It was three days before the Belmont Stakes and the New York Racing Association took its show on the road, traveling 15 miles west through horrendous city traffic to Rockefeller Plaza for the post-position draw ceremonies for the Belmont Stakes, Manhattan and the Met Mile.

At the same time, the New York State Gaming Commission was releasing the veterinary reports for the horses running in those three prestigious stakes.

At the draw, Epicharis, the highly regarded and highly courted colt from Japan due to defections and the Belmont week reoccurrence of Classic Empire’s celebrated foot issues, drew post 11 for the Belmont Stakes. Less than 24 hours earlier, he was found to be lame in his right foreleg by Dr. Delott, his Belmont Park veterinarian.

Epicharis was administered a shot of Bute (phenylbutazone) intravenously the morning of the draw, would be reexamined two days later but eventually had to be scratched by Belmont’s stewards Saturday morning after his re-examination. In that case, the system worked.

But also noted in the June 7 vet report was that Gormley had received five liters of fluids having suffered mild dehydration after shipping from California to New York, and Senior Investment had acupuncture treatment and vitamin B-12 to treat muscle spasms. These are not serious issues and can be treated easily and legally, which they were.

However, a complete vet report dated June 8 for Belmont Stakes day starters included many runners with indications that inflammation was present. Twisted Tom had some, and was treated with Banamine. He also received a gastric ulcer preventative.

Tapwrit had some inflammation and was treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in an intravenous Bute treatment. J Boys Echo had mild inflammation and received Bute as well, as did Meantime. Hollywood Handsome and Patch were administered NSAID, Bute.

Lookin at Lee had a prophylactic IV with an immune stimulant. Irish War Cry had three treatments, gastric ulcer prevention, a probiotic and Bute for mild arthritis. The list did not end there. There were more treatments the following day.

And, of course, on race day, June 10, all 11 starters were administered race-day Lasix.

The list of veterinarians and the medications proscribed were abundant and the optics horrible, especially considering this was a top field of Grade 1 horses about to run in a Thoroughbred Classic.

Daily reports for the Metropolitan and Manhattan Handicaps were not dissimilar and the list of proscribed treatments plentiful. Doubtlessly, these steps were necessary for the health of animals but it does spark the imaginations of the public at large, and how can that be a good thing?

All of this appears to fly in the face of $124,740,193, the all-sources wagering totals for the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. Imagine what that total might be if American racing were free of drugs, legal or otherwise, so that bettors could wager with unwavering confidence?

A vast network of veterinarians hold this sport together with a web of drugs, substances that masquerade as medication and treatment. If this does not underscore the need for centralized drug regulations, it’s hard to imagine what would.

Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), introduced H.R. 2651, the Horseracing Integrity Act, to the House of Representatives on May 25.

The Barr-Tonko bill of 2017 is an updated version of their 2015 legislation but with a significant new twist; elimination of raceday medication. Because Thoroughbred racing is addicted to drugs, it assures that the bill will be dead on arrival in Washington D.C. instead of being lauded.

If racing does not present a united front, it will never come to a vote--unless the legislative majority does the same thing with Barr-Tonko that it currently is trying to accomplish with a “stealth health care plan” which, of course, would eventually strip benefits currently available to at least 23 million U.S. citizens.

If Thoroughbred racing continues its present drug-addled course, then it would behoove the NYSGC to release veterinary reports for all horses on every day so that the betting public could make more informed decisions, not just in Grade 1 stakes on days when the whole world is watching.

The NYSGC has made significant strides in recent years but now it needs to go all the way. Transparency cannot do its job fully if its findings are presented in an opaque fashion.


NYRA MAKES GOOD ON GUARANTEE: The NYRA put up its own money to insure that bettors had a guaranteed pool into which it could wager its money, needing special permission from the NYSGC to do so.

On Thursday, June 8, NYRA offered a guaranteed $75,000 Pick 6. The wager was not hit and the pool fell short of the guarantee by $15,579. NYRA initially based the carryover of $37,514 into Friday’s Pick6 on a pool total of $59,421.

To its credit, NYRA paid Thursday’s Pick 6 consolation of $1,914 for five correct winners based on a pool total of $75,000, not the actual amount wagered. Because of the way current law is written, NYRA needed permission to base the carryover on a $75,000 guaranteed pool and increased the amount accordingly.

WATCH OUT: It seems that everyone who criticized the timing of the Jaipur Invitational Stakes did so without benefit of a stopwatch. Disco Partner ran six furlongs on turf in an amazingly fast 1:05.67. I confirmed the time twice via video replay, coming up with clockings of 1:05.79 and 1:05.76.

Reminder for next time: Smartphones come equipped with stopwatches.

NO CUOMO: Governor Andrew Cuomo was reportedly in the New York City vicinity Saturday but continued to show his disdain for racing by failing to show up at Belmont Park on Thoroughbred racing’s biggest day. He’s likely to complete the parlay on Travers Day.

Cuomo did “honor” the Belmont by lighting the new Kosciusko Bridge, a glorified canal crossing on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, in green and white lights, a tribute equivalent to an underhanded salute.