Haskin's Belmont Report: What's Shakin' with Cal Board?

OK, let’s get this straight, just to make sure we’re not all being Punk’d. The California Horse Racing Board, in all its divine wisdom, has decided to dredge up a nearly two-year-old carbon dioxide overage on a Doug O’Neill-trained horse and make a ruling on it two weeks before O’Neill will attempt to sweep the Triple Crown with I’ll Have Another, who should be a feel-good story. But heaven forbid racing should allow one of those.
 
The California board didn’t rule on this six months ago, or a year ago, and even if they didn’t have their findings then or it was under litigation, they apparently felt as if it was in racing’s best interest not to wait until after the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to issue a ruling. And they’re not singling out O’Neill; we get it. They would have done the same thing had it been Bob Baffert or Dick Mandella or most any other trainer. Uh huh.
 
They also decided to issue their ruling at this ill-advised time even though they were aware that the evidence shows the horse involved, Argenta, was not milkshaked, and that the elevated TCO2 level was caused by other means, like perhaps something natural, which is not uncommon. The hearing officer also concluded there were no suspicious betting patterns – Argenta finished out of the money -- and a determination was made that there was no evidence of any intentional acts by O’Neill in regard to this incident.
 
So, the Board decided out of the kindness of their heart to suspend O’Neill “only” 45 days and stay the remainder of a maximum 180-day ban.
 
OK, we fully understand racing’s absolute insurer rule that holds a trainer responsible for any positive, whether deliberate or not. We get it. We get the fact that O’Neill has had a number of other violations over the years.
 
We don’t question the ruling that O’Neill should be suspended if his horse was found to have a TCO2 level above the legal limit. It is something he can always appeal. Under the circumstances, however, and the findings, a fine might have been sufficient, but that’s not the issue here. We understand a horse can show up positive for opium as a result of coming in contact with someone’s poppy seed bagel. Stuff happens.
 
But we do, however, question the timing of it and to some degree even the length of it. Knowing prior to the ruling that O’Neill did nothing intentional and did not milkshake the horse, the Board still went ahead and issued their ruling at this time, fully aware that they would be adding fuel to an already growing media fire. Yet another mind-boggling move for the good of racing, right?
 
This is like some members of PETA and other organizations, having no regard for the facts, coming out of the woodwork and attempting to cut off racing’s left arm, and racing responding to it by attempting to cut off its right arm.
 
Did the CHRB sit down at any point and come to the realization that it didn’t matter if O’Neill was suspended 10 days or five days. The headlines are going to read that the trainer going for the Triple Crown has been suspended for milkshaking, and even if milkshaking is not mentioned in the headline, it will be in people’s minds. No one is going to go down four or five paragraphs into the story to discover that it was proven he did not milkshake the horse or do anything sinister. And many of those who do will read right over that little tidbit of information. All the national media is going to see and play up is the word “suspension.” You add “suspension” to “Kentucky Derby” and “Triple Crown” and you have a media field day, as misguided and misinformed as it may be.
 
Good timing, CHRB.
 
I’ll Have Another stripped
 
Now we move on to the issue of nasal strips and the decision by the New York stewards not to allow I’ll Have Another to wear them, as he has in every one of his starts this year. Did anyone hear any complaints from opposing trainers all year?
 
Nasal strips were all the rage in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup, when a number of winning horses wore them. But they seemed to peter out over the years. Nasal strips are nothing more than a piece of equipment, and the Belmont stewards’ reasoning of not allowing I’ll Have Another to wear them because they need to regulate their use is pretty weak, and once again shows how fractured the rules of this sport are.

NYRA claims they can come loose or fall off before the race if they get wet. Well, bandages do come loose or can fall off on rare occasion. Reins can break, shoes can fall off, tongue ties can come loose. Once again, it’s a bunch of individual minds thinking separately instead of one mind thinking as one. Imagine if every owner of an NFL football team dictated his own rules. And we want to know why racing has problems. It’s not something as trivial as nasal strips; it’s the sport’s lack of uniformity.
 
“The Strips are to protect the horses’ lungs,” Nan Rawlins of FLAIR Nasal Strips said prior to the stewards’ ruling. “But many things go into winning a race. We’re pleased to be a tool for horsemen to protect their horses. And we hope that when NYRA makes its decision, it carefully considers the health and welfare of the horse and the science behind FLAIR.”
 
Apparently they didn’t.

103 Comments

Leave a Comment:

iceman92

not only is nyra crooked, but ignorant too.

25 May 2012 10:31 PM
sharjyl

Thank you Steve for touching on the topic of Nasal Strip. What a bizarre move by a state that is already bizarre when it comes to the safety of horses. Look at the Aqueduct meet. Where were these mor*n stewards then ? What a joke...... I might be very negative at this point, but Steve all this suspension and strip issue is making me think if horse racing is being attacked by anti-racing agencies through racing's own people ? I mean to say, can it be paid influence or something like that just to make racing look bad ? I don't know but I am so sick of all this happening to our sport at this very moment. Can't curse enough

25 May 2012 11:24 PM
quiet american

Shouldnt the NYRA be happy with the use of nasal strips as opposed to useing the highly controversial Lasix/Salix?! CMON PEOPLE GET A GRIP! REDICULOUS RULES & STIPULATIONS..strips arent harming the animal!

25 May 2012 11:34 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, I do agree with you about this. I think the timing is atrocious. It should have happened a while ago and be done with it, IF the facts supported the charges. It sounds like they didn't. I think the powers that be in California are trying to send a message that they are cleaning up the sport. They think the media will cover it because of the potential Triple Crown and it will show how racing boards are being accountable. Wrong. What it does is cast a not so great light on the sport, in a situation which is not an open and shut case of milkshaking, when we need positive coverage. Exactly as you said. Personally, I think they are actually penalizing him for milkshaking prior to this episode. I guess not everyone can be John Shirreffs, a trainer I have the highest regard for in his care of his horses, but citing people down the road before they go for the Triple Crown is just nuts. As for nose strips, what rubbish. If it protects the horse, leave it alone.

26 May 2012 12:00 AM
Alex'sBigFan

Perfectly stated Steve on both counts.  Ridiculous timing on the O'Neill thing and stupidity on the NY steward's part.  I wrote my sentiments on this last night on your other article so I don't want to reiterate too much but the strips are just equipment, not medicated, and not performance enhancing.  They work on key touch points of the nose's anatomy and even human runners do wear them.  You are absolutely right the authority of racing is too fragmented, one rule in one state, another rule in another state, no one being on the same page.  I think the Jockey Club should be able to overrule NYRA on the nasal strips.  If more air is allowed into the nasal passages then maybe it helps EIPH, but performance enhancing?  Again, semantics.  So now IHA has an equipment change, albeit minor, going for a Triple.  No problem indeed, Lava Man is going to teach IHA to get mad and flare out his nostrils naturally and more air will get in that way!!!!!  Agree the O'Neill thing should be just a fine, kept quiet now, and yes this will mushroom or snowball if IHA does win, the public will think he was given some concoction to drink! Well they can strip him of the nasal strips but hopefully not the Triple Crown.  NYRA is being counterproductive.

Oh Wilbuuuuuuuuuuur!!!!!!!!!!

Have a nice holiday weekend Steve and everyone.

26 May 2012 12:00 AM
ksweatman9

That about sums it up, Mr. Haskins, well said. Horse racing always gets a bad rap, negative, negative, negative. "Animal rights activists" call the sport of kings abuse. What is being done to stop the unspeakable cruelty being carried out on Tennesee walking horses? If you have a strong stomach and don't mind losing some sleep, watch the undercover footage on youtube of the abuse. I don't have words to describe how I felt. Why is the focus always on racing? What is being done to help the poor Tennesee walkers? They are in so much agony from having acid applied to their hooves that they can't stand, so the "trainers" beat them to get them on their feet. Such evil being done to these wonderful horses for the purpose of getting them to step higher, and they call this a "show". It doesn't even seem possible in this country for that type of cruelty to be taking place. Where is PETA on this issue? Horse advocates unite, let's get the word out. Win the triple crown I'll Have Another, IN SPITE of everyone who hopes you won't. You don't need the nasal strips, tell the NYRA to shove them!!!!!!!  You can do it "RED".

26 May 2012 12:12 AM
Amy Hurley

Very spot-on column, as usual, Steve.  One would almost think that horse racing officials are doing everything possible to not only deny a possible Triple Crown, but to give the sport another black eye in the mainstream media.  The only point with which I disagree with you is on suspending O'Neil.  I understand trainer responsibility, but if it's agreed that he didn't milkshake the horse or do anything nefarious, I don't think he deserves any suspension.  I have really changed my opinion of Mr. O'Neil after seeing all that he has done for horses, the sport of horse racing, and kids.  His enthusiasm and sense of humor are most welcome and something we need more of.  He is an outstanding ambassador for the sport.  O'Neil has every right to feel "persecuted," but seems to be handling this latest nonsense quite well.  Best wishes to Team O'Neil.

26 May 2012 12:17 AM
Aaron McC

Maybe the California Horse Racing Board and NYRA are MEDIA GENIUSES and have developed a brilliant strategy to increase the poignancy of this years already incredible Triple Crown narrative, creating public sympathy for the now beleaguered heroes, O'Neil and I'll Have Another and taking the rap as the bad guys.  After all, who in the public would think it fair that a horse be denied a NASAL STRIP, or that it's even remotely OK for a trainer to be banned for 45 DAYS, for not doing ANYTHING intentionally.

OH. Wait.  Did I say media geniuses?

Actually, its probably more likely that these guys actually think they're making their own behinds look good, while trying to distract attention from their own corrupt practices which, esp in the case of NYRA, will be a CENTRAL focus of national media attention in two weeks.    

And they have no real foresight, or media understanding beyond their own selfish, short term needs, and couldn't understand, or maybe really couldn't care, that they have just struck another blow against racing, themselves.

Huh. Racing needs more help than I thought.

26 May 2012 1:04 AM
The Deacon

'And we wonder why the ratings are down and people are sick and tired of stupid officials making stuoid decisions. Right on Steve, thanks for saying like it is'.

Banning a horse wearing a nasal strip has got to be an all time low for the NYHRA. No wonder folks from the west scream, east coast bias. This isn't about the sport, it's about control and power hungry individuals making stuoid decisions we all have to live with.

I hope I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown and really shows those morons in charge.......  

26 May 2012 1:30 AM
JayJay

Totally agree with both points.  And totally agree with everyone's posts.  This is just very frustrating.  Too angry to type anymore...

26 May 2012 3:04 AM
Geronimo2123

Excellent Article Steve...

This needed to be written. The Cal Board's move was self-serving and only serves to give racing a black eye (again) just like we heard all of these same issues being dredged up when Dutrow had Big Brown and many in the turf media would not shut up about Dutrow's runs-ins.

Its almost as if racing cannot allow itself a day in the sun whenever a triple crown is on the line...sad.

26 May 2012 5:20 AM
Zenyatta John

The NYRA has never allowed the use of Nasal strips, this is nothing new, they are simply up holding there 'house rules'. They also don't allow 'turn downs' either cause they feel they damage their racing surfaces. Other tracks allow 'turn downs'. They have the right to determine some the rules in NY, plain and simple.

26 May 2012 5:31 AM
Rusty Weisner

Steve,

I posted this to Jason's last thread, but it didn't show up.

O'Neill's suspension reminded me of something I read last week, an interesting obituary of a Mr. Fuller, the owner of Dancer's Image, horse DQ'd in the 1968 Derby.  Apparently there was a political dimension to his, and the horse's, story.

26 May 2012 5:41 AM
JJs Rocket

The nasal strip research shows that it is not a performance enhancement device. Humans can wear it in the Olympics so why cant horses wear it in a race. In some horses it probably reduces EIPH. That has to be a good thing. NYHRA should study its use and maybe reduce the amount of lasex that is being used.

Also have to agree the Cal Boards timing is silly. They know they have a weak case but proceeded with this case during the triple crown to get maximum exposure. O'neil is probably guilty of somethings years ago but he seems to have learned from his past mistakes. Dont try to use a questionable test to kick a guy that is doing alot of good for the sport.

Steve you hit the real problem with horse racing is that it is not regulated by one national enity. Imagine if Nascar, or NFL or NBA had different rules in each state. That is what horse racing needs to save the sport. If a trainer was suspended for just cause then he would be suspended anywhere in the US. The main thing a national organization could do is to promote a great sport and speak from one mouth. It could promote its stars, advertise and maybe a tv contract. You cant have different rules in each state. If the NFL did this then some state would probably have a TD worth 3 points and a field goal worth 7 points. No company could be run this way, imagine if Apple had 20 manufacturing plants and they all made the IPAD there own way. It just makes no sense.

26 May 2012 7:03 AM
PomDeTerre

steve, exactly why are you defending this man?  he has been charged in 14 states for illegal drug usage.  are you waiting for all 50 to convict him before you see the light? this was not an isolated incident. o'neill is nothing more than the west coast version of richard dutrow, plain & simple.  and for the message that ALL horses need to race CLEAN, the timing and exposure on this could not be more appropriate.  as far as the nasal strips go- stop your whining.  this is the rule, and it wasn't introduced simply for this year's belmont.  i suppose you'll also complain if it happens to rain in ny on belmont day.  

i feel badly for the horse and jockey, both of whom seem truly talented, but IHA was placed in a shady barn, and no matter if he wins the tc, there will always be a black cloud around his victories due to this trainer who puts winning over the animals' welfare.  that you would defend him and take issue with this man's actions sounds like sour grapes.  i, for one, am glad that he is getting this exposure.  drugs and substance abuse need to be weeded from the industry, and this is the perfect time to bring this to the forefront of the public.

26 May 2012 8:09 AM
Steve Haskin

PomDeTerre, how is saying that the Board's timing stinks a defense of him? I acknowdged that the rules say he should be suspended. Theyve had almost 2 years to suspend him. Why right now? You obviously read over that.

26 May 2012 8:19 AM
Dutch

Good article, Steve. This is the one time of year when the casual fan keeps an eye on horse racing. What a shame that these latest headlines fuel suspicions that horse racing is a crooked, tainted sport. Can't we just enjoy the possibility of the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years?

26 May 2012 8:23 AM
zdreamer

Cannot thank you enough for writing your article. It has been so frustrating, especially to read comments to the NY Times articles, etc, etc. Masochism comes to mind.

26 May 2012 8:35 AM
TBDancer

Excellent article, Steve! Had to laugh at "poppy seed bagel." I used a similar analogy on a different board, commenting that people eating poppy seed muffins (Costco ;o) have tested positive for opiates. Same idea.

I didn't understand the CHRB's ruling after their assessment that "Argenta was not 'milkshaked,' but we're fining and suspending anyway" logic. Seems like it's a matter of overkill. You're right about these folks not thinking with one mind.

I have always been a fan of Team O'Neill since Merv Griffin spoke so highly of them and how they treated the owners. Mr. Reddam said the same thing. Mario Gutierrez is indeed "Super Mario," and I have a VERY good feeling about this year's Triple Crown contender.

26 May 2012 9:05 AM
Susan from VA

Funny how I haven't seen the headline "Argenta was not 'milkshaked,' but we're fining and suspending anyway"

26 May 2012 9:44 AM
Skip

Why two years later?  Because he lawyered up and fought an unwinnable fight. One of the ONLY universal rules of racing the 'absolute insurer's rule's suddenly becomes something some people no longer want?  Or just in this case?

There was no good timing in this case.  If it had been handed down before or now, it still raises questions and exposes a perceived side of racing that a lot of us in it try to fight constantly.

Maybe the announcement of the penalty being made now is fortuitous? Maybe the public will think that no one, not even someone with a history like O'Neil could be dumb enough to pull a stupid stunt

26 May 2012 9:47 AM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, you are right, horse racing is its own worst enemy. I know the 'kings' sitting over their little kingdoms don't want someone else telling them what to do, but it is blatantly obvious that individual state boards making individual state decisions is a very broken business model. Horse racing needs a national commission with national governing and national rules. And the people serving on those commissions need to be familiar with the sport AND need to be from all walks of the sport - not just owners, not just trainers, not just gambling.

26 May 2012 10:03 AM
Skip

Hit the submit button before finishing my thought, sorry.

Anyway the public would possibly think he's being closely watched and would be less likely to try something nefarious.  If this was announced after the TC, and IHA wins it then it's possible that a big portion of the public would have seen it as 'he pobably did something' to win this with what a lot of them see as an improbable TC winner.

No matter how much those of us in the industry or the diehard fans want a TC winner, I'm not sure one with a trainer with these questions swirling around him will help or could take a backseat to a nifty little horse and a likable jockey.

26 May 2012 10:06 AM
fuzzbert

Here we go AGAIN!!!!  Just when it looks like horse racing is getting a new breath of life - BOOM - a slap in the face.  Go I'll Have Another!!!!  So 'em your #12.

26 May 2012 10:09 AM
plodderman

Mr. Haskins..... You want to put a STOP to all the drugs, doping and cheating going on in racing. Here is the EASY solution. please pass it on to your contacts. Let the stewards do "just what they are doing on California". If a trainer gets notice of an infraction, they have 30 days to fight it. After that (or some other fair time depending on the testing) they trainer is AT THE MERCY of the stewards and they can RULE HIM OFF at any moment from any horse he has trained i the past 30 days. Meaning that ANY horse the trainer has started in the past 30 days is INELLIGIBLE to race until the trainer either satisfies his fines or wins/loses his case. This way, you get a guy like Dutrow or O'nieel or whomever ready to win a big race AND THE STEWARDS CAN LITTERALLY SCREW HIM FOR CHEATING. Everyone will think twice before they pull out the needle or oppose a ruling. How easy is that?

26 May 2012 10:24 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Who are those guys? Have monsters from outer space taken over the CHRB and NY Times and are now infiltrating Belmont Park? They look like human beings, they are able to mimic the speech and movements of human beings but they are struggling with the thought process and actions of human beings and that is giving them away.

   There is nobody in the country more concerned about the welfare of all horses than I am, and there is no doubt that we have work to do, but I am also concerned about the welfare of the sport and would make decisions that didn't contribute to its downfall and a poor public image and I wouldn't throw gasoline into the fire if I had a choice. CHRB had a choice. If they were going to wait this long, they could have waited another month.

    Maybe the Racing Gods are paying attention to all of this nonsense that seems to be geared toward creating a negative karma that is trying to prevent us from having a Triple Crown again, and will take their own action. "We'll have a perfect day of weather, positive attitudes, and celebration on June 9th at Belmont Park. We'll erase the negativity from people's minds and I'll Have Another and Lava Man will strut with pride and joy before and after the Crown. Mario will majestically smile, and sit upon the back of a magnificent aniaml doing what he most loves to to do- Race and win and prove who's boss. Cookies and hats and tears of joy will be flying through the air in the stands as O'Neill amd Reddam and company know that they love their horses and take care of them the best they can, and can stand tall and proud. The dedicated fans who know that horse racing benefits both the equine and human species will have their day in the sun, finally, again. It's a shame that the venom spewers all came down with dysentery and couldn't join in the celebbration. Just a shame.

26 May 2012 10:40 AM
Linda in Texas

The gist of your article at quick glance parallels exactly how i felt

when the Headlines reached the Internet. I read another article about a trainer with ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED VIOLATIONS OF STUFF I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF. One would think that the California Board could have at least waited until after The Belmont. And extra carbon whatever in a system of 1 horse 2 or 3 years ago is giving O'Neill a 45 day suspension 'after'

the Belmont. Now let me go back and read Steve's column and see if i understand what i am reading. But frankly i have been pizzled for 2 solid days.

And now The NYRA says no nose thingy strip for I'LL HAVE ANOTHER

or any horse for that matter like it contains a slow drip of an enhancer in New York.

I have little patience. I am either glad, mad or sad. And i am pushed to be pizzled right now.

26 May 2012 10:45 AM
Slew

The sport of kings seems to be a slowly fading sport in America.  Now, the NYRA and the CHRB seem to want to kill it outright with their foolishness.

34 years, and we are at the threshold of a Triple Crown.  It's been so long, perhaps many have forgotten our heroes who so rarely have accomplished the feat.  Instead of heralding the event on the front page, the stewards seem determined to obfuscate the event by burying it under the cloak of alleged infractions and aspersions.  

where were all those meticulous stewards when all those horses broke down at Aqueduct?  A breath-right strip illegal?  A suspension for not giving your horse a milkshake?  Really???  Come off your high horses, stewards. 2 weeks to the Belmont, and you want to pretend to be doing your job?  Hey, if horse racing dies, you won't have any job to protect.  "What fools these mortals be."

Pomme de terre:  "shady barn"???  really?  O'Neil doesn't care about his horses? really???  I see 11 year old champion Lava Man wandering around the barn like a family pet, and you try to say O'Neil doesn't care about his horses?  Sorry, I just don't find any truth in your rush to judgement.  In fact, I think your "opinion" skirts libel laws too closely.

As for I'll Have Another and his team, I can only say, "Go, baby, go!"  

And all the fans should show up at Belmont wearing Breath-Right strips!

26 May 2012 10:47 AM
Linda in Texas

I stand as correct in my assumption that the charges on California are

really absurd coming at such an important time. And also the nose darn strip that i read are being banned.

I guess the amount of vanilla in Mr. Reddam's I'll Have Another Cookies are going to be scrutinized next and Mr. Reddam will be banned from The Belmont Racetrack because of the alcohol content in the vanilla.

Happy Saturday Racing to everyone.

And Douglas O'Neill and Team. i am

a loyal friend to a fault. Once you pass my test of worthiness, i will walk thru the fires of hell to be on your side. That goes for all of my friends and they all know it.

Thanks Steve, i wanted to mention this 2 days ago, but kept my mouth shut. Now you gave the start signal and i am off and running at the mouth.

26 May 2012 10:54 AM
Man o' War

Steve, I have to disagree with you on the timing of the O'Neill case.

Initially, after reading coverage on this website, I would have concurred; however, when I read the reader comments on a national press article about this ruling, they were nearly unanimous that the ruling was unfair, since no one actually thought O'Neill had milkshaked Argenta. Numerous commenters defended him, and skewered the ruling as lame-brained, almost to a man.

After reading those comments, I was left to wonder if the stupidity of the whole thing was so obvious that people who might normally believe racing crooked would be forced to see that some of the rulings and penalties don't make sense at all.  That seemed to be the strong consensus among those who commented. And since more people are watching us now, what better time to proclaim that misuse of medication is not rampant within the sport, and that extreme legal contortionism is necessary to pin such a charge to a trainer?

So if those who commented are indicative of the rest of the country, the perceived cleanliness of racing could actually take a boost in the public's eyes.

That this could be the proverbial "cloud with a silver lining" might be a possibility worthy of consideration.

26 May 2012 11:08 AM
iceknight

Good point on the timing of the ruling. Also it should be noted that the meeting by CHRB was done "closed doors". If they are doing this to bring transparency in racing, perhaps they should be transparent in their own dealings so that we know this is not motivated due to ulterior or political motives.

Regards the nasal strip/individual regulation,I would hold my comment because some racing jurisdictions might have individual rules that may be more beneficial to the health of horses, and if one state wants to take a lead on that, that wont be possible if we have a national body regulating things! What we do need however is an annual cooperative meeting of all the state racing bodies to discuss and make most rules uniform.

26 May 2012 11:09 AM
Steve Haskin

Plodderman, I agree wholeheartedly about stiffer penalities. It's the only thing that will deter the cheaters. And I agree about the appeals. But in this case, the CHRB stated emphatically that O'Neill didnt cheat and there certainly were no needles involved. If it had been proven he deliberately milkshaked his horse thats a totally different story. But considering this overage obviously was caused naturally and there was no ill intent, why punish O'Neill and most of all racing by putting this out to the scandal-hungry media and public at this ill-advised point in time?

26 May 2012 11:14 AM
Linda in Texas

My goodness, look at who all is racing in The Met Mile. Even 7 year old Caixa Eletronica, last watched him on April 14 when he won his race at Charles Town in the dark. A million dollar race.

I thought what is he doing at Charles Town, while everyone else was readying for the Kentucky Derby that dumplin' was running his heart out. And he won. Loved it and said so on my notes.

Caixa Eletronica is 7 years old and has some Skip Away in his blood lines.  Now i can say that the Met Mile will have some old time faves like Jackson Bend with Zito as trainer. Hard to go against a New Yawka' in New York.

And the rest of the competitors aren't too shabby either, Shackleford a favorite, Caleb's Posse and To Honor and Serve, etc.

Glad i am not a handicapper or I would be in a deep dilemna.

Reading Bloodhorse.com and Steve is like taking a shot of mental B-12, but don't tell California or New York Racing Authorities, they might ban Steve.

26 May 2012 11:20 AM
MonicaV

Once again, a great article and so very true.  Here we are with another horse with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown.  The Triple Crown is the biggest thing in horse racing because only 11 eleven horses have captured this elusive prize.  This is the greatest time for this sport to shine.  This is the time that horseracing holds the spotlight, when there is a chance to interest other people in this sport.  Everyone loves a winner and what do they do?  They bring up old news and throw a suspension on the trainer who is one step from his horse achieving immortality.  I have already predicted a TC this year.  This is THE HORSE.  I feel it in my bones.  I am even more sure now than ever and the reason is that mere mortals are messing with the racing gods right now and it is as though they don't want this horse to win.  I think everyone should be pulling for this horse.  Do you remember all the negative things that were happening in this nation when Secretariat captured the crown?  People embraced him because he was incorruptible and pure.  Look at this nation today.  Unemployment, the economy, people struggling to survive and in the midst of all this is a beautiful, fairytale horse that can make us forget adversity and revel in an achievment that is almost impossible to achieve.  It's time for this nation to witness another horse that will make us feel, once again, that no matter how bad things look, we will prevail and we will survive all of these hard times to come back as the greatest nation on earth.  This horse fights with everything he has and that's what it takes to join those 11.  HEART. I'll Have Another has that and I don't care how many fresh horses and equipment changes they throw at him he will make us all proud and let us share in the glory and success of this quest.  Get ready for the 12th Triple Crown winner.  HE WILL DO IT!

26 May 2012 11:27 AM
Linda in Texas

Oh Potato Person,(PomDeTerre) i cannot defend your remarks. You called me childish one time in one of my posts. Frankly, it was a compliment due to my age. But on the other hand, your comment here racking Steve does nothing to help the positivity in the Racing Arena. You are a naysayer. You mention nothing about the trainer with ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED VIOLATIONS! You know what this really compares to PDT, a person graduating from College and it being mentioned at the service that

so and so had a Public Intoxication charge when he was a freshman as he has his diploma handed to him.

Agree totally Slew and Dr. Drunkinbum. But then i always do.

Thanks Steve. You are the best.

26 May 2012 11:35 AM
Linda in Texas

The name of the Editor in Charge of this blog is either:

MR. HASKIN  OR  MR. "HASHKINS"

      NOT MR. HASKINS

26 May 2012 11:42 AM
michelee

Well said, sir. Well said.  I am reminded of Joe Palmer's comment in This Was Racing that "thoroughbred racing is an unusual sport in that anyone who goes past a racetrack feels privileged to throw a rock or two over the fence."

Well, it is a sport of opinion, one more about people than it is about horses, and when you're dealing with boards or committees there's an awful lot of both.  Good on you to pick out the truth.

Hang in there, The Team, and bring us a triple!

---

Steve, could you turn your eagle eye on Alpha and see what he's up to?

26 May 2012 11:47 AM
Pedigree Ann

In 1989, Aliysa was disqualified from her win in the Oaks S at Epsom for testing positive for a derivative of camphor. Her outraged owner, the Aga Khan, spent a small fortune funding research that demonstrated that the 'derivative' could have resulted from a natural physical process in the horse, but the British authorities wouldn't listen; Aliysa stayed disqualified. As a result, the Aga Khan boycotted British racing for over a decade.

26 May 2012 11:49 AM
Old Old Cat

We had a case in Baltimore where a man was incorrectly accused of murder.  When the DA's office learned of the facts they offered to release him IF HE WOULD PLEAD GUILTY TO A MURDER HE DID NOT COMMIT.  He agreed.  His lawyer disagreed and demanded a trial (by jury).  The jury somehow found him guilty and he went to jail!  The point is this.  How can the CHRB find a man guilty when they know he is innocent???  It happens all the time.  How can people of power make such moronic decisions?  It hoppens all the time.

26 May 2012 12:31 PM
Karen in Texas

The timing of the CHRB decision is unfortunate--after two years they might have waited until after the Belmont. However, as Man o' War said above, most of the public comments on other sites are sympathetic/empathetic toward O'Neill since there was no finding of milkshaking. (I do understand that he is responsible for the TCO2 elevation regardless of its actual cause.) My guess is that they pursued this case in the beginning because they intended full well to prove he did milkshake Argenta, and as he fought back and their investigation continued, they realized he did not. Then what? In order to save face at this late date and justify their efforts, they punished him anyway.

Medically, biologically, and business-wise the nasal strip decision is ridiculous. It is an external, superficial way to ventilate the horse's OUTER airway. I hope there is significant public outcry over this, including Slew's excellent suggestion that every patron on Belmont day wear Breath-Right strips! In fact, I think everyone entering any track in NY should begin showing up wearing strips NOW.

26 May 2012 12:34 PM
Karen in Texas

LiT----You are absolutely on a roll!!

Keep up the good work!

26 May 2012 12:43 PM
Bill Rinker

Nice article Steve, I hope this blog catches, Last one didn't go for some reason. You know I have kind of come to expect that negativity will rear it's nasty head whenever there is an issue or story concerning just about anything nowadays. We humans seem to be drawn to it, I supose that for some it justifies their assumptions, rather reality reflects their case consistantly or it's perceived reality or in some cases perception has become reality. So on this issue I'm going to follow the old New York addage and "Faagetaboutit". I don't really think it's going to have that much of an impact on racing anyway. If I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown most people will be enambered with the horse and Mario, and Doug O'Neil and Mr. Reddam interview great and leave you with a feeling of light heartedness and positive assurance, so I don't really see any problem there. So lets move on to the Belmont, I can't wait. I'm thinking it's going to be another great race. Dullahan should be really tough and I bet Union Rags brings his A game this time around, and at a mile and a half, one of the others might step up to the plate on Old Sandy and take the day.  

26 May 2012 1:14 PM
Wrensflight

Why not ban leg wraps, as long as they're at it? Thanks again, Steve, for yet another nicely pointed article. Racing is not the only discipline using nasal strips. They are used frequently by eventers. Regarding O'Neill's history, why choose this particular time to air dirty laundry, if, in fact, there is dirty laundry to be aired? Is he such an unpopular trainer that those in authority feel the need to punish him at the cost of the sport and the true star, the horse who has done so much? Such a petty abuse of power shames both the individuals responsible and the industry itself. Dr. D, you are my new hero! Waiting for those cookies.

26 May 2012 1:23 PM
Karen in Indiana

plodderman, the answer to your question is: not very easy when each state has its own board and each board makes its own rules. A trainer could have that done to them in one state and could move to another state to avoid the consequences. While state boards can honor the rulings from another state, that's voluntary and they don't have to.

26 May 2012 1:47 PM
GKM

Triple Crown 2012

Eleven have passed the test that’s true,

Since the last one, eleven had two.

Been ten jocks that tasted the thrill,

Only one man scored a double bill!!

To mystify for those in tune,

Twelve have pranced the surface of the moon.

He was Spectacular in the first two,

But a safety pin got lodged in his shoe.

Next came Campo’s Colony drumming,

He ran third, 1-1/2 behind Summing.

His daddy placed in all three,

Bet Twice angled out 14 degree.

It was Easy to silence the pup,

Sunday retaliated winning the Cup.

Everyone thought Charm would stay,

Until Touch Gold passed him that day.

The crowd got Quiet, the photo posted,

The closest defeat, another chance toasted.

D was lucky he wasn’t claimed,

Lemon drops into the hall of fame.

Baffert fighting his own personal war,

Couldn’t get the lead when they tripped the door.

It wasn’t funny when he was cut,

Frankel was there to cide kick his butt.

Rock set the pace for Queen Mary Lou,

And Smarty is very, very sorry too.

Last was Brown who had a chance,

But Kent forgot how to dance.

Mario knows his horse so well,

With this win his head would swell.

The kid is hoping from cloud to cloud,

You know his Mom must be proud.

The boy is having too much fun,

Unaware of what might become.

For if he wins the triple you see,

Gutierrez will go down in history.

Horoscope, Lotto, Chinese New Year,

Get your superstitious numbers in gear.

11 disorder, 12 perfection,

Planet run-ups due for correction,

Forget about loans, cheats, and drugs,

Humanity will enjoy all the hugs.

I’m rooting for you, I pray you win,

Twelve legions of angels will follow you in.

Koń Pana Boga can seal you brother,

Break the line and I’LL HAVE ANOTHER!!!

g

26 May 2012 2:01 PM
happyticket

Where is the best place to purchase an Ill Have Another t-shirt? I understand this is off topic, but can anyone help?

26 May 2012 2:54 PM
ragstoriches

Steve,

I have some questions and I can't find any answers so wondering if you can help.

The horse, Argenta, had .39 of carbon dioxide whatever in its system and the limit is .37.  How much does .02 really count?  I mean what is the difference!?  I understand that rules are rules but what exactly is O'Neil guilty of?

I also read a blog on another website that listed data for a lot of high profile trainers and all of their infractions over the last few years.  O'Neill had relatively few, I think 2 or 3 hundred, as compared to someone like Bill Mott who had thousands!  Mott has had more starters granted but how do these other trainers escape the doghouse?  Baffert, Pletcher, and Asmussen were all on the list and they had plenty of infractions.  What gives?

My only fear regarding IHA's nasal strip is that they are changing something right before he has to run the race of his life!  I hope he will be fine without it, but it makes me nervous.  Rules are rules and horses, trainers, and owners should not be given leeway because of the circumstances.  That's fine.  But I am wondering if Pletcher was in this spot and used the damn patch for every race if the NYRA would have perhaps looked the other way considering most of the millions of dollars put into their system is generated by Pletcher.  Just a thought.

26 May 2012 3:19 PM
Delrene

Dear Mr. Haskin - Thank you for your terrific article and I am enjoying all the comments.  Having seen I'll Have Another win at Santa Anita and being so impressed with his jockey & team, I didn't notice his cute little nasal strip until later.  I am obviously not an expert by any means and am swayed obviously by their beauty and their names.  I feel more that it's his "good luck" charm as well as having the great Lava Man as his mentor.  I noticed other athlete (human & equine) wear them too.  I can't believe anyone in charge  thinks it gives him some kind of performance enhancing edge.  He will do just fine.  I do hope this gorgeous "can do" colt and rider mow the field down like Secretariat did.  He is amazing to watch and wonder over.  No matter what I want all horses and riders to come home safe. The timing of all this is unfortunate.  Something held up for so long and the ruling certainly could have been post Belmont.  Thank you again for keeping us focused and informed.

26 May 2012 3:27 PM
Mister Frisky

Steve,You are the king of turf writers there is none higher.The bottom line for me is the horse IHA,he is clean and if he is good enough in 2 weeks he wears the crown.I think a lot of bloggers are prisoners of the moment.This is the truth O'Neill isn't squeaky clean and Reddam made his fortune in the mortgage business,which is about above board as horse racing.You can tell by the posts that many people here aren't gamblers, thus not understanding the implications cheaters have on gamblers.IHA would be a deserving champion.I'm afraid the problems racing faces are going to be just as wide and deep come June 10th that even a TC winner won't make a dent in them.

26 May 2012 3:29 PM
reesie123

If I worked for NYRA I would be too embarrassed to admit it to anyone.

26 May 2012 3:33 PM
Janis from Winnipeg

I'm actually pretty concerned about this nose strip thing.  First, it makes no sense that an small item that does absolutely no harm to the horse and has been shown to reduce bleeding would be banned arbitrarily in one jurisdiction when it is okay in the vast majority of others.

Re effect on lowering bleeding, I've seen studies that indicate the effect on reducing bleeding is from 33% to 68% depending on the particular horse.  Folks, this could be huge on race day.

26 May 2012 3:51 PM
Deltalady

THANK YOU!! Great run-down on this issue, and many of us have already expressed our dismay and chagrin at the timing of this ruling.  Where much of the press is still reporting this in a negative way, not explaining or amplifying the ruling and the context, many of my buddies on Facebook and other venues ARE VERY MUCH spreading the word that basically this is a "non-issue", a minor infraction (considering a recent New York standardbred trainer has finally been suspended after 1700 (!) infractions of a much worse nature).  At a time when reason and sanity should be on display by our regulators as most of us do want raceday medication reform, we see this kind of display of poor judgment and utter stupidity.  Going overboard to appear to be "righteous" shows a total lack of judgment and good sense.  There is much more work that needs to be done if we are to bring back integrity and win back the trust of the general public.  This type of wrong-headed action by those who are supposed to know more than we do does nothing to instill confidence in the process.  We see this kind of ill-thought out actions taking place all over the racing map.  I thought firing Veitch and fining the jockey in the Life At Ten fiasco was the biggest waste of time and resources, and then to leave Pletcher totally unscathed!  When this issue came out about O'Neill, even though it was in a different state -- or because of it -- it demonstrated how fractured the sport is in the regulatory area. I could not help but wonder at the time, had I'll Have Another's connections' blood been just a little "bluer", as in one of the "big shots" if they would have been treated as shabbily as O'Neill has been.  I think the answer is obvious.

26 May 2012 4:04 PM
LucyWG

  I agree with Slew.  The treatment of Lava Man speaks VERY well of the barn.

  I just visited a horse rescue this morning.  Ordinary horses are abandoned every day, but so are ex-race winners and show horses, even those that earned their owners many honors.  Seeing how Lava Man is appreciated gives me hope for the horse world.

26 May 2012 4:15 PM
Ted_S

What if they are singling out O'Neill? And what if they are doing it a moment that really bites him? Reddam himself admitted that O'Neill probably succumbed to the pressure that "everyone else is doing it." As if that was a good excuse. I respect what you write, Steve, but coming up in defense of O'Neill right now goes against the horses.

26 May 2012 5:21 PM
greyhorse

So no one understands how these cases work? It's not like the CHRB sat on its hands for two years. Test results don't come in immediately, and then there's all the red tape. The board could give out punishments much quicker if every defendant didn't stretch it to the max. It's O'Neill's own fault this was drug out so long and the fight ended at time bad for his PR. But it makes for a nice conspiracy theory, doesn't it?

26 May 2012 5:36 PM
Abigail Anderson

Thank you, Steve, for having the courage to step up to the plate on both the CHRB and the so-called "nasal strip issue." Now, Jeremy Plonk has just written up an article deriding O'Neill & partner for the death of a filly/mare (Burna Dette) of theirs in a $2,000 Los Alamitos claiming race. Good going, thoroughbred racing. You have a golden window to attract new fans to the sport and to get some desperately needed positive coverage and here you are, shooting both of your feet off. Okay, O'Neill may not be perfect. But why would anyone except for an anyone with a death wish choose now to publicize this stuff?

26 May 2012 6:25 PM
Paula Higgins

Are you kidding? They fined O'Neill for .2 over the co2 limit? Are they insane? They need a new standard that allows for up to 5-10 points over the limit before they start suspending people. The police don't even stop you unless you are going 10 miles over the speed limit. Just nonsense. For all of you who think it is legitimate, think about the timing of this if nothing else. That is just nuts on every level.

26 May 2012 6:43 PM
Karen in Indiana

Here's a link that explains TC02 levels and what can cause them to be high:

www.michigan.gov/.../TCO2_handout_274689_7.pdf

26 May 2012 7:30 PM
Skip

For those saying it's just a slight overage? Where do you set a limit?  Keep raising it as necessary?

On one hand everyone is screaming for stiffer penalties and universal rules, on the other hand it's 'oh my how can they do this to a potential TC winner?

Well I bet some of the same people complaining now were calling for Doug's head on a platter not too long ago. I just am sad that such a nice colt and the chance of a lifetime are in the hands of this crew

Surely you all are aware that the levels can be increased by means other than milkshaking?

Steve, you say he had no ill intent, wasn't and isn't that what we hear from repeat offenders?

26 May 2012 7:37 PM
breeze10

Steve:  As I said a few days ago..."YOU ARE ON A ROLL THIS WEEK" ! Good for you and your courage to speak up!!!!  I do not agree that the suspension should have been set.  I agree with Paula Higgins TOTALLY on that ! This is not the time for this nonsense..they had 2 years !  The entire scenario seems very shady to me!  Some one got this "ball" rolling....WHO ????!!! (All this crap started after IHA's Derby win..tell me, please, who could have been so sore...so vindictive to get this crap in action!)

This whole thing is quickly dampening spirits in regard to the TC, but, you know what?  I think we all need to remember the upcoming race (and TC) is about THE HORSE!!!  We have all known for a long time that the racing industry is it's own worst enemy...this just goes to prove that!  Maybe we should all, in order to show them how ridiculous this has become...just wear breathing strips to any and all tracks on June 9th! (Imagine that...millions of people show up at tracks across America wearing breathing strips!)  I think it would show how trivial this ruling is!  Whatever...let's still all hope for a TC...hope all come out of the race safe...and hope that racing soon wises up!

26 May 2012 7:45 PM
MsEllie

Oh how many times do I have to throw my hands up in exasperation?  Steve, you read my mind....please, CHRB, do what you can to drive fans away....the horses should give you all a good kick in the arse...you' re not helping..

26 May 2012 8:00 PM
Virgil

Okay - I'm just reporting here:  TVG interviewed Keith Brackpool today re CHRB timing on Doug O'Neill decision.  Maybe there's video available somewhere of the full interview.  CHRB received the 24 page report from the hearing officer in early May. Apparently, legally that report is available to the public 30 days after it's submission and can be read by anyone.  Requests to see it had already been made.  CHRB felt it would be better to make their ruling, adopting the hearing officer's recommendations, before it was publicly available and possibly be interpreted more negatively by whomever.  Just reporting.

26 May 2012 9:26 PM
Deltalady

Steve, how about discussing the TRF and its troubles by a crusading NY AG. I have tried to understand what is going on here, and for the life of me, the only conclusion I can come up with is the attorney general of New York is suing anything and every one he can draw in his sights, and not just the TRF.  Google him and you will see what I mean.  This is an even worse tragedy in my opinion than the O'Neill over-reach, because we basically have a bunch of good people trying to do their best to help our most vulnerable horses.  Valuable resources are being diverted to fight these allegations. Are the issues the law suit claims are happening at the TRF true, or is this an over-zealous prosecutor making a name for himself? As someone said above about your current column, I don't have curse words enough to cover how upset and concerned I am at what is happening to our sport.  It just seems that we are under siege and there is a reign of terror going on, and this at a time when we should be celebrating the very real possibility of a Triple Crown after such a long dry spell.  They say it's darkest before the dawn.  Let's hope we see some sun soon.

26 May 2012 10:42 PM
anza

self-destruction

26 May 2012 11:10 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Slew

  And now back to our regular programming, "The Pursuit of the Elusive Triple Crown." I am rooting for you and your dream to come true. Go Baby Go !!!! I'll Have Another Triple Crown, please.

Wrensflight

   Excellent post. I agree with all of it, and thank you very much !!!! The true stars and the real heroes are the horses, and we do owe them the best of treatment and the best of retirements, but we also should be able to celebrate the pursuit of an incredible achievement without the negativity at this time. I'll Have Another is having the time of his life, an absolute ball, and he is the King of the Ball. Let him and his team and the fans that have been waiting forever for this moment enjoy it. I can understand a newspaper that stinks anyway trying to create controversy to sell papers by writing garbage, but the CHRB should be smart enough to understand the ramifications of poor timing. I am now going to try to get away from the negative junk, and get back to cheering this gentle warrior, I'll Have Another to gain his place in history where so few have gone. He's something really special, isn't he. And the entire team has ddone such a good job taking care of him and getting him to the point where his greatness can shine.

26 May 2012 11:29 PM
Paula Higgins

I saw Keith Blackpool and the interview was as clear as mud. Look, if you are going to take the serious step of suspending someone don't put in the report that he wasn't milkshaking (which they did). You only look ridiculous. I think there should be a step in between, such as a citation that the horse's co2 was .2 over and don't do it again. I think they need to re-evaluate their levels too. There are serious issues in horse racing. This Argenta situation wasn't one of them. The point is, horse racing boards shouldn't be over reaching in a Draconian manner. One extreme is almost as bad as the other. Society has developed an all or nothing mentality to correct legitimate problems. For example, the 0 tolerance policy for violence in school. To the point if a kid brings in a butter knife or water pistol to school, he is thrown out of school. Horse racing does not need to go down that path. Real problems need addressing, such as REAL milkshaking which markedly elevates co2 levels. Injectable perfomance enhancing drugs (non-lasix). Abandonment of horses after their careers are done. The list goes on. Let's get real and use common sense. I believe that Doug O'Neill has not gone down the milkshaking path in a long while and I bet the board knows that. I suspect he got the message over a year ago.

26 May 2012 11:56 PM
Paula Higgins

Reading about the Burna Dette situation is disturbing. That's a whole other sad story and in that situation O'Neill either was unethical or used very bad judgement. I am not sure which. Only he knows the truth of the matter.

27 May 2012 12:12 AM
Skip

Apparently people don't understand how this works.  Yes it's been two years,  BECAUSE DOUG HAS BEEN FIGHTING THIS!  He was facing a 180 day suspension and big fine. He needs to have no overages for a period of time, this isn't as insignificant as it's being portrayed by some people.

I can hear the outcry now when something occurs in the future and face it, history repeats itself.

I do seriously wonder what the reaction would have been towards this if IHA wasn't going for the TC. I have a hunch the CHRB would have been vilifiedfor letting him off the hook.

27 May 2012 12:29 AM
sysonby

Do we need a ns designation for the DRF ?

27 May 2012 12:51 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Now it's really getting ridiculous. Did you hear the latest? The NYRA has voted to bar Paul Reddam from eating any cookies while in New York !!! "We here at the NYRA are taking a stance against any owner going for the Triple Crown eating unhealthy, and it has come to our attention that Mr. Paul Reddam is quite fond of cookies. He will face a hefty fine if found to be eating cookies inside the boundaries of the great state of New York."  When asked, "What about ice cream?"  The response was, "Well, we haven't heard of Mr. Reddam eating any ice cream but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, if it is reported to us from any of our sources or a newspaper that Mr. Reddam has indeed been eating ice cream.  A reporter asked, "Even if it's Ben and Jerry's?"  NYRA's response was, "Well as we have said. Uh, just a minute."  A group of NYRA representatives conferred in conference. "Uh, yes, it would probably include Ben and Jerry's but a ruling on that would probably come after the ruling on ice cream in general. Anymore questions?"  "What about Snicker's bars?"  "Well, I believe that Snickers would be OK since I do believe they have peanuts which I do believe would put it in the healthfood category. Now if there are no more questions, I've got a date with a bottle of Cognac."

27 May 2012 1:00 AM
Terry M.

I agree with everything you just said in your story. You must have read my mind! I had just published my own story about this, then read yours and saw we were on the same page regarding O'Neill, although my blog is of course different.

horsesenseanddoggerel.blogspot.ca/.../drug-free-horse-racing-is-it-pipe-dream.html.

27 May 2012 1:00 AM
ksweatman9

You know, I find this all somewhat ironic. I'll Have Another is on the threshold of possibly becoming a triple crown winner and he IS a California pony, right? So why do they want to shoot themselves in the foot with bad publicity about the trainer? Looks bad for the horse too. I don't get it. What am I missing here? They should be elated. Zenyatta, and now I'll Have Another, the west coast state seems to be on a roll. They should be proud. Makes no sense to me.

27 May 2012 1:29 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I happened to catch an interview with a CHRB member who was explaining why the board made the decision on O'Neill at this time.  "If a woodchuck could chuck wood then would a woodchuck chuck wood? In other words, if a tree fell in the forest and nobody was around to hear it, would it still make a sound? I think you get my point and I'm sure you agree that we had to make the decision when we made the decision or it wouldn't really be a decision would it Chuck?"  Ok, I'm done now.

27 May 2012 1:37 AM
Ellie

Wow. I love horse racing-the horses, the people behind the horses, the competitive spirit of the horses, and the unexpected things that can happen. (Think of Afleet Alex in his Belmont). I watched Secretariat win the Belmont when I was 8. But you know, I do not like "the powers that be"- the "whoever they are's" calling the shots and making the rules. I am not even remotely interested in knowing who these people even are, so excuse my ignorance. Seems to me they're pretty self serving- rather be big fish in a small pond rather than risk what power they have by creating uniform racing rules as to what's allowed or not. They have made horse racing......well.....Goofy. I think that word sums it up. As for the folks calling O'niell's barn "shady"- sorry, folks. Lava Man could never have stayed so successful, for so long, and staying sound in a "shady" barn. There's no drugs in the world that can make that happen. That's called consistent, excellent care for the horse. Horses don't lie!        

27 May 2012 2:18 AM
John Mooring 1

The state where they curse the "rich" at $40,000.00 a plate dinners?

27 May 2012 9:07 AM
Katherine

I have been puzzling over the CHRB's 'findings' since I read it. The press release sounds like an announcement tip toeing around so as to avoid a libel/slander lawsuit but still blacking the eye of a trainer they would rather damage than have enhance California's image by accomplishing the legendary feat of winning a triple crown. The language was so self serving it made me gag then and does now when I think about it. How can someone be fined and suspended for doing something that CHRB acknowledges they did not do intentionally or otherwise?!? California has more problems than I thought. I think it would be a good idea if everyone reading this blog (and I believe that number to be substantial) would write a letter to CHRB and the Governor of California to express their dismay and point out the bad publicity and lack of judgement of the powers that be. It is obvious to me that the present board is so lacking in judgement they need to be replaced. How can they protect the horses they have been charged with protecting whey they can't even exercise common sense?

I think it would be great if one you California attorneys reading this blog would represent Doug O'Neill probono in this matter. This 'ruling' cries out for an appeal. It is a shame that a governing body can make ridiculous judgements and beggar an individual in expending enormous amounts of their capital on attorney's fees in their defense.

To Team O'Neill all I can say if 'Go baby go', we've got you back.

27 May 2012 9:08 AM
Katherine

Love your column Dr. D.

27 May 2012 9:18 AM
steve from st louis

My grandma used to say, "If you don't eat garlic, you don't stink." Well, Doug O'Neill stinks. As does the CHRB. The whole industry stinks. There is no more bifurcated sport than horse racing. The only thing pure is the horses themselves. They run purely for our enjoyment, straining bone, blood and every muscle to run as fast as nature allows. I feel sorry for the horses.

27 May 2012 10:22 AM
happyticket

I wonder if Life At Ten had a high TCO2. If she had a bad reaction to lasix and was tying up, dehydrated? I don't even know if she was tested but, I guess Todd Petcher is no O'Neil?

27 May 2012 10:30 AM
ksweatman9

I don't care about fines, suspensions, and the accusations being hurled at O'Neill. I want another triple crown winner, let the red pony take the crown and history will separate him from all the BS. That's how it works. 20 years from now, I'll Have Another will be known only as the 12th horse to be crowned a triple crown winner. All this hoopla about his trainer will long be forgotten. Win the Belmont "Red", take the crown. I'm getting old, and tired of waiting.

27 May 2012 11:42 AM
Karen in Texas

Okay, here's a link to a Sunday news article that sort of briefly summarizes the CHRB's thinking on the timing of their decision. Apparently, O'Neill intends to keep fighting.

www.utsandiego.com/.../california-racing-board-explains-timing-doug-oneil

27 May 2012 12:03 PM
jbluesbeatle

The "decision" by the stewards not to allow nasal strips on I'll Have Another strikes me as both petty and suspicious. What are the odds that O'Neill's suspension and the nasal strip ban are not linked? I say 0%.  Someone clearly dislikes O'Neill, or doesn't want his horse to win the Triple Crown.  The horse is accustomed to the nasal strips, so someone may be betting that I'll Have Another won't do as well, not because of some therapeutic element, but because of the psychological impact.

Regardless of whether O'Neill has or has not committed the milkshake infractions, his horse has a legitimate chance to win. We saw the same shenanigans with Big Brown, when Dutrow removed the performance enhancers. Big Brown lost.

Doug O'Neill has two choices. He can run his horse and possibly lose because of someone's immaturity or dislike of him, or he can refuse to run his horse. In this case, prionciple should matter. I would also encourage Doug to appeal that decision, and also find out who is really behind the nasal strip issue. That person should be exposed, and the stewards should be fired for their actions. Meanwhile, fans should set up Facebook pages in defense of I'll Have Another, they should boycott Belmont Park, and further, file suit as interested parties for this fraud. Let's be very honest here. Someone doesn't want O'Neill to win, and if nasal strips aren't really banned, then he should thumb his nose at the stewards. Whoever is behind this issue is a coward. The issue is bigger than simply Doug O'Neill. It looks like a vendetta, and fans shouldn't tolerate it. I'll Have Another is talented, and should not be prevented from winning.

27 May 2012 12:38 PM
ksweatman9

I'm certain this has crossed minds, but I'll say it anyway. 12th triple crown winner to win the crown in the year 2012. Is it going to be a magic number?

27 May 2012 12:59 PM
Paula Higgins

Skip, yes I know O'Neill was fighting this for a period of time but why did they feel now was the time to make their finding? They could have done it earlier or later. They certainly had that option. As for chronic overages, yes I get that too and that should be dealt with, but not via suspension for one incident that doesn't add up. That's why we need a national board with standardized criteria, that makes sense, for citing, suspending and fining. As Steve from St. Louis said, the only totally blameless participants are the horses. I also think if you looked at each and every trainer, there would be maybe 10 that weren't involved in this stuff at any level. They may not have the highest winning averages but they have integrity.

27 May 2012 2:37 PM
loosehorse

If a nasal strip needs to be regulated equipment then what about nose bands, tongue ties, shadow rolls and different bits.

27 May 2012 2:50 PM
predict

I shudder everytime an excellent California horse goes to race in a nationally important race at Belmont. Ever since Lost in the Fog went there for the Breeders Cup and lost and returned a horse dying from cancer. It would be OK with me if every California horse boycotted all Belmont racing. I don't like to swear but the rotten element in New York can bring it out in me.

As for the CHRB, I believe they are corrupt and working at the behest of investors and developers that would like to see the tracks that sit on prime real estate close so they can buy the land at a fraction of what it is worth.

27 May 2012 4:00 PM
Bill Two

Not to patronize you, but I couldn't agree more.  The public perception of horseracing can only get worse when news of O'Neill's suspension gets their attention. CHRB obviously has a bone to pick with the trainer, but in their myopic way they have managed to sabotage a feel good story which celebrates the best of horse racing.  You are certainly on the mark about the need for a central regulatory body with standardized rules.  What the public doesn't understand is that even the purest of the pure fall victim to the myriad different rules in place from one state to the next. Another thing is that many of the so-called violations occur because horses metabolize medication at different rates and it's very easy to come up with a positive even without malicious intent. All the public hears is that Doug O'Neill has been suspended for drugging horses and like you say they don't read beyond the headline. As for the NYRA.....shame on them!  

27 May 2012 4:24 PM
Ted from LA

Is it just me or does Dr. D seem more intoxicated than usual?

27 May 2012 4:54 PM
Bigtex

I think team O'Neil needs to to say to NYRA that "we're wearing the darn nasal strips because that's what's best for our horse.  If you want to ruin our triple crown with your legalism then we'll let it be on your head!"  I seriously would call NYRA's bluff on this.

Do Haskin bloggers need to show up wearing nasal strips???

27 May 2012 5:15 PM
Nyfalcon

Thanks for addressing this Steve,  I posted on Facebook BH  page and am so mad that I can hardly type and I love ny but my goodness how stupid realy!!!!  Shaking my head in discuss  .this will not tarnish nothing as far as how fine this team is ,there tops.keep up the kill them with kindness and we the fans well do all the fighting for them .now where are my breath rite strip , oh the Indy 500 winner was wearing one did they disqualify him???

27 May 2012 6:26 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Gee Ted, it's just cookies. Non-alcoholic. Do you think a dozen a day is too much? Just doing my part to fight the negativity.

Thanks Katherine. Was glad to see that you had come back recently.

27 May 2012 7:10 PM
Aspercel

Great article again :)

27 May 2012 7:43 PM
Linda in Texas

I love it. Someone asked the assistant trainer of I'll Do it Again Regardless, aka, I'll Have Another if Mr. Reddam had rented them a place to stay in New York.

His answer, Mr. Reddam has leased a 7 room home with many bathrooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court.

They have 3 meals a day and can chill in the evening playing cards.

Mr. Reddam you are a class act, a wonderful owner, super boss man and your entire team headed up by

Douglas and Dennis O'Neill are without a doubt the greatest.

I especially appreciate the man i always see leading I'll Have Another, the other day as they were walking to the barn, he stopped to remove a hose from the path of I'll Have Another, no use tripping over that. But he is

attentive to every detail.

Sorry if this ticks some off, but

you give credit where credit is due. The horse, not Doug, ran and won the races, The Santa Anita Derby, The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness and Doug is the architect.

And if New York wants a bloody-nosed horse running around the tracks, that is their business but It freaks some people out. Keep

changing the rules, but change them for every horse.

Ted from Boston - Dr. D. is feeling little pain and that is our gain.

His writing really improves if he

is hitting the Cognac a little hard and it does go well with Cookies.

27 May 2012 7:50 PM
Slew

Dr. D: you're a Sweetheart, and I do need a Triple Crown winner.  Your reporting of the stewards' response made me want to go out and kick the woodchuck under my porch.  He'll not chuck any more wood here.  Unfortunately, he's a celebrity in Punxsatawny as the harbinger of "six more weeks of winter". (Everyone keeps trying to run him over but it never works.)

Jbluesbeatle: chill!  boycotting the Belmont would just kill off the sport faster.  

It seems to me if horses can wear nosebands, tongue-ties, shadow rolls and blinkers, then a breath right strip is an even less innocuous piece of equipment that should require no legislation.  Maybe IHA doesn't need it, but I really hate to see any equipment change before a major race.  Anyone who suffers from a deviated septum however, knows a breath right strip can make all the difference in an otherwise sleepless night.  It simply keeps the nasal passages open, allowing one to breath with both nostrils.

loosehorse: Amen!

It seems to me that the CHRB is using a suspension as a club against a trainer who hasn't committed the infraction of which he is accused.  Then the NYRA won't allow a nasal strip, but allows Rick Dutrow to race there every day no matter how many flagrant violations he has already been proven to have committed.  Upside down, isn't it?

To I'll Have Another, Lava Man and the entire team I still can only say, "Go Baby Go!"  Show them all who's really in charge.  Let's get that Triple Crown.

(And to Belmont goers...don't forget to wear your breath-right strips!)

27 May 2012 8:35 PM
Cassandra.Says

I believe it's even worse than some of you have said. The strips are not to increase oxygen uptake but to decrease turbulence in the horse's airstream by holding the nasal passage at a constant width. They are purely a health and safety aid. Turbulence is the immediate cause of bleeding episodes although many factors contribute to turbulence and to inflammation which increases susceptibility.

As long as our horses have to live and perform alongside parking lots, I think we owe it to them to ameliorate the unnatural added stress on their breathing any simple, healthy way we discover. (This doesn't include Lasix, to my mind.)

I'm wondering if you could get a positive for CO2 by feeding a horse Tums and Gatorade.

Racing enforcement reminds me of a cartoon of a looming judge on the bench saying to the defendant "Since this is your first offense, and since the jury has found you not guilty, I'm going to let you off with a warning."

27 May 2012 8:53 PM
Racingfan

Great article Steve and I agree with every word!  I can't believe they did this!  But I guess it really shouldn't be a surprise at this point.  It seems like at every big event someone - usually the race telecast itself - tries to show racing in a bad light.  I have been disgusted that it seems like during almost every race telecast since Eight Belles, the race broadcasters have to bring up something negative about racing - this year it is "drugging" horses referring to Lasix but they never really explained anything in detail enough so that to the layman it sounded really bad in my opinion.  I am starting to think all the pre-race stuff that I have always loved watching should be discontinued!  Another big black eye for our beloved sport!!

27 May 2012 9:40 PM
jbluesbeatle

I read earlier that Kent Desormeaux said that Mario Gutierrez won't be able to win the the Belmont because of the track. Seems to me Mario is beating better riders than Kent because he is battle tested at Bush tracks, and as such is technically a better rider.  I would also say that Belmont would be an easier track to navigate than 1/2 mile tracks such as Timonium, in Maryland, with its sharp turns. Belmont has wide, sweeping, turns, sandy soil, so a battle tested rider, or even lesser riders should be able to handle that surface. The racing board and the stewards seem to be determined to keep Doug O'Neill and I'll Have Another from the Triple Crown with the 45 day ban and the nasal strip issue. Now, we have Kent Desormeaux making comments about the inability of jockey to win the race. Really? Is that so? People seriously need to let I'll Have Another and his owner and jockey do what they need to do and stop interfering. The undermining and outright hostility against the horse and jockey just make the situation worse for the sport. Besides, there is inherent hypocrisy in criticizing Doug O'Neill when Kent couldn't get the job done on Big Brown. Must have been the racing surface...or the loose shoe, or something else that no one else saw. The osession with I'll Have Another and his trainer must indicate that I'll Have Another must be the real deal.

27 May 2012 11:44 PM
hank

Great article as usual Mr Haskins, I left race track in early 1990's and if I rember there was gossip on the backside of a way to really help a horse, and everything used could be bought at the local food store, but it was a very guarded secret by the trainers who used it, so as everything that has taken place I wanted to get more info on milkshaking, I read an article in The Thouroughbred Times, under Vetinary Topics It was called, Milkshakes Leave A sour Taste, everyone should read this article it lays everything out in black and white, I can see when Mr Oneil said, I never milkshaked a horse he was 100% correct, I thought they could do it on their own, but no a vet has to do it because i guess you do it like u are tube woming a horse, could be very dangerous. I just recently read an article by someone who is a distance runner and they stated that the nasal band was very benefical to helping their perfomence, I have heard nothing but good reports from the person who developed these nasal straps as to their benefical qualities. Do they help I have no idea, I know seems like not that many other trainers have taken to them, but Mr Oneil definetly looks like a guy that does not leave a stone unturned. This is a real nice pony hopefully for racings sake he wins triple crown, Between Pena, Dutrow now this situation one can see why average gambler is turning to other venues. Nice to see small owner, horse bought at a smaller sale,small amount 35,000 purchaase price. Go IHA good luck

28 May 2012 1:35 PM
mairage68

This is a story for the scriptwriters and eventually a movie like Secretariat.  This is our society, no one wants to see someone move up because they don't have a hand in it.  It does put a doubt on the minds of those who reads anything the media headlines regarding IHA's chances of winning without those nasal strips.  I didn't even know what they were until I looked closely.  

This is the same issue as if you need a surgery to make you better but your HMO is denying for you to have the surgery.  So therefore you just have to fend for yourself.  

With IHA and Mario, he's not super like everybody says he is, he gets his cue from IHA and Mario knows how to handle him and with that combination you don't get everyday.  Otherwise we wouldn't have a 34 yr drought from TC.  These two are special at a special time on a special day.  It's also a redeeming grace for Doug.  He's not perfect and for him to take responsibility for something he didn't do takes courage and strength.  He's been in this business for sometime, you don't become great without mistakes and you learn from them.

28 May 2012 2:10 PM
mairage68

This is a story for the script writers for a movie.  It's so sad but our society is really divided into shakers and movers. All the responses to your article is great and agrees with you, but it doesn't change the situation of NYRA banning nasal strips for IHA.  Or change the CHRB decision for Doug.  Eggs in the faces of the these governing bodies are far more damaging than having to face losing their credibility.  Just like our Congress, these bodies needs an overhaul.

28 May 2012 3:00 PM
minnomouse

Politics!

28 May 2012 5:59 PM
Thelwell Pony

Steve, thank you for articles like this that make people THINK for themselves and ask "why do they do this?" questions. Sometimes, there is a very good, very ethical reason at the core... sometimes, it's just plain dumb. Sometimes the rules don't even protect the horses.

I have mixed feelings about the milkshaking/TCO2 ruling after reading this. I don't know as much about the O'Neills as some of the other trainers, so I cannot personally say "He's innocent and he's totally ethical." Here's a devil's advocate position: what if the ruling has actually been pushed back as far as they can make it? I don't know this, but for the sake of argument... with a suspension earlier in 2012, does IHA get the start in the SAD, or the win? The suspension is in California, not just at Del Mar, correct? If so, no SAD for IHA and he doesn't have earnings to start in the Derby. So we wouldn't be watching THIS horse go for the TC. The timing on the part of the Board is interesting, to say the least. I can't decide if I think it is detrimental, or (as has been suggested) it will actually make people think twice about "violations" and fines in the sport. I DO think that politics are involved. Remember when Larry Jones was touting ethical drug use, and then got slapped with clenbuterol violations? Was that a coincidence? I think it was a witch hunt. Then, after he had Havre de Grace, the recovery from the EB saga was touted as miraculous, and no one ever mentioned clenbuterol again. So, in short, I think the board is tacky and inappropriate, even though they are doing a valuable job. I think this is analogous to being strip searched by the TSA because you had one shampoo bottle that was too big, and saying that it is being done to protect the masses.

Rules are important in any sport. I don't see changing the normals for one horse, but I think that the sample size to create the normals should be much larger. I also wonder if every barn/trainer routinely tests hay? Nutritional and trace mineral content can vary by region, and even the same field by cutting. Alfalfa alone could have led to this elevation. We know that racehorses in particular are predisposed to gastric ulcers. Recently, alfalfa has been clinically shown to help with ulcers due to its high calcium content and ability to buffer stomach acid. This could be enough to increase alkalinity therefore TCO2. Could it be that something that benefits a horse also casts suspicion upon its training and potentially strips the horse of earnings that help sustain that horse? I think that could happen in theory, although (as the records are not yet public) we don't know in this case. A trainer friend once told me regarding ulcers: "Yeah, the high-end ones get Gastrogard, but the cheaper claimers get Maalox and Tums." Again, TCO2 could be affected when finances prevented gold-standard treatment for a medical problem that definitely affects performance. Lasix is a diuretic, and definitely can have unpredictable physiological side-effects. We intentionally dehydrate these horses prior to extreme physical exertion. Why? Because horses on Lasix have reduced incidence of exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The whole thing is a balancing act with these athletes. If the blood is in the alveoli, it isn't delivering oxygen to tissues. If the horse is too dehydrated, the heart is working too hard to deliver oxygen to those tissues. If you get the balance wrong, winning can become a moot point if the bloodtests suggest that you weren't on the level. OR that you were feeding your horse well and using a legal medication, without which your horse is not competitive.

This is as good a transition as I can come up with to talking about the nasal strips. It is a NYRA rule, and they aren't going to change it for one little horse... now. But they need to reconsider changing it for all the horses. When the Olympic 3-Day horses are held together with only Adequan, Legend, and strategically timed joint injections, and they see nothing wrong with the strips, I think thoroughbred racing should follow that lead. Those event horses are so rigorously tested for banned substances that they can barely pee or bleed! But racing will never follow that lead. It's not like it's a fentanyl patch! It helps horses breathe by non-pharmeceutical means!

I am concerned that a change to a beneficial piece of equipment could really affect IHA's performance. If he's prone to bleeding, Lasix alone may not be enough to prevent it - we could see him really bounce in the Belmont. I surely hope not. I may cry for days.

In racing, I think both of these issues highlight that we need uniform rules, and soon. Each track and each state can still have a unique feel and flavor without having an array of rules that are picky, and potentially unfair and detrimental. It needs to be for the good of the horses. This is a sport which (at its core) is very pure - horses run fast, and it is cool to see which is the fastest one. At the point that you cannot use a nasal strip, why is it okay to run (or breed - yikes!) a horse on Lasix? How about one which has undergone a tie-back, a palate surgery, or even a PO strip or screw? How is that different? Where do we draw the line about what helps a horse, and what is dishonest? There is much work to be done. I think efforts keep stalling out because no one knows where to start. It leads to fighting, crazy rocking in the fetal position, and ultimately discouragement and an attitude that "this is as good as it gets." We cannot afford to be complacent.

I hope the little red pony can win, despite all of the negative hype and stupid NY rules. 12 in '12!

29 May 2012 2:47 AM
breeze10

I commented earlier..including with the suggestion about fans wearing breathing strips (glad some seem to be picking up on that): I think it would make NYRA look like absolute morons!  But, in follow up:

I have a friend who spent his entire adult life required to "watch his and his co-worker's back(s)" due to his career.  He has a wise saying (which I have found keeps me from getting involved in less than desirable situations).  It is quite simply: "Watch everyone..Trust Noone".  

Again, this nonsense concerning O'Neill and IHA , seems to me, to be a vindictive act.  The mere fact that all this "hocus pocus b.s." occurred since IHA won the Derby and Preakness (when another trainer's horse "was supposed to  win", ..spells alot to me.  Just because another (or more) trainer(s) is a "B ig" name, does not necessarily mean, he is 100% legit! Like I said previously, this was all placed in action by someone very vindictive and perhaps a very sore "loser". I know this seems "off the wall" to some/many but it's just my thought.

I think it is very clear that IHA is the real deal and I am looking forward to him "kicking butt" on June 9.  The entire team seems to be a great group of people and the love for IHA is so apparent.  This team deserves the best.  They are holding up under fire..and that, to me shows alot of courage, patience, and integrity.

As for Desormeaux...how can this man even get his thoughts clear when he very obviously has not been able (for some time) to get his life clear?  He's a blow-hard!

Team O'Neill...IHA...don't let "them" get to you...you're BIGGER than them....just,finish the job and get another!

29 May 2012 8:43 AM

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