The Timing Stinks

Picture Thoroughbred racing as a multiplex cinema, showing a wide variety of movies over the past several months. Unfortunately, many of them have been ill-timed and offensive to a number of people. Therefore, it is important during these precarious times for the sport to tread carefully when it comes to public perception.

Any one of the films the sport has presented recently would be considered ill-advised, but for all of them to be shown within weeks of each other indicates how poor racing’s timing is, and how judicious it must be in the choices it makes.

Listed below are several of the films in question. I admit this format may seem a bit contrived, but commentary alone has -- pardon the cliché -- fallen on deaf ears.

For Whom the Belle Tolls – It tolls for a gallant filly. The Eight Belles tragedy created the biggest uproar since The Passion of the Christ, except nobody liked this one. When animal rights people, including a hardcore group of misinformed PETA members, protested vehemently against racing, comparing it to dog fighting, high-ranking members of the sport needed to step forward and defend its honor, while pointing out to PETA why their fury was misplaced and based mostly on misguided passion rather than facts. Not one ever came forward.

Witness for the Prosecution – With defense witnesses like the ones at last week’s congressional hearings, who needs a prosecutor?  Once again, racing was abandoned and left exposed by its so-called spokespeople. The congressional subcommittee came armed with heavy ammunition, but it wasn’t needed, because the witnesses – many of them leaders in the industry – fired the bullets for them. This was the Scopes Monkey Trial minus Clarence Darrow, or for Inherit the Wind fans, Spencer Tracy. Was there no one among this hand-picked (by the subcommittee) group that could defend racing by at least pointing out some of its good points rather that go on ad nauseum about how troubled the sport is and how it needs federal intervention to save it from itself? Yes, racing needed a swift kick in the ass, but let’s hope its leaders who have a more positive outlook on the sport step forward and take action.

“Whip” Tide – Jeremy Rose has released a statement regarding his actions on June 23, in which he whipped his mount in the face, injuring her eye. Although he claims it was an accident and his statement sounds sincere and extremely apologetic, this was the worst possible time for this to happen. There is no good time for something like this to happen, but, with all the talk now about racing’s cruelty and cries for abolishing the whip, could there have been a worse time? Rose’s six-month suspension, or however long he serves, unfortunately, may be the least of his problems. He will be caught in the undertow of public protest and swept away to who knows where. We all remember Rose for his and Afleet Alex’s miraculous escape from disaster in the 2005 Preakness Stakes, so, perhaps, the memory of that incident will eventually get him back in good standing.

But right now, it is going to be difficult for him to return from his suspension and not incur the wrath of the fans and all animal lovers unless it is forgotten by then. That wrath has already flooded the internet. The question is, can his explanation of what happened erase the terrible image that is being viewed as we speak by people all over the country. Should this one incident ruin a rider’s entire career and reputation? For a first offense, a veteran like Rose is entitled to a second chance after serving his penalty. But for now, the bottom line is, Rose not only committed what people view as a heinous act, his timing was lousy, and he must bear the guilt for that as well, as unjust as it may seem.

Rick-ochet – Talk about lousy timing, this no doubt will come bouncing off the wall. Rick Dutrow’s 15-day suspension for a clenbuterol positive just adds to the weird funk racing is in from a timing standpoint. Not the right time or the right person. Dutrow told the New York Times: “I was there all week and am responsible. I use that medication on many of my horses and only once can ever remember having a problem with it.” Dutrow has appealed the suspension, so we'll have to see how this plays out and what the circumstances were. Cases such as this normally are also about bad timing, with the medication (in this case one commonly used) not clearing the horse’s system in time. But whenever you hear the words drugs, positive, and suspension, especially regarding someone as high-profiled as Dutrow is right now, it is likely the case will be blown out of proportion. And you can't blame anyone for doing so. This ill-timed incident comes on the heels of the positive test for the same drug by Eight Belles' trainer Larry Jones. What are the odds of these two particular trainers, who have been mired in so much controversy recently, both coming up positive for the same drug within a week of each other?

Bringing Up Baby – There is nothing particularly timely about this, but while we’re on the subject of things that need changing in racing, how about the 2-year-old sales? If you want to hear disturbing stories, just talk to a number of trainers of 2-year-old sales graduates about the condition of the horses when they arrive at the barn and how long it takes to get those horses to the races or even begin serious training. I won’t go into details about what many of these babies have to go through to get them to work an eighth of a mile in :09 seconds and change, a time they will never even close to approaching ever again. Horsemen pride themselves in their ability to pick out young horses based on their horsemanship and pedigree prowess. So, why can’t they use their skills in picking out 2-year-olds based on how the horse gallops -- their stride, the way they move etc? Does it require any skill whatsoever to pick out a young undeveloped horse just because he’s able to work faster than a Quarter-Horse? Heck, you and I can go to a 2-year-old sale and buy whoever has the fastest work if that’s the kind of short-term fix we’re looking for. We don’t need a bloodstock agent for that; we don’t even need to have a clue what we’re doing. The only thing we’d need is money, nothing more.

With the increasing number of synthetic surfaces across the country, there could very well come a time when there will be no reason to work a young horse that fast, because early blazing speed will no longer be desirable. So, why not start getting into that mindset now?



Leave a Comment:

Ernie Munick

The stars have aligned to accelerate a thorough cleansing. Such horror over time will morph to beauty, but we will never forget.

25 Jun 2008 1:50 PM

Man, sadly you are right.

25 Jun 2008 2:12 PM

I am a TB race fan.  I love this sport for its pagentry, its history and, most of all, because of the magnificent horses.  Today I am ashamed to be a racing fan. This is an industry that allows the things you’ve outlined and countless other instances of stupidity and cruelty.  I wonder if I can ever watch another race.  It is impossible to look away any longer, to pretend that such heartbreaking, horrific things are anomalies.  How can I in good conscience continue to support this broken, profligate sport?  But what would life be like without the races?   Please, please fix this before it’s too late.  Please.

25 Jun 2008 2:24 PM
Kelly S

With all of the negative articles out there in the non-racing media and the comments left by the misinformed general public, it is a nice refresher to read your blog.  I was reading a lot of articles on various media sites yesterday, and I became so frustrated reading the comments left by people that don't know a thing about racing.  The general trend--all people involved in horseracing don't care about the horses; all unsuccessful racehorses are sent to slaughter; horseracing should be completely banned; horses should not race until they are 3 or 4; all tracks should be synthetic--I could go on and on.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'd rather hear the opinions of those that have some knowledge of the sport.  

That being said, I have been hearing a lot of the opinion that 2-year-olds should not race.  My own take is that racing too young is not the problem.  The problem, as in the case of the 2-year-old sales, is the emphasis on speed and breeding for speed.  I say let 2-year-olds race, but don't push them to have blazing works and race times.  Also, I've seen a lot of "let's do away with sprint races."  I think sprint races are great.  Some horses are just better at shorter distances.  Also, it provides some variety.  I don't really see how this would solve anything anyway.  We consider 1 1/4 miles the "classic" distance, but we still have a problem with breeding for speed.  I would, however, like to see more races at 1 1/2 miles or more (gives me more time to enjoy the race.)

I have been watching racing for 18 years, but I still consider myself an outsider and not the most knowledgable.  I have never worked with racehorses, nor do I know anyone personally who does.  I would love to hear everyone else's thoughts on racing 2-year-olds and whether sprints should be done away with.

25 Jun 2008 2:27 PM

Mr. Haskin - this is just for you, thank you for writing the piece on whipping horses.  I learned to gallop at La Downs in the early 70's.  I actually didn't know how to ride at all when I arrived.  carring a stick was the LAST thing I needed to deal with in the mornings.  I had my hands full, so to speak, just tring to get around the oval successfully.  I rode for 15 years and NEVER carried a stick.  I also never got hurt or broke a bone or even missed a day due to injury.  I NEVER had a horse not work, leave the gate or come through traffic for me.  honestly, never.  I got on a lot of "bad" horses because trainers knew I wouldn't beat them up no matter what.  I learned to negotiate with horses because that was all I had.  I always felt the horses took care of me, seriously, do the math:  3 - 17 horses a morning,

7 days a week for 15 years. I never had a horse break down with me and I rode a bunch of cripples.  I know they taught me how to ride, how to listen, speak a forgein language, give a massage, cool out and throw your heels up when you want to have a good time.  

25 Jun 2008 2:30 PM

Firstly, I would like to thank you, Mr. Haskin, for your frank approach to the issues plaguing our once fine sport. It's refreshing to hear a voice of reason against the vitriol.

Out of curiosity, where do you stand on the idea of appointing a Racing Commissioner and abolishing state-by-state rules, instead placing them under a nationally enforced umbrella? Also, do you view Mr. Ivarone's pledge to race all IEAH horses "drug-free" as a legitimate stepping stone to reform, or a fool's errand?

25 Jun 2008 2:48 PM
Irene Castle McLaughlin

Mr. Haskin, you correctly point out that these incidents/movies all happen in a context of actions and reactions. That is why I must respectfully disagree with your criticism of industry leaders. There are only so many televised racing deaths that can be rationalized as "that's part of racing"...I think agreeing that there are problems and showing a willingness to face them was the only response that leaves a future for racing on the table, at least in terms of corporate sponsorships and public interest (and perhaps even continued legalized gambling, which I don't care about, but its the revenue). Another defensive circling of the wagons would only have hardened the reaction. There are plenty of good things about racing-most of them are horses-which is why I am still a fan even after seeing far too much of the dark side in barns and at tracks across America. Horror stories, especially at smaller tracks and lower levels of racing. Really, while there are good and well-meaning people in racing, there is just no getting away from the fact that structural/systematic reforms are way over-due. We need to try to think more carefully about crafting the  long term viability of the entire enterprise, not let short-term interests and trends steer racing.

That is why I applaud your raising the subject of 2 year old sales, which seem to epitomize a  confluence of trends such as  extreme commodification, injudicious breeding, surgical modifications, drugs, greed, the early focus on precocious speed that lays the foundation for stress fractures...the under-tack breezes of two year olds and even long yearlings is a shocking practice, but a telling one.

25 Jun 2008 2:50 PM

Sobering to say the least.  I've seen some of the babies after the under tack sales.  It's not pretty. It's hard to believe that Jeremy Rose deliberately struck that mare in the face, but I just watched the race, and he sure did... to move her off the rail.   After surviving the Preakness, you would think he would have learned something.  He's lucky he didn't cause a wreck.  How's he going to explain this, I am shocked.

25 Jun 2008 2:56 PM
F. Weldon

"I won’t go into details about what many of these babies have to go through to get them to work an eighth of a mile in :09 seconds and change,"

Why not share with the public what "they have to go through?" The public should know. Racing has had enough dirty little secrets for too long. While the house is being cleaned, it may as well be cleaned from floor to ceiling.

25 Jun 2008 2:56 PM
needler in Virginia

Steve....right now I'm trying to figure out what it is about racing that I love. This is like watching someone throwing gasoline on a fire.....and there doesn't seem to be ANYONE able to extinguish the flames.

I really must disagree on one point. Jeremy Rose, for whatever reason, chose this moment to go off the rails entirely. What he did at Delaware Park is both unconscionable and unacceptable - anywhere, and at any time. He needs to go. This is one I can't condone, tolerate or even find it in my heart to forgive. If he thought this was an acceptable manner in which to punish, encourage, dissuade or remind a horse, he has no business around 'em, and should pack his boots and go. This is not one that will go away no matter how long his suspension, and I must commend the stewards for jumping on this quickly and with severe penalties, although I don't think they were severe enough.

25 Jun 2008 3:13 PM

Why do bad things happen? Ususally because of bad decisions.  All actions, good or bad, have consequences.  

If only we could instill this truth into the minds of our young people, perhaps they might grow into adults who will think before they act.  

"Is what I'm about to do good or bad?" The answer will reveal the possible consequences. And a moral person will make the right decision.  

Horse trainer or congressman, whatever our station in life, we need to make the morally right decisions.  

25 Jun 2008 3:29 PM

Mr. Haskins - I agree with you on the following "Not one ever came forward."  And....the sport was badly damaged because the nuts at PETA were allowed to shame the message.

I disagree on the following:

"With the increasing number of synthetic surfaces across the country, there could very well come a time when there will be no reason to work a young horse that

fast, because early blazing speed will no longer be desirable. So, why not start getting into that mindset now?"

My first reason for disagreement in the encroachment of synthetic surfaces with questionable effects not only on the horses in soft-tissue injuries, but also the respiratory systems of the riders and jockeys (as well as the horses.)

What many of you need to understand - there is wire casing that has lead particles... yes, LEAD..... what is the effect of this on people and horses.

Secondly, I believe that better BREEDING will be the only thing that brings about real change.  Drugs can go away, but unstable little bodies don't.

I can't even fathom what got into Jeremy Rose, but he deserves a 6 month suspension for this.  Dutrow deserves more - for just being Dutrow....

and IEAH shouldn't be grabbing cheap headlines every day.  Not the best ambassadors of the sport - though they want you to think they are.

The "industry" has been it's own worse enemy....

It's a shame the SPORT can't rise above it.

25 Jun 2008 3:41 PM
Mr. Joshua D. Huffman

Very well done, timing is certainly key but lets hope that key opens a door of improvement verses damaging the sport beyond repair.

25 Jun 2008 4:04 PM
s lee

Go get 'em Steve!

Let the 2 year olds be 2 year olds, get medication and trainers under control, get jockeys to pay attention.  Horse racing must deal with its own issues before other people do it for them - and we won't like what happens then!

But let's also have 1 good note, a variation on your movie theme -

"The Old Man is a C" - or, if you'd rather, "The Great Red Hope"

Curlin won the Stephen Foster and may be headed for the Arc.  Curlin the fast, Curlin the strong, Curlin the wonderful.  It's too much to ask to put all of horse racing on a few horses' backs, but geez it's fun to watch him run!

s lee

25 Jun 2008 4:39 PM

How is the horse that Rose hurt? He should not be able to ride for a good long time.  Horses should not be treated like that, how would he like to be hit across the face.!!!!!

25 Jun 2008 4:46 PM

Loved the article, great logic.

I agree with it all, I hope Mr. Rose doesn't show up at Monmouth for a while since the NJ fans will not tolerate that kind of stuff. I for one was very surprised to read that he had done such a thing since he is always stopping to sign autographs and the people at Monmouth seem to feel he is a very nice guy. I guess sometimes even the good folks have a dark side.As far as the babies running I have two words to say about that-GREEN MONKEY.

25 Jun 2008 4:47 PM
Ray Donnelly

I probably love Steve Haskin more than any other horse racing writer and tell my friends he is the best ...  but Mr. Haskin if you love the game it is time for the gloves to come off.  Rick Dutrow has embarrased the game and your weak defenses of his past.  He needs to be hammered  ... straight out of racing.  Churchill needs to be hammered for its shamefully light sentence.  Have they no sense of self-preservation ?  The game is crumbling and I urge you to use your pulpit to help save it.

25 Jun 2008 5:07 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks for all your comments. I'll try to touch on some here and others at a later time. From the bottom up, I have never defended Dutrow. I merely said this is not an uncommon infraction, but unfortunately for Dutrow his infractions as a whole are not uncommon. I also feel the penalty was too light, which takes me to the comment about a commissioner or ruling body. I have been campaigning for that for a long time. The state-by-state structure of the sport, bluntly put, stinks. We need someone tough to make rules and issue penalties, and they must be stiff. I have always said a major suspension should result in the horses not being allowed to run for said trainer, which would make the owners send their horses somewhere else. I will continue to respond shortly.

25 Jun 2008 5:27 PM

That sweet picture of Rose feeding Alex the mint three years ago now leaves a bitter taste.  All this bad news-on the eve of perhaps the last Hollywood Gold Cup before the historic track is "redeveloped"-can only-must-improve an increasingly politically incorrect sport in a politically correct nation.  Having attended the Belmont, thank God no horse dropped dead in the heat, especially under a chorus of fan boos (Big Brown).

25 Jun 2008 5:42 PM

Mr. Haskin, thank you for your expertise in the sport we love.

I prefer to believe Jeremy Rose's statement that the whip in the eye was an accident and that he is saddened by what happened.  I also prefer to believe that Mr. Jones was set up, that someone with malicious intent doctored the results or the horse, because I believe in Mr. Jones' good reputation.  I refuse to believe our sport as a whole is falling apart at the seams.  I know there are thousands of very good people in horse racing, including the fans, and that there is a wonderful story behind each and every one of them.  Perhaps we should bring more of these type stories to the front pages of our sport.

Thank you.

25 Jun 2008 5:44 PM
waning fan

Why haven't the owners of Salute the Count - Dubbs and Jocelyn - been taken to task along with Dutrow?  I think that owners should be just as responsible as their wonder trainers.  Refunding the purse seems like another slap on the wrist penalty.  And moving horses to another barn is akin to assistants filling in for suspended trainers.    

25 Jun 2008 5:54 PM
Pamela Harp-Gentry

The 40 billion dollar industry called The Sport of Kings" certainly isn't very regal thise days.  In fact, it is a shady, nasty business that is disgraceful.  I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and have attended many Derbys.  Though California is home now, I have always spoken with pride about the Kentucky Derby.  No more.  I am ashamed of it.  I wish that Rose would not be allowed to ride again!!  "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."  Mahatma Gandhi

25 Jun 2008 6:44 PM
Steve Haskin

Interesting, Maggie Wolfendale, Miss Preakness 2008 and daughter of trainer Howard Wolfendale, who saddled the mare who was whipped by Rose, called Steve Byk's radio show At The Races to defend Rose, as has her father in a prepared statement. Who knows what and who to believe anymore? The mare, last I heard, was doing very well.

25 Jun 2008 6:45 PM
Steve Haskin

Paula, regarding your comment: <<My first reason for disagreement in the encroachment of synthetic surfaces with questionable effects not only on the horses in soft-tissue injuries, but also the respiratory systems of the riders and jockeys (as well as the horses.)

What many of you need to understand - there is wire casing that has lead particles... yes, LEAD..... what is the effect of this on people and horses.>>

I understand what you're saying. I've been knocking synthetic surfaces since day one, bit more because of what it's done to racing and handicapping. There are more soft tissue and hind end problems, but most trainers I've spoken to do feel they are much safer, as fas catastrophic injuries. I am not going defend synthetic surfaces. All I said was that major tracks are using it, and we have to accept the fact they're not going away. I hope more studies are done regarding the material in the track and hope that there arent any long-term effects from that kind of kick-back. Trainers have told me the new Santa Anita has hardly any kickback at all.

25 Jun 2008 6:50 PM

Maybe Jeremy Rose did pull a blunder but all said and done he deserves the suspension that he received, maybe when he gets back to racing next year he will be sure NOT to do it again if he wants to make a living.  I will say that I do recall that Garrett Gomez was on a horse not so long ago that was terrified of the whip and he rode the horse without it and if my recall is correct he still came in in the money, which goes to prove one thing.....ya don't need a whip as the horse knows what to do and does not need a reminder of that.

25 Jun 2008 7:23 PM

I am not a big Dutrow fan but it seems to me that there was a communication problem in the barn.No way a trainer does this on purpose. Either A, 2 different people administered this med without conferring with one another,which would explain the double dose or B the person forgot he already had given him the dose. I'll go with A. As far as racing 2 year olds, always remember, not everyone who purchases thoroughbreds are the insanely rich. Some of these people have always dreamed of having a champion, and go through great lengths and monetary risks to achieve this dream. In order to make back their money, they must race them at 2 in order to pay the vet bills and trainers. If you don't race these animals a 2 you risk throwing the whole industry into chaos. Think about it.

25 Jun 2008 8:31 PM

Steve -

First of all - you've just gone even higher up on my respect board for not only bringing movie titles into your commentary but also for referencing Inherit the Wind AND Spencer Tracy's great performance!  I thought I was the only person left who knew great old movies and the great actors who were the Secretariats and Seattle Slews of movies "golden age!"  I'd bet you remember all those great old Looney Tune Hollywood parodies that always made fun of Bing Crosby's horses, too!  

I have not seen the  race in which Rose whipped the filly in the eye.  This kid has had a pretty spotless reputation since he was a bug boy, however - and if the trainer and his daughter are going out of their way to defend him, I'm inclined to believe it was an accident.  The horse was lugging in severely, and if in an effort  to get the horse to straighten up he aimed for the shoulder and hit the side of her face - could happen!  

Everyone who is so quick to call Rose a monster probably has never had to balance on their toes while hovering over a 1,000 lb animal who's not only going 40 mph but also moving in the wrong direction.  Don't swear to know whether or not it was an inadvertant swing that went long until you've had to ride that type of ride.

He'll do his time - and as long as his connections continue to defend his action as a regrettable accident - he'll be back.

Now Dutrow....why he hasn't received 6 months suspension for another in a looong list of drug positives is beyond me.

25 Jun 2008 9:03 PM
Kelly S

I am with Vicki and cgrif on Rose.  I saw the Jeremy Rose incident on youtube.  If that is what people are using to condemn him, then it just goes to prove that people are too quick to jump on the bandwagon, rather than think for themselves.  I couldn't see a thing on the video other than the filly tossing her head.  From what I've read, Jeremy Rose has never been involved in any such incident before in his racing career.  I'm inclined to believe his assertion that he did not intentionally whip the horse in the eye.  Too many people are jumping to the conclusion that he is an abuser without knowing the whole story.  I don't know that I support the 6-month suspension in this case.  Unless they can prove that it was intentional or show that it is a repetitive behavior for him, why should he be the scapegoat for the sad state that racing is in?  That appears to be exactly what is happening to him.  Poor timing, indeed, to have this accident right when racing is under pressure.  I'm sure the suspension had more to do with public perception than anything else.  Granted, if racing had better whip regulations in place, this may never have occurred.

Same for Larry Jones.  I have seen people (mostly general public) saying horrible things about him because of this one incident.  Are you serious?!  This is a guy who has never had a violation in all his time training, but he's judged as if it's a common occurrence.  People that are condemning these two individuals before they have had a chance to prove their innocence make me nauseous.  Dutrow, on the other hand, has a history of drug violations, and what does he get...a fine!  Why not a suspension for him?

Both of these incidents just show why it is that racing needs a single ruling body.  The inconsistency of punishments is embarrassing.

Last thing, I swear--why are so many people being negative about IEAH's announcement.  Yes, maybe it's publicity stunt.  Yes, there is talk of steroid banning anyway.  However, they were not only talking about steroids, they included all medications except Lasix.  Also, the general public doesn't see "headline grabbers."  They see a name they recognize doing something, rather than just talking about it.  They earned my respect for the move.

25 Jun 2008 10:17 PM

Steve-while we are talking about the ills of Horse racing-we must not forget the Stewards.This is another important part of racing that needs some hard and fast rules.These days if a horse does not actually hit down another-the stewards takes no punitive action.Too many times I have seen major interferences in a race,yet the stewards leave the offenders number up.The Jocks also rides dirty from time to time and when they do and caused interfearance,taking another horses path,coming over on anther horses,pushing them way out or coming way in,yet the Stewards leaves those offenders numbers up.

Horse Racing rules as it applies to interferences needs to be hard and fast and must be followed by the stewards,not to make their own judgement.The Rules should be followed by the book.

25 Jun 2008 10:38 PM

Regarding Jeremy Rose, I just read Howard Wolfendale's statement about this matter.  He believes that Jeremy did not intentionally strike the horse in the face.  He apologized to Wolfendale after the race and acknowledged that he accidentally may have hit the horse in the eye.  If the trainer is willing to accept Rose's explanation and apology why aren't the rest of us more willing to accept the possibility that it was an accident.  Apparently, the Delaware stewards feel that Rose has anger issues as they ordered to take anger management training. What do they know that we don't about this matter??

25 Jun 2008 10:39 PM
Kelly S

Okay, now I look like one of those idiots not doing their research!  Dutrow did get a suspension--15 whole days.  Sorry, got caught up in my outrage over the unfair treatment of Rose and Jones.

25 Jun 2008 10:57 PM

I agree with Vikki, L.Jones was set up and I've read the statements from Jeremy and Wolfendale right here on Bloodhorse. And all the fuss about Dutrow, who by the way was using waht are "legal" medications at this time, though obviously too close to race day, and somehow given twice? Who knows? I would like to know however why no one is commenting on an Asmussen "filly, Timber Trick, who broke her maiden at Lone Star Park in Texas May 10, tested positive for the anesthetic lidocaine. Asmussen served a six-month suspension in 2006-07 after a positive for mepivacaine in Louisiana. At the same time, he served a similar suspension for an acepromazine positive in New Mexico." This is not the "Dutrow races"; ALL trainers, Jocks, owners and connections should be held accountable. Isn't anyone worried about Curlin?? I know I am. I never got into horse racing until 2000, I'm now going to be 50 yrs. old. The reason I didn't was because all I heard was how dirty it was. Abuse, drugs, backstabbing, fixed races.... Well, surprise; I'm feeling that way again. I sure hope the answers are found to straighten the sport out. I would hate to lose the only sport I love.

25 Jun 2008 11:06 PM

I do not know Jeremy Rose personally but only as a jockey. Like everyone who might have read the news, I was shocked by the accusation and the punishment. But looking at the replay, I don't believe that it was an intentional and his use of the whip during the race was never excessive. To all those that easily comdemn, pls. watch the replay before you judge.

25 Jun 2008 11:28 PM

Mr. Haskin,

As usual a pleasure to read, like every one of the pieces you write. So clear, so objective and so true.


26 Jun 2008 1:01 AM

everybody take a deep breath & count to to get a COMMISSIONER NOW...thank's to Steve & all @ Blood-Horse for your super reporting on the sport we love soooo much...Long Live The King!!!

26 Jun 2008 1:41 AM
I give up

I can't take it any more.  I usually spend 3 - 5 hours a day pouring over every bit of hadicapping info I can get my hands on, not to mention a sizeable daily bankroll to wager. Now it seems weekly (sometimes daily) that I find out the races I am betting contain horses running on high octane fuel. Who is running this show ????  Until racing gets its  act together, I'm taking my money to the casino. I'll probably lose my ass but at least I'm playing a fair & honest game!   I think the fans and serious players need to send a message to the good old boys of racing by boycotting the upcoming Saratoga & Del Mar meet. That will sure get their attention !

26 Jun 2008 9:52 AM
Michael Nikolic

Mr Haskin,

I applaud your efforts but humbly suggest that you shout louder.

Why is it so hard to believe that in an age when young people can't tell time with an analog watch or pick out the United States on a geographic map, that we are having a hard time promoting a sport that is (in theory) based on patience and nurturing.

Install a commissioner, institute a ZERO drug policy and create a uniform set of racing rules.

These acts should be immediate and permanent.  Anything else is just pandering.

Michael Nikolic

Racing manager Blackwatch Stables

26 Jun 2008 10:05 AM
Steve Haskin

Michael, as a mere scribe, I can only shout so loudly. If enough of us express our views, maybe someone will hear us. I applaud IEAH for at least taking matters in their own hand and doing something, and challenging other owners to follow. When there are no officers to lead the army the grunts have to take over. I think the congressional hearings will force racing to do all the things you and others mention or they will take matters in their own hands.

As for Rose, he does need to learn how to interact with people better. During the Afleet Alex years he did have an attitude problem in my opinion, so perhaps anger management will help. But he's been around a while and paid his dues, so shouldn't be banished from the game. I feel the 6-month suspension is warranted and should remain, only because, and I hate to say this, racing needs to make an example of someone. They haven't done it with any trainers, so it falls on the jockeys. Between drugs and whip abuse, we need to do something drastic to deter others. Is it fair? No. But we've gotten ourselves in this situation and there's no other way to get out of it.

26 Jun 2008 10:58 AM
Flabbergasted in Virginia

Let's not forget Asmussen's positive, too!

The trainers of the BC Classic and the Kentucky Derby winning horses (arguably the two most prestigious races run in North America), both have drug positives in the same week!?

And where's the public outcry with regard to the millions of dollars the betting public lost on Big Brown in the Belmont? The betting public is the backbone of the industry, even if the owners and breeders would like to think otherwise.

I'm inclined to quit the sport all-toghther ...

26 Jun 2008 11:50 AM
Marc W

I have written to the letters to the editors of BloodHorse, which is by far the best total of coverage of horse racing and the industries around it, about more loudly knocking and exposing the drug trainers. I also traded emails and calls with Stan Bergstein who with due respect to Mr. Haskin has been the point man about drugs in racing in the DRF and his own publication which deals with standardbreds (Which have even a greater problem with those people taking an edge than TB)

In my travels on the backstretch over the years I have personally seen horses milkshaked before a race, horses that I knew were nerved illegally according to trainers-Like a lawyer I was told in confidence and will leave it that way “on the who”. The question I have is I can walk around get this info and see with my own eyes how hard would it be for an undercover agent to catch and suspend these people? Although more than 5 yrs ago it was quite out in the open. I know a couple of trainers that are friends and keep me up on the new fashion drugs that some are using. Even in a BH or DRF article I don’t which in the past month printed it in an interview, the aforementioned Larry Jones said he was losing horses to drug trainers in years past. Lukas has said on record that some don't train, they are chemists nowadays.

I am not a saint, I have gone on the dark side when stuck about $40K on a horse.  I switched trainers to one that ”won races” being totally aware that I was taking him from a trainer I respected and did things the “right way” for more than 25 yrs. His form improved within a week, won shortly after and I sold him greatly cutting my loses. How he improved so quickly him I have no idea nor do I want to know-it may have been something completely legal but it begs the question how? With shipping, hay, straw, shoeing, vet work, all going through the roof there is much more pressure on results. That normal $5000 claimer making $35K in a year is a break-even proposition if at a “B” track, a loss at the big’s if with a leading trainer. The game is in trouble and the little guy is being weeded out.

Short note, we can stop over-whipping or change the props (whips) so it is less painful when used. I have never been a big whip fan, once or twice to wake a horse up, and then push on him. Great riders have all had a “touch” and horses will run for them-not a whip-think Willy Shoemaker. I didn’t see the Rose incident but have my doubts he did it on purpose, I have seen rider hit horses after the race, which should be an immediate suspension.

PETA might be whipping a “dead horse” which is horse racing in general if thing continue as they have. I would say to them in the present that thoroughbreds next to a loved cat or dog get the best treatment of any animal alive on the whole. If not for racing the breed will become extinct because although I love them thoroughbreds are not pets, with a few exceptions, they are not the smartest nor calmest of the horse breeds. They have been bred only to race for generations, it is that, or extinction.

26 Jun 2008 1:11 PM

Wouldn't change be nice?  I would LOVE to start by changing those two-year-old sales into a gallops-only deal, no breezes.  But like you said, the timing, Geez, we need a break.

26 Jun 2008 1:59 PM
Bernard M

We got into the business of racing horses by first loving them for what they are and what they give us to us.  When we forget that then the problems of greed and deceit creep in and destroy the very fabric of the sport.  The sport needs to get tough on offenders and use the 3 strikes and you are out rule.  Life time bans are needed to force out the cheeters and abusers.  Let's start with changing the format for two year old sales.  The current formate is too punishing to these great animals.  Putting the horse back in first position will take care of racing current problems.  People in racing would do well to act humble when talking about the horse.  The horse and their fans make this interesting.  The most respected people in horse racing act in this manner.  More of us should do the same.    

26 Jun 2008 4:51 PM
Dreamer's Mom

Marc W-just a quick note on the smartness and calmness of thoroughbreds.  Yesterday one of our 3 yr old fillys got her halter hung up and pulled a panel loose and on to her back.  She stood quietly until we could get to her and free her.  She was smart enough and calm enough to know we would fix it, no need to freak.  

Thoroughbreds are what you make them.  Ours live in a calm, peaceful, happy atmosphere.  They reflect what they live.

26 Jun 2008 6:35 PM
russell maiers

common sense,your right steve and the person nancy who commented is right on also.You and Nancy are needed in this industry and talking to congress. Its really that simple. I love horses and racing and I hate what is going on with horses and racing. I am 51 years old and have been waiting 40 years for the usa to get it right. Too bad we cant even come close to japan,europe, and australia who could do better in some areas themselves. Are we always to be just stupid and greedy? This is just getting too stupid to love.

26 Jun 2008 6:36 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Mercedes, and all of you for your comments and stimulating discussion. JW, we should learn from the stewards in Uruguay. They fill out a full report every day, logging all information of every race and all their actions. On all foul claims they include a transcript of their disussions with both jockeys and then they explain all of their decisions in detail. The entire report is then put on the Maronas Racetrack website at the end of each day.

26 Jun 2008 6:51 PM
Gary Peacock

stupid and greedy...sorta like  haliburton and enron, no? this society's amuck in's like that "sure thing" 'National Soul' is lost in the fog on the backstretch...i've met Jeremy and say, just stock up on  soylent green, feed the euqines hay and oats, when a Jersey-bred wins the Derby, Jere might be the one he totes......  

27 Jun 2008 12:50 AM

Watch the replay of A.P.Indy's Santa Anita Derby and the comments Trevor Denman makes regarding Delahoussey"s winning ride - never touched him with the whip, once! Yes, racing NEEDS a national governing authority. Yes, drugs in racing need to be on a zero-tolerance basis (including Clenbuterol!) And what if two year olds were restricted from starting in a race? They could still be trained, taking away the old excuse that they need to build their bones through exercise. The Kentucky Derby would have a new wrinkle, and maybe it would lose some luster, which would not be a bad thing, in my opinion: the goal of getting there and hob-nobbing with the other owners and celebrities usually means that the horse suffers (see Eight Belles). Kudos to After Market's trainer (John Sherriffs?), who deemed the turf course at Monmouth last Breeder's Cup Day to be too dangerous for his trainee! It's not many who would pass up a Grade I, 2 million dollar race for the good of the animal.And, YES! RACING NEEDS A HUMANE FACE-LIFT!!!!! WAKE UP!

27 Jun 2008 11:37 AM

Well done Mr Haskin.When you put all this together,it's an eye opener.You have given me lots to think about.I'm from the old school in regards to racing but I did embrace new ideas from time to time.When Glucosamine became available to equines we were one of the first people to use it on the backside.At that time it cost about$2.00 a day per horse.We felt that rather than going with cortisone injections this was a better thing for the horse.I truly believe the racing gods have given us a wake up call and a whole generation of racing people will heed that call.Thanks to you and others that love the sport we will get there.

27 Jun 2008 11:57 AM

RD says he can't afford to be suspended this time of year.My comment TOO BAD it sucks to be you.Let's draw this thing out until it's convenient to serve the days.This is what is happening in the racing world nowadays. Trainers and riders that get disciplined are not taking these things seriously.I'm not just picking in Dutrow, this is widespread and happens all the time.

27 Jun 2008 2:24 PM

what has happened to rags to riches

the one filly who beat curlin....

she hasn't been mentioned all


28 Jun 2008 4:28 PM


She has been retired.  She raced again after the Belmont and sustained an injury to her leg and was rested and I do believe she injured it again and they decided to retire her.  I could be wrong on that but she is retired.

28 Jun 2008 11:06 PM
Mike Martin

It's a long way from the major tracks to Denver, but the problems are the same:  the leading trainers run on the needle here, and the whip caused the lead horse to jump almost over the rail in the last race today.  It is a culture which requires oversight in order to change, and the idea of running horses on good hay, good oats and clean water needs to be resurrected as the ethic it once was.  Get the drugs out of this sport, simply to respect the horses.  Treat the fans and bettors with respect.  Owners need to protect their horses.

29 Jun 2008 3:56 AM


Wickipedia has a wonderful write-up on Rags to Riches.  

Rags to Riches had resumed training at age 4. Then on Monday, March 24, 2008, Todd Pletcher announced that Rags to Riches had re-injured her right front pastern and was retiring. She was sent to Ashford Stud where she was bred to Giant's Causeway.

Rags To Riches was 56 days pregnant on (5/28/08). Announced on ESPN2.

Aren't we glad her injury was detected.  I saw the ESPN announcement.  They showed her in her paddock.  She looks grand, and pampered.

It's a mighty shame that so many retired TB's aren't pampered.

30 Jun 2008 11:13 AM
Secretariat's Secretary

I believe the regulation of the sport should come directly and strictly from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). All other professional sports have their regulatory agency. MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, PGA, ATP, etc., etc. The involvement of federal legislation is embarrassing and clearly demonstrates that our sport is disorganized and lacks leadership. Perceived as that we do not know what we are doing.

This is a very complex matter, but it is very possible with cooperation and good leadership. One set of rules for all racing jurisdictions, like all the other professional sports.

Steve, we need all the help and leadership your media abilities could accomplish, to help our sport by public communication and education in the next few years. Please think how powerful that is.

30 Jun 2008 9:35 PM
Matthew W

"Coming Attraction": "An American (or two..) In Paris", starring Curlin the stayer and Big Brown the TRUE turf tiger...truly the world's two best horses, no question about it, in their "greatest roles yet..."...may as well HAND'em the Oscar....

01 Jul 2008 12:46 AM

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