This game can surprise you.
It was just over four months ago that Thoroughbred owner Reid Nagle – who took out his trainer's license in 2010 after leaving active management of a highly successful financial information company he'd founded two decades earlier – wrote an open letter, published on the Paulick Report, urging horsemen and horseplayers to boycott Tampa Bay Downs.
Nagle was critical of the track's general manager, Peter Berube, for his lack of response to an incident in January when a horse trained by Jane Cibelli was treated with a blocking agent on its leg the morning it was to race. “What owner or trainer wants to compete with someone who is cheating, apparently with the tacit endorsement of management?” Nagle wrote last September.
Within a week, the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering suspended Cibelli 60 days (her veterinarian, Dr. Orlando Paraliticci, had previously received a 90-day suspension), and Tampa Bay Downs said it would not accept entries from her for the entirety of its 2013-14 race meeting.
Cibelli served her suspension and shifted her base to Florida's East Coast for the winter. Stabling at a private training center and racing without incident at Gulfstream Park, Cibelli has won with three of 27 starters during the current meet, with six seconds and four thirds.
One horse that didn't run very well was a 3-year-old filly named Shindig In the City, who finished seventh in a maiden claiming race on the turf Jan. 23. When the daughter of Indygo Shiner returned to be unsaddled, she had a new owner and trainer: Reid Nagle.
It did seem strange to some that Nagle would claim a horse off the trainer he so roundly criticized only a few months earlier, but he has his reasons, which he outlined in a private email.
Nagle also decided to continue racing at Tampa Bay Downs, something he wrote in September he wouldn't do. (He's won one race this meeting, with one second from eight starts.) The reason for the turnabout, Nagle said, was the manner in which Berube and Tampa Bay Downs finally handled the Cibelli matter, and the fact they similarly banned trainer Jorge Navarro for the entire meeting after he was suspended for multiple medication violations.
Does it make Nagle a hypocrite that he claimed a horse off someone he intimated was a cheater or is racing at a track he said he would avoid? I don't think so. In fact, I think it says more about Cibelli and Tampa Bay Downs management, that they have put this matter behind them and are moving in a positive direction.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the general manager of Tampa Bay Downs. Peter Berube is the Tampa Bay Downs GM. His father, retired Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau president Paul Berube, is not affiliated with the track.
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