Let's Look at the Bright Side of Mullins Incident

There have been numerous comments in the media this week vilifying Jeff Mullins, and how the detention barn incident caused a black eye for racing right before the sport’s biggest day.

If this indeed was a case of Mullins simply making a foolish mistake, and that is currently under investigation, there is no denying he should have been aware of the rules that a horse cannot be administered anything in the detention barn other than Lasix. Nothing means just that and there is no other interpretation possible. They don’t call it a monitoring barn for nothing. Mullins claims he made an honest mistake, which may very well be the case. But that is up to others to decide.

Clearly, Mullins was not attempting to get away with anything nefarious, or else he wouldn’t have given Gato Go Win Air Power right in front of two NYRA security officers who were not only watching him do it, but supposedly allowing him to do it, according to Mullins. The typical punishment for this infraction is a fine and the scratching of the horse.

Instead of looking at this incident solely as a black eye for racing, shouldn’t we also put a positive spin on it and say the detention barn system on this occasion worked? Shouldn’t we be telling racing fans and mainstream America: “See, if horses and their handlers are being scrutinized this closely before a race and horses are being scratched because of even minor infractions, doesn’t that show that racing, at least in New York, is doing a good job policing itself before the races? And the rules are the same in California.

Yes, mistakes likely were made beforehand if indeed Air Power was seen being brought into the detention barn and ignored, or if Mullins’ bucket was not searched. But that also is under investigation, and until it is determined what exactly transpired it is pointless to comment on it.

I was at the detention when I Want Revenge arrived at approximately 10:45, which was a slightly early for the ninth race. Gato Go Win, who was in the seventh race, just barely made it in on time for his race. Mullins was right behind I Want Revenge, carrying a bucket filled with all kinds of paraphernalia that one would take into the detention barn. I certainly had no reason to look closely at its contents or notice to what extent it was observed. All I saw and heard was Mullins reporting in, telling the security guard at the entrance gate his last name and which race he was in. The guard checked his sheet and said: “You’re in the back barn, stall 20.” Mullins entered the barn and came out about 10 minutes later and got in his car and drove off.

The procedure is for the person accompanying the horse to log in and give the security officer in the booth his NYRA ID badge number, after which the arrival time is logged in. Once that is completed, another officer is supposed to check everything that is being brought in. Whether that was done, I have no idea (heck, if had known what was going to happen I surely would observed it more carefully, but I was already heading back to my car to warm up). Again, that is being looked into.

But this commentary is not about Mullins’ actions and what he was thinking, and not about whether proper procedures were followed upon his arrival. It is about the steps taken by NYRA following the infraction in the detention barn, which conceptually has been criticized in the past by several trainers.

With so much negativity surrounding racing in the past year, let’s at least attempt to look beyond the act of one person and find the positive factor regarding the sport as a whole. As I said, this was a case where the system worked, and that should not be overlooked. Every little bit helps.

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