In the Thoroughbred racing industry, justice it just a seven-letter word. It’s no different in meaning than its antonyms; words like prejudice or inequality or bias or discrimination or unfairness or any other description one can conjure.
Racing rules and penalties are set by willfully ignorant political appointees who in the end do what they’re told, and they commit their crimes of omission behind closed doors.
California resolves that anytime positives are found, it’s the result of innocent contamination and they decide so behind closed doors, saying never mind that Justify exited his Santa Anita Derby win with a positive.
They’ll simply sit on that news and wait for the Kentucky Derby results, or maybe after the Preakness, or after a Triple Crown is won, or after he’s whisked off stage and into the breeding shed. Then don’t forget to close the door.
When Charlatan and Gamine tested positive for lidocaine, a pain numbing agent, it was because a talented horseman and trusted assistant was treating a personal backache, soothing it with Salonpas. And what happened next?
Gamine returned to win the Grade 1 Acorn by a mere 19 lengths. Charlatan can run whenever he wants, wherever he wants. The Arkansas Racing Commission sure took its sweet time with those drug samples. Split samples can take some time to affirm, a convenient coincidence.
And of seven equine sudden-deaths? Innocent victims of barn contamination, of course.
Simply stated, these were cases of justice denied or justice delayed. Only the Jordan Rules needed to apply here. We do what we want because we can.
The Kentucky Racing Commission was first stop in the framing of an innocent man because of a vendetta against a trainer who left high school early because he loved to work with horses. He had success and he rubbed the establishment’s nose in it.
Guilty: 10 years. We could care less about precedent or conflict of interest where members of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board implored Kentucky to get the license-revocation ball rolling by getting the Commonwealth to call Rick Dutrow in for a “get on the same page” meeting.
Not long thereafter, his name was stricken from the official Keeneland program for a horse he trained in a graded stakes race while the horses were on the track for the post parade. He was replaced on the spot because the KHRC had the power. Unprecedented, just like the 10-year revocation to follow.
While the stage was being set, a New York state investigator of dubious reputation planted syringes in the trainer’s desk draw inside his barn on the Aqueduct backstretch, from which no horse ever suffered a racing or training fatality at any New York Racing Association track for 11 straight years.
And so the trainer returned home for an administrative state hearing in which there is no presumption of innocence. The Queens District Attorney ultimately found that the state investigator who planted the evidence, corroborated by testimony from New York State Steward, perjured himself.
There were approximately 2,500 industry signatures calling for Dutrow’s reinstatement for time served. He had no wish to relitigate or embarrass the state, just a chance to make a living with the only thing he’s qualified to do; a Hall of Fame talent with a penchant for speaking out of turn.
The Kentucky Commission was ‘magnanimous’, allowing Dutrow to withdraw his license application so it wouldn’t appear that he applied and lost, thus further tarnishing the record: Pontius Pilate reincarnate.
And could you surmise that the KHRC has a precious policy whereby they “do not comment publicy on decisions” made in closed session. I was unaware but apparently transparency in the Commonwealth is a four-letter word.
Here’s the thing: Dutrow has three more years to serve on his 10-year revocation and the chances are he would win a lawsuit and be awarded mega-millions when all the truth that already has surfaced is duly considered and acted up.
What’s crazy is that the man whom I’ve gotten to know over six years would probably give all that up if he could work with horses again, signing any “special condition” placed before him.
What they fear is that he will return and when he wins at the same rate, the embarrassment only will further infuriate the powerful more.
For readers who may not have intimate knowledge of HRI, or learning about the Dutrow issue for the first time, this site lost two of its staffers this past year because they are convinced that fighting the good fight is a waste of time and that the status quo will continue to rule the day.
They probably are right and I’m the romantic simpleton, hoping against hope. Well it’s too late for me to stop now. If I did, I would feel that a half-century of my life’s work has been a complete waste of time.
I presently live in a country where a well-connected man convicted of seven felonies by a jury of his peers can have his sentence commuted while another without powerful contacts can be summarily ignored.
Further, he can be made to sit out a 10-year revocation based on a conspiracy of lies and planted evidence while the gentry, sans portfolio, can continue to hide behind closed doors.
Today I’m supposed to be excited because Saratoga opens tomorrow and the Haskell is being renewed Saturday? But I can’t be. This industry is cosmically inept and too many of its practices are corrupt; there’s just no other word for it.
It’s enough to make me sick; I wish it were enough to make me stop.