Sunday, July 01, 2012

Detention Barn for Saratoga Bad Political Theater

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, July 1, 2021—Last week, when we were dealing with issues resulting from a corrupt server, there was a Daily Racing Form story that trainer Larry Jones decided to decline the 11 stalls he was allocated for the upcoming Saratoga meet.

Unlike several weeks ago, when Jones sounded off on the raceday Lasix ban issue, this time I’m behind Jones’ decision 110 percent.

I could not disagree with Jones’ thought process more than when he stated that he would refuse to buy horses under the auspices of any jurisdiction that would prohibit horses from being treated with Lasix on raceday.

With that message, Jones was telling proponents of the ban he would do anything within his power to stem the tide of the proposed ban of the diuretic on raceday.

We think that Jones, and other high-percentage trainers, should be sending a different message to the betting public and sports fans; that the industry will do whatever it can to gain and regain their trust.

As with anything that relates to integrity, the sport’s stand on medication, legal and otherwise, is the #1 issue in racing and it will continue to be until the Thoroughbred industry shows the world it’s really serious about cleaning up its act.

However, I do stand with Jones, and any other horseman, who is railing against the New York State Racing and Wagering Board proposed edict to ban the cooking of oats—for goodness sakes—at Saratoga somehow is a security issue.

How absurd, really. How much advice did the SRWB ignore from the practitioners they consulted on this—if they consulted anyone, that is?

And I hope nobody ever tells The Chief about this idea; this news could send him back to the hospital. What are the chances any state regulatory agent ever walked the shedrow with Allen Jerkens at feed time?

While proposing this security measure for Saratoga, did anyone bother to ask whether the feeding of dry oats is a healthy regimen? Horses don’t digest dry oats very well. In fact, they could get colic as a result. Colic can cause a horse to founder. Founder causes horses to die.

Jones said the primary reason for cooking oats is to help horses digest their food easier. He’s still gnawed by the time when, during the detention barn era a few years back, he needed to get the stewards’ permission to feed his horses yellow corn.

According to the DRF story, Jones was irritated when regulators gave Doug O’Neill a hard time when he was cooking oats for I’ll Have Another outside the Belmont Stakes detention barn.

And now the SRWB is considering instituting a detention barn for the Travers and other important stakes at the upcoming Spa meet, in addition to testing jockeys for alcohol.

This is known as political expediency. While the Belmont detention barn might have been a good idea in that it would help to safeguard the integrity of a potentially controversial Triple Crown champion, its institution at Saratoga is unnecessary overkill.There’s enough lead-up time to ensure that the clumsy procedures put in place at Belmont would work better this time around, but upsetting a horse’s routine unnecessarily does the animal--and the bettor--no favors.

“The board consistently seeks to improve security and safety measures for horses at New York’s tracks,” a spokesperson said recently. Here’s a thought; increase the number of security guards, or install video surveillance and forget the detention barn.

“There’s no reason for it,” a horseman said recently. “No reason for having it. There’s plenty of testing in place to catch anyone cheating.”

The problem with that thinking, of course, is that testing is under-funded, standardized rules are non-existent and the process of keeping up with cheaters arduous and time consuming. But make no mistake, there’s tons of room for improvement.

Jones said his decision not to accept the 11 stalls he was allotted was not a boycott on New York racing; he will ship in to race.

But Jones is making a statement that when it comes to well-meaning but ill-informed regulators, enough is enough, that decisions having an adverse effect on an animal can do as much damage to form as medication.

So police the back-side, and the security personnel if you must, but leave the care and welfare of the animal to the people who live with them 24/7/365.

Racetrack professionals have earned the right to do a job the best way they know how.

Written by John Pricci

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