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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Associated Press, AUG 12, 2020 — New York– Two years after filing a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a harness-racing bettor has received $20,000 in the settlement of his claims that he was cheated out of his winnings when a doped horse won a race in New Jersey in 2016.

After the lawsuit was filed in March 2018, leading figures in harness racing said they had never before heard of such a lawsuit, which accused the trainer of fraud and racketeering. The general practice has been to reallocate the purse to other owners in the event a winning horse is later proved to have been doped but not to pay back bettors.

The settlement, reached in July and made public Wednesday, resulted from extensive negotiations on behalf of the bettor, Jeffrey Tretter, and the lawsuit’s two defendants — trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. and the horse’s owner, J.L. Sadowsky.

Under the settlement, the defendants agreed to pay Tretter $20,000 and Tretter agreed to donate $7,500 of that sum to a racehorse adoption program.

The settlement bars the parties from making any future claims related to the case and stipulates that the agreement does not constitute an admission of liability.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, was financed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to open the gates for more litigation by bettors, which the animal rights group hopes would dramatically curtail illegal horse doping. PETA contends that injured horses are sometimes dying on the tracks because they were doped illegally or overmedicated to keep them running when they should be recuperating.

Tretter, an experienced gambler from Granite City, Illinois, said he hoped the lawsuit would strengthen efforts to “clean up harness racing.”

“We faced a lot of opposition because of the precedent involved, but I hope this will open the door for others to come forward and hold those responsible accountable for their blatant cheating at tracks across North America,” he said in a statement. “Bettors must organize and go after the cheats for every verifiable dime that was lost.”

Andrew Benedict, one of Bresnahan’s lawyers, described the case as “a David vs. Goliath type thing,” with PETA able to finance extensive litigation against two defendants who were not major figures in harness racing and had far fewer resources.

“It was rough for us to defend this case on all fronts, because of the amount of money that PETA was pouring into it,” Benedict said. “It shows they had no evidence of criminal wrongdoing or they wouldn’t have settled so cheaply.”

The lawsuit said Tretter placed wagers through an online betting site on a harness race at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Jan. 15, 2016. The horses he picked to place first through fourth instead finished behind Tag Up and Go, who had been a longshot in the race.

Meadowlands later revealed that Tag Up and Go had tested positive for EPO, a banned performance-enhancing substance, based on blood samples taken in December. As a result, Bresnahan was barred from competing at Meadowlands, but there was no redress for bettors such as Tretter.

According to his lawsuit, he correctly picked the horses that finished second, third, fourth and fifth behind the doped horse in a variety of wagers that would have paid a combined $31,835 if Tag Up and Go had been disqualified.

The lawsuit alleged fraud on the part of Bresnahan and the company that owned Tag Up and Go. It also alleged violations of the federal and state anti-racketeering laws known as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), contending that the federal law was violated because Bresnahan was engaging in interstate commerce.

The owner of Meadowlands, Jeff Gural, has been among the leaders in harness racing trying to curb doping. The Tag Up and Go doping case emerged through one of his initiatives, establishing “out of competition” drug testing that subjects horses to the possibility of testing at any time.

PETA is critical of horse racing but is pushing for reforms rather than actively campaigning for an all-out ban.

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7 Responses

  1. Give that person an Applause or better yet, a Standing Ovation! Fixing races is one of the main reasons why harness is where it is,abandoned by many former patrons,owners.It is the same in other countries. It’s a temptation since the punishment does not fit the crime.Best wishes to mister Gural but so many deals keep on being made that for every one who gets caught many more cash ” winning combs” not just at Meadowlands but also in other tracks such as Yonkers,Monticello,Batavia,Buffalo,Goshen … Not as bad as Jai Alai or ” Rasslin'”(ahah!) but it is what it has been for decades. Many of us knew former owners who felt helpless as the veteran trainers and drivers kept on doing their thing,special favors. Omerta’ !

  2. Harness Racing does not corner the cheating market, unfortunately, and good for this gentleman who had the strength of his convictions and pursued litigation. Question: How many times were you denied a score when beaten by a Navarro or Servis trainee?

    1. I guess that whoever said that * Iff you are not t cheating you are not trying to win ” had a point. The Patriots coach ? Houston Astros manager ? That cheating
      bicycle rider,Armstrong?

      1. Read Something is rotten in Yonkers from HRU site in which it states that a perennial leading trainer,R Allard, has been charged with several wrongdoings. Hey,it is a private club and they make their own rules. MGM wasted $ 800 mils on that old barn,like I stated it before..

    2. Yep very good point. I have a simple rule of thumb when trying to assess who is juicing:

      if someone claims off Linda Rice and moves the horse way up in figs immediately, I am alert to the possibility of illegal doping.

      If someone claims off Linda Rice more than once and both horses’ figs immediately shoot way up, I am pretty sure why.

  3. It is 12:40 am and as I was looking for Yonkers results at the Empire Casino racing site there is the result of Only it’s first race. Checked the other places such as Drf,Otb and they only have three,3 ,yes 3 races! Something happened ? Did they shut it down ?Are the investigations worsening the
    Already bad image of this sport? When winning trainers like Barca and Allard are shut off you know that it Ain’t good news.. We just have to pretend on our old images of Roosevelt and the early days of the very successful,then,Meadowlands with it’s J.Campbell,M. La Chance and all others including a young George Brennan. This is no way to run a sport.MGM,you made a big investment in a lemon especially since the Racing in Elmont with Belmont, new hockey rink and all will kill your hopes of a better future in old Yonkers. There is no future there,just a miserable present with mothballs.

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