Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Additional Wagering Board Protocols Welcome and Timely

ELMONT, NY, May 30, 2012—In the course of the events that lead to media reporting and commentary, I have had little patience for agencies that see a window of opportunity to seize the national spotlight by hopefully advancing their agenda in the wide shadow cast by a world class event.

For years, the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame believed that early in Kentucky Derby week would be a good time to announce the names of that year’s inductees since the national sports media are all in one place at one time. Sensibly, this is no longer the case.

But this regrettable tack still goes these days with many organizations, especially regulatory agencies, still believing it’s better to get the news out while the whole world is watching what’s gong on both inside and outside the fences of America’s racetracks.

Notes to industry: Since the advent of the 24-hour mainstream media news cycle, either the world no longer cares or can only accept the never ending sensory bombardment one sound byte at a time.

The news business is no different than any other industry these days; one person now does the job of three and they, too, are on overload. That dandy new testing rule will need to wait until the Triple Crown is over. It’s about immediacy and priorities.

The State Racing & Wagering Board sometimes falls into this trap, getting news out at the most visible moments. But they have been on a major roll recently—that’s if you’re willing to overlook the apparent failings of their regulatory responsibilities in L’Affaire NYRA.

Fortunately for the agency, the organization involved in the imbroglio left an e-mail trail that in a small way mitigates its shortcomings in the matter.

As Association of Racing Commissioners International President Ed Martin said Tuesday, the case brought against Standardbred trainer Lou Pena by the NYSRWB as reported online in Standardbred Canada is "a game changer with wide ramifications for racing regardless of breed.

“This is a new chapter, make no mistake about it,” Martin added, noting that New York’s reliance on veterinary records as evidence of an illegal administration rather than a laboratory finding is a new regulatory strategy other agencies would emulate.

Triple Crown bid or not, no responsible journalist could ignore a headline that links the number 1,700 with alleged administrations of legal substances by one Standardbred trainer.

Under the circumstances, trainer Lou Pena did the only thing he could do: Cry racial prejudice.

Today, May 30, the same day the NTRA is hosting a Triple Crown national teleconference that includes Penny Chenery (owner, Secretariat), Ron Turcotte (jockey, Secretariat), Sally Hill (co-owner, Seattle Slew), Billy Turner (trainer, Seattle Slew), Patrice Wolfson (co-owner, Affirmed), (Steve Cauthen, Affirmed), the SRWB announced the “installation of strict protocols for horses and participants taking part in June 9 Belmont Stakes.”

While this announcement might be viewed as opportunistic--that the protocols could have be installed with less fanfare--it’s most important that the world knows, especially in the current environment where the use of even legal medication is a page one story and the Triple Crown aspirant’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, has had his dubious past questioned by national media starting around 7 p.m. on May 5th.

All Belmont horses will be stalled in Belmont Park’s secured stakes barn beginning June 6, subjected to out-of-competition blood testing and will remain in that barn until the race’s conclusion.

The blood tests will be sent to the Board’s Drug Lab that night for immediate review and the stakes barn will be monitored by SRWB and Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau personnel in addition to the NYRA security contingent.

The security procedures include limiting personnel who are allowed to enter the area, noted in entry-exit logs. Personnel entering a horse’s stall, including his trainer and NYRA veterinarian must also be logged and include a reason for the visit. Veterinarians will be escorted into the stall by security personnel.

Equipment, feed, hay, bales, etc. will be searched, horses assigned specific stalls, no human consumption of food or beverage will be allowed inside a stall or within proximity, only NYRA vets can administer raceday Lasix and the press will assigned to specific designated areas.

Beginning Belmont eve, June 8, no vet may visit a stall without making an appointment with SRWB investigators, providing written notice of intended treatment. On June 9, treatment will only be permitted for emergency or by agreement with the Stewards. SRWB investigators will provide surveillance and the stakes barn will be restricted to only Belmont Stakes horses.

In addition, the NYRA will have additional roving security teams during Belmont Stakes day, overseeing the handling and movement of Belmont Stakes horses and additional security measures will be taken inside Belmont Park on raceday.

Should I’ll Have Another be good enough to enter the Triple Crown pantheon, second-guessing the connections will be a part of the Belmont Stakes aftermath. For the good of the game, that will be a very good thing.

Written by John Pricci

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