Janney On ‘Disgraceful And Sad’ Pennsylvania Events: ‘It Gives All Of Racing A Black Eye’

by | 08.14.2017 | 1:12am
Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club

Following are closing remarks by Stuart S. Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club, at Sunday's Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

My sense is that we are at a crossroads. There are many signs of hope, progress and accomplishment.

We are taking steps to make our horses safer as they run and train. We are making good progress on aftercare – more to do, but much is in place. Our big race days are working and TV coverage is more frequent, with better production values, and, finally, people are watching.

Creative thinking is producing events like the Pegasus Cup. NYRA is back in private control and a new management team has produced great results on and off the track. Support for a uniform regulatory system is growing. We see great growth in the ADW networks.

But now let's look at a darker side. Sadly, the list is just as long and the issues no less important. We have talked about many of these issues, either today or in previous conferences. The scope of some of these problems can be daunting and their persistence is disheartening.

We should be doing better because it's in our power to do better. Our problems are not going to be solved with lots of talk, or by others. It will take those in this room and elsewhere to produce the results we need.

What has happened in Pennsylvania recently is disgraceful and sad, especially when you consider that the state is the sixth leading producer of foals and that it hosted approximately 4,000 races and distributed more than $100 million in purses in 2016.

Let's start by focusing on the federal trial involving trainer Murray Rojas on charges of fraud, conspiracy and misbranding of drugs. I think it illustrates what we have to fix and how our problems interconnect.

Uncontradicted testimony described widespread, in fact, nearly universal, cheating; regulators asleep on the job; a corrupted and ineffectual testing system.

Almost as embarrassing was the unprecedented decision two months ago by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission to declare two winners of the 2016 Parx Oaks after one of the fillies had tested positive for clenbuterol.

Try as you might, there were no heroes to be found and to anyone sitting comfortably in this room thinking Pennsylvania's problems are not yours, I would say, forget it. We own this problem.

It gives all of racing a black eye; it jeopardizes our share of slots revenue in all states; it arouses animal welfare groups nationally – as it should.

It suggests strongly that similar problems lurk in many other jurisdictions. Ironically, the gaming money being shoveled into undeserving hands in Pennsylvania has made it very difficult to fill cards in other Mid-Atlantic venues where one can argue that racing is being conducted properly.

Now to the extent that any of us may be disheartened, let's focus on the response to these sad events.

Mr. Tom Chuckas was the director of the Bureau of Horse Racing for Pennsylvania's State Horse Racing Commission during the Rojas trial and for the adjudication of the Parx Oaks matter.

He commended the U.S. Attorney's office for its successful prosecution in the trial, but this commendation offered little in the way of explanation about backdated invoices, fraudulent vet records and missed test results.

Similarly, despite widespread industry outcry and concern about the residual effects of having two winners of a stakes race that did not involve a dead heat, there was no official public response from the commission.

These are just a few examples of the dysfunctional regulatory landscape that surrounds us today. It was not a pretty picture.

And what about the HBPA's role in all this? Could we have expected them to marshal their resources to represent all the horsemen who have been wronged by cheaters? Well, we all know that the HBPA's Legal Defense Fund was used to help fund Murray Rojas' defense in the federal proceeding and that she was convicted on 14 different charges.

Further, their stated reason for doing so is a disgrace and will end up producing the exact result that they so wished to prevent: the intervention by the federal government to clean up racing.

We at The Jockey Club take a contrary view. We believe it is appropriate for the federal government to police racing. Those who cheat are corrupting the interstate wagering system – the very definition of federal responsibility and a system made possible by the federal Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978.

Second, the states, in so many ways, have demonstrated their inability to get the job done.

So, as you cast your eyes to the list of problems we face, think of how many would be addressed to some degree by a uniform system of regulation, good testing, and penalties with teeth.

Click here for a video replay, agenda and other information on the 2017 Jockey Club Round Table Conference.

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