The following is a letter of response from USTA Chairman and SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo to the submission from horse owner Paul Fontaine in Harness Racing Update.
By Joe Faraldo
First, let’s close down the nonsense about me and any invented conflict of interest involved in my recent election as USTA chairman that would affect my “responsibility to USTA members and our industry.”
What’s a “disgrace” is your implication and attempt to smear my reputation by suggesting that my “law firm” is representing one of the trainers recently “indicted.” Let’s be clear; my “firm” consists of me and only me as the sole practitioner. Further, my practice is exclusively limited to civil matters.
I’m not representing any of the accused, which as an attorney you could have easily ascertained with a little due diligence rather than making your reprehensible accusation against me.
And while we’re setting the record straight, the “voluminous” evidence stated by the Assistant U.S. Attorney refers to those indicted. The trainer associated with me that you cited was not included in the indictment.
Clearly, any owner who is an accomplice in any wrongdoing in this sport by his trainer or anyone else should be penalized.
But let us not forget the solution you advocated during your “30 years as a USTA director and seven years as its chairman,” when you proposed an owners’ responsibility rule that would have placed responsibility and penalties upon an owner whose trainer cheated regardless of any knowledge of or complicity on the owner’s part. That was wisely rejected.
Imagine a horse owner with a professional license as an attorney or a certified public accountant who would be penalized due to the actions of a trainer without any wrongdoing on his/her part.
When reported to the administrative agency that administers his/her professional license, it could result in further disciplinary action significantly impacting that person’s ability to make a living in their profession. That risk would have driven owners out of our sport.
Additionally, your assertion that, “there would be no crooked trainers if owners who seek the easy and ill-gotten purse money would be suspended and or banned from the sport,” could easily lead to unfounded suspicions of cheating about any rule-abiding trainer who consistently performs better than his competitors.
Without any evidence or validity, the risk of the owners’ responsibility rule penalties would cause them concern over their trainer’s success because of the underlying assumption that they might be doing something wrong.
And I’d like to refresh your memory of some serious trouble that one of your former trainers had in the past, yet I don’t recall you calling for any penalties under the provisions of an owners’ responsibility rule at the time.
I have horses with a variety of trainers ranked in the top 10 in the country. One of my trainers that you referenced was training two horses for me when the complaint against him was filed. And similar to the action you took with your trainer that got into trouble years ago, I’ve reconsidered the relationship with my trainer as a result of action taken against him.
In both cases, our trainers were in good stead with all the various regulatory bodies. With my trainer, there was one suspension of seven days within the last nine years that involved a therapeutic medication.
Although the Assistant U.S. Attorney has stated that there is “voluminous” evidence in the indictments, as an attorney, you should recognize that all accused are entitled to a defense with the presumption of innocence and that total condemnation of the owners of all of the horses involved with the trainers indicted is a cheap shot at those owners.
For your information, the USTA was closely involved with the investigations leading to the indictments by providing requested documentation as well as significant background, operational and logistical information that assisted investigators.
As a former director, you should know that USTA has no regulatory, legal or enforcement authority in these matters so that your attack against the organization is as much nonsense as your accusations about me and your call for a new election