Extra Race Security Brings Confidence, Peace of Mind

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Transportation Security Administration checkpoint Transportation Security Administration checkpoint

You know the drill: shoes off, pockets empty, laptop out of the case. It’s what travelers have come to expect in the post-9/11 days of air travel in the United States. Transportation Security Administration officials aren’t accusing you or any other passenger of doing anything wrong; they are simply looking out for the best interests of all of us.

And so it goes with backstretch security, in particular for the horses entered in some major races. No one takes this responsibility more seriously than the Breeders’ Cup, though protocols for race-day and even race-week security took some time to develop.


Let’s go back to 1999, when the Breeders’ Cup was held at Gulfstream Park, and some of the horses competing in the championships were permitted to ship in the afternoon of the race. In the Classic, trainer Jim Bond had one of the hot favorites, Behrens, who had finished first or second in all eight of his starts that year. Bond was stabled at the private training center, Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., and planned to van Behrens to Gulfstream Park just a few hours before the race.

Another trainer in the Classic, Michael Dickinson, had the 126-1 longshot Supreme Sound. Dickinson was not happy with Bond being able to ship Behrens in so close to the race and hired a private investigator to videotape and monitor Bond’s activities at Payson Park. The PI then followed the van on the 90-minute ride to the racetrack. A different private investigator hired by Dickinson was lurking outside of a barn occupied by another rival trainer in the Classic, video camera in hand.

It was quite the cloak and dagger situation.

Behrens wound up running one of the worst races of his career, finishing seventh as the 2-1 favorite. The last-place finisher was Dickinson-trained Supreme Sound. But Dickinson made his point, and Breeders’ Cup began to tighten security procedures, insisting the following year that horses be on the grounds prior to race day and eventually extending that requirement to 72 hours. Today, those horses are monitored 72 hours pre-race by security personnel, out-of-competition testing is conducted, and extensive post-race drug tests are done on the top finishers.

This week, the New York Racing Association said it planned to conduct similar monitoring of horses entered in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on Saturday. There is no suggestion that any one of the horsemen have nefarious intentions, but the plan was designed to ensure a level playing field and provide a greater degree of confidence among participants and horseplayers that no horse would get an unfair advantage.

Santa Anita management also adopted a 72-hour pre-race security rule for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, but this came about not because of the track’s insistence or because the California Horse Racing Board felt it was a good idea. The Santa Anita plan was pushed by one of the participants, Janine McCullough, general manager of John R. Mabee’s Golden Eagle Farm, which has the longshot Storm Fighter in the race with trainer Bruce Headley.

McCullough spoke with track officials, leadership of Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the California Horse Racing Board. She even guaranteed to get private funding to pay for the extra security detail. If not for her tireless efforts, this would not have happened.

Not everyone in California with a horse in the Santa Anita Derby is happy about having security guards lurking in their barn for three days. Not everyone standing barefoot in an airport security line, shoes and belt in hand, is happy, either. But there is something good about knowing that the person seated next to you on an airplane didn’t smuggle a weapon onboard.

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  • MA

    Surveillance funded by one of the interests being surveyed doesn’t seem ethical. And if Golden Eagle really cares that much about racing security, they’d push for it for all local grade 1s/graded stakes/races, not just a rare grade 1 entry for one of their horses.

    • RayPaulick

      Actually, Janine McCullough asked that the Santa Anita Oaks have the same security protocol, but one of the trainers in that race is said to have pitched quite a fit.

      • JEM

        Thanks Ray, I said my peace above. As you know, I am not done in this fight. My nickname is Machine for a reason. ;-)

      • Knowitall

        So it was one of four trainers. Baffert (2 in Oaks, 3 in Derby) Mandella (2 in Oaks including heavy fav), Miller (running one back in a week), or Sadler. My money is on….

      • Noelle

        Is there some reason you haven’t identified the trainer who pitched a fit? What was the objection? Was the objection sensible? Does the trainer have something to hide? What sort of reputation does he/she have? Etc. Sounds like a story I’d be interested to read.

    • JEM

      I agree with you about private horsemen paying for the 72 surveillance but I felt that we needed to put our money where our mouth is if the TOC, track mgmt etc would not. It was about integrity, transparency and wanting the best for the horses Golden Eagle loves (owned by us or otherwise). If money was going to be the excuse, we had a solution. I requested that all Grade 1 races be considered starting with the SA Derby due to the new KY Derby point system, I did mention the Oaks but we were not willing to fund another race when we were told no money was available and why should we? I suggest that we consider (as owners) sharing the cost of approx $1500 per horse with the TOC upon entry to these races. I also suggested that all KY Derby prep races with points should be done regardless of Grade. We do it for the all important Breeders Cup races, why not for equally important races? The owners, horses, fans, bettors and trainers all deserve transparency in this wonderful sport. It was time to stand up, use this race as a platform and make a change instead of having meetings about it and saying, lets discuss it again next year. Golden Eagle is not the TOC, CHRB, Santa Anita…we are an owner that loves the sport and no longer willing to be idle. I am not done fighting for this security in the future…regardless of how we run on Saturday. In the end I hope to see this for all races big and small, for the love of the game.

      • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

        Please keep up this fight as a TON of Horse racing people all over this country have your Back!!!…”For the love of “The Game”…And what a love it is!!!…ty…

        • http://twitter.com/GEFJMachine Janine McCullough

          Good to know. My next stop is the triple crown.

          • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

            Ms. McCullough…Please check out the PR POLL on this matter and you will see what I mean!!!…thanks again…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lawrence-Vaccarelli/1262993417 Lawrence Vaccarelli

      all races should have cameras and security ….its not ok to just cheat in a 5000 claimer

    • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

      How about every race in the country…Kudos to Golden Eagle for having the Nads to stop the Fixing of Horse Races…PERIOD…

  • Dantana

    No private person or farm should have to pay for 32 hour surveillance on a Grade 1 race.
    Safety and security is the responsibility of the state boards. Security is sadly lacking on the backstretch of all America’s racetracks. They have cameras in the grandstands, money rooms, mutual lines, etc. It’s time state boards & management took responsibility for the integrity of this sport. Forget about lasix and these smug Euros. What do their horses get hit with before loading in the box and leaving the yard?

    • Don Reed

      The cameras are busy recording the actions of the bettors;

      Whereas if the cameras were recording the activities of the people providing the racing, the
      bettors being recorded could actually be protected from the people not being recorded who are running the racing.

      • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

        Right On Don!!!…ty…

    • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

      Tell It Like It Is!!!…ty…

    • JEM

      I agree with you about private horsemen paying for the 72 surveillance but I felt that we needed to put our money where our mouth is if the TOC, track mgmt etc would not. It was about integrity, transparency and wanting the best for the horses Golden Eagle loves. If money was going to be the excuse, we had a solution. I requested that all Grade 1 races be considered starting with the SA Derby due to the new KY Derby point system. I also felt all KY Derby prep races with points should be done regardless of Grade. We do it for the all important Breeders Cup races, why not for equally important races. The owners, horses, fans, bettors and trainers all deserve transparency in this wonderful sport. It was time to stand up, use this race as a platform and make a change instead of having meetings about it and saying, lets discuss it again next year. As far as loading and leaving ….the security guard followed our horse at 5am from his stall to the track for training, back to the stall and around with the hotwalker. Bad people can still make bad decisions but this security is the best I have seen and better than none. We are some of the good guys and fighting for what is right.

      • zraces

        Well done. Should be SOP. HZ

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lawrence-Vaccarelli/1262993417 Lawrence Vaccarelli

      very well put.

  • jack

    “they (TSA) are simply looking out for the best interests of all of us”

    -ray paulick
    “those who give up freedom for security will soon have neither”
    -benjamin franklin

    I’ll go with Mr Franklin on this one

    • Don Reed

      Consult with John Adams, who witnessed BF in Paris being exactly the opposite of what he was preaching.

    • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

      The FREEDOM to CHEAT???…I’ll take the SECURITY!!!…ty…

  • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

    They need to keep an even sharper eye on the trainers (& their Horses) that pitched a fit…For “The Game” to get back to the top of the sports world they got to get rid of the Cheaters/Animal Abuse/Jockey Endangerment Once & for All…Kudos to NYRA Santa Anita for a step in that direction!!!…Good Luck to All this Week-end…ty…

  • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

    I feel one Hell of lot better about plunking My Bread Down on the Wood/SA Derby Sat…They damn sure won’t be Juicing/Masking Pain on any Horses in those two races!!!…In other words the races won’t be FIXED!!!…Book That…

    • Red Rider

      No need to fix SA Derby, 3 of 8 are Baffert’s and some of the other 5 are just “filler”. Glad to hear you know what’s happening in the training barns. Now i can bet with confidence.

  • Randyp

    Ray,
    Does the Kentucky Derby have 72 hour security?

    • RayPaulick

      No. It should.

      • Don Reed

        But they do have enough money to monkey around with a casino
        in Maine, which, between November 1st and April 30th of the following year, will be
        packing them in at the rate of three customers a night.

  • quitcovering4them

    The bettors are going to take it in the shorts. wonder how many form reversals we will see?

    • http://twitter.com/Bellwether4U Bellwether

      Just might want to take a real hard look @ sum Long Shot$ on Sat…ty…

    • http://twitter.com/Cangamble Cangamble

      How are the bettors going to take in the shorts? Are insiders going to win more money or is takeout going to increase? That is the only way gamblers take it in the shorts.

  • Anita Carter

    How about full time security at the stables at racetracks. And cameras set up and running 24/7. That would be a start. All the horses at the tracks need to be protected.
    Anita Carter

  • http://twitter.com/Cangamble Cangamble

    If 72 hours surveillance was the norm in the industry, we wouldn’t see any trainer hitting higher than 18%.

  • bob hope

    we have an extreme dichotomy at work here. on one hand we sell ourselves more and more as a gambling experience with lesser consideration on the other as a sport. yet on security we bleed into the extreme perceptions of some that will offer extreme security on races with purses of $500K and upward but not lesser events. where is the sanity here? the creation of two separate groups for consideration for “extreme” security that both are wagering events and can be grouped into a pic four or pic six are treated differently in one concept but not the other. isn’t this extreme paranoia ?

  • Bryan Langlois (ShelterDoc)

    Well…I hope if they do institute barn wide security for every race, they stick to it and do not relent after a while ala the TSA seeming to think it is now ok to have swiss army knives on your carry on…just in case you want to break out into an old fashioned whittlin competition on your transcontinental flight.

    There is a bit of a dicotomy there where some horsesman may consider all the extra security measures intrusive to their horses routines. I would be in favor of security that monitored horses in their actual stables but not in favor of a separate security type barn for races. It would create more problems than it would solve and I do believe barns like that can mess with a horses routine and make them unecessarily nervous or anxious pre race. There is no reason that any of these big time tracks that now have casino money flowing in like tsunamis cannot afford to spend some of that money on proper security measures.

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