Paul Moran

For 30 years, more than 22 at Newsday, in New York, Paul Moran has covered thoroughbred racing on its highest level. During that time, he has covered 30 Triple Crown series, every running of the Breeders' Cup Championships, 23 race meetings at Saratoga, won two Eclipse Awards, a Red Smith Award for coverage of the Kentucky Derby and other writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Editors, Long Island Press Club, Society of Silurians (the oldest press club in New York), Long Island Veterinary Medical Association, Florida Magazine Publishers Association.

In 2002, he was named New York's best thoroughbred handicapper by the New York Press in its annual "Best of Manhattan" edition. His work has appeared in virtually every racing publication published in the United States and most major American newspapers. He is a licensed owner of thoroughbreds in New York Contact:

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tarnishing the image with both hands

Have we had enough yet?

A horse trained by Rick Dutrow, the Darth Vader of racing, tests positive for twice the prescribed limit of clenbuterol in Kentucky.

A Steve Asmussen-trained horse tests positive for lidocaine in Texas.

Jeremy Rose slashes a mare across the eye in a race at Delaware Park and is suspended for six months. Rose, known for his punishing whip, claims it was an accident. Yeah, right.

If Rose raised the ire of animal rights activists, and he most certainly got their attention in the current climate, Dutrow and Asmussen emerge as examples of exactly why the sport is in such dire straits. Is anyone playing by the rules? Apparently not the trainer of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner or the man with what is currently considered the best horse in the world in his care.

A trainer with Dutrow’s long history of transgression – 72 individual rulings and at least one medication violation in each of the last eight years -- in a more reasonable world, would no longer be licensed to train horses involved in races on which pari-mutuel wagering is conducted. He is, quite simply, an embarrassment, a man who would extol the beneficial properties of anabolic steroids in the weeks before his star example of the power of Winstrol became perhaps the greatest train wreck in the history of the Triple Crown and in one week failed to appear when summoned to testify before a Congressional committee and was suspended for a ridiculously lenient 15 days by the Kentucky Racing Authority. Asmussen only last year served a long suspension for a medication violation and Racing Commissioners International shows a total of 74 rulings against the trainer of Curlin, two more than Dutrow.

These are the most high-profile names in racing at the moment – a moment in which there is much breast-beating, reflection, accusation and examination in progress with the sport’s underside exposed and vulnerable.

While thousands of people make a living at this sport while working hard and playing by the rules, their stories and accomplishments go unnoticed while rogues are wildly enriched.

The stories that have drawn the widest attention in the span of a year were those of two dead horses – Barbaro and Eight Belles – injured on national television with a large part of the audience made up of casual observers, those who could be drawn to deeper interest but are instead left horrified. The horse at the center of the story that dominated the recent Triple Crown – the sport’s single most powerful marketing vehicle – was overshadowed by his trainer’s history of habitual transgression, outspoken support for a substance it is generally agreed will be illegal in every jurisdiction by year’s end and a group of owners with sketchy backgrounds. Throw Asmussen, Jeremy Rose and perhaps Patrick Biancone, who was evicted from Europe and Hong Kong before moving to the United States and is on long sabbatical after the discovery of cobra venom in his barn at Keeneland last year. Racing is having a hell of a year.

The current malaise will not lighten until there is an imposition of accountability, proper and reasonable punishment of offenses, a ban of all race-day medication and a zero tolerance policy enforced vigorously in ever jurisdiction by a central – or, if necessary, federal authority. You asked for it.

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dutrow blows-off the Congress

With Rick Dutrow, who can now ad malingering to his resume, claiming to be ill and unable to answer the call to testify before Thursday’s Congressional hearings on racing, Rep. Cliff Stearns, of Florida, told a panel of witnesses that included an outspoken Jess Jackson, a refreshingly candid Jack Van Berg, breeder Arthur Hancock, Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Racing Commission, Allen Marzelli, of the Jockey Club, and ESPN and ABC analyst Randy Moss, a bill addressing among other things, drugs and medication in racing, would likely follow a second round of hearings.

If this is the case, with Van Berg, Jackson, Hancock, Shapiro and Moss calling for a ban of all drugs in racing, a law that mandates such a ban is not out of the question. This, of course, would be the best thing that could possibly come of the tragic events – the deaths of Barbaro and Eight Belles – that led to these hearings.

The absolute high point of the first session: Van Berg’s referral to the current state of racing: “Like chemical warfare.”

Much of the testimony was focused upon the role of veterinarians and their influence upon the proliferation of drugs and medication, which was made particularly poignant by the testimony of Larry Somo, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania who told the panel that extensive studies in which he was involved show that Lasix, the most widely used legal medication, does nothing to prevent pulmonary bleeding – its intended purpose -- but does result in enhanced performance in some horses and is an effective agent to masking the presence of other substances.

Why are we only now hearing this?

If little else comes of these hearings, the Congress, while assigning the onus of stringent testing and enforcement on the states, should consider an amendment to the Interstate Horse Racing Act, which enables simulcasting, that prohibits all drugs and medications for racing, including steroids, as a prerequisite of compliance. In other words, noncompliance would result in loss of the right of all tracks within the state to export or import simulcast signals. You want action?

Many trainers will embrace hay, oats and water like red-headed stepchildren and go kicking and screaming into a new world, where horsemanship and not chemistry is the key ingedient to success. The horsemen will be easily identified.

Somehow, in some way, the time is at hand for the United States to join the rest of the world in drug-free racing.

Otherwise, this is no more than an exercise in futility. --PM

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Breeding, drugs and breakdowns

Breeding, drugs and breakdowns. Sounds like story about money, greed and dead horses rather than the title under which a Congressional hearing will be convened next Thursday during which several racing luminaries will answer questions from publicity-savvy politicians waving the Interstate Horseracing Act, which enables simulcasting and advance-deposit account wagering, as leverage. Without this law, racing as we know it would cease to exist, since only 10 percent of money wagered on racing in this county -- $15.4 billion last year – is bet at racetracks.

The first reaction is: What might these people – members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce -- know about the subject matter? Then again, those who are most knowledgeable are responsible for the current regrettable state of affairs.

The committee cites the high-profile breakdowns of Barbaro, George Washington and Eight Belles in calling for the inquiry and while these are certainly not good examples of the state of racing – two uniquely freak accidents and a horse trained in Europe, where medication is not legal – the end result of this process could – should – be the beginning of the formation of a national regulatory authority empowered to establish and enforce rules and standards. Obviously, a hopelessly fragmented industry regulated by various state agencies has been helpless to agree on the issues.

The reformation of racing will be a bitter pill shared by every segment of the sport, but while there remains something to be saved, it is imperative that the industry’s leaders find their way to the same page.

A national regulatory authority and with it standardization of rules governing every area of racing is long overdue in racing and, it appears, if the industry is unable to generate support for such a body, the government may be prepared to take the initiative – the least palatable alternative but something that would amount to guiding the helpless.

The trouble with racing’s leaders is a failure to lead. Or, perhaps it is simply impossible to lead the unwilling in an industry propelled by ego, agenda and money, none of which contributes to consolidation of purpose and objective.

Everything in racing begins with the breeding industry, which is more prosperous than ever but is not serving the sport very well. There was a time when the Jockey Club limited the books of American stallions and the increasingly fragile nature of the thoroughbred suggests that unrestricted breeding is at least a contributor to the decline in soundness.

If the rest of the world is capable of racing horses without the use of medication and anabolic steroids then it is not unreasonable to expect – require -- the same of Americans. Adoption of the Hong Kong model – veterinarians employed by the association, which also purchases and rations all medication – would go a long way toward alleviating the internationally shared impression that American racing is a corrupt joke.

Those summoned to testify:

Alan Marzelli, president and chief executive officer of The Jockey Club; Richard Shapiro, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board; Arthur Hancock, a Thoroughbred owner/breeder; Jess Jackson, a thoroughbred owner and breeder; Randy Moss, analyst for ESPN; Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg; and trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., trainer of 2008 Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. Panel II: Sue Stover, veterinarian at the University of California-Davis; Larry Soma, veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Mary Scollay, recently hired as Kentucky’s equine medical director; Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, veterinarian at Colorado State University; and Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

This will be interesting. Van Berg is outspoken on drug and medication issues. Dutrow says he knows not what steroids do but like to give them to his horses. Hancock is a proponent of a return to the days of hay, oats and water. Waldrop is outspokenly a proponent of banning steroids.

Finally, a reason to watch C-Span.

Written by Paul Moran

Check out Paul Moran on Blogspot At the Races
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