Irwin: Tennis, Track And Field Scandals Support Racing’s Path Toward Independent Oversight

by | 01.19.2016 | 9:52pm
USADA, an independent anti-doping organization, was called upon by the United States Olympic Committee to curb cheating in human athletics.

Unbeknownst to many people involved in the movement to eliminate drugs in racing, a couple of months ago I lessened my involvement because I had become discouraged with the progress of the proposed federal legislation sponsored by Congressmen Andy Barr and Paul Tonko.

Sparking my change in direction was an impassioned talk delivered by harness track owner Jeff Gural at the annual Stanley Bergstein Writing Award ceremony last November in Lexington. It came on the heels of a private meeting earlier that very same evening of Barr-Tonko legislative supporters that had gathered for an update.

Whereas the Barr-Tonko folks were bogged down in the inevitable struggle with the bill's opponents and the tangled web of politics in Washington, Gural explained how he had taken matters into his own hands as the private operator of The Meadowlands to rid his track of drug cheats.

Gural hired his own in-house investigator, an experienced law enforcement official who used his ingenuity and connections to liaise with other experienced policing veterans to set up a mechanism whereby cheats were identified and invited not to race at the track.

The difference between what the Barr-Tonko proponents aspired to do and what Gural had actually done in single-handed fashion was so stark that it caused me to halt in my tracks and explore a complete change in my personal direction.

I was frustrated with the lack of progress of our group. I wanted to make a difference in the war to eliminate drugs from racing and to stop horsemen from cheating by using performance enhancing drugs to alter the outcome of horse races.

I have been an unabashed supporter of having the United States Anti-Doping Agency placed in charge of drugs/medication in the sport of horse racing. Why wouldn't I? After all, I was the first guy that recommended the idea in print in an OP-Ed for The Blood-Horse way back when.

Shortly after a group of well-intentioned horsemen and women organized the grass roots movement named WHOA (Water Hay Oats Alliance), I lent my support. I worked with the founders to further their agenda of eliminating race day drugs from horses.

When a coalition was formed that included The Jockey Club and the Breeders' Cup, I joined in their effort to enlist new members that eventually would include Keeneland, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the CBA (commercial bloodstock consignors).

I went to Washington, D. C. to help inform politicians about the proposed legislation, I wrote OP-EDs, I made phone calls, I met with leaders of racing's alphabet soup organizations, I went to political fund raisers—all the stuff my peers in WHOA did to further our cause.

But I didn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I privately channeled my efforts to see if I could make a difference. While I would like to see all race day drugs eliminated, my more overriding interest in the legislature effort was to have cheating with unknown and designer drugs stopped. I don't really care if Lasix is used or not used, but if given a choice, I would prefer to see it not used, because I am against all race-day drugs.

But I am infinitely more interested in the elimination of the use of illegal drugs. That is what I really care about.

After a couple of months of doing research, talking to state and federal officials, as well as regulators, veterinarians, stewards, racing board members, racing secretaries and private investigators, I have come to an incredibly disappointing conclusion.

I am sad to report that the interest of people in charge of halting the use of PEDs in American racing is virtually non-existent. This will come as absolutely no surprise to Mr. Joe Gorajec, the courageous regulator who lost his job because, in essence, he focused too much of his energies on catching and punishing cheaters in the state of Indiana.

And, in retrospect, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, as last year I was told by a highly placed and nationally respected racing official from one of the leading racing jurisdictions in North America that no appetite to stop cheating with drugs existed at any level in his locale. I have known this official since I first came into racing and know him as a man of integrity and action, so when he uttered his pronouncement, I guess I should have taken it at face value.

Last week, I came to the irrefutable conclusion that even if I had been successful in my private quest to point out to racing officials which horsemen were cheating, what they were cheating with, when they were treating their horses, where they acquired their illegal drugs from—the whole ball of wax laid in their laps—that absolutely nothing was going to happen.

Over the weekend, the British Broadcasting Company and BuzzFeed News jointly released a report that authoritatively and convincingly showed that those charged with overseeing the sport of professional tennis had for several years allowed cheating to occur, even though they had been presented with evidence backing up the claims. The tennis authorities chose to maintain the status quo. It was a shocking and serious claim that figures to rock the sport to its very foundation and cause a serious loss of credibility.

The weekend's tennis news follows closely on the latest shocking reports of international track and field authorities that were aware of Russia hiding positive test results. In both instances, highly paid officials charged with overseeing and governing their sports not only ignored evidence of wrongdoing but participated in a cover up.

Based on my revelation that even if cheating is exposed to racing officials that nothing will happen, as well as this latest bombshell expose of professional tennis, I have come to one conclusion—and it is not a new one.

I now more firmly than ever believe that only USADA can make a difference in restoring the credibility of racing. The reason is that they will bring independence to a sport whose integrity is being held captive by industry insiders bent on maintaining things as they are and always have been.

So I am back in the fold and I will redouble my resolve to have meaningful legislation passed in hopes that USADA will be named by both houses of Congress to clean up the sport of horse racing before scandals and a total loss of our fan base occurs.

Barry Irwin is founder and chief executive officer of Team Valor International.

  • Always Curious

    WOW! GO BARRY! “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” I don’t have much faith in the Federal Government so I have been leary of the USADA but you have changed my mind. God Speed.

    • SPA

      Name one thing the government gets involved with and improves it. I am far from the good ole boys network.

      • That is not the right question to ask. How about this one? “What will be the Federal government’s involvement if this bill is passed?” Answer: their sole role is blessing a new group led by USADA to oversee drugs in racing.” That’s it.

        • Due Process

          Wrong. USADA gets 70% of its funding from Congressional appropriations, and is subject to regular political oversight by Congress. Other interesting numbers: 0 out of 60. That’s the number of times Lance Armstrong tested positive and the number of times USADA tested him. Also “0” is the number of times USADA has drug tested horses, as well as the number of people employed by them with an equine background. Finally, the “0” is the amount of accountability the unelected bureaucrats at USADA have. They can do whatever they want, whenever they want it, and there are no legal safeguards nor checks and balances. That’s why the non-partisan Congressional Research Service issued a lengthy, authoritative opinion calling the Barr-Tonko legislation unconstitutional. Of course, this report, which stopped this legislation dead in its tracks, wasn’t reported on this website.
          But I can see why rich people can like this kind of setup. USADA will work for them in much the same way the Citibanks and JP Morgans get bailouts and special treatment from the non-governmental FDIC. While the little banks suffer with massive expenses, crushing paperwork, and arbitrary enforcement of nonsensical rules, the same sets of requirements don’t apply to the big boys.

          • Tinky

            “0 out of 60. That’s the number of times Lance Armstrong tested positive and the number of times USADA tested him.”

            Trotting that out suggests that you are either ignorant of the current state of cutting-edge testing, or are intentionally attempting to mislead.

            I’ll quote an article from the New Zealand Law Journal, March 2013:

            “The ability of an athlete to be convicted for doping without a positive drug test should be nothing new to athletes around the world. Since the Balco cases involving athletes such as sprinter Michelle Collins, the WADA Code and all sports codes provide for the prosecution of athletes without a positive drug test result, where doping can be proved by any reliable means. The Decision and the Armstrong events merely confirm this trend is appropriate as athletes become more sophisticated and clever to conceal their doping, avoid testing positive to a drug test and as evasive doping technology develops.”

            In other words, given the sophistication employed by blood dopers in both human and equine sports, it is not even reasonable to expect that cutting-edge PEDs will show up in testing. There are, however, other ways to skin a cat, and the USADA showed that in their successful case against Armstrong.

            Next, I’ve called you out previously on your “80% Federal funding” claim before, so why don’t you provide some actual source material. The true number was 58% in 2014.

          • SPA

            Still, nobody will tell us what the government has got involved with and improved it. Nobody is saying enhanced testing is not needed, but the government will screw it up like everything else. Horsemen who cheat are crooks, but compared to politicians they are small time crooks. The greediest pig of all is an American politician.

            BTW, his 0 out of 60 statement is a fact, that does not make him ignorant.

          • Tinky

            He either didn’t understand why the fact was misleading, which would reveal ignorance, or he was intentionally misleading, which is worse.

          • It makes him uninformed is disingenuous. Take your pick.

          • johnnyknj

            How about the basic reserve requirements the evil government put in place for Wall Street? If you have any understanding of what is going on now you’ll be happy the gubmint got involved.

          • Bein

            You approve of the government printing 4 1/2 Trillion dollars in the last 7 years for Wall Street to play with?

          • Old Timer

            Tinky it appears that while USADA may have convicted Lance without a bad test, and in theory they could do the same in horse racing, the real question is, at what cost? They spent millions of dollars and years trying to get ole Lance, but is that really worth our time and effort if they go after one, just one trainer or owner in much the same fashion?!? USADA handles less then 10,000 tests a year, state agencies handle close to 400,000! That’s a pretty big gap to try and have the same policies in place for an industry. It pretty much would kill it, and USADA wouldn’t care because they are simply doing everything possible to keep the game fair they would say, but not using common sense to get it done.

            Effectively Barry Hypocrite Irwin is hoping for the federal passage because he knows that the testing won’t get any better. However, a little side effect of doing the testing to the extremes of USADA is to kick out all the small owners and trainers who have been trying to stay alive in this sport and make the smaller markets continue to operate. See his postings elsewhere on the small tracks and the cesspool of racing that exists there, his words not mine.

            So to conclude, testing will remain the same, all that will happen in the name of USADA, is marginalization of small tracks and purses and condensing of racing at maybe a few spots throughout the year. While some will welcome this (ask Barry) the sport will suffer on the whole and we won’t see the likes of Cali Chrome after that ever again because only a few elites will have the money to buy, own, and breed horses.

          • Tinky

            There are several answers to your questions.

            First, the Armstrong case was extraordinary and encompassed a crucial learning curve for not only the USADA, but also WADA and other drug testers throughout the world. It was the culmination, in a sense, of a fight against high-tech blood-doping that had been fought for years.

            It allowed those involved to figure out how best to deal with the use of substances that could be applied in micro-doses, and have their chemical signatures altered, etc. It helped to form the understanding of the tremendous value of biological passports, and how they could be used to both discourage and prevent doping.

            There is not a taut analogy between the Armstrong case and horse racing in terms of costs, and for reasons that should be obvious. However, it would be well worth many millions of dollars to either nail a high-profile trainer, and/or greatly reduce cheating in the racing industry through effective and deterrent testing.

            Your conclusion that testing would remain the same under USADA is simply baseless, and again, for what should be obvious reasons.

          • Bein

            Testing is already extremely sensitive, small track or not, so I don’t see the value in making it more so.

            Cali Chrome wouldn’t have been bred in the first place. With no place to begin, dreamers with small pocketbooks would be out of luck.

          • There is a lot of nonsense in your response. I don’t have time today to play with anybody that doesn’t have the balls to use their own name because I just bought a horse I am going to syndicate. Expose your identity and I will respond.

          • Old Timer

            Hey why don’t you tell that to Tinky!! haha

            Oh never mind you are a hypocrite on this issue, I forgot you protect the ones that peddle your as you…

          • Tinky

            Barry has made it clear that he would prefer that I use a real name, but is also able to separate the substance of what I write from that issue.

          • greg

            as soon as you wrote “But I can see why rich people can like this kind of setup” OMG, since when did being rich become a character flaw, something to be ashamed of?? “Rich” is an easy target as who’s going to defend the RICH? Jealousy is an ugly emotion. Do you have a job and not for a Gov’t. entity? If so it’s a rich person who signs your paycheck and keeps the lights on so you can eat, rather than being jealous get out start a company or invent something and get rich, if you did that would you become a bad person, no, the same person with more money, grow up

        • Bein

          Like the EPA is overseeing the water in Flint Michigan?

          • Perfect example of why we need an independent overseer and not a paid governmental or quasi-governmental official or somebody with skin in the game. Only an independent outfit with integrity like USADA can get the job done.

          • johnnyknj

            The EPA is not responsible for monitoring municipal water supplies.
            State of Michigan is running Flint and State and local agencies are in charge of the water.

      • Michael Castellano

        About the same amount of benefits we get from private business take overs of things which should be public property.

      • Always Curious

        That was my point. This article gave so much specific info that it changed my mind on this issue. As far as where government has done anything right: Starting Social Security (not that the Feds don’t continually screw it up) but we are better with it. Same for Medicare. I remember my grandmother, a poor farmer, being thankful for it because she lived before it started. And I know the state of OH had animal cruelty laws that led to the first actual child abuse laws. It was a good question and I had to think really hard for these. It appears the industry won’t do the job so intervention is necessary and horse people should not be crowded out by those that don’t know one of a horse from another. With the real threats to horses coming from designer drugs and nano technology, federal intervention seems the bitter pill. Lasix is just the poster boy. Heavy sigh….

  • greg

    Not a new revelation as we both know, unfortunately. Seems the guys who cheat control too much of the horse population and thus control if cards fill in some jurisdictions i.e. California.

    • Tinky

      Yes, it’s partly that. But equally sadly, it is also that most in positions in power in the industry still foolishly believe that exposing high-profile cheaters would be bad for the game, when the opposite is true.

      • You have identified one of the true stumbling blocks in changing the status quo. Churchill Downs would be the poster child for this attitude.

        • Horse Guy

          If it is such, shouldn’t a track, that is a national wagering company be responsible for “selling a legal and clean” product? After all, they selling wagers across a variety of state lines. The possibility that they know, the consumer is being deceived is not only wrong but tragic for all involved. I ask you, isn’t that against the interstate wagering act? And if there is even a chance this is happening, congress is responsible for oversight. You see, all racing officials are state employees. The only authority to reel them in is the federal government. And it is written into the law.

          • Davish

            Not when money is involved.
            B1 to Churchill Down’s $250 million senior unsecured notes; Ba3 CFR affirmed
            Global Credit Research – 02 Dec 2015
            New York, December 02, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service today assigned a B1 to Churchill Downs Incorporated’s (CDI) new $250 million 5.375% senior unsecured notes. The company’s Ba3 Corporate Family Rating, Ba3-PD Probability of Default Rating, and B1 rating on its existing $300 million 5.375% senior notes were affirmed. CDI’s stable rating outlook was maintained and SGL-1 Speculative Grade Liquidity rating was also affirmed. The company’s $500 million senior secured credit facility is not rated.

            Proceeds from CDI’s new note issue will be used to repay outstanding borrowings under the company’s senior credit facility, general corporate purposes, and/or fund the anticipated earn-out obligation in March 2016 related to CDI’s Big Fish Games acquisition. The new notes will be issued under the indenture governing the company’s existing $300 million 5.375% senior notes due 2021.

          • greg

            I don’t want to divulge too many specifics, however please believe that neither the ADA of a major racing state was not interested nor was the FBI in 2 states, one the same as above and another who one would believe would want to make sure ALL wagering was as clean and pristine as possible. All 3 entities were given documentation showing transactions that strongly indicated illegalities that if correct would be actionable, all 3 were not interested. So for anyone with serious concerns and intentions of getting rid of PED’s, and cheating trainers your intentions are noble, but the powers that be are 100% deaf, even very deep pockets won’t get them to listen, so your options are really clear, play the same jurisdictions knowing the results are skewed, stop playing those tracks 100%, play jurisdictions where the games are very very small. I have been playing Fla. exclusively for ~3 years, I know that they want the races honest and fair, they’ve done as well as anyone weeding out the bad seeds, and I was aware of an old So Cal trainer who was dirty that wanted to run a string in Fla. and after a Calder meet he applied for stalls at GP and was offered 3, he had over 12 horses at Calder and was planning on adding more via claims and transferring from Calif. racing office said 3, he shipped everyone back to So Cal. and never ventured east again, that’s how it’s done.

      • Hosesfirst

        The leaders in our industry do not have the appetite, courage or money to take on the big names in racing. It is the horses and honest trainers who are being badly let down by the authorities who are over payed and incompetent.

        • Bein


      • Michael Castellano

        That seems true. They are afraid to go after some of the biggest names in the sport. And yes, there will be a hornet’s nest of controversy if that is ever done and probably threats by those being investigated to withdraw their horses from races. But people don’t wager billions on Tennis, they do on racing. And all that withdrawing horses from races accomplishes is to create opportunity for honest trainers to replace them.Those officials who are not themselves corrupt need to stand up and be counted. Racing itself is threatened. It’s become like the trotters used to be, and maybe still are in some places. Boat races and drivers riding shotgun. An old friend was at the Roosevelt Raceway riot years ago, and was the one who burned the sulkies on the track. They don’t “fix” them on the flats in race wide conspiracies, but the hardened gamblers always wonder who is “getting” extra “juice” in a given race.

        • John G. Veitch

          Actually, betting on Tennis outside the US is huge. On an ESPN talk show yesterday they said Tennis betting is big. I just read an article online that in 2007, estimates are that $60m was bet on the Wimbledon final. The story opened my eyes.

          • Always Curious

            I recommend people Google Buzzfeed Heidi Blake tennis racket. The suspicious betting activity involving millions of pounds bet from accounts in Moscow and Italy, led to the investigation and exposure of tennis match fixing by players. The investigators, former organized crime agents with the TB industry did the exposure of the cover up. This is a Big Freakin deal for the sports world. Far far worse than Pete Rose, Lance Armstrong and even horse racing might pale in comparison with what has went on in tennis. It seems like the cover up is worse than the match fixing ,betting scandal. It was allowed to go on for years after tennis authorities were informed.

      • Marlaine Meeker

        Exposure would be great for the bettors and wagering.

        • Bellwether

          and the Horses/Jockeys/Fans/The Game…Win Win for all the good eggs!!!…

      • Well, all sports take that attitude. How is Sebastian Coe surviving as head of athletics when the only two possibilities are that he is a halfwit or that he was complicit in the doping cover-up? In the light of the latest scandal in tennis, all sports ought to set aside money for a joint advertising drive to point out that “anyone betting on the exchanges is asking to get stiffed”: because of sponsorship and the “bad for the game” approach that will never happen.

      • Bellwether


  • ben

    The ol boys network in action, keep buisiness gooiing like it has been. Nothing will change unless a couple of jocks are killed while dooiing their jobs.

    However there is always a otherway possible, by dooiing that the good will suffer under the bad.

    Take the interstate 1978 as a breakhammer.

  • snoopy

    Unfortunately, I think your initial evaluation was correct; WHOA ain’t going to bring anything to a halt at A. So how are you going to change that, Barry? Reminds me of the battle to end slaughter of American horses. Nobody on the front in DC has a clue how to bring it about.

  • Neigh Sayer

    Keep banging away Barry. I appreciate your efforts. The USADA was needed long ago, and hope it happens sooner than later.

  • Small Stable

    Rubbish from an elitist who is on record as calling tracks like my own as “cesspools.” Not one workaday horseman I know has ever come up to me and said “what we really need is for the Congress to appoint an agency to take over nationally.” As soon as Mr. Irwin stops using Lasix on the horses run by his stable, and as soon as he stops using trainers with a documented history of drug positives, I will start to pay attention to what he says. Until then, it’s just one more hollow blather from one of the less-respected voices in racing whose status owes only to his skill at using Other People’s Money.

    • SPA

      Amen to you. The cesspool comment was way out of line and he used it referring to horsemen, owners and HORSES. The elitists hate labeling and name calling until they do it themselves….then it’s ok.

      • The practices that take place on the bottom rung of racing can bring down the sport if they are not cleaned up.

        • Due Process

          Actually, the bigger danger is from hypocrites who say “do what I say, not what I do,” and think that the rules they would enforce on everybody else shouldn’t apply to them. How’s your horse “Hay Water and Oats” doing? Still running him on Lasix, Barry?

          • Michael Castellano

            Since Lasix is definitely a performance enhancer with most horses, how would ANYONE get a horse to train unless they used it. Race day Lasix, being a strong flusher of water from the horse, also may mask the presence of other substances recently given to the horse. To restore credibility, it may be one of the most important drugs to eliminate from the sport.

          • John G. Veitch

            In order to mask the presence of another drug in the blood stream, the Lasix would need to seek out the drug (chemical compound) it’s masking, (out of hundreds of compounds in the blood) and chemically bind to it. But if the Lasix and drug bind chemically, both the drug nor the Lasix no longer exists, they are a different compound. This is why I question the masking effect. It might happen, but I do not see how.

          • I thought that there was a general acceptance that Lasix would at least confuse the issue?

          • John G. Veitch

            Well, I went to the NYS Gaming symposium on Lasix in Saratoga last year. That question was asked to two Vets, can Lasix mask a drug? One from New Bolton, the other in Hong Kong. The New Bolton vet said “Lasix can’t mask a drug.” The HK vet response was “I believe so”. Neither provided evidence to support their statement. I think no.

          • “The Fit Racehorse 11”, Tom Ivers. p.523 “Dr George Pratt keeps telling me that it’s not the Lasix that’s hopping the horses on it, but the drugs that are being given under the masking effects of that drug”.

          • Bein

            Tom Ivers really isn’t a reliable “authority”, Bill.

          • Who is?!

          • Bein

            Well, maybe Dr. George Pratt, but I’m not familiar with him.

            Tom Ivers wrote a book. That is the measure of his success, not the outcome of the methods he promoted.

          • I used to argue with Tom all the time about training – however I wouldn’t be so keen to dispute science with him. Who would you accept as an authority – or at least as knowing what they are talking about? But you ought at least to apply the Mandy Rice-Davies test to everyone – as she said in the Profumo case: “he would say that , wouldn’t he?”.

          • greg

            John, YES, lasix can mask however the primary use is as a diuretic which flushes the system pretty quickly thus eliminating what may be there illegally, so “mask” may not be the correct word in this case, however quickly eliminate and effect any test result is probably more accurate

          • John G. Veitch

            As I understand it, the increased urination occurs within 1 hour after taking the Lasix. That is, nearly all of the expulsion of urine occurs before the race. This excess urination would also (could) flush any enhancing drugs out the horse too before the race. So their effect would be minimal or none at all..

          • Bein

            The masking argument only seems logical if one is unaware of the sensitivity of drug lab testing.

          • Old Timer

            Please go review much of the literature on this topic of “flushing/masking other substances”. That may have been an issue with TLC testing but not with today’s testing parameters of GC/MS and LC/MS, you can’t hide anything. Plus if you flush something out, guess what, it’s not working anyways…

            Now regarding training, horsemen in the U.S. don’t like to train on it and use if for race day or possibly a work out only because it does dehydrate them, and we don’t want that. Use it sparring when stress is the highest and impact is the most, due to running vs training or galloping. Use it only when it’s most effective, and allow all to have access to is is not performance enhancing, buy possibly enabling.

          • Bein

            Hah! Excellent point about “flushing”, OT.

        • Guest

          Drug use is much more prevalent at the top. The cheap trainers don’t have the money to spend medicating their horses. It’s less expensive to stop with the horse.

          Always follow the money. You’re absolutely right about why there’s such reluctance to change the industry.

          • In my experience, horses at the lowest levels only get time off when they are unable to race. Giving horses time is usually done by quality outfits that can afford to do it or animal lovers, which are now few and far between.

          • Guest

            I have 20 years’ experience working at the lower levels. You are mistaken.

            The medication use is far more prevalent at the elite levels, because the pressure to keep a horse in training, to get that day rate, is intense. Pulling the plug on the tapping alone would be devastating to the way business is currently done. Not what most people believe, but it’s true.

          • Bein

            Yes, Barry is wrong and looking at a form could confirm it.

            Day money barely covers costs at small tracks with small purses. In some cases, it doesn’t even do that. There is no incentive for keeping a horse in training that isn’t doing well.

          • togahombre

            at many of the smaller tracks once the racing is done for the season the horses are turned out for months

        • greg

          Barry, relating to what Small Stable states, and trust most is noise, after your Ky Derby win you had all your horses with 1 trainer I believe, 2 at most, now I see they’re spread out among many, your issue was lack of honesty by trainers communication with owners, what’s changed? Your horses were running in several jurisdictions when you used 1 (or 2) so that’s not it, I am curious. Thx

          • You can find it in my book which I hope will be out later this year.

          • greg

            You called me 2-3 times for information which I shared a considerable amount with you, I on the other hand have asked you questions in the last couple of years, some more relevant than others, but same reply every time, “ask someone else” or now I can buy your book to find out, Google “arrogant” as your picture should be there.

          • Greg, if you want to know ANYTHING just Facebook message me or e-mail me, I am not getting into that stuff in this forum on this thread.

    • Michael Castellano

      Or when racing corruption causes the sport to vanish, when it’s too late.

  • Jack Frazier

    As one who has been involved in racing I can tell you that Barry Irwin is right. I have stated time and again that those who control racing want to maintain the status quo because some of the biggest names in racing might be involved and since they are friends of these transgressors and millions of dollars are involved in their bottom line, they choose to look the other way.

    What opened my eyes was the time I spent at major tracks and saw the endless parade of vets lined up at their barns from early until late, every day. They weren’t there just to visit either and I was told by a friend that if I wanted to win, which vet I should use. I chose not to. The revelation that the deaths of upwards of seven horses by one trainer was an “accident” instead of what it was said more than anything the collusion between those in charge and those involved, and it goes on. In their attempt to keep things they way they are, they have done more to damage the image of racing than the National Enquirer could it its tawdry stories.

    If it takes federal oversight to clean it up, so be it. Something needs to be done. Very few people have been penalized to the extent they should have. I can only think of three or four and those with money, power and big money just keep on keeping. In my case, I have chosen, like Mr. Irwin, to not participate. How many more have quit because of this issue? It is one thing to be beaten in a race on the square but it is another to be beaten by a cheater. Notice how some trainers horses seem to find a new gear in the last part of a race while everyone else is just marking in place. Drugs or good training? I believe drugs, legal or illegal are the reason. I have no other way to explain why everyone else in a race has hit the wall but one horse seems to be given a boost of adrenaline and just explodes the last few furlongs. Great training does not do that because everyone more or less does trains the same way, sans drugs. Nothing will change. That is the sad fact we have to accept.

    • Jack, great training might in fact do that – particularly up against not-much-training – however everyone could see what was happening every morning.

      • Jack Frazier

        Correct but my observation was that 99% if the trainers do the same thing each morning so someone who is doing a little extra,, with an PED might do, that but not with every horse they train. You well know that even the best horses only have about 1/2 to 3/8 mile kick at the end which makes jockeys important in that they need to know when to go. I realize I am very cynical about this but I came from the Quarter horse racing industry and those with the best juice win the races. And when one of them got caught with a bad test, owners flocked to them to get a piece of the magic potion. Seems to be the same with the Thoroughbreds especially with the slap on the wrist punishments meted out.

        • Quite right – I was just pre-empting the posts defending superior trainers.

          • Jack Frazier

            Ah, I see. If you actually watch the “superior” trainers, with hats off to the ones who are actually hands on, some of them can be seen on the apron of the tracks just watching the horses instead of being back at the barn doing anything. They are more PR men than trainers. They are managers and delegate authority to others so they don’t have to soil their hands. The grooms and assistants are the real trainers and for the most part, don’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Your point is well taken, however.

          • Tinky

            As a related aside, Jack, I was at Belmont one morning in 1992 as the contenders for that year’s final leg of the TC went through their paces. Neil Drysdale, who was preparing the eventual winner, A. P. Indy, was walking from his car to the stands, and a well-known jock’s agent ambled towards him with condition book in hand and a question partially asked. Neil never broke stride, raised his hand, palm forward, and said “Not now, I’m training.”

            I mention this because it is astounding how rarely that happens, i.e. the vast majority of trainers are quite happy to gab while their horses train, and sometimes behind their backs!

          • Jack Frazier

            Drysdale is one of the rare big trainers who is totally hands on. I have the utmost respect and I have seen him working. Unlike many, he is in the barn and working as hard has anyone there. A very good horseman.

          • John G. Veitch

            Drysdsale is one of the very best.

          • Bein

            Jack, trainers “watch” horses train for a multitude of useful and important reasons. Grooms and assistants aren’t calling the plays, so they are not training.

            As for “superior” trainers, good horses make good trainers, not the other way around. Those trainers with good PR, good personalities, and good luck, attract owners with good horses. That is the biggest factor in their win percentage.

          • Jack Frazier

            We agree that good horses make good trainers, and anyone can train a good one, no one can train a bad one.

          • Bein

            I don’t agree with that, Jack. I’ve seen plenty of good horses ruined by how they are trained. “Anyone” can not train a good horse.

            You tend to oversimplify the job.

          • Bellwether

            Jack you better take another look at the start of the “Immortal John Henry’s” racing career…With all due respect there has never been a bad race Horse just fast ones and slow ones…ty…

          • Bellwether

            That post was meant for Jack Frazier…Sorry bout that Bein…

          • Jack Frazier

            John was a mean animal who never changed even after he was gelded. Ron McAnally let him be himself as did Lewis Cenicola his exercise rider. Both men were good horsemen. I watched him St Hollywood Park and it took 20 or more minutes to get him to the track. All horses are not created equal. I know that too well.

          • Bein

            McAnally should have just stayed out of his way.

          • I think that was Jack’s point – he worked around him. The trick is to know when to do that and when to take control of the situation. Off Topic: I suppose in the Middle East our glorious leaders have failed on all counts!

          • Bellwether

            Mac did did a pretty damn good with John and then some…

          • Bellwether

            damn good job!!!…

          • You’re making everyone feel BLUE.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            You’re absolutely right. Good training requires a true horseman and there are not that many in the business. I believe many horses who could have been good, if not great, are ruined by bad training, and by that I mean training and conditioning. Many horses are not trained to their full potential, by those who have “cheaper” horses. That is one reason I have a great deal of respect for Art Sherman. He recognized true talent when he saw it AND he managed to bring it to fruition.

          • Bein

            Uh…what? Horses aren’t trained to their potential by those who have cheaper horses?

          • Horseman is a very overused word. My father was one, Monty is one – after that I’m struggling [from personal experience]. Still I’ve only been at it 67 years, perhaps there’s still time.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            So very true. True horsemen are never “done” learning. They are always getting better and when they die (if it’s of old age) they would admit they are just starting to really get it.

          • Jack Frazier

            You over complicate it. All you have to do is stay out of their way.

          • Bein

            Right. So you have a horse that wants to run off every time he goes to the track and you just need to stay out of his way.

          • Jack Frazier

            I think you missed the point. It has nothing to do with runaway horses. Each horse has its own personality and style and good trainers don’t change the natural dispensation of a horse and change their style and how they run and in that vein, stay out of their way and let them be the horse they are supposed to be. Too many trainers try to change a horses style, whether it be make them try to be a closer or make them a speed horse. Horses have natural inclinations to either route or sprint. A good trainer will recognize that, keep the horse happy and hopefully, win races. Then there is the element of luck involved, which in my opinion, is the key factor. Your sarcasm was very heavy.

          • Very often if a horse looks to have been “unlucky” in a race and just gets beaten, he has in fact run his best race. How many trainers – or jockeys – can spot it?! Don’t bother about sarcasm on here – I’m sure Mumsnet is the same!

          • Jack Frazier

            Correct. I had a filly last year, ran a very credible race even though she got beaten. She led all but the last 50 yards and finished third I’ve had others than improved and ran a fifth or sixth and my wife thought I was nuts when I said it was a good race. You have to be able to see how the race plays out but I still believe luck plays an important part; the break, positioning, moving at the right time, not getting boxed in and more.

          • I was thinking more of a horse that has a bad run through the race and finishes fast when the race is over: everyone says ” shouldawinbymany”, but the reality may be that’s how to ride him.

          • Jack Frazier

            Happens all the time but the reality may be the other horses are stopping so that it appears as if that horse should have won. Lots of factors at play there.

    • John G. Veitch

      There are some very good trainers out there, including Bob Baffert, that simply know what they are doing. Thirty years ago my Uncle had a horse called Engine One, that he knew could do better, so he trained him for 3 months to relax and conserve his energy. Engine One then promptly won 4 graded stakes, from 6F to a mile and an eighth. I’ve been around horse racing 50 years, and I can tell you training makes a huge difference.

      • Darrell

        Bob Baffert knows a lot of things including how to administer thyroid drugs to every horse in his barn even though not every horse needed them and how to make 7 horses drop dead of heart failure. I’m sorry but that’s not something I would like to know how to do.

      • The point is that “a wayfaring man and a fool” would have been able to see what your uncle was doing, and rationalised the improvement in Engine One’s form. These discussions seem to center upon exceptional results from little or no apparent training.

      • Jack Frazier

        There are good trainers out there. Not my point. My point is there are some who carry the mantle of a good trainer while at the same time have very good assistants doing the work. No one can train more than twenty horses without at least one assistant doing the work..

        • John G. Veitch

          Yes, that is quite true. A good assistant & groom are worth their weight in gold.

  • HowardRoark314

    Barry, with all due respect, I fail to understand why you cannot convince your fellow WHOA owners (outside of Jim McIngvale) to run your 3yo sans Lasix and Bute? That’s a big group of big money owners (and breeders) you have there. Immediately fire any trainer who resists (or who tests positive) and you will change the upper end of the game overnight with respect to this stuff. Then get your cohorts in the media to glorify clean winners and minimize dirty ones.

    That’s how we can police ourselves without waiting for Uncle Sam to do it for us.

    Runhappy has proven you can win the biggest races and awards while running clean. Can’t the other blue bloods follow suit now that the example has been clearly set?

    • “Other” blue bloods? Other than Ogden Phipps and Will Farish, can you please point out any blue bloods in racing? The blue bloods left the building when their savior Ronnie Reagan allowed the tax code to be changed in the mid 1980s. Once Uncle Sam was no longer their partner in racing, they jumped ship, sold their farms and found real jobs for their offspring.

      • HowardRoark314

        Other blue bloods who belong to WHOA and continue to race their 3yo on Lasix include: Seth Hancock, Marylou Whitney, Charlotte Weber, and George Strawbridge. I’m sure other old money/big names are on the roster, but these are the ones most prominent. Please tell me why you and Graham Motion decided to run Animal Kingdom on Lasix for his 2nd start, but not his first? Confirmed bleeder? Or just wanting that extra ‘edge’? He obviously didn’t need it in Dubai. If you and Motion would have won your Derby ‘clean’ it would have gone a long way towards what you are now hoping to accomplish via USADA. Just my opinion.

        • Seth Hancock is the son of a working farm owner. Mary Lou Whitney married a blue blood, but does that make her one? The relatives George Strawbridge and Charlotte Webber are heirs of the Campbell Soup company and I guess one might call them blue bloods. If you think that WHOA is people by a bunch of folks who have tremendous wealth in common, you are sadly mistaken. The grass roots organization is made up of people that care about their horses and the sport of horse racing.

          As for Animal Kingdom, I am sorry that Graham Motion and I have so gravely disappointed you by our behavior.

          On another note, since you obviously have paid considerable attention to what I have done and written, why is it that you have not been able to internalize the fact that a) I am not hung up on the use or non-use of Lasix, b) my issue with drugs is not with known therapeutic meds, c) I do not consider an overage for a therapeutic medication to automatically indicate that somebody is cheating and d) cheating to me is when a trainer or vet or owner administers illegal performance enhancing drugs to a racehorse prior to competition?

          • betsalot

            How Could ANYONE DISAGREE With that?

          • Bellwether

            Sure you could find those in this country that would object to a cancer cure…U think???…

  • we’re watching

    Common problem with both tennis and horse situations. Tennis has not named names, horse racing is not naming names.
    Let’s name the names of the cheaters.

    • Always Curious

      The names in tennis are coming out now. I am sure others will follow as this stinks to high heaven.

  • gus stewart

    Happy that your opinion has changed. I do find it interesting that until someone of notoriety on this blog, states what a few have stated, it gets some teeth in this forum. so now maybe we can say that as dysfunctional as goverment can be, it may be better then leaving regulating certain businesses such as racing or lets say police dept policing themselves, or even maybe medical insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, doing the same. Its about understanding money has rewritten the law books and removed alot of the moral compasses from individuals in business with power. Sad to think its the better solution for racing, but as you stated, those with owners throwing a lot of money in sport will team up with trainers who will use every loophole to continue to win races for them, thus keeping them buying more horses.

  • Charlie Hayward

    Sadly, I believe that Mr. Irwin’s comments and conclusion are right on the mark. Based on my personal experience his statement “…..if cheating is exposed to racing officials that nothing will happen…”is very often the case.
    As an example, let’s compare testing and penalties in Australia and the US for cobalt use in racehorses. In the last year, at least five Australian based thoroughbred trainers have received serious suspensions of 3-15 years after their horses tested positive. In the US there are few jurisdictions testing properly for cobalt and fewer still that are enforcing serious fines or suspensions for cobalt positives. By the way, when one Australian trainer was asked how he came to use cobalt, his answer was cobalt use in thoroughbred racing in the US. We need proper testing in and out of competition and we need serious penalties for cheating. We need USADA.

    • Lehane

      The trainer who got 15 years lost his appeal. The other trainers and vets have all lodged appeals against their varying 3-6 years’ suspensions.

  • dbrown

    Mr. Irwin, I agree with your position and your excellent statement above, however, until all the owners and trainers who have come out against race day drugs and joined WHOA stop using race day drugs it rings hollow. It gives cover to the deniers of progress. Runhappy did it, I have done it with my cheap horses and many other small trainers are running without drugs. We are, however, puzzled by the high end owners and trainers who verbally stand with your position but continue to run on drugs. You can beat them without drugs if you try.

    • HowardRoark314

      We have seen very little (or none?) coverage about Runhappy’s drug free BC and Eclipse on this site, but tons of ink given to the circus surrounding the connections. The media can push whatever agenda they choose, and they choose to minimize the Lasix-free angle in favor of the ‘he said/she said’ soap opera. If Paulick and others would rightly glorify drug free winners such as Runhappy, while giving short shrift to the legions of ‘dirty’ winners, that will be a step in the right direction, propaganda-wise. At least you can take that lesson from your beloved government and state-run media.

      • They’re the media; most of them couldn’t spell h-o-r-s-e.

      • Most media wants to have trainers like them and be accessible, so they are loathe to buck up against them.

        • HowardRoark314

          Agreed. Sadly they believe the ‘kings’ in The Sport of Kings are trainers, instead of horses.

        • Very true, and the publications aren’t in a hurry to stir up controversy and alienate the few remaining advertisers. As a Senior DRF writer told me many years ago he can write about anything he wants as long as it isn’t interesting, informative or controversial….

    • longtimehorsewoman

      Absolutely!! Put your money where your mouth is, says it all. They are not doing it. While “appearing” to want change, they are not willing to make a change themselves. It is hypocrital. And clearly says where they really stand.

  • kcbca1

    Fantastic editorial by Mr. Irwin. I wish all the powers that be in the industry would take note and act! I’m just a bit player but will continue to speak up for what in my heart I know is right.

  • John G. Veitch

    Eliminating race day drugs and even Lasix is a good cause. If we do eliminate Lasix, it will need to happen over several years.
    As for this Bill, a few items concern me. The cost will be born solely by the owners, and the cost of running this program is a big unknown. I’m concerned at smaller tracks, the cost will be so high, owners will leave. The Bill forces the a racetrack to accept the USADA or, not be allowed to participate in the IHA of 1978, IE no simulcasting.
    So, how does this affect the horseman and their negotiations’ with simulcast rights and purse? Will USADA have a part?
    So the bill becomes law, and say 5 years later, the same Trainers as now lead with wins and earnings. Then what?
    Jockey’s and their skill I think play a big part in a horse race. Am I to conclude the top jockeys each year are on top because they too know what horse is doped? Or is their skill & knowledge of horse play a part in their success at winning a race?
    The bill might solve many problems in racing. But I’m not sure it’s implementation will result in resurrect racing to the status it once had. Maybe it will. Only time will tell.

    • Due Process

      One conservative estimate put the cost of implementing USADA control over racing at $5000 per horse, per year. You are correct that this will put many owners and tracks out of business, which is the goal of many of the proponents of Barr-Tonko. Further, I agree with you that moving beyond Lasix is a noble goal, but until a better therapy for handling bleeders is found, it is by far the best and most effective treatment. A very simple rule change can address the alleged “performance enhancing” effect Lasix has, and that is to make the horses who run with Lasix give up a weight allowance that they may gain through use of the diuretic. I leave it to actual scientists to calculate the amount, be it 5 pounds, 10, or 20. And this can be done quickly, without federal legislation. Bleeders who need treatment can have it, and horses who don’t need it can have a level playing field on which to compete.

      • Shill, troll.

        • Small Stable

          Hypocrite, sphincter. I notice you fail to answer the numerous posters’ legitimate questions about your own use of “PEDs” like lasix. Lead by example of close your mouth. You get a platform to spout your pious pronouncing here because you pay for advertising aimed at newbies who can’t discern one end of a horse from the other. Success in selling chumps a bill of goods is not a qualification for industry-wide policymaking.

      • kcbca1

        You have changed your talking points. They still add up to the same. False. Just give it up.

    • Bein

      The top jockeys are on top because they get the top horses to ride. It has nothing to do with drugs.

      • John G. Veitch

        The top jocks get their start riding on “lower level” horses and at second tier tracks and prove their ability at that level. When they move into graded stakes races (which supposedly are drug free) those jocks continue to win. My point being is that if the jock won because he/she got to ride drugged horses on the low level horses , when the jock rides in a clean races, & a top horse, that jock would not be successful.

        • Bein

          A jockey who rides a low level drugged horse will be unable to ride a top level clean horse successfully? I don’t think that’s what you mean to say.

          • John G. Veitch

            That’s what I meant. If these drugs are all so powerful and prevalent, as some contend, the skills of the jock are meaningless.

          • I agree that the effect of any PEDs must be marginal at best – otherwise there would be track records broken every day. More likely they are achieving a level of equine performance that would easily be arrived at through sensible training. [IMO!!]

          • johnnyknj

            Disagree on this. There are horses that are inexplicably running out of their shoes when they move to certain barns. See Trouble Kid – and many of his stablemates.

          • johnnyknj

            That makes no sense. Driving a Turbo Porsche requires as much or more ability than driving a Hyundai. Yes, it’s easier to win races on juiced horses but skill is still needed.

          • Bein

            Not at all what I thought you were saying in the original.

        • Emphasise “supposedly”!

    • Who else do you think should bear these costs if not the owners.

      What is likely to happen in the future, and I have never been in favor of this, is that racing in America will fall into two types. Kind of like in Japan. There will be the majors and the minors. The majors will have meaningful enforcement and testing, whereas the minors will be like the wild west where it will be bidness as usual.

      • John G. Veitch

        Right now in NY, based on the NYRA invoices I see, we don’t pay. If the cost is reasonable I can agree with you on the owner paying. However, for example, my yearly basic blood test costs $800. If that’s the cost per test, at tracks like Finger Lakes, I’m afraid owners there will exit the game, and tracks like FL will close. That’s a “Yet To Be determined” aspect of this I’d like to see laid out first….

        • The projected costs are nowhere near this high. This guy is just trying to scuttle the effort by scaring the daylights out of you, just like many politicians are doing right now during the primary debate process.

          • John G. Veitch

            We agree on the primary debate process! LOL

  • togahombre

    when major league baseball and the players have at it, it seems the player always seem to get the better half of the deal, basically because they’ll stick together even in the face of some short term sacrifices if necessary,given enough time the owners usually loose focus and start to look out for there own interests, if the well-meaning parties in this situation were to conduct themselves like mlb players they could get what they want from the racing commissions and the various tracks without the feds, but i’m afraid, as much as they like to talk unity it’s more in their nature to act like the mlb owners and eventually splinter to protect they’re own intrests

  • venetian

    We need the Fed’s support said no right minded person EVER

  • Bellwether

    Sure there was a time the inner circle would have blackballed (and who knows what else) you Mr. Irwin for stepping up to the plate and telling it like it is…You have hit a grand slam with the statement above and for that I want to thank you Sir for having the courage, the brains and the love of ‘The Game’ standing up to these criminals…You have my support 100% and my utmost respect…Keep up the good fight and thank you again…James Staples

    • Thanks. Means a lot to me, as does this game.

  • venetian

    When business gets slow, old Ray always comes back

  • Bein

    You make an excellent case for the private sector, Gural, over government bureaucracy. “Whereas the Barr-Tonko folks were bogged down in the inevitable struggle
    with the bill’s opponents and the tangled web of politics in Washington,…”

    Yet, you think government bureaucracy, USDA, is the answer. Explain that please.

    • I have seen USADA in action for years on the international sporting scene, especially in track and field, and I look at them as a lean, mean, fighting machine with the most courageous CEO in all of sport in Travis Tygart. They are not a bureaucracy, even though bureaucracies use their serves.

    • RayPaulick

      USDA is the US Department of Agriculture, a branch of the federal government. USADA is the United States Anti-Doping Agency, an independent organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

      • Always Curious

        Thank You for the clarification.

      • Bein

        Thanks! Clarification welcomed.

  • George Chimento

    With the exception of a small share in a Team Valor horse (which was great fun), I’ve been exceptionally unlucky in this sport, and thankfully have a day job. But I do like to gamble on a good horse, and the medication discussion misses the mark. Why does the establishment allow illegal medication with a wink?

    It “needs” to fill race cards without regard to the real customers, us punters.

    Quite simply, you can’t make a serious bet in this country unless it’s a Triple Crown race or the Breeders Cup. So big money gambles instead on commodities, options, and team sports. The demands of racing owners and trainers and slot tracks with jurisdictional requirements have resulted in too many races, and too many types of bets, for anyone to lay in the serious money which could make this a sport worth betting on.

    The real reform racing needs is to limit the number of betting cards (and bets) in a day. It needs to attract real money, not $2 bettors. If racing politics requires running lots of races, so be it. Let them be run as non-betting events. Figure out some way for tracks with good betting races to share, or face the reality that there are way too many races run in this country as betting events, and that abundance is killing the sport, along with the multiple pools on each of these mediocre events.

    You need to get someone in charge of this sport who can relate to customers who are presently happy to bet huge money at less than even odds on NFL and College teams. For racing, in any day there should be no more than 10 races in the US that are live for betting. Spread the money to the other purses, but make the sport interesting for someone who wants to bet more than a few hundred without swaying the odds. Racing must compete with pro sports and college sports that attract huge pools. Abandon the fantasy that every small track (and the sport) will succeed if we offer 50 different betting pools in the course of a mid-week racing day for each of the mediocre tracks that are open in this country, usually just for slots licensing. Acknowledge that live track attendance should now be a new deal except for the few festival meets like Saratoga. If you attend the average track, you will bet on one or two live races, and the rest on simulcast of the other big events in the rest of the country that day.

    Limiting the betting events and pools will create excitement and profit in this sport. Every day should be a special day with limited betting interests. It it is a goal to think about. The Mideast will have peace before racing ever unites on this or even considers it. Until then, real speculators will focus elsewhere.

    • Bein

      Real reform isn’t even necessary. Real enforcement is.

      • 1 million percent correct.

        • Bellwether

          We have had our battles in the past but your love of ‘The Game’ and the ‘Integrity’ of it are quiet obvious…James Staples…

        • Concerned Observer

          As we all know too well, the enforcers and the backstretch population are commingled, inter-married and enmeshed. It is hard to punish your brother-in-aw, or cohabiter.

          • Without owners there would be no backstretch population: the BSP acts on their behalf, so why are THY never seen as part of this problem?

        • Horse Guy

          The only way to stop cheaters is to stop suspending them and start prosecuting them.

      • Good point.

        • ben

          Since the scandal by a certified Lab (T). Enforcement is just a dream. The state commissions are lacking the will, the money and the power to enforce rules. At least in the US, so it seems more than enough.

      • Bellwether

        U the Man!!!…

    • Nice to read your name again!

      • George Chimento

        Barry, I am glad you still wield the crusader’s sword. Press on.

    • John G. Veitch

      Last year about 55,000 horses made a start in North America, Having 10 races per day would reduced that need to maybe 1000 horses. That would eliminate all but maybe 10 breeding farms in the US, and all but maybe 4 or 5 tracks. What would we do with the other 54,000 horses?

      • Bein

        Once the elite runners were identified the rest would be sold as saddle horses, and the large percentage left over from those sales would be euthanized, of course.

        Wouldn’t racing be grand then? I’m sure public opinion would be much improved.

      • The same as you are going to do with them anyway – but you wouldn’t have the same problem ongoing. Fortunately the death rate has been immovably fixed at only one per customer. This remark is not made absolutely “tongue in cheek” – it contains some food for thought.

      • George Chimento

        I’m not suggesting ten races, only ten betting races. You could still run non-betting races, and slots subsidies, breeders awards, and purse sharing could be used for their purses. Most races are subsidized anyway, at the cost of providing a bad product with small pools.

        If racing was run like the NFL, which distributes TV revenues, there could be some sharing between the top tracks and the lower tier. Realistically there would be fewer races in non-slots jurisdictions, but these would often be the races filled with horses whose trainers abuse medication rules to keep them “racing sound.” Horses don’t need to be slaughtered unless they have gone through today’s current normal, which is tapping and drugs.

        The industry just needs to rethink the product it offers. A card with 10 special betting events (and other races to watch for the eccentric few fans who ever look at an actual track) would attract real betting interest. Then, Exotic Bets not limited to a single track’s program (think of a daily Pick Six that includes races at different tracks) would attract millions. That will translate into bigger purses, more fan interest, and less inferior racing. The current trend – slots tracks needing to fill cheap races – is not sustainable in the long term.

    • McGov

      100% agree…well said.

    • George, bettors are mugs. There are more low value mugs than high value ones. The vast majority of gambling turnover is probably funded by Welfare in one form or another. I wish we could get back to a discussion of racing as a sport – not necessarily”the Sport of Kings”, but something people aspire to do well at while policing themselves. IMO the idea that an owner should EXPECT to make money is quite wrong, but the idea that that expectation be funded by taking advantage of peoples’ weakness is immoral. I suppose that when anything expands exponentially it goes downhill.

  • Ivy

    The reason PED’s are not in the forefront of racing is because a majority of fans and horseman do not believe it is a problem. There are at least 5 advertisements to the right of this posting that openly markets drug utilization by horses. The last couple years has brought about more change towards making the sport a better place for horses than ever before in history. We’ve made tremendous progress in testing, pre-race exams, and out-of-competition testing. I work in Manhattan but but have a few horses on the west coast, where my trainer just informed me a video system was installed in his barn last year with the entire backside in the process of following suit. I am in no way saying that we are where we need to be or that more progress is not needed, but for you to make no reference to this improvement is astonishing to me. At the end of the day Barry, you can continue to cry about this, but you are going to completely miss the boat on what is now most important for the sport – increasing our total US base of interest and, thus, increasing ownership levels.

    I try all the time to get my wealthy friends involved and they have never, ever, brought drugs up as an obstacle to ownership. Their #1 complaint, which is actually relevant to you Barry, is always the same – the only ones that makes money in this sport are the owners and syndicates buying and selling the horses. Everyone is aware that shady practices occur where one buys a horse for 100k and sells them the next day for 300k. Pretty much preying on naive first time horse owners. A complete scam!

    Barry, we need people that have confidence in this sport and back it for the great sport it is, and no one can express this better than owners. They are not concerned about lasix, bute, etc. If you want to help the sport, tackle something meaningful, such as full disclosure of Valor International’s sale gains (i.e. what a horse is bought for, what a horse is sold for, and what each horse makes for that investment.)

    Knowing your level of activity on here Barry, I can’t wait for your response.

    • Hamish

      Your first and only comment on the PR is a hatchet job on Irwin’s business practices? Right, wrong or indifferent, it makes one wonder about your motivations and who might be behind you.

      • Ivy

        I have not commented on the PR because I have not yet seen an article that was worth adding my two sense, as these blogs are truly a waste of time, when in actuality we all should be actually “doing” things for the sport. Not arguing behind a computer screen. You don’t have to worry though, I will make sure that this is not my last comment. Thanks Hamish

        • You must be another who studiously avoids commenting on anything of general and genuine interest on legs, feet, nutrition, training regimes etc. What is a two sense by the way – better or worse than horse sense? [Just kidding]

    • This tactic of shooting the messenger and trying to undermine his credibility is a tactic that no longer works. Every honest trainer on the backstretch complains about cheating to their wives or girlfriends and they know who the trainers are that cheat. Many of them are as fed up with watching the cheaters as I am. I have my ear to the ground on many levels and the cheating is as bad as ever. Nice try pal.

      • Ivy

        I’m not undermining credibility. My main point (it just so happened that you happened to be relevant as I was writing) is that increasing viewership and ownership by obtaining new fans is important, while the biggest factor undermining this growth is a lack of disclosure by inside ownership/bloodstock teams.

        Barry, you’re really going to tell me that cheating is worse now that in the old days when testing wasn’t even thing? You’re undermining yourself when you make comments like that.

        • Horse Guy

          It’s not the cheating that’s worse than the old days. It’s the lack of enforcement thats far worse. You read an earlier post that suggests that law enforcement knew about cheating while betters wagered on a national level on those races. I’d say that is far worse than yesteryear when on track handle was the main driver of income. Enforcement practices have to change.

        • Larry Ensor

          Exactly. I know I was there. Working on the back side. No disrespect to Barry but he wasn’t.

          Most people who have made a good living in this sport/industry did so with ‘other people’s’ money. 30 years as a bloodstock agent I know where the skeletons are buried.

      • Trainers cheating on their wives and girlfriends – surely not! Oh sorry, I misread it! [ just trying to lighten te tone]

    • I suppose your post sums up the problem. As long as everyone accepts [or convinces them-self] that the amount of medication used in America is necessary to train racehorses, searching for PEDs will be like looking for needles in a haystack. I don’t really see what the price of horses has to do with this argument. There are plenty of perfectly viable yearling sold for far less than the cost of production: anyone can educate them-self and buy those if they resent the price of made horses.

    • Larry Ensor

      IMO and experience you have made some excellent points.

      “what is now most important for the sport – increasing our total US base of interest and, thus, increasing ownership levels.”

      IMO and experieance in recent years this is the MOST important point. Bar none.

      “I try all the time to get my wealthy friends involved and they have never, ever, brought drugs up as an obstacle to ownership.”

      Though I can’t say that my friends are particularly wealthy in the grand scheme of things they do have enough disposable income to afford ownership at a certain level. Though the use of ‘drugs’, cheating does get mentioned they concern is more about the over all ‘image’ of the sport in recent years. To quote a couple of people; “it’s just not something that I feel comfortable being part of, associated with at this time”

      • johnnyknj

        As a “middle class” owner, I believe that while drug use may not be the primary reason new owners are refraining from jumping in, it is one of the main reasons people are getting out. And of course it is inextricably linked to what Ivy points out as an obstacle to entry: money. I have owned hundreds of horses and won hundreds of races, and by racing standards done well. But in racing that usually means breaking even, or close to it. But now, as purses have leveled off or declined while expenses continue to rise, I find it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. In any given race, we are likely running against a horse or two from one of the “super trainers” – the 25% plus guys who regularly show remarkable form reversals when they get a horse. I don’t believe they are all cheating – but do believe some are at least some of the time. There are tracks (see Parx) where we hesitate to even enter, given the statistical improbabilities of their leading trainers. So for me, this is getting to the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” point. And since I won’t join ’em, if things don’t change, I will end up getting out. And I’m not alone.

        • Larry Ensor

          “And I’m not alone”

          No you are not. I know plenty that have said the same. After a life time in the sport/industry as my family before me. I am on my way out also. If I can’t sell a couple of now 3 years and 1 two year I will look for partners and they will be my last.

          I may own and train a couple of Steeplechase horses (Timber) something I prefer anyway. I prefer the Steeplechase community also. We are all pretty much on the same team.

          Any broodmares we can’t sell will be retired to live out their days.

          Don’t need the nonsense of flat racing and breeding anymore. I get little to no enjoyment out of it these days. Its always been a tough way to make a living. But darn near impossible in this day and age.

          IMO my generation has really screwed things up.

          • johnnyknj

            Sorry to hear you’re getting out. We’re losing a lot of class in this game in the US, both in horses and people.

    • Horse Guy

      Most prudent investors aren’t aren’t really that concerned about the commissions or the price of entry. And I would suggest that anyone will realize what a commission or reasonable markup is for. What most investors want to know is RATE OF RETURN. The price of entry compares very little to a track record of consistent returns and results over time. These so called rich people get that way by creating margins themselves.

    • Craig Brogden

      You are failing to inform your friends of the enourmous tax benefits of owning a racehorse. You could actually lose 46% and break even on your investment.
      I would rather have fun with the money that the IRS was going to take from my income by owning and racing a horse.
      It’s only a loss if your investment loses more than 46%.
      It is a failure of the syndicate manager to educate their investors of this amazing benefit that the federal government gives to those wealthy friends of yours.
      Have fun with the governments money instead of sending it into the abyss.

      • And of course that sort of tax break is not , by and large, available to British owners: does that have a positive effect upon the standard of British owners overall? Is a British owner slightly more likely to have an interest in racing as a sport?

  • John G. Veitch

    Yes, but horseman’s organizations negotiate the simulcast revenue. My concern is, will they still have a say if USADA has such control? Never has an outside agency been a part of this. Maybe it works out. Just skeptical. As for taking bets on a “dirty race”, that is not known until post race samples are taken.

  • Always Curious

    Barry please continue to give information to us about your efforts, specifically what legislation you support, what to say to our representatives in Washington D.C., etc. I really do write mine via email and get a response. It is the only thing I can think to do as a fan and not a participant.

    • If you have not already done so, please consider joining WHOA (Water Hay Oats Alliance), which will keep you well informed. Thanks.

  • Danny Gonzalez

    Its better to feed a few trainers and stewards to the lions every now and then than to change racing. Just a few weeks ago we saw the real corruption of racing first hand. A trainer in Maryland was handed a slap on the wrist after testing postive for a substance. If they love you they protect you. Racing is corrupt from the administrative level. We need real enforcement but that is not going to come until the betting public gets behind the anti doping policy. We have leaders of organization that promote rule changes and stricter punishment who dont know how to even clean a stall. Until the betting public becomes part of the solution nothing will happen. Its time to stop the intertrack wagering act. Calling in the USADA is like calling in the marines to stop a burgler from stealing a banana. Legislation is the key stopping the intertrack wagering act will do many things to change the way things are done in racing. There is no major doping in racing. Theraputic drugs are being misused on a daily basis when entering horses to race. The Saddest thing to see in racing is a young horse entering his first race and the vet is in his stall jabbing him with a needle. The fear in that horses eyes as to what is happening is sickening . Trainers who have become so dependent on the needle to train do not have the skills to prepare the horse. The status quo regarding training is get him 75 percent ready the needle will take him the rest of the way.

  • Bellwether

    Spot on Mr. McGov!!!…CHEATING = FIXING OF A HORSE RACE PERIOD…Prison/Lifetime Bans will slow it down a TON as there will always be FOOLS that will take a shot at it if there was a DEATH SENTENCE involved!!!…Your post says it all my friend…ty…

    • TReating owners as a partner in crime with the trainer and banning them and the horse for a year would stop it overnight.

      • ben

        I,am 100% sure about that.

        But the interstate 1978 betting bill, would be a great breakhammer too.

        As that one defines on line betting.

  • Bellwether

    I want to take the time to thank Ray Paulick and Barry Irwin for their effort (will Bloodhorse follow suit???) in trying to save “The Greatest Sport” on this Planet…Please keep on stepping up to the plate because it’s the GOOD people like you and the ones that post here that WILL SAVE ‘The Game’…James Staples…

  • kcbca1

    The tide is starting to turn in our favour. There is more favorable remarks here and less unfavorable. We need to continue to push.

  • RZuercher

    Thank you for your efforts.

  • Bein

    You don’t think the Fed acts independent of the administration, do you?

    If you’re talking about Dodd-Frank, ask a small bank president how well it works.

  • David Worley

    Interesting and insightful article Barry; thanks for writing it.

  • Craig Bernick

    Late to the party here. I have great respect for the amount of time that Barry Irwin has spent trying to make the horse business better. We would strongly disagree about some things but surely we’d agree about more than we disagree about. The fact is that horsemen need to be united to implement anything in this business. As long as horsemen are divided, the racetracks and state racing commissions can play the pro lasix and WHOA people against each other. I was most interested in this quote

    “I don’t really care if Lasix is used or not used, but if given a
    choice, I would prefer to see it not used, because I am against all
    race-day drugs. But I am infinitely more interested in the elimination of the use of illegal drugs. That is what I really care about.”

    I strongly agree with that statement, and believe that a Lasix compromise, or a carve out for Graded Stakes is the way forward. Owners and horsemen have way more things in common than differences. The #1 priority for gamblers, trainers, owners, and racetracks should be to find ways to increase involvement in the sport through handle and ownership. But as long as Lasix continues to be the devisive issue, we will struggle to implement anything.

  • Gary S. Broad

    Well thought out article Barry, I strongly agree with you on this, maybe horse racing should do the right thing and hire USADA without the need for government intervention.

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