In the words of Thomas Sowell “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” Yet, horse racing does this on a continuing basis. The appointment of stewards and racing commissioners is done within a politically influenced system which shows little or no consideration for knowledge and expertise when selecting appointees. A few highly qualified individuals do slip through the tentacles of the “Good ole’ boys network however they represent a very small percentage of the total. This results in unqualified invertebrates making terrible decisions that do not serve the industry well in any sense of the word. Unfortunately this will continue to be the case until political influence is replaced with a protocol that promotes people of integrity, knowledge of the business and a sense of fair play in those positions.
It all came crashing down in Virginia today when the operator of Colonial Downs told the Virginia Racing Commission it will turn in its license and close due to the commissions failure to approve a newly proposed horsemen’s group. The existing horsemen’s group was unable to come to terms with Colonial Downs. I see this as another example of the inability of horsemen, as a group, to understand the basic tenets of business as they have in their disputes with management over the past fifty years. They can not bring themselves to understand that race track operators must be able to operate at a reasonable degree of profit in order to stay solvent. Greed pushes these horsemen to extreme measures in order to pursue their unrealistic goals and in most cases ,as was the case here, they negotiate themselves into a corner where they end up with nothing. Ignorance never was a good basis for negotiation.
What is it that causes the so called regulators of the California Horse Racing Board and the New York Gaming Commission to be so lax in their punishments? Can they not see past the plight of the violator? The rulings made by these agencies give no thought whatsoever to the plight of the many stakeholders deserving justice in these matters. To make things worse the stakeholders don’t even bother to complain. What is wrong with this scenario? Organizational support will not be forthcoming from the “Trainers’ Benevolent and Protective Association” because it is rife with a good old boys network and corruption. A few stand up and be counted type individuals need to speak out on these matters. Unfortunately they are few and far between and as long as the powers that be practice appeasement instead of regulation the status quo will not change.
The outrageous adjudication offered by the CHRB in O’Neill should certainly convince those with knowledge of the circumstances that the present system of regulators being appointed by governors and racing commissioners simply is not effective. Violators are slapped on the wrist for serious violations and then negotiate favorable conditions with their feeble regulators as to when they serve their suspensions. This type of behavior is totally unacceptable and unfortunately it proliferates. (See NYSGC vs O’Neill et al within the past two weeks.) I can’t begin to understand what sort of mindset exists with these so called regulators when they make these outrageous rulings. They simply do not regulate, they appease!
Is there a contagious disease circulating among stewards and racing commissioners that causes them to lose any will power they might have to do what is obviously the right thing? Could it be that they are demented to such an extent that they actually believe that their adjudications are appropriate i.e. their punishments equal the crimes? What kind of people appoint stewards and racing commissioners who consistently perform their appointed duties in such an egregious manner? Politicians who know nothing about the racing industry and even less about the stewards and racing commissioners they appoint. Now come those clowns in New York with a forty five day suspension and ten thousand dollar fine for trainer Doug O’neill, the suspension to be served at the convenience of Mr. O’Neill. This for a class two drug. O’Neill has a history showing a litany of drug offenses and he is slapped lightly and catered to in terms of when he may serve his time. This is absolutely disgusting behavior by the regulators and it should rightly reflect back to the Governor Of New York because he appointed the members of the gaming commission. The regulation of horse racing in these United States is at an all time low and the culprits enjoy impunity granted by their overseers.
Racing in this country has many problems but simply put, the drug problem is one created by incompetent regulators who have imposed slap on the wrist punishments upon trainers who should have been given years and not days. This applies equally to stewards as well as racing commissioners since rulings from both of these forums contain absolutely no deterrent. For those of you who don’t get it, that means the punishments were not equal to the crimes. Part of the reason for that is unqualified stewards participating in the adjudication of cases where their limited skills do not allow them to fully comprehend the depth of an event where a trainer is being held accountable for the presence of a prohibited substance found in a horse that he or she trains. Tighter regulation on the part of stewards and racing commissioners would have prevented a very large percentage of the egregious incidents that have brought disgrace to the industry.
According to yesterday’s Paulick Report the Delaware Park Stewards suspended trainer Julio Cartagena for two years for the presence of class one drugs Nikethamide and N-ethylnicotinamide in a sample taken from one of his horses in September of last year. Cartegena has numerous medication violations in various states during the past decade and has about three weeks remaining on an eighteen month suspension imposed in Florida. After a May fifteenth hearing the Delaware Park stewards saw him as someone who, in spite of his background, should only be suspended for two years for a class one drug offense. This is a good example of why this industry is loosing the wagering public and a number of owners and trainers who want to work within the rules. The three stewards who signed that ruling are unfit to hold the position and are helping drive the entire industry deeper into chaos. Oh yes, the Delaware commission also fined Mr. Cartagena twenty five hundred dollars. Another slap on the wrist. The governor appoints the commissioners and the commissioners appoint the stewards. Decide for yourself where the blame should be placed. Also there is a rumor that Delaware Park has given Cartagena stalls despite his ongoing Florida suspension. Say it isn’t so.