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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


I fell in love with horses as a young child. I instantly sensed the love returned when an animal many times larger than I nestled its nose into my chest. Later in life I learned that there is nothing more beautiful than a Thoroughbred in full gallop. However, horseracing is attempting to rip that love from my heart. I will not allow it.

The horseracing industry runs on a pack of lies, a bunch of swindles, hidden information, and many corrupt and illegal activities for the love of money, not for love of the horse. Bettors who do not consider larceny as a significant handicapping factor are destined to fail.

I will no longer support a fractured industry of disparate alphabet organizations now guided by greed. You have killed the game for me.

Leadership, a term I use very loosely, is hardly ever proactive, always reactive, preferring spin and a broom for sweeping things under a rug.

This is no way to run a sport or business, unless the intent is to run it into the ground.

This column was to run OCT 29, but I have wrestled with it and with my emotions. I walked away from it. I got angry, sad, depressed, ambivalent, and in the end, extremely disappointed by an industry that provided me a livelihood.

I am not walking away from horses, but I am walking away from horseracing.

I was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, home of the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax and the neighborhood that provided the set for Jackie Gleason’s famous TV show, The Honeymooners.

There was no Internet. Grandmothers and great grandmothers ran the social network. They sat and watched from their stoops and always knew what was going on their block. Your mother knew where you were, whom you were with, and what you did before you got home.

Koufax came around more than a decade before I did but we swam and played ball at the same community center. He was a local, a national hero by the time I began to participate. Baseball was king in my Borough of Kings, well before my first encounter with the Sport of Kings.

Motorized vehicles had replaced horses before my childhood in the 1950’s, yet some horse-drawn carts of the icemen, milkmen and knife sharpeners still roamed the streets of Brooklyn.

Mark Berner feeding Pleasant Pastures in Climax. NY: photo Susan Kayne

It was a different era, and the horses were different, too.

Voices repeatedly told viewers during the Breeders’ Cup telecast that breeders are the backbone of the industry. Breeders, in fact, start the problems that face Thoroughbred racing.

These people breed fragile horses because the long, thin-pasterned animal is lighter and prettier to look at than the blocky, sturdy, durable horses of the past.

US breeding stock is mostly comprised of fast animals that do not make it in racing past the ages of two or three because they were not sound. Yes, some are too valuable to race after achieving a degree of greatness, but breeders use the name recognition of flashy young colts, selling speed instead of sustained quality, stamina and the long-term durability necessary for top breeding stock.

It’s fair to ask: Have the Raise A Native’s been ruining the sport since the sixties? Speed is the way to quick money that today’s drive-thru owners seek but it is no way to run a sport or industry for future generations .

It does not matter if you knew Mongolian Groom. I did not. But I did know horses now buried in infields of racetracks and in Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. I walked shedrows and I pet them on their heads. Now they are dead.

It has happened a thousand times before and will again. Modalities must change.

“Unless this happens again, I won’t miss anything,” said Berner.: photo

I made the decision to walk away from a 44-year career at the racetrack but not my 47-year association with horses. And this happened before the Breeders’ Cup; Mongolian Groom was not the tipping point.

It happened slowly over the past few years as I wrote about rescue, slaughter and drugs. What put me off most is the great number of industry people who favor the latter two.

Worst of all, first there were 600, then 800, and maybe now over a thousand concerned industry stakeholders who stand steadfast in their support of using drugs daily on racehorses. Their concern is monetary, not equine.

The game is rigged at every level, with rampant cheating its finest art form. It lacks sufficient enforcement because the drug testing labs do not even know what drugs to look for. Racing will always chase pharmacology but it can keep up better with improved rules and better enforcement.

A sign of the times: photo Mark Berner

Get the horses off drugs and stop trying to shift the blame. The game doesn’t need artificial racetrack surfaces, it needs real horsemen.

The industry is on life support. Gambling dollars drive this game and the wagering is supposed to be pari-mutuel. However, when huge syndicates are allowed direct access to the pools, they take the mutuel part out of the equation.

Whales kill the game for the average bettor but absent their funds there isn’t enough money wagered to support the game. Without a new business model, meaningful and sensible innovation, this business is doomed.

The industry has a huge image problem, an overpriced product, and is awash in its own sewage of lies. The industry’s ability to enact the slowment of truth is waning and I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.

I have friends with horses at their farms and can hug them anytime. Yes, I’m a horse hugger. Everyone should be. Feel the energy of love and serenity of trading brainwaves and you will know why these sentient beings connect so well with humans, especially the handicapped.

Mahatma Ghandi said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” The measurement for horseracing is how it treats its weakest members, the horses.


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⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

96 Responses

  1. Well, horseracing industry, you’ve done it again, congratulations! Your intransigence has compelled HorseRaceInsider’s managing editor, Mark Berner, to quit you.

    When we first spoke about his leaving, he termed it retirement. The rub is that he already was retired, from American Teletimer, then from Newsday, a total of 43 years in and around the game.

    And this after a half century of devotion to horses that began when he walked harness horses, then worked as a groom, starting where all wannabe racetrackers do, mucking stalls.

    We became NYRA press box friends over 40 years ago and, as unofficial racing editor, I was so impressed by his passion and useful handicapping knowledge that I offered him space in our comprehensive racing section.

    The competition among Newsday, the Daily News and NY Post racing coverage was fierce back in the day. The papers cared about the horse racing market at a time when fans got virtually all sports news from newspapers.

    At one time, Newsday was paying five people to cover horse racing in various disciplines. Now racing fans are lucky if their local newspaper, if it still exists, prints entries and results. Thank heavens for the Internet.

    Berner created a unique feature, an “Out-Well” column. At the end of every race, he stopped the timer to allow posting of the final race time but allowed the system to extend one more furlong, which effectively put an accurate watch on horses galloping out.

    It was unique, groundbreaking. A horse might have finished fifth, but if it galloped out another furlong past the wire in 13 seconds or less, this informational nugget often produced some nice future payoffs.

    We stayed in touch. Several years ago he agreed to write the occasional column when the spirit moved him. During our Newsday tenure, we were fortunate enough to win several awards as co-authors; one from Associated Press, another from United Press International.

    In less than two years after making his first contribution, Mark became HRI’s managing editor and we reprised our editorial partnership, Mark doing the bulk of the research, me the bulk of the writing. And did it ever work.

    Two examples stand out. Because of his NHL contacts, he scooped everyone, including our old alma mater and CH-12, Long Island’s local cable-TV outlet, when it came to the process of building the new Islanders Arena at Belmont Park.

    Of greater significance was the reporting we did with a Cornell University geneticist who shared her three-continent peer-reviewed findings on the relationship between historical genetic structure and its effect on modern equine-injury predisposition.

    Suddenly, stories began to appear in industry-controlled or influenced media. Apparently, it touched a nerve and wagons began to circle. Lexington-based Jockey Club lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to Dr. Nena Winand, strongly suggesting she not share her findings with HRI any longer.

    Jockey Club President and CEO Jim Gagliano sent us emails stating that our information was incorrect, the findings false, “poorly reported,” in essence “fake news,” the battle cry of autocrats the world over.

    The Jockey Club responded with scientists refuting Dr. Winand’s findings. We had our expert; they had theirs. They had a “duty to warn” industry stakeholders re Dr. Winand’s earlier research which, at the time it was issued, was not refuted, yet they did not.

    So, now Berner has retired, again, tired of fighting the good fight for little or no remuneration, simply for the love of the game. He invested money in the HRI 2.0 project and walked away before even recouping his investment.

    He grew weary of the spin, reflexive and predictable push-back, the lack of transparency, selfish horsemen who might provide devoted care but worship at the altar of the bottom line and just plain outright lies.

    Berner will now devote his time advocating for the horse, but not horse racing. He’s already walked that talk by investing $500 into a partnership where all purse earnings went into a racehorse aftercare program. “Profits’ would be reinvested the following year.

    An industry lost a friend today, one who wanted to leave it in a better place; they lost a bettor, and they lost a spokesperson for the sport. HRI lost one-third of its staff and readers lost another voice that spoke to and for them.

    HRI will continue to soldier on. The Deity will decide when it’s done. Until then we’ll continue turning the page, as we do after every losing wager.

    Damn all the stakeholders who, in their heart of hearts, know exactly what I’m talking about but refuse to do something truly meaningful to fix it.

    1. Johnny,
      It’s never over till it’s over, never say never, and the converse, always say maybe…miss Yogi and Jackie. When you think you write and when you write you don’t stop thinking, so retirement is relative thought. I will always think and write but I’ll write as an advocate of the horse and not horseracing.
      We’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with a lot of love and not without some bumps. I’m sure it will continue on many levels.
      It’s been a long, strange trip and I’m sure it’s not over yet.

      1. Don’t lose hope. Horseracing is going to reform. Since NYRA is the cesspool of Horseracing with Churchill Downs in close pursuit or Santa Anita and Gulfstream thse are the racetracks with the biggest criminal elements. I am so sorry to see that you have retired. But living in New York and trying for reform there is very dangerous. I just stumbled on this excellent site: HRI. This column is the best I have ever seen. Sorry to see you go. Much love to you for all your efforts. Other people will carry on the fight for drastic reform of horseracing.

      1. They breed what the market demands. I am not saying they don’t have responsibility. But really it is all one big stew. Trainers and owners buying more responsibly and breeders producing the more responsible product. Several large breeders tried to breed sounder horses and stand those type of stallions over the last 10-15 years and the market absolutely rejected both.

          1. Mark, I got out of the business 30 years ago as an owner when I saw the use of drugs becoming more
            pervasive. I had a long and successful run with my horses when the best “hop” was running a horse in the right spot, and giving it the R&R when needed. Today’s “magicians” who regularly win at 25% would be lucky to win at a 10% clip.
            The powers that be turn their cheeks the other way. Eliminate all drugs a week prior to racing and you will have a stronger more durable horse. Anytime a horse is fed a pain killer or an enhancement drug, it will run as hard as it can… it’s detriment in the long term.

  2. I have nothing to add. It comes to this: if you love the horses first and the sport second; I have (in a great partnership) one trotter to race in 2020. She will have a permanent home, if and when necessary. I hope to buy another prospect or two next year. Today I tried to save the life of another royally bred but failed trotter with which I had no connection. That didn’t go well. If you aren’t in the game for a quick ROI or a tax write-off, it will break you. I can live with the sport by taking responsibility for my horses.

    1. Nena-
      I’m so glad my Bloodlines piece brought us together. Thanks for all you do.
      My new place is only 150 miles from you. We’ll have to make a plan.

  3. Hey John (and Mark), walking the hallowed halls of Belmont Park and the old wood stands of Saratoga back in the 70’s and 80’s , did you ever think you’d live to see it come to this ?

    I didn’t .

    1. Jim-
      No way. I did thnk OTB would cause contraction, but didn’t think it would turn out this way.

    1. John-
      Thanks. Someone had to say it. I’m glad we spent one of my last days at the track together, and the ride home through the mountains and Manhattan was priceless.

  4. No way Jim. In fact, in the ’70s, winning the Triple Crown was getting to become old hat.

    Now, it is the game that has become old hat, sadly not in a good way.

    I truly believe it will survive but I confess I may be leading with my heart on this one.

    Just thought of something. Mark and I were sharing some herb in the car after the races in the Belmont parking lot before heading home for the evening.

    It was the early 80s. We agreed that someday there would be 5-10 tracks left in the major markets. We’re not there yet but the game is contracting, it has to.

    The best approach IMO? Every track, even the biggest ones, agree to race four days per week but with schedules that avoid conflicts as best as possible.

    Scrap that; I’m an idiot. We can’t even get tracks to coordinate post times.

  5. I hate to hear about anyone who leaves the horse racing business, especially a sportswriter who can help make a difference. I have noticed that there no sports page in any paper around a local racetrack that writes stories about the smaller trainers or jockeys anymore. All you hear or read about are the stakes horses and often you only hear or read about the graded stakes. Gone are the articles about the mom and pop operators who’s small stable of horses might only consist of ten horses or less and they are only about the mega stables with hundreds of horses at several different tracks running at the same time. We need to get back to the times of the real horsemen who knows each and every horse on sight and usually can tell the history of the horse and all about its pedigree.

    1. Billy-
      I will still advocate for horses, but not horseracing. The indusstry can sperak for itself, though it is currently doing a pitiful job.

  6. There are two areas that need real work if racing is to endure. First there needs to be a concerted effort to rout out the cheaters. If they happen to be some of the biggest names in the industry, so be it, they are taking the bulk of the purses and leaving little for the real horsemen. Remove them and those real horsemen will get their share and step up to improve the breed and the racing with their new found legally won purse money. This will not be easy, first there needs to be found a body or association of concerned people to do the investigations. They will need backing from the governing bodies and the evidence must be clear. If proven, those cheaters would be ruled off the racetracks permanently.

    Secondly America needs to import some stallions and mares from the United Kingdom and France, who have stamina in their blood. Look at the pedigrees of the top European horses and you will see old time breeding, stamina and soundness bred into the progeny.

    Princequillo luckily arrived in America in the 1940s and instilled some stamina to the breed at that time and it was badly needed. From Princequillo we got Round Table who produced King Pellinore,Advocator, King’s Bishop, He’s a Smoothie, Upper Case and Tell, not to mention a plethora of sound mares who added to the breed for decades. Princequillo also produced Hill Prince, Dedicate, Prince John, who produced Silent Screen and Stage Door Johnny, Quill who produced Caucasus and One for all and Quill a mare who produced Old Bob Bowers who gave us John Henry.

    There are many stallions in England by Galileo and his sons and daughters, Montjeu’s progeny, Dubawi, Shirley Height and many others who should be imported to breed to the fast American horses and instill some stamina and soundness to the breed.

    Look at the advances that the Japanese and Australians have made in the past few decades. Look at the pedigrees of their horses and you will find the names of many European stallions who are bettering their breeds quickly. North American racing is killing itself with the dedication only to speed that produces horses who only have two or three races to give before they break down.

  7. Hey Mark,
    It’s been many years since we first met at Aqueduct. It was then that you also introduced me to John. I was returning to Teletimer after being away for a number of years. They sent me to you for a refresher as an operator. I continued in racing both timing and photo finish until I retired a couple of years back. I was fortunate to travel and work at many tracks and meet some unique personalties over the years. It’s unfortunate, that the industry no longer resembles horse racing from years past. It was a lot more fun back then. Thanks again for the refresher.
    Good luck in the future.

    1. Charlie-
      Good to hear from you. I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people at the races, too. Today’s game is a sorry replica of its glorious past.

  8. TTT

    Mark, the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness with respect to the game that you portray are felt by many, no doubt. Racing, right along with society, has devolved into a drug culture, and it may be too late to turn it around. We drug our women so they don’t have babies, and so they can cope with depression and stress; we drug our children so they don’t annoy us with their loveable hyperactivity; we drug our horses instead of nurturing them to their peak physical performance. I defy you to turn on the television and go 5 minutes without a drug commercial. Drugs are big business, and the drug lobby will fight tooth and nail to keep their cash cow, not caring that it kills horses. Persons writing in the strongest of terms to lobby against the drugging of horses just does not exist. Am in a position at this point in my life, to assist with any program or organization that might be able to make that change; please contact me if there is some kind of administrative work that I could do to help.

    I understand that the system has been rigged so that the horseman can pull the plug on simulcasting if they don’t get exactly what they want; tantamount to a little child taking the only ball in a sandlot baseball game, and running home with it when he doesn’t get his way. Not knowledgeable with the intricacies of these things, but it seems to me that someone must take the first step to ban the drug Lasix.

    Had a dream last night after reading your article, that to get around the horseman, one major track started a new program that paid purse money based on the handle of the race reaching a certain level. This level would be impossible to reach without the simulcasting money. The level could be made low enough to ensure that as long as simulcast money was coming in, the level would be reached. If they pulled the plug on simulcast money, they would get a vastly reduced amount for the purse. In addition, tracks would make the initial purse 70% of what they intended it to be, and would pay the other 30% to horses that ran without Lasix. In addition, the Federal government would also make that 30% tax free monies. There is no doubt in my mind that you would soon see trainers/owners abandoning Lasix.

    Do not think that all people that drug horses are bad; many just do not know any better.

    Thanks Mark

    1. Teddy-
      Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream, but if NHBPA pulls the plug on simulcastingt the purses will drop like that without any agreements. I think the racetracks can afford to hold out longer than horsemen.
      You don’t need to drug a sound horse, so I have to disagree with you there.
      Many things need fixing, but drug-free racing is a good place to start. That in itself will help weed out the unsound horses from the racing stock.

  9. MB,
    No one has influenced my interest and involvement in Thoroughbred racing to a greater extent than you have during your tenure here at HRI.

    Thanks for all the entertainingly eloquent opinions you’ve shared, and which fueled my appetite for more of your work.

    The realization that we are losing so valuable a source of recognizable truth and enlightenment is almost unbearable, though completely understandable.

    Yours is the rare voice that makes a difference.


    1. I-
      Thanks. Writers think, thus we write. I’ll be around advocating for the horse, but will no longer support racing. Truth will win!

    1. Jon-
      I know you have deep roots in animal rescue and this must be as hard for you as it was for me. The steadfast NHBPA with its drug-first attitude will bring down the game unless the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 is changed. That’s the legislation the industry should go after, not the DOA HIA bill TJC supports. I suppose it looks like good PR to back it, but we know it has no chance to ever become law.

  10. I wish you would reconsider your leaving HRI, as I also enjoyed your commentary; in fact I never was able to write a rebuttal to any of your comments to my chagrin. Today, though, I believe I finally can rebut a finding you expressed. But first I agree that the industry is and has been on life support from casino, sponsor, and state funding for years. I also have been looking diligently for the geeks with computer programs that make last minute bets driving odds down as the horses load while driving up the odds of the horse I bet. But, your writing that ‘whales kill the game for the average bettor’ simply makes no sense to me. Without whales handle would be miniscule; the fact that they receive a rebate only follows a generally accepted business fact, rampant in our capitalistic system. If I were a whale I would expect a rebate. BTW, what defines the average bettor?

    I am wagering virtually every day and have just finished the most profitable month of November ever thanks to Paco, Feargal, Kendrick, Luis, and Frankie P; and am still winning at a 30% rate (doubles and win bets only).

    Nothing is going to change until the life support funding is stopped and racetrack management finally is forced to earn profits from racing operations.

  11. WMC-
    It was a hard decision and I’ve wrestled with it for some time. My heart is with the horse and I will continue to advocate for them. However, I no longer have any interest in racing and watching horses die. Yes, those horses the breeders, owners and trainers love just like their children. They’d all get locked up and social services would take away their kids if the loaded them up with a sinkful of drugs to perform in any athletic competition.

  12. Do believe the one thing that all of us above is that we’re all a bit longer in the tooth, some lengthier than others. But if those with the ability to change things for the better–i.e. horse’s and bettors’ quality of life–don’t, due to short-term bottom line considerations, this will all end.

    There’s something else all the above have in common besides age; it’s passion! Two things; who is going to replace us when we’re gone? And it will not be easy to create passion for newcomers who have no idea how good it was in the ’70s and ’80s, who good it can be once again. But it will be painful.

    Much of the above is grist for future mills; thanks one and all. Now gotta’ go, the game and recent developments at HRI have turned me into a one-arm paperhanger.

  13. JP-
    Turning my passion into a career was a dream that’s now a nightmare.
    I’d like to take it down, but I’m not sure if I use catagory 1 or 2.

  14. Marko, maybe you’ll have better luck working outside the system, and your advocating work will always be a welcome story here.

    But I’m going to stay the course. Who knows? Maybe someday…

  15. Two extremely heartfelt commentaries of late at HRI. “Latter Day Thanksgiving in America” and “This is the End My Friends” are both worth reading several times over. Both articles capture well the decline of thoroughbred racing and indeed the basic shift in fabric of our society as well. I would like add to your engaging comments, the recently imposed fines administered by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division against several high profile New York Trainers. Apparently not only is unbridled equine greed impacting the industry detrimental to the equines involved (thinking of yet another high profile Fair Grounds trainer on a drug suspension at this point), the WHD also recently levied fines against several NY trainers for back wage hourly payment violations. Chad Brown was cited for violations against nearly 350 “low paid” back stretch workers. Chad Brown has agreed to pay $1,617,67 in fines. Kieran McLaughlin’s operation violated an additional 89 employees. Linda Rice another 113, and James Jerkins an additional 17. Enough is enough! This all brings to mind the lyrics of Empty Chairs and Empty Tables. Soon enough there may be no need for the Stewards to turn the lights on. No reason to review any replay film. Soon enough with all of deception involved it may become game over, and the Overseers of the Racing Industry will have only themselves to blame.

    I commend John and Mark for all of their dedication, but I suspect the existing unchecked corruption will end in the destruction of this wonderful sport.

  16. McD-
    Drugs, corruption, greed and mismanagement are a recipe for disaster.
    NYSGC is about to drop the hammer on Rice and another you mentioined, I can’t say who, will have more than labor problems according to my sources.
    Anyplace there is money, there is corruption, greed and some mismanagement. I don’t think that’ll be racing’s downfall. I think it will be drugs. The industry can’t get off them and the public won’t stand for that as long as horses die on their TV’s and YouTube.
    I suggested to John, tongue in cheek, that horseracihng should adopt a new slogan, ‘Hey, at least we’re not Bullfighting’.

  17. Good luck Mark, I don’t follow the horses but I enjoyed your coverage of the arena at Belmont and I hope you get to see some games there and maybe a Cup raising game for the Isles, once again good luck and thanks.

    1. Tag-
      I’ll be around advocating for horses, but not racing. I’ll also be at Isles games. Check in with Pat, The Sign Man, and he’ll know where I’m sitting. Come say hello!

  18. MB, So agree with you and John, especially on the aspect of race day meds. Seems of late, most runners, save a few foreign entries, even at the Grade 1 level, are most often all Scarlet Lettered tagged “L”. Maybe the game should be adjusted to a system where weight allowances be allowed for all horses simply running clean. I used to lightheartedly joke that when talking about horses, that you also needed to pay attention to the all the related “oats” being sold, as many of the oats being offered, had already been through the horse. In the case of race day meds, the suspect “oats” in question have indeed already been cycled through the horse.

  19. Your article spoke aloud the words I’ve been quietly saying for quite sometime. Thank you for writing it. The world needs to hear!

    1. Deb-
      You’re welcome. I needed to say it and I’m glad to speak for you and all who feel the same.

  20. Freddie-
    Harness racing has solidified on the drug front and it’s not a position of strength.

  21. I have been see-sawing between HRI and HRW online and you are getting a lot of kudos over there. I know little of the debate but appreciate you for your writing chops. Like you and JP I was lucky (well, maybe not that lucky at the windows) to have jumped in to the game in early ’70’s. First bet was one night at an OTB on 14th St. Of course it won and that was the end of me. A pacer at RR named Rebel Butler with Herve. How I knew to bet on The General is a mystery but it was the correct choice. Years of Cam Fella, General Skipper, Abercrombie, Falcon Almahurst, et al followed paired with Forego, Slew, Private Terms, all monsters. Carmine “The Red Man” was a superstar. Have sinced “retired” from wagering but still turn on the TVG to see these beautiful creatures run. Thanks for fighting the good fight. Jim Morrison was also a favorite and your headline is an “instant classic.” Hope JP doesn’t follow up with “When the Music’s Over…”

    1. Mal-
      Not sure it’s time to turn off the lights. However, if racing doesn’t get its act together, I can see it on the horizon.
      I started with harness horses in the early 70’s and moved to Tbreds later that decade. My late wife used to cut school to go see qualfiers at RR.
      I’ve been at it for a long time and will continue to advocate for the horse but not the game.

      1. I told a fella who is a regular at Big A about your column and he said, “I know him, he used to be at Sports Eye as a handicapper.” I met John at a contest in PA in late 70’s. Beyer was there, Russ Harris, etc. along with JP, professional writers who were “invitees” and therefore did not have to pay the entry fee and added cachet to the inaugural WSH (World Series of Handicapping). The only reason I was there was as a “driver” for a truck dispatcher from the Bronx who offered me “20% of his winnings” to bring him to Penn Nat’l and back when the 3-day event was over. He won it all on the last race by betting on Jeffrey LLoyd who an old-timer in NY told him was an up and comer. That’s what I call “inside information,” ha, ha. Good luck in future endeavors. P.S. Marty Blum was the person who won the contest. Talk about a racetrack character. Marty was an “angle” player who would most certainly have known about all the shenanigans and made his selections accordingly. Good luck to you with future endeavors.

    2. You, DOORS aficionados,are bringing more memories back [ “This is the End”,When the Music is Over’..] just like the apex,x me,of Horse racing,that is the late 70`s to the mid 80`s when Jorge Velazquez was jockey of the year and that California trainer with dark glasses was trainer of the year while i was playing at the New Haven Teletrak, a better joint than any ones that i had seen on L.I. and only comparable to the one in Albany. Closing with ‘Riders on the Storm’,,,,,PS; Congrats to Pricci for the Remsen gimmick,,When visiting New York both dailies ‘public handicappers’ had a losing streak of over a dozen races while Pricci gets the right gimmick in one shot, a day in advance. Cin Cin !

      1. Show me the way to the next whiskey bar, oh don’t ask why. Jorge “Georgie” Velazquez has been spotted in Player’s Club at Big A. My friend asked him about Alydar. Cordero, Velazquez, Baeza, Vasquez (although I lost a bundle on him in Belmont when Shoe won on bomb Avatar. Two jumps past wire Foolish Pleasure was in front and my money was gone). Thanks a lot, Jacinto!

        1. Not an aggressive rider,more less like Eddie Maple was but with better horses to choose from. It`s still debatable how important a jockey is ,in general,.Some give them small percentage points sprints and more on routes and unless my memory is shot sprints were not his game . J.L.Samyn was a turf ‘specialist’ but really wonder if he really was. Julie Krone comes to mind esp. with Fillies/Mares.Former bug wonder boy Cauthen was good at any distance then went to GB after a slow pit stop on the west coast.Among today`s jockeys J.Castellano could be compared to Jorge Velazquez.Today`s John Velazquez has slowed down choosing only big races with horses by a couple of famous trainers besides Fletcher. Lexcano,Alvarado remain two of my fav$/Roi in New York. Ortiz Bros? Eh,they get to choose among several good mounts not unlike someone who`s hungry looking at the big expensive buffet table.Their ROI is low; overbet most of the time.

          1. Speaking of expensive buffet tables, I wanted to try the seafood buffet at The Rio in LV but then I saw the price. Remember old Vegas when Circus Circus buffet had long lines and the venue was the size of two football fields. Very inexpensive but they wanted you to plunk down a lot more at slots. Those deals are long gone. Cauthen’s stop in Cali was a flop as I recall. Samyn “on the green” and The Julie Girl were especially good on turf. Ok, Julie was good on everything. Only woman in Racing’s Hall of Fame as a jockey. Jean Cruguet had a good mount in Slew. Purchased for 17.5k as yearling. Like winning Mega Millions.

  22. Mark- the moment you posted your resignation letter/article, you became a hero to those of us advocating for race horses. We are a rational, educated bunch shocked and saddened by what we’ve seen. When we question the industry, we are labeled “extremists and PETA-lovers.”
    We can only imagine the angst you’ve felt over time in coming to this courageous decision. You are in a unique position to make a difference. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    1. I’m guided by conscience and spoke my mind. I’m not looking to be a hero, but I’ll live with that if I can make a difference for the horses.

  23. Thank you, Mr. Berner, just thank you.
    I’m now retired from a 35-year R.N. career, where I was not-uncommonly covered –[i.e., a lot or a little!]– in patients’ blood; so I can appreciate the amount of ~**personal courage**~ it takes for you, particularly during this stage –[i.e., the last 1/3 of your life]– to say ………… “I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.”
    Although I’ve had to ask for forgiveness for my own [too-many!] personal flaws, what’s inspired me to keep going are the accounts of the lives of famous men and women who, [often on a really larger-than-life scale!], were almost-irrevocably flawed, but who ultimately found their own personal redemption BY changing those raging tsunamis of ~wrongs/cruelty/all kinds of wretched evil~ around them INTO something different, which was simply ………… good ………… kind ………… and, most of all ………… humanely just, you know.

    1. Rosanna-
      A lot of people have spoken of courage, but I’m guided by my conscience and was complelled to write it.
      I’ve been there with blood all over me from a horse that died in my arms.

  24. The beginning of the end of horseracing began with the CASINO’S!! My father-in-law worked at Garden State Park for years and saw so much dirt, not just on the floor kind, but, real dirty deals!! I love horseracing! I go to Parx Race Track when they have live racing. It is dying slowly. Brakes my heart. Thank you, Mr. Berner for this very sorry last “GOOD BY” I too love horses. Had an Arabian when I was young!! Talk about fast!! Whoa! She was speedy! Take care and never stop holding a horse’s head to your heart. God Bless You!

    1. Francine-
      I still love horses, but not horseracing. I’m involved with rescue and will continue to advocate for the horse.

      1. Dear Mark, I too am so sick and tired of cruel people in any area of animals being treated with such mean ways. I still love horse racing, but, I don’t go as much as I used to. Horses are born to run. Is there anything more beautiful than seeing a firster win their first race? Well, I just feel in my bones its almost the end of all Horse Racing in this country. Football, Baseball and all the rest human games and, lets not forget the Casinos that were going to save the Sport Of Kings, will do it in. I hope I’m not around at that bitter end. I hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and Peace, Health and Love in the New Year!!

    2. MS Francine ,you remind me of when i was playing at the Delaware track when they forced the pols/public to install a casino there or ” Thousands of people would lose their jobs” by shutting it down.I`m sure that the same Modus Operandi has been applied in many “new casinos “.Lost respect and Integrity with many former patrons who don`t like to sit in front of “one- armed bandits ” where now too many pensioners,retired men ,and especially women, spend their $ instead of being at home,,[alone]. Entertainment or Baby-sitting? X me,it`s the latter because ‘doin` something ‘ has become expensive and addictive; a silent addiction not different than that of senior alcoholics.It`s their [hard earned] $$. Not a casino patron,i only used a few coins there in AC and in Conn. while awaiting for the buffet offerings,,.I get that at the movies and even them keep on over glorifying their casinos images.. an unrealistic,sad,tragic farce.

  25. Thank you, Mr. Berner. Really, thank you.
    I’m now retired from a 35-year R.N. career, where I was not-uncommonly covered –[i.e., a lot or a little!]– in patients’ blood; so I can appreciate the amount of ~**personal courage**~ it takes for you, particularly during this stage –[i.e., the last 1/3 of your life]– to say ………… “I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.”
    Although I’ve had to ask for forgiveness for my own [too-many!] personal flaws, what’s inspired me to keep going are the accounts of the lives of famous men and women who, [often on a really larger-than-life scale!], were almost-irrevocably flawed, but who ultimately found their own personal redemption BY changing those raging tsunamis of ~wrongs/cruelty/all kinds of wretched evil~ around them INTO something different, which was simply ………… good ………… kind ………… and, most of all ………… humanely just, you know.

    1. ***NOTE: Hi!! Mr. Berner’s previous reply –[i.e., see Below]– to my Comment must’ve somehow gotten erased; so, here it is again!:

      (Avatar) Rosanna says:
      December 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm
      Thank you, Mr. Berner, just thank you.
      I’m now retired from a 35-year R.N. career, where I was not-uncommonly covered –[i.e., a lot or a little!]– in patients’ blood; so I can appreciate the amount of ~**personal courage**~ it takes for you, particularly during this stage –[i.e., the last 1/3 of your life]– to say ………… “I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.”
      Although I’ve had to ask for forgiveness for my own [too-many!] personal flaws, what’s inspired me to keep going are the accounts of the lives of famous men and women who, [often on a really larger-than-life scale!], were almost-irrevocably flawed, but who ultimately found their own personal redemption BY changing those raging tsunamis of ~wrongs/cruelty/all kinds of wretched evil~ around them INTO something different, which was simply ………… good ………… kind ………… and, most of all ………… humanely just, you know.

      (Avatar) Mark Berner – Inside New York says:
      December 7, 2019 at 9:15 am
      A lot of people have spoken of courage, but I’m guided by my conscience and was compelled to write it.
      I’ve been there with blood all over me from a horse that died in my arms.

  26. I was ready to go out and bag some leaves when i noticed your note and Had to leave my thoughts on this since i just came back from L.I. and playing for a couple of days at the local Suffolk OTB off ‘110’ south of where the once venerable newspaper for which you,mister Berner and Pricci were making selections moons ago. When i entered the joint and asked for where the previous races results were, they all lokked at each other as if i had come down from the Moon.After asking each other why’ the results ‘ were not posted the Mgr said i ‘It`s only four of us’ ,,we can`t put them up,,,which races you want ?” Meanwhile two of the four ‘people at work’ were reading newspapers` gossip pages while awaiting for customers,,a few minutes later the machine that i was using failed to spit out my voucher with $ in it. The Mgr ,after puffing and huffing about going through the dozen or so tickets in the machine she asks me’ Whose ticket is it ? ” Xqzme? My grandma`s,of course! What kind of question is that since i`ve been playing for the last few races at Aquaduct? My patron acquaintances start laughing,making that overpaid and more than likely’ recommended and connected’ lady more upset.If i used that ticket before ,whose ticket was supposed to be and,what does it have to do with being stuck in the machine? Between races i was watching how they still treat those few and ever elderly patrons as ignorant fools,and yes,losers because they take the crap worse than when OTB opened up an office right next to my firs pizza joint in Copiague, in the mid 70`s. In those days they did not have time to read papers,there were a lot more customers in that smoke filled room. Then Lasix came and Bute and everything changed including patrons` presence and trust.Oscar Barrera Jr was not the only one ‘fooling’ with meds.Up until i was following trainers in New York i`ll never forget how a trainer[ R.R.] did much better at Aquaduct than at the beautiful Belmont track. So ,Berner only reminded me that after millions of former patrons have either died,left New York and that many newspapers have followed suit,especially in the last 10-15 years i still notice bottom barrel claimers from small tracks and wonder what really happens in them and what happened in those stables if the ‘big time shows’ like Santa Anita and others keep on raising suspicion ,both on winners and losers.Are so many of those patrons so ‘addicted’ that they go along betting on several races and tracks just because ‘they`re there’ as if being close to a Buffet table and eating everything on site whether it will cause harm,indigestion no matter if the PP`s will cost you no less that $ 9 a copy.I should look again at a movie with James Caan,’The Gambler’ where near the end of the movie he goes into a blind alley knowing that he will be beaten up,robbed and worse..Wonder why anyone should support something that insults your intelligence.logic,,just because they`ve done it to you for so many yrs…Where i live now,and for over 30 yrs,there`s no mutual horse gambling even though i live between two towns known for horse racing. If it were not for some visiting relatives in NEW York and some “oldies but goodies patterns” i too would be away from those offices,,so i wont have to bother their gossipy info while they`re killing the clock and counting the benefits while the patrons are diminishing and getting older by the minutes,,No trust,no reputation,bad service,no respect,neglect,no responsibility,,,and they want to Invest in a NEW Casino in Medford? Ahahahaha! And who do they think will come to them with these continual non caring attitudes and bad reputation and record ? Is [the remaining,and older public] so depressed ? Snap out of it ! BTWay,on the Remsen race,”My Nonno`s system” won again.,,but like the late Dick Mitchell wrote ” Don`t tell anyone,they all will think of you as a FOOL”Mr.Berner, you mentioned many times ‘Closing well’ is good about a horse,,and even for an adult human being who`s tired of being taken x a[expensive] ride. Burn that saddle. Best wishes to all

  27. You, DOORS aficionados,are bringing more memories back [ “This is the End”,When the Music is Over’..] just like the apex,x me,of Horse racing,that is the late 70`s to the mid 80`s when Jorge Velazquez was jockey of the year and that California trainer with dark glasses,Wayne Lucas was trainer of the year while i was playing at the New Haven Teletrak, a better joint than any ones that i had seen on L.I. and only comparable to the one in Albany. Closing with ‘Riders on the Storm’,,,,,PS; Congrats to Pricci for the Remsen gimmick,,When visiting New York both dailies ‘public handicappers’ had a losing streak of over a dozen races while Pricci gets the right gimmick in one shot, a day in advance. Cin Cin !

  28. That Gandhi quote is one of my favorites, and more prescient today than ever.

    In terms of your column, it really hits hard. I had to laugh when you mentioned that the horse racing industry needs horsemen; I then flip through my database and see Jason Servis’ win percentage (to point out one of many), and shake my head. They didn’t start the fire, but they couldn’t be more eager to feast on the burning corpse.

    And if every other issue from basic humanity to drug masking didn’t already turn off a handicapper, then the syndicates getting direct access to dump in their algorithm generated last second bets should do it. What is the point in handicapping anymore when the 6/1 overlay at the gate is 7/2 when the odds next flash out of the gate? Why do I sit there Saturday morning in Longshots or Equestris calculating exacta overlays based on my odds line when the overlaid $32 combo walking to the gate will be spotted by their computers and banged down to $24?

    1. Not unlike the stock market which has been called “the world’s largest casino.” Trades made in milliseconds and the little guy has no chance. I used to chart exactas and then realized it was, at least for me, a fool’s errand. Then I went to playing numbers, ha, ha. One of my “systems” was to key the extreme outside horse with the three or four to his/her inside. For example, 10 with 6,7,8,9. Hit once at Remington (or was it Lone Star) and the outside top horse was 50-1. Thought I was sitting on a big hit and then when the payoff was posted I realized the pool was so low I was lucky to get what I got. Tough game.

    1. HRC-
      Thank you, but I’m done with racing. However, I’m not done with horses. I will advocate for them and I’m working with a rescue farm in upstate New York named Unbridled.

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