Thoroughbred racing in the US cannot withstand a hurricane of change. Yet if it does not occur, it will drown in a sea of drugs, deaths and litigation. Its destiny is our hands.

Exposure of extensive drug use was the nadir of the trial and conviction of trainer Murray Rojas in Pennsylvania, equine deaths have tragically been too frequent at Saratoga, and litigation opened Pandora’s Box when Kentucky judge, Thomas Wingate, struck down the absolute-insurer (trainer responsibility) rule in the case of trainer Graham Motion.

Stewart S Janney III, Chairman of the Jockey Club closed its Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in Saratoga Springs on August 13, with the following remarks.

“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 Horseracing 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.”

Thoroughbred racing historically has not owned its drug problem. It now makes a second attempt in support of the Barr Tonko bill in congress. This time it calls for the end of race day medication.

Some trainers will breathe a sigh of relief when they can resume training with knowledge instead of needles. Others will continue to play the system for profit.

A YouTube video, posted August 11, is of Monster Racing owner, Randy Gindi, in the blue shirt screaming “the juice man” and claiming he “lined his pockets with the bookie with another $20,000” and trainer Jorge Navarro, purple shirt and NY cap, who said, “That’s the way we do it. We #### them.” Even if the video is some kind of charade, its optics are poor. Link to video:

Equine fatalities this year at Saratoga now total 17. Two died prior to the beginning of the meeting and 15 since the opening, eight racing, six training, and one from a non-racing illness.

"Our goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero, and we have taken many productive steps toward reaching that goal over the past four years," said New York State Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer, VMD at a continuing education meeting for trainers in Saratoga on August 21.

"The Commission, as it does with every equine fatality on the grounds of a track in New York State, is actively investigating the circumstances of each incident at Saratoga Race Course. This also includes close scrutiny of the track surfaces, exercise history and past performances, individual horse risk factors, and more."

The commission has yet to issue a promised report on last year’s equine deaths in Saratoga.

"There is no issue more important to NYRA than the safety of our equine and human athletes," said NYRA Safety Steward Hugh Gallagher. "That is why NYRA has implemented extensive reforms and made significant investments since 2013 to improve track surface conditions, upgrade equipment, provide vets with more authority to monitor thoroughbred health, establish committees to oversee safety measures, and actively seek out advice and guidance from independent experts and scientists.”

Apparently, all this effort is in vain because since 2013, when there were 10 equine fatalities, the number has increased. In 2014 and 2015, 13 horses died at Saratoga and in 2016, there were 16.

Risk factors should assessed upon examination of the lifetime health record of a horse which should be recorded from birth and stored on the mandatory implanted chips required for all Thoroughbred foals.

Some risks that are currently not examined are horses that receive corrective surgery to give the illusion of good conformation, horses that test positive when entered in a public sale and two years old that run an eighth mile in nine and change at a horses in training sale.

The Kentucky Racing Commission found that trainer Graham Motion’s horse, Kitten’s Point, had a minute overage of a legal muscle relaxer detected in the post-race test sample at Keeneland in April 2015, and the case ended up in court.

Judge Wingate found that Motion’s right to due process was violated and the science behind the regulation was arbitrary and capricious.

“The methocarbamol threshold is recommended by the RMTC and included in the Controlled Therapeutic Medication list that is part of the National Uniform Medication Program,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, Executive Director of the RMTC. “These treatment protocols were set based upon a survey of AAEP practitioners, as is our standard practice.”

“The ironic thing is, this medication was prescribed to me by one of the vets on the RMTC committee, and the dosage, and the withdrawal,” said Motion.

It’s not just ironic it’s a sham. That is the major problem with RMTC. It does not do scientific peer reviews. As such, all its regulations are subject to question.

It is time to change the stewards of our sport if this is the best they can offer because the government regulates with axes and sledgehammers.