The Jorge Navarro video scandal offers racing a golden opportunity to come down hard and demonstrate that it will not tolerate cheaters. Yet the reaction has been far less than decisive. Some jurisdictions have banned Navarro but others, including industry leader NYRA, have taken no meaningful action. This raises the question of whether the sport really wants to clean up its act or is just posturing when it says it does.

The Jorge Navarro scandal is the latest justification to pose the question, “How serious is racing about really wanting to clear up its drug mess?”

The Barr-Tomko bill has been languishing for a couple of years. It seems to have as much chance of passage as the flat tax. Racing’s hierarchy claims to be behind it but where is the evidence beyond lip service?

On the backstretch, the HBPA is adamantly opposed to any meaningful anti-medication legislation. With the power to kill simulcasting given to it by the Interstate Racing Act-- the single most damaging piece of legislation ever passed regarding racing-- the HBPA has veto power over any attempt to clean up the game and has made it clear it will use it.

Any doubt about where the HBPA stands was dispelled by its support of convicted serial cheater Murray Rojas. It won’t be surprising if the HBPA comes to the defense of “The Juice Man” before this sordid saga plays out.

Reaction to the damning Navarro video offers encouragement from some quarters but the same old, same old and worse from others. Why even talk about uniform drug rules when the sport can’t muster a uniform response to outrageous behavior like Navarro’s.

It’s not as if he is a virgin. He served 60 days in 2013 for six positives and is currently fighting another positive in Florida. Integrity is at the heart of the game. How can any race track allow a guy with his background, who openly and blatantly brags about cheating, onto the grounds and into their entries?

Plaudits to Indiana and Maryland for immediately informing Navarro he is not welcome. Let’s hope they make it stick. Delaware joined those doing the right thing on Wednesday, scratching a couple of Navarro horses and informing him his entries would not be accepted in the future.

It would seem safe to assume that if the Maryland ban holds, it will extend to Gulfstream. Tim Ritvo and P.J. Campo have acted decisively in the past to rid Stronach tracks of the likes of Marcus Vitali and Kirk Ziadie. As unacceptable as their antics were, Navarro would have to rank higher among the intolerables. Gulfstream regulars have been rolling their eyes for years at some of the form turnarounds The Juice Man has engineered.

Alas, this is not the universal reaction it should be. NYRA, which should be a leader, has taken a namby-pamby approach. As of now, Navarro is welcome to enter horses in New York, according to New York State Gaming Commission Steward Steve Lewandowski. “He’s good to participate unless I hear otherwise from the Gaming Commission.”

Lewandowski’s colleague, Jockey Club Steward Jim Edwards, filed a dissenting opinion. He cited Section 4002.12 of the Gaming Commission’s Rules and Regulations, which gives the commission the power to exclude persons from a racetrack for a variety of reasons, including a person, who “has been involved in any action detrimental to the best interests of racing generally.”

The exact wording Navarro was fined the maximum $5,000 (increased to $10,000 on Wednesday by the state commission) by Monmouth stewards was for “conduct detrimental to racing.”

Nevertheless, Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing, told the Racing Form that Navarro is “fine to race here.” Fine? Then why did Panza also say he might order extra monitoring of Navarro’s barn? As best I know, this scrutiny is applied only to suspected cheaters.

Parx also has no problem with Navarro. In the midst of the controversy, it accepted Navarro’s entry of Game Over for Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby. It would serve them right if Navarro pulls one of his magic acts in one of the few stakes that brings national attention to the Philadelphia area track.

The most disgraceful response of all came from the place where this all started. Dennis Drazin, who effectively runs Monmouth, was quoted in the Asbury Park Press that “Navarro is welcome back at Monmouth Park next year.” This is like a bank executive saying, “Dillinger is welcome back at our bank.”

Drazin apparently finds nothing suspicious about a guy clicking at an above 40 percent pace even if he is seen and heard at one of the race track bars bragging about cheating.

The stewards are equally derelict. A fine amounts to just another cost of doing business for Navarro. The video shows him and one of his owners, Randal Gindi, crowing about how much money they are making betting juiced horses. Navarro and Gindi should have been hit with the stiffest suspensions ever meted out in New Jersey.

The fact that Monmouth’s stable area was only about two-thirds filled this summer and Navarro started about 40 percent more horses than the next most active trainer might have something to do with this.
It has been widely noted that even though the video surfaced on Aug. 11, Monmouth’s stewards didn’t act until Sept. 6 and make a ruling until almost a week later, at the end of the meeting. This allowed Navarro to keep filling the track’s entry box—at the public’s expense.

Eddie Plesa Jr., a Monmouth and South Florida regular for years, also was quoted in the Asbury Park Press about the optics of embracing Navarro. “People will look at that and think this is the sport. For Navarro to be yelling ‘juice’ is mind-boggling to me. Here’s a trainer that has a tremendous winning percentage. I think you would have to look far and deep for anyone to say he’s that much superior to the rest of the trainers.”

If Richard Dutrow gets 10 years on questionable evidence, Navarro should be banished from racing forever. It’s an obligatory first step toward demonstrating that racing is serious about wiping out the scourge of drugs guys.

Win, Place a weak show

Any expansion of racing on television should be embraced by those who love the game. But it’s hard to develop positive feelings toward “Win, Place, Show,” a new reality series on TVG. Fresh episodes air on TVG at noon Tuesday, a slow day for the racing network, and are repeated sporadically during off hours.

I planned to review it right after the pilot three weeks ago. But the debut episode was so disappointing, I delayed writing anything in the hope it would improve. I did the same thing after episode two. Three shows have aired and it hasn’t gotten any better.

Good intentions aren’t enough. The best that can be said is the program presents racing in a positive light and the scenes set at Del Mar are captivating visually. Actual races are presented only in snippets.

Jimmy “The Hat” Allrad, a character on the Southern California racing scene for more than a quarter-century, is the driving force behind the show. He knows the game but he doesn’t always communicate it well. He tries much too hard to convey “Aren’t we having fun?”

Allrad convenes a cast of six each week. Four contestants are divided into two-person teams, each given $300 to bet on three designated races. The winners are the pair with the greatest total after race three. They get to come back for the finals for a still unstipulated prize.

They are assisted, but not very well, by two coaches, ostensibly experts and professional gamblers, although the advice and lack of it offered suggests this is an embellishment. Unforgivably, they allow the relative novices to bet three and four horses, some across the board, in a single race. The stop sign to this strategy should have gone up immediately. That it hasn’t has created situations where the contestants have the winner and still lose money. Not many new fans are going to be generated seeing this.

If racing is to benefit, a show like this should educate while it entertains. Instead the coaches offer nonsense like the goal is “bet the fastest horse at the biggest odds.” Duh!

Hats off to Allrad for the attempt but if the show is to have any future, it must be reconceived so that it doesn’t confuse newcomers while insulting genuine racing fans.