA provided the New York State Gaming Commission with evidence and materials requesting an investigation into the conduct of several currently licensed individuals who participated in New York horse racing at Saratoga Race Course in July and August 2013. The individuals identified by PETA include: trainer Steve Asmussen, assistant trainer Scott Blasi, KDE Equine, LLC d/b/a Steve Asmussen Racing Stables, attending veterinarians Dr. Joseph F. Migliacci and Dr. James Hunt, and jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr.

The Commission initiated an investigation on March 18 and will obtain and review all footage documenting the allegations. The Office of Veterinary Affairs, led by Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer, VMD, is assisting in the investigation.

“The behavior depicted in the undercover video and supporting materials is disturbing and disgusting,” said Dr. Palmer. “We are working to determine what happened and ensure that proper protocols are put in place to prevent such actions from taking place again.”

Vince Mares, Executive Director, New Mexico Racing Commission: “We are very concerned with the actions documented in the video. A preliminary review reveals what appear to be two individuals who are also licensees of the New Mexico Racing Commission (trainer Steve Asmussen, jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.). New Mexico Racing Commission licensing standards require licensees to be of good moral character and integrity.

“Therefore, the NMRC will be conducting an inquiry into the actions of these individuals and will take disciplinary action as necessary.”

Read more at New York Times, Paulick Report

 

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  • betterthannothing

    When will racing begin to act and seriously boost the welfare and safety of its horses instead of reacting now that massive public outrage is coming following its latest black eye? Race horses need constant protection against abuse including with surveillance cameras in all stalls and vans and other protective measures which I and others have listed many times. Period.

    • Jay Stone

      This is an industry that has always been reactionary to problems. It needs to become proactive and deal with problems before they become problems

  • jackmw

    The investigation should begin with establishing whether this informant is credible. Is she who she says she is. The KHRC & NYSGC must assure us that her lic apps were properly filled out. Name, address, dob, ss# etc. Also was she required to fill out any paper work with the stable regarding her employment. If any of this info is innacurate or misleading then the onus is on PETA. Full disclosure from the start.

    • ASL

      Agreed regarding letting the investigation run its course, but the problem also starts with the industry as a whole. The racetracks, regulatory bodies, and alphabet groups are so lax and have been for years. We have no uniformity with anything and much of the conduct showcased in the PETA piece has been going under these organizations’ collective noses for years. How can a trainer like Asmussen, with so many drug violations, be even nominated for the Hall of Fame? The industry’s various organizations are only reacting because it was published in the NYTimes. While PETA itself has some credibility problems and their motives are extreme (i.e, no animal use whatsoever), horse racing brought the attention to itself by creating an environment that allows for this kind of callousness.

      • idavis

        Agree, especially w/regard to Asmussen…how could he have ever been nominated w/his many drug violations when the powers that be won’t even consider nominating Billy Turner, Jr., who accomplished what no other trainer has ever done…developed the ONLY undefeated Triple Crown Winner, the great Seattle Slew,and did it the old-fashion way, w/o drugs/Lassix. If they can’t see how deserving he is to be in the Hall of Fame, they should at the very least present him w/a Special Achievement Award in recognition of this amazing, one-of-a-kind lifetime accomplishment that no one has ever been able to achieve, and doubtfully will in the future. This should have been done a long time ago, but hopefully someone will realize how remiss they have been in not paying tribute to Turner and will do so while he’s still on this earth to enjoy the honor of finally being recognized for his remarkable achievement.

        • Susan Crane-Sundell

          I agree the only UNDEFEATED Triple Crown winner’s trainer should have a special place in the Hall of Fame. How about a write-in people’s ballot? After the travesty that just occurred the HOF just might start listening.

      • Danny Gonzalez

        Peta s head ingrid Newkirk agreed with the horse slaughter so again people donate to peta to help peta kill animals

      • Bo

        Sounds like you have already convicted the trainer before he has had a opportunity to defend himself. Knowing the reputation of PETA I think I would wait and see before jumping on the boat! If this is true! Then they should be removed from horse racing for ever! But until that time I will wait for the investigation by all organizations involved before finding them guilty! The trainer can not help what his assistant trainer says and the words he uses no more than he could for you. The concern here is for the horse and the sport of racing and the truth whatever that may be.

    • betterthannothing

      It is impossible to white-wash damning words and actions when caught on video, even with editing. Don’t blame the messenger and its investigator, blame an industry that discounts the welfare and safety of its horses and thus their riders although the later have a choice and a voice they fail to use to save their own lives.

    • Lost In The Fog

      There may be much to question and criticize regarding PETA, their tactics and motives, depending on one’s perspective. That said, in this case shooting the messenger is pure folly. How anyone could watch those video clips and not be disgusted by the actions of Blasi, by extension Asmussen, the veterinarians etc. is beyond me. No matter what you think of PETA the video is damning! Heads are going to roll, as they should.

    • Jay Stone

      The tapes don’t lie. Whoever she is or what her background is has no bearing on what we’ve seen. Unless this was all staged there are many federal laws broken and ultimately damage done to human reputations that will never be repaired. The worst crime of all is the disregard for the animals you derive your living from.

      • qwerty12

        We’ve seen 9 minutes out of hours of raw footage edited together by PETA. Until we see all their footage in context, how do you know the tapes don’t lie? Tapes can’t lie, but editors can.

        • Jay Stone

          So u honestly think the words uttered by Blasi were doctored? You think the vet calling Lasix a(performance enhancer) was doctored? The investigator made up the illegal abuse of workers? Is this tape was doctored they should work for the CIA.

    • John

      Do you think they would check credibility about the informant, when they obtained fake documents for the workers they hired ? How about a full back ground check with every worker at the tracks along with the books to see if they paid taxes, work comp and minimum wage.

  • Craig Milkowski

    Racing needs to start being proactive, not reactive.

  • ASL

    When will all the wealthy owners with their friends in Congress and State Legislatures do something to improve horse racing rather than just sticking their collective heads under the rug hoping these controversies goes away? To those who have received great blessings, great is demanded in return. If your passion is horse racing, then show it by getting some serious legislation passed both at the federal and state levels which: (a) adopt uniform medication policies with real enforcement provisions and (b) ban every trainer and owner from the sport who engages in conduct that is detrimental to the welfare of the horse. Otherwise, step dwon from your posts and get out of the way. Racetrack owners, the Jockey Club, and all the alphabet groups and their cronies all have a role to play in this. I don’t care if you have more money than you can count, do something for the betterment of the sport. I’m so tired of feckless leadership in horse racing.

  • Hamish

    The “Alphabets” have nothing new to say other than they are all “on to a uniformity solution, that they will pursue until in place.” What a bunch of nonsense! The existing agencies and organizations do not have the non-conflcited ability to fix problems that have been occuring on their watch for many, many years. Please, there isn’t anybody with good judgment that believes this “old guard” rhetoric any more. There are new ways of operating being discussed that would present a fresh new face and provide an effective means on the way we do business, yet the entrenched status quo crowd want no part of a solution that doesn’t keep them at the front of the bus. Let me remind them, this is 2014 not 1973.

    • Jay Stone

      The problem is that the old guard is replaced every 20 years by a new group of people who do nothing. The only hope is someone in power gets tired of wasted rhetoric and sees the danger that days like today present to the sport from the breeding industry to the wagering end. There are huge amount of money and people in ancillary industries that are negatively impacted by the public perception of this tape. The states and more importantly the federal government has to react to this and the alphabet groups need to join in or stay out of the process.

  • D.C.W.

    The statements above are an example of how to cover your ass.Come on show some backbone.Is anybody really surprised ? Hall of fame that was a joke right ?

  • Upstate NYer

    While I’m not a fan of PETA in general, the messenger isn’t the problem here. The evidence could have been gathered by Daffy Duck; you still have a horse in pain, who appears to have been pushed past any humane line in the sand. He needed a vet without an agenda, and retirement.

    The Thoroughbreds have such heart. To take away a horse’s dignity in exchange for all they give back.. the try … this can’t continue.

    • Gadflies

      Agreed. PETA may be publicity wh—es, but as they say, even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while

    • Really

      Agree Upstate, in the video Blasi stated the horse should have been retired a year ago and so did the exercise rider, but he wasn’t..Why? According to Blasi the owners a C-NT..so obviously the owner new, if the guy didn’t like horses or care I don’t think he would have been so angry as to call the owner a name like that. Especially when a few minutes later in the video Blasi says “it was the most violent death Ive ever seen”. Why would he say that if he hated horses and was cruel to them?? Things from this PETA video are very contradicting and aren’t making sense

  • Danny Gonzalez

    To all the above agencies and Commisions.
    What are you planning to investigate What is already normal everyday behavior at the racetrack. All of the above agencies and Commisions are the reason this behavior goes on You make the rules you dont hold people accountable cause if affects your bottom dollar. You Ban trainers who speak out about the cruel behavior . You blackball them with your attempt to say your improving racing but you do nothing but place a bandaid on it. Trainers that have been caught cheating in the true sense of the word are allowed to continue in the sport. You have caught them red handed with the smoking gun in there hand but you do nothing. Dont waste the betting publics time with your weak attempts to act like you know nothing, There is currently active trainers especially one that has over 25 equine deaths on his record in under 3 years and you do nothing. Another trainer that has 8 in one year you dont review any licenses. You turn a blind eye the needs of the betting public, You allow the commisions to be run under the control of people serving there own interest and not the interest of racing. All the people that were seen in the PETA video were the elite of racing the same people who you so willingly allow to do the same thing over and over, When an outside group does what your not smart enough to do you now react like your suprised you empower these people and deny others. This time you cant run. A group is currently Joining forces to stop the intertrack wagering bill. Congress set parameters so that you could enjoy making money from out of state wagering Its time to cut your money off so you can now feel the sting of your own actions. The only way to clean up racing in this country is to get rid of the current management that is operating the commisions and the alleged rule making boards who influence this ridiculous behavior YOUR THE FIRST PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED

    • Jay Stone

      Danny, I don’t know who you are and you sound a bit radical but everything you say is basically correct. From track management that watches these things happen, to state commissions that are politically appointed and do nothing, to the many alphabet groups that issue blanket statements, the only one that may help turn the tide in the other direction is the Feds.

    • mike

      POWERFUL DANNY!

    • roseann cherasaro

      Couldn’t have put it any better..

    • betterthannothing

      Very well said DG.

      Racing’s biggest mistake was to continually discount the welfare of its horses and worry more about animal rights activists than the animals themselves. Unfortunately for all concerned, except heartless profiteers, racing chose to just do enough to manage public outrage including with lies. When Alex Waldrop swore in front of a massive media contingent that our race horses are Priority #1, following Eight Belles’s death, racing should have translated that lie into a huge red flag and wake-up call and turned it into reality. Instead it continues to prioritize power and money.

    • Gina Powell

      100% AGREED. Great comment. The systemic abuse & cruelt of racehorses are upheld by the ENTIRE industry, especially ex-jockeys who hold the majority of positions on the racing commissions, whom they themselves beat horses when riding! Your most important point though is that they SILENCE people who speak out, and once you speak out you are labeled, and denied stalls. Essentially, they deliberately block your career. They did to mine. I’m very outspoken, and they don’t like it especially coming from a women where misogyny in horse racing is rampant. Sadly, throughout all this bickering, the voiceless and defenseless racehorses are probably suffering. This industry has known this for years, and NOTHING is done about it. Will it take PETA (thank you PETA), and a lawsuit to finally address this systemic abuse? I sure hope so.

  • Hoops and Horses

    What has been going on, even if severely distorted by PETA needs to change even if it is legal if only because of public perception as many who “do the right thing” in this sport are unfairly grouped in with the few “bad apples” that bring everyone down:

    Tracks need to follow the lead of Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural and deny privileges to trainers who even are simply perceived of wrongdoing. I would think if Mr. Gural owned a thoroughbred track, he would have the guts to kick someone like Assmussen off the grounds because of that alone.

    Mr. Gural would probably be exactly what Thoroughbred Racing needs for a Commissioner. He already have implemented rules at The Meadowlands (and his other tracks, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs) that make it so horses sired by stallions who are four years old or younger when conceived are ineligible for ALL major stakes at his tracks, with the policy also implemented by Woodbine Entertainment Group for the tracks it operates for Harness Racing, Woodbine and Mohawk. These rules had their desired effect in 2013 to where virtually every top three year old of 2012 returned to race at four, and is something if Mr. Gural were Commissioner I’m sure he would attempt to implement in Thoroughbred Racing as I would (and in my case, expanding on that so top horses have to return for four and five year old seasons as going to age five would also force major changes in the way horses are bred to doing so for stamina and durability as breeders would know they’d have to breed horses who could stand up to at least four years of racing and at least 40-50 starts). More importantly, if Gural had the power to act like he has done at The Meadowlands, it would go a long way to cleaning up the sport.

    I do know if I were Commissioner, one thing I would insist on is every track operator, horse person (owner, trainer, assistant trainer and so forth) and others involved in the sport be required to sign a “Best Interests of Horse Racing” clause that would give the Commissioner power to do what is necessary to clean up the sport and make it so track operators can no longer protect their fifedoms at the expense of the best interests of the sport (and any track operator that fails to comply with this would face losing any and all Graded status from stakes events and also be considered an “outlaw” track). That is what is clearly needed.

  • Sal Carcia

    The industry’s response is sensible and proper. It’s a good first step. I am glad to see it was made in a timely manner. Ultimately, the industry should think about getting out ahead of its public image. The NYTimes and Joe Drape always have some sort of an exposé just before the Derby. It’s become an annual happening. Why not try to be better prepared to respond to such accusations? Or maybe think about a campaign to stop these accusations ahead of time.

    I saw plenty of people online yesterday with excellent responses defending the industry’s practices toward caring for the horses. I saw people defending Asmussen and Blasi. If it is true, then why can’t our industry get this good news out to the public?

    • tbpartner43

      Quote the manuals regarding standards of care, but until you walk the shed row, unannounced and at odd times of day, one has absolutely no idea what goes on in a 12 X 12 foot box.

      • LL

        Agree. Many years ago I remember walking the shedrow on my way out from visiting my horses and passing another trainer’s horse. The horse looked like he wanted to just get away from the individuals who were doing something to him and laughing at how the horse didn’t like it. I can’t believe how that stuck with me for all these years.

    • SteveG

      Unfortunately, Sal, it’s not as though these latest very questionable practices to come to light haven’t been occuring in other forms with other players for years & years. And, it’s not as though the industry is taking a virginal “first step” as you characterize it, as though it’s been in the dark about its own business. What the top end of the business has proven over the same span of years is that it is has become an expert at taking the “first step” in a reactive attempt to defuse outrage but is wholly inexpert at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. steps to truly reform the sport. That’s simply pathetic given the volume of evidence over the same span of years that serious reform for long-term gain has been and is required despite the short-term pain that reform will cause. You are more understanding & forgiving than I.

      • ASL

        Well said, SteveG. Feckless leadership. There are so many people in “leadership” who can’t handle the heat of their respective positions. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. I’m incensed that our industry makes itself such an easy target.

      • Sal Carcia

        Racing made strides over the last few years. New York has made some significant changes with their dug and safety policies. The Mid-Atlantic Uniform Drug Program has been agreed to by eight states. There have been changes made in Kentucky as well. The NTRA Safety and Integrity Initiatives have picked up momentum. It’s not enough, but I think the game has at least made it to step 2.

        • SteveG

          Strides, granted. As in, 1 step forward, 2 steps back. The arithmetic continually puts us back at step #1. Tweaks, calibrations, massage. Those functions work when the engine is A-1, tip-top & one wants to keep it that way. However, when the engine darn near seizes up from time to time, the tweaks may get you to the next corner but are futile for the long-haul. Time for an overhaul or a new engine.
          The same thing holds true for systems. My personal belief is that if we want racing to flourish into the future, the system needs an overhaul on the fundamentals, not tweaks to get to the next corner.

          • Sal Carcia

            There is a systemic problem with horseracing. To me, it defies definition. I agree Steve. I just keep looking at it from a public relations perspective. Tell the world you have made it to step two. The rest can be left out.

  • http://www.digitalhearingoutlet.com/ Michael J. Arndt

    Assuming everything in the PETA video is a set-up, circling the wagons and hoping it all goes away is fine if you want to continue to leave the sport vulnerable to this sort of thing. As I see it, the # 1 problem here is our sport does precious little to clean its own house. The undercover investigators should be working for the racing authorities. Whether its labor violations, unethical treatment of animals, illegal drug use by humans or in racehorses, or jockeys and trainers not abiding by the rules, it seems we only see the tracks and authorities dealing with things once they can no longer deny it. I urge all of you who are on the side of horse racings long term best interests to support racing throwing back the covers itself when needed to expose and expel those who hurt the sport. If racing was really on top of what went on in the barn we are seeing in the video, they could disprove this stuff in short order. The very fact that they can’t is what I would like the folks in charge to see as a real problem.

    Three undeniable truths in this video: 1) Scott Blasi has no qualms about using a pre-inspection treatment to fool a track vet into allowing a horse to race that he knew would be scratched. 2) Scott Blasi and Steve Asmussen have no qualms about committing a felony and using phony documents to be able to hire illegals under phony names. 3) Blasi believes shockwave treatments are so painful for the horses he cannot believe they can tolerate the pain, but has no qualms about using them whenever they feel it will help a horse run faster. This man trained Curlin, Rachel Alexandra and other great horses. He shows a great ability to justify subverting any rule in his path to win a race, and unless racing truly and openly investigates his past we will just have this sort of thing happening over and over with others.

    • Fast Filly

      He never said he used shock wave, just said how painful it was and if it was done in their barn, where’s that footage..from a paid informate..

  • ryan driscoll

    Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah…………I could only make it thru the first four on the list.

  • Kim MacArthur (Anita Xanax)

    Ray, I truly hope you are in contact with Mr. Zayat. I have a terribly difficult time believing he knew Nehro was crippled; had he, I believe Nehro would have been shipped to the closest vet hospital and retired on the spot. Mr. Blasi’s crude and crass name for Mr. Zayat, after the millions he has spent on and gained for Team Asmussen, is beyond the pale. I will look forward to your interview with him and his thoughts.

    • Pop N Go

      Really how many horses go on to long careers from the Zayat stable? Did you see Bodemiester when he got to Wn Star? If Assmusen doesn’t try to run Nehro he is moved to the closest barn that says they can run him. Overdoing the Clembuteral will take the feet right off a horse. Sure Zayat spends a lot of money, but he is a long way from being a Phipps or Farish.

      • Really

        Pop N Go well said. the real animal cruelty comes from the many deaths of Zayat horses that he has collected huge insurance settlements on. Hes the large part of why Nehro is dead. Blasi said the horse should have been retired a year ago, and wasn’t thanks to Zayat, so Blasi wasn’t far off calling him a CU.T cause where is the horse now??? DEAD. Yes he will change trainers to whome ever will work for free and run them wether sound or not. Hes just agreedy owner who owes the hard working people who take care of his horses well being thousands of dollars close to a MILLION. From trainers, shoers and vets all over in the industry. People like him in my opinion are more harmful than some one cussing and using foul language. Plus, Where did PETA hire this investigator??? 1-800 prositutes? Is it on her resume that she will sleep with anyone to get a job? From several of the barn employees, not just 1, she was wild in the sack and loved it…Hmmm maybe we should see the whole 4 months of video instead of just the 9 min PETA chopped together video before we make any real decisions on this. Could have a sequel out called “Sleeping With the Enemy” part 2..

        • Kim MacArthur (Anita Xanax)

          You make many very blunt accusations, Really. I hope you have some proof of these: “Hes just agreedy owner who owes the hard working people who take care of his horses well being thousands of dollars close to a MILLION. From trainers, shoers and vets all over in the industry”

          Unless he owes you money personally and you know for a fact he owes trainers, smiths and vets money (you’ve seen the unpaid, overdue statements?) I think you might want to render the above as an OPINION, rather than FACT…REALLY!!

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    Anyone else find it interesting that Breeders Cup makes a statement about upholding integrity and proper use of medications…yet when they finally did something right in working to ban Lasix in races…they did a submissive roll as soon as an owner threatened a law suit?? How do you spell hypocrite again??

    • Tinky

      No surprise. It’s the same organization that would like to permanently hold the BC in California, where, with rare exceptions, the participantsmust race on rock-hard turf courses.

      In short, best for the bottom-line trumps what’s best for the horses.

    • ASL

      All the more reason there is collective frustration. It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many obscenely wealthy people who support the Breeders’ Cup and its ban on all raceday medications, yet they all balked at being sued by another owner. The Breeders’ Cup is so risk adverse. For goodness sake, develop some backbone and do right by the industry as a whole.

    • fb0252

      u conveniently fail to acknowledge that 95% that understand horse physiology and training support use of lasix on dirt tracks. hopefully the PETA investigation will be other than another know-nothing lasix debate.

      • circusticket

        Are you calling the rest of the world know-nothings?

        • Old Timer

          No he’s calling the rest of the world that EAT horses hypocrites because of the real reason they don’t allow lasix in their horses!

          • crookedstick

            Olé Timer, really? Is that why the doN’t allow Lasix ? Did you know the Owner of Mine That Bird , Leonard Blach, recently testified as Expert Witness for Horse Slaughter in Roswell, NM.? He was perfectly comfortable with setting some clearance times and offering 121 horses per day for slaughter at a little plant which is located within walking distance of his breeding barns.

  • Bellwether

    “There ain’t no way to delay that trouble coming every day”…In the long run this is going to be the light @ the END (of all the BS that goes on) of the tunnel…”The Game” will be better for it…Long Live The King Baby!!!…

  • Fast Filly

    Seven hours out of two thousand one hundred thirty…and if PETA was so worried, why did they let it go on so long>>? Four months of supposed cruelty….four months…lets just torture the animals for four months till we find seven hours to condem them..whats next, rodeo, dog racing, they have done it at slaughter houses and chicken houses, had kennels robbed of their puppys….

    • Chantal Smithless

      I am no fan of PETA HOWEVER we must not turn our heads the other way because we don’t like the messenger. I hate that more time than we would like had to encompass the investigation as much as the next person but when you go up against “The Big Dogs” you better have your guns loaded and then some. If you are a fan of horse racing aren’t you tired of these uber rich in the sport being looked upon as Gods when some of them are THE worst animal abusers of ALL???????

      • Fast Filly

        That’s like saying because you are rich, you should give us some of your money..all these trainers that are consedered the Big Dog, they all started out like everyone else..you just don’t get into the racing business with winners..they got that way same as anyone in the business, most were grooms or like Mr A, his family was racing quarter horses long before he was ever born..don’t blame them because they made money with horses..they couldn’t do it if they didn’t have some talent and GOOD horses.

    • Lana Desole

      This is a very straightforward tactic, and it’s the same one used by undercover agents in all industries, not just by animal rights activists. If you report the first thing you see, it will be written off as an isolated incident. You need a pattern of behavior for legal action to be taken.

      Do you think these agents want to be undercover for so long? I just read an article about an amazing man who went undercover to expose the child sex slave industry. He was undercover for months, the poor soul, until they were able to put a solid case together. The end result=worth the wait.

  • Chantal Smithless

    I am NO fan of PETA but as said before, it doesn’t matter WHO recorded this abuse because of the basic history of the subject matter AND because video doesn’t lie. In addition, Asmussen certainly has been suspected before of this and other infractions. It is high time that ALL of the BIG TIME “players” stop getting away with the atrocities that have made them millionaires at the expense of the horses!

  • Susanne Conway

    Blah blah blah

  • Darlene Allison Anders Sanner

    Almost every track has signs posted with hotline phone numbers for people to call in and report any wrong doing or abuse they have knowledge of Why didn’t said animal welfare person use these numbers to report animal abuse or any other wrong doing when they saw it so the abuse could be investigated right then? Why make the animals (or even under paid employees)continue to suffer when it could have been stopped much sooner? I guess the headlines really are far more important than stopping the suffering

  • jttf

    please investigate voodoo daddy’s last race in august of 2012. takes a sharp left turn and crashes through the rail. shane sellers is the rider and injures his shoulder. voodoo daddy gets a deep gash and it gets infected and later dies whil battling laminitis. it sounds like shane has a buzzer history. this horse was trained by asmussen. thiskyhasnolimit breaks down in feb 2012 race with a right fetlock problem. nehro developed a right fetlock problem in the belmont. check out gary steven’s ride on storming home in the arlington million. the horse takes a sharp right hand turn before the finish line that dumps stevens on the ground.

    • ptrckj7777

      gary stevens a machine rider? oh please

  • An Industry Exec

    Three straightforward proactive measures that would fix all problems:

    1. Remove private veterinary practice on the backside. Its the root of all problems. They are the enablers. If the States want to make money of racing as they do, they should be regulating medications. They need to employee State level vets who will provide all medication to racing. They would follow the new medication regulations. There would be records on every horse who is on the backside and races in each state. There would be regulation and rules for each medication given and standards for withdrawals, etc. There would be complete transparency. This would protect all interests.

    2. Introduce camera’s to all backside areas, barns, stalls, etc. Its 2014, we have technology that can easily “protect” everyone’s interest. Horsemen would be protected, tracks would be protected, all interests would be protected and “governed”. We would police our own industry.

    3. New rules. No more fines and penalties after years of legal stalling. The new rules would be simple. If your caught violating the above mentioned (1) vet practices you are out of the industry for good. Give your own medications or employ a vet whose is not a state vet, your out. This would ultimately derail all horsemen from wanting or desiring to cheat again. Their livelihood would be at stake. It would end the corruption.

    • fb0252

      Camera’s are coming. However, otherwise this basically misses the boat. unnecessary to slander a lot of hard working vets. Find cause of problem first–which ought to be obvious from PETA Vids–our trainers continue to injure almost every horse they touch by their training negligence, and some of them run horses still healing from injuries. this drives almost every owner out of the game sooner or later and is racing’s largest problem on the horse side.
      the real fix:
      #1 any horse death–trainer is immediately place on probation subject to investigation and suspension in case of negligence in diagnosis or training.
      #2 mininum training and diagnosis rules in place–failure to meet bars entry.
      Would stop 75% of the injury problems. Asmussen is good e.g. never works his horses up to speed. relies on Thyroxen for performance, all of them are injured. surprise.

      • Sam

        Were do you think the trainers get medications or who is injecting these horses and who does the diagnosis for these horsemen? Vets! The more money involved, the more designer the medications being used. aka the big barns. If veterinarians were regulated, you would see an end to many of our problems. Trainers are enabled by those providing the solutions. Aka. Vets. Is a Vet not negligent because they “tapped” a horse for each race it runs in and gives NSAID injections to horse whose unsound? Were do you think Thyroxen comes from? The practice should be getting horses sound, not getting horses into races. There is a shared responsibility between horsemen and vets. As of today, Vets have no skin in the game when it comes to responsibility. It needs to change.

        Also, we all know, not every breakdown is a result of negligence that’s simply not reality.

        • fb0252

          25% of breakdowns = bad luck; 75% trainer negligence would be close to accurate. Asmussen excellent e.g. never works his horses up to speed, counts on thyroxen for performance, all horses injured. surprise.
          and, no, it is trainer instead of vet who is responsible if horse runs after being tapped or any other treatment. there are bad apple vets. unnecessary to slander the overwhelming % that are hard working, dedicated people that we need on the back stretch. solution to injury problem is to train scientifically–a novel concept in TB racing–and rules to enforce that–no horse enters unless properly diagnosed and trained, and immediate probation followeed by investigation when horse goes down. greater role by State Vets in supervision might be something to consider. minimum vet standards, etc.

          • Sam

            Wow, you really must have hands on work with Steve’s horses let alone his operation and his training! Its interesting to see you place all responsibility with the trainer. You probably shouldn’t generalize that all horsemen are bad, just as you state most vets are good.

            Does a vet not make the decision to inject a horse, who they have injected multiple times? With their own records? I think they know when one is sore too. Interesting they still give injections though. Doesn’t a vet take an oath of doctrine to practice accordingly. Oh ya, they get paid to do so too. They need to be under State control to end medication nonsense. Cut the problem at its core. Period.

          • fb0252

            txs for response. this is generalization, of course and also based on too much personal experience. ur post puzzles, however. nefarious multiple “injections”. If treatment of injury requires med injection this = bad instead of good? Can we say injuries differ instead of all being alike? some are serious, others less so. some heal, some horses can actually safely race. that vet is treating is irrelevant to problem that trainer is running injured horse. At any rate, the problem is injury instead of vets. when i have a horse choking on hay in one of my stalls, i want a vet there pronto.

      • Fast Filly

        PETA is a non profit organization that runs on donations from the public,,they had to pay this girl for four months to do this and waited that long to produce something…if this what the public donates money to them for…???

        • fb0252

          i have a little motto fast filly–borrowed form Barry Goldwater–extremism in defense of animals is no vice. the only mystery about the PETA investigation is that it took so long for them to do it. I expected PETA protesters at the gates 20 yrs. ago. seems their style now days is investigation, publicity and pressure. lots of animals that would be abused but for that org owe them their thanks.

          • Fast Filly

            I didn’t see any abuse of race horses in the seven minutes, I seen a horse that had a bad foot and the trainer said it should have been retired..I saw horses getting shots, don’t know what that was for, could have been anything, why hasn’t PETA went after the Swamp People for kitting alligators? that is abuse of an animal…when they hook them and then shoot them..on Gator Man, they go in the waters and grab them and tape them and put some where safe…

  • rpdflyer

    Kudos to Zayat for taking a stand. To me, ultimately it will be the owners who can drive change by saying I don’t want to be associated with training operations that mistreat horses. At the first proven offense they should abandon ship and the game would have some chance of restoring its tattered image.
    I have loved racing since I was 6 years old, but it has serious real problems and serious PR problems that it has long needed to address. Sadly it will likely continue to ignore these issues and its fan base will continue to erode.

    Why Asmussen is still allowed in the game is in itself an indictment of the sport. He has trained under a shadow for years. Now here is further proof that he is unfit to manage these great animals. Thow the bum out.

    • betterthannothing

      Zayat knows how to clean a compromised image, including with crocodile tears if needed.

      • Really

        well said betterthannothing… Zayat if a first class lier trying to get the heck out of dodge…Hes got lots of insurance money in his pocket from his dead horses,,,You think he could pay his tainers, vets and shoers with some of it…NOT!!! Take his license away too

        • Kim MacArthur (Anita Xanax)

          I thought you policed slander a bit tighter than this, Ray. I would expect to at least see some copies of overdue, unpaid statements to back up the blather…

  • betterthannothing

    Not a single racing organization, much less one with authority, exists purely as a voice for the horses. One such authority must be created exclusively to protect the welfare and safety of race horses on and off track which would help solve many problems and assure the survival of racing as a stand alone, honorable, proud and festive sport and entertainment.

  • Robert Millis

    While
    not a fan of the agenda-driven PETA, this hit piece will hopefully
    serve as a much-needed wakeup call to an industry that is both in deep
    doo-doo while at the same time incapable of collectively getting itself
    out of its death spiral

    Out of the box solutions — in what the
    biz world wold call a turnaround scenario –are needed; stat

    I
    would suggest as Solution #1 that NYRA take the lead (given its position
    within the industry) and create a structure where Vets are:
    a)
    salaried;
    b) on their (NYRA’s) payroll;
    c) overseen & assigned by NYRA;
    d) trained under an apprenticeship system

    That staff then becomes
    the only ones that inject anything into a horse…. NOT the current
    landscape where vets take orders from the trainers and have a financial
    interest in racking up the owners’ invoices with injection charges.

    Sure, such an idea would be better driven at a national level; but we know that won’t happen.

    Let’s go NYRA: here’s your chance to give people like myself (a former owner and former player) a reason tog et back in the game.

    • fb0252

      did u get out because of vets or because trainer injured all ur horses?

      • Robert Millis

        I got out because the math model fell apart.

        In the beginning, the reasonable monthly bill from my trainer gave me at least a fighting chance of clearing costs for any given horse.

        But I got caught in the ‘nuclear arms/needle race’ era that is plaguing this game: just a few years later, that formerly reasonable invoice now included a day-rate that was +50% AND a separate page of Vet line items doubled-up the whole tab.

        • equine avenger

          The sad thing is, trainers could actually compete with these cheat trainers if they only changed their style of training horses back to old school. Unfortunately, many of these trainers today have come up learning the Lukas/Baffert style of training, and horses just don’t last with these methods. The old school style of training brought horses to the post who had plenty of air in their lungs and helped with properly conditioning their muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc to sustain the rigors of training/breezing/racing. The old school style would help counter the cheats who move horses up through drugs, horses who don’t tire as quickly. But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, because the whole industry has become a rush rush rush situation, instead of spending the quality time with each individual horse like was the case decades ago.

  • Richard C

    Those found guilty need to pay a very serious price….and not just have licenses “suspended”, only to turn up in some other jurisdiction, with whiny excuses dripping from their mouths and glee in their eyes, as they are welcomed back into the sad spectacle parading around as the “Sport of Kings”.

  • Mimi Hunter

    I’ve been told that the short video is like a movie trailer and only hits highlights – Yes some of the things are troubling, but we don’t know exactly what we are seeing. I am certainly not backing those in the film clip, BUT 1] show me a horse who like to be tubed, and we aren’t even told what it’s for. 2] The horse with bad feet who died of colic: at no time do we actually see what that horses’ feet look like – not even a shadow of a hoof. 3] They show a lot of injections – but nothing to ID the horses and/or the meds. 4] They show joints being tapped for fluid, but no details again.

    I hope that the longer version actually shows what it is supposed to be showing. Racing really does need to clean house [actually clean the barn]. If the accusations prove to be true, I hope the whole library gets thrown at the guilty – a book just isn’t enough.

    • fb0252

      good post–PETA claims having reams more evidence. Where is it? Interestingly, except for Thyroxen–with all this investigating–this was without illegal performance enhancers. The other big thing was that our horses are being injured– rather old news. This seems more about a disgusting human named Blasi, and somebody posted somewhere that PETA had received complaints about Blasi.

      • Smoe

        You realize Thyroxen is NOT an illegal substance right?

        • fb0252

          Q i had–is it legal? Personally I’d give automatically a one yr. ban to any trainer using it, and permanently suspend the vet prescribing.

          • Smoe

            Yes, it is completely legal and has a purpose w/ horses which have Thyroid issues, which does happen time to time.

          • Fast Filly

            So if your had needed THroxine, you wouldn’t give it to him? There are tests and there horses, dogs, cats, people who are on it…

          • fb0252

            including myself, which is why i am informed of the dangers of giving this tricky hormone willy nilly. the likelihood of a young horse having a thyroid problem is near zero.

  • Need to Leave This business

    The only way this abuse stops is to get the private vets out of the stalls. Cameras in stalls sounds like progress, but if the average track has 1500 stalls, that is a lot of cameras to watch. Who is going to do that? How do they know what to look for? Private Vets doing the trainers bidding and using Lasix as a cover is the root to the drugging problem in racing. Slot fueled purses makes it only worse. Greed follows.

  • togahombre

    Nyra and the toys r us refugee put on a good show as if their gonna get to the bottom of this, when their tolerance of poor dvm standards, the suck up attitude they have toward the bigger outfits, and the reversal of some of the horse safety initiatives, in particular having the assoc. Vets report to the racing office instead of the stewards, have set the stage for this conduct and more, hows that for a fan experience mr kay

  • wayzer

    it’s amazing how the powers to be are acting surprised about this…got to wonder how horse racing would react to the largest class action lawsuit by the fans in sports history for knowingly deceiving the fans…

  • Fast Filly

    And PETA had to pay this lady to do this, she worked for them and they get their money from donations from the publice, took them nine months to do it…let it be…fixed..

  • crookedstick

    This, as we have as the movie , “50-1″ premieres at Sunland. As long as the industry celebrates players like Leonard Blach, who recently , openly endorsed the slaughter of 121 horses per day, within a short walk from his barn ; nothing will change. The horses are expendable.

  • debbie

    Just like everything else in this country money talks,, THAT IS the PRIORITY that’s the truth of it all… The organizations above had LET this happen knowing…. SHAME on you all,,, we who are not even in the racing circle KNOW this… TIME now to STOP it, and actually really CARE about these magnificent animals…. SHAME on you all….

  • Danny Gonzalez

    Sorry to tell you but they backtracked on a quote by Ingrid Newkirk herself she is the head honcho there. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/1130/Lifting-horse-slaughter-ban-Why-PETA-says-it-s-a-good-idea. While i understand the confusion you must understand the people that have created this.; The Humane Society and Peta Started this Senior advisor to the the humane society is connie whitfield wife of senator whitfield Peta and the rest of these idiots took on the barnum and baily circus and got caught paying of witnesses when it was found that they violated RICO statues. Some parties have settled in that case. Basically they got caught paying off witnesses to say they saw abuse in the circus . I have a concept that can be attached can be attached without the need of any national inteference that

  • vinceNYC

    The BIGGEST issue in the video is that Blasi admits falsifying work documents , buying social security numbers and telling illegals to work under false names………How has not been arrested.
    The rest of the stuff , if you have been involved or followed racing has been happening for at least the 40 years I have followed it………Horses break down , horses get put down (like Nehro who clearly was suffering). The joint injections shown in the video ,are done at tracks everywhere and unless the substance used is banned is perfectly legal.
    Calling a horse a rat , is very common in describing horses that don’t try etc…so using that terminology is simply dialog used on all backstretches…….
    Golden Gate has many 5-6 horse fields , tighten up even more on medication and they will not have any horses to run…….Short fields are now common place.
    Pragmatically but certainly not popularly , the reality is that racehorses are commodities. They don’t come from the wild….They are bred ( they exist) specifically to race . They are bought and sold like stock with the hope of producing revenue.
    What Ernie Paragallo did was animal abuse , what Asmussen did is take the commodities that owners gave him and did everything he could to have them race.

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