My name is Rob Henie. I write both the ECHR (East Coast Handicapping Report) and WCHR (West Coast Handicapping Report), both very popular reports for winners with solid information. I try to provide transparency with regard to "super feed" trainers, those of which are not on a level playing field with others. Understanding who these "characters" are, and calling them out, is so important I believe. These are barns ruining our sport, yet, are so easy to spot, instantly improving runners upon a claim, sending out horses who "re-break" at the top of the lane, suddenly finding a miraculous extra gear, spotting their horses so brazenly.
The ongoing saga of Pennsylvania regulators and trainer Ramon Preciado simply and eloquently underscores the compelling need for uniform standards and a firm hand at the wheel to avoid sideshows eroding the public's confidence and interest in our sport
We must, as an industry, adopt a drug free racing stance. Our continuing use of medication in our horses not only compromises their safety and the safety of our jockeys, it compromises our pedigrees long term and leaves our industry with no integrity whatsoever. There is no more important goal for insuring the long term success of our sport than to assure our patrons that we run a sport that is above board and that we value our horses and want to assure what's best for their long term safety and welfare.
My wife lost her great grey jumper in a pasture accident. She looked for a year for a replacement. Since she had always bred her own horses, one at a time from her 2 horse brood mare band, and stayed with them until they found a home after their competitive careers were over. The horse she found was running at a race track and she claimed him, another first. The horse was under the care of a trainer, we subsequently learned, had lost his license for multiple drug violations. The withdrawal period for the animal was slow and frustrating but with an excellent horseman, as his trainer, and plenty of hay and grain he became a willing athlete. He became a steeplechase horse which requires stamina and courage over miles of turf. He has been entered twice this spring and won his maiden race and an allowance race and we look forward to the rest of this fine animals drug free racing. At the premier race in Virginia this spring over 50 horses competed, all but 13 on Lasix, but the good news was winners in 2 of the races ran without drugs so progress is being made. Many of the non-Lasix horses were horses imported from Europe.
Having competed in various jurisdictions and watched over many years as each of these separate organizations attempted to control the influx of drugs and administer the uneven and timid punishments of offenders it has become obvious that it simply is not working. Something must be done before we loose any opportunity to salvage racing as a sport of in this country or to stabilize the loss of the fan base. I believe the bill currently being prepared in Congress is the best last hope.
Did you read the comments about the two horses that died at the Preakness yesterday? Thousands of derogatory comments about horse racing, as well as questioning the morals of owners and trainers that participate in horse racing. When NBC drops their coverage of the Triple Crown races, that will be the last nail in the coffin. The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, HBPA,........they can only agree to medication withdrawal timing. Not to the complete elimination of drugs. It's been an out-of-control, downward spiral for a couple of decades. It is hard to believe the race horse industry leadership can't see what is happening.
Our industry needs consistent and uniform drug and medication rules. Elimination of race day medication is an essential part of these needed rules. Horsemanship has taken a back seat to veterinary and medication use and abuse. It seems that our sport has taken a wrong turn and it will take drastic measures to get back on track.
No other major Thoroughbred racing country permits horses to be given drugs on raceday. We, these United States and Canada, are the only notable exceptions. Many countries have bans on some drugs for a day or longer before raceday. The anti-medication rules are sternly enforced. Penalties for breaking the rules are severe and are applied regardless of the identity of the offender. A ban for life may be imposed. Read more...
William Robert Cook, Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. BitlessBridle Inc., Research Veterinarian
Science, safety and ethics render it essential.
Marion Seidel, Former Apprentice Jockey, Exercise Rider
After learning and working in the sport of racing over 15 years in Germany, I moved to the US and experienced the differences between drug free racing and racing and training with all kind of medications or drugs. I left the sport I loved so much after only 3 years of working as exercise rider in Florida.
The support of so many well known and respected insiders of the sport WHOA is getting now, is literally my last hope to bring about some changes to the industry. Our horses and riders deserve better than risking their lives due to over medication, over work and exploitation of the animals, without whom the sport wouldn't even exist anymore!
Just let them run drug free and give them time to heal if they are in need of medication due to illness or injury! It would be only of benefit to the whole industry if the US would get in tune with some rules of other countries who are very successful at racing drug free and spend more time on actual training of our great thoroughbred athletes!
I have been an owner of harness race horses for 25 years and love the sport and the horses. The decline in the industry saddens me and I fear may get worse. I believe a significant factor is the use of performance enhancing drugs. It seems that side of the business is increasing and the number of honest trainers and owners is decreasing.. The industry appears incapable of dealing with the issue and state regulation and testing is not equal to the task. If a positive is found penalties are small fines and or short suspensions are imposed which are overcome by merely listing a "beard" trainer and doing business as usual. People in the industry at all levels know this and who many of the violators are but it has become tolerated as part of a poor culture.
Horses are being harmed and in my opinion money is being stolen. Remember Michael Vick was sent to prison for participating in dog fighting. Where is the enforcement in horse racing?
My goal when I got into breeding was to breed the finest thoroughbreds. I didn't look at drugs for an advantage but rather into solid, old bloodlines that produced the strong, athletic and durable horse. As I began racing and searching for trainers I noticed that my vet bills were filled with all sorts of medications. When I asked about this the common response was that they didn't want to find out that they needed it, better safe than sorry. Well I'm not interested in that.
I recently opened Le Beau Cheval TB Partners LLC. The purpose for this is to invite people into thoroughbred racing to race clean and win clean. With research, development, proper diet, excellent conditioning and patience I know that we can not only breed a superior, healthy strong thoroughbred but we can win as well and not only win but win for a long time. With the recent addition of Le Beau Cheval Farm where we retrain our athletes for second careers, having a healthy horse with a clear mind is a huge plus.
I am very proud of WHOA's efforts and you have our support. We will do our part to breed, train, race and retrain horses the way nature intended and furthermore to prove that a clean athlete can and will outperform the others. We invite others to help fix today so our tomorrow is focused on training athletes with soul, not drugs. We at Le Beau Cheval Partners LLC are committed to breeding, buying, and training the right way that produces a solid, clean foundation to race longer and strong.
Here is a link to an article I wrote regarding progressive medication reform.
John Koenig, Two Rivers Racing Stable, Owner/Farm Owner
I think we are at a tipping point. The time for arguing "therapeutic" medications and permissible drugs is over. Regardless of our opinions, the public will never believe running horses on drugs is humane. Further, as we all know, it truly is "chemical warfare" at the racetrack. This has created a crazy arms race that no one can win - expensive in both owners dollars and horses health. At the same time, the industry is dying. This is due to many reasons, but a drug-riddled image is certainly among them. We currently use many legal medications in our stable. Real change would effect us and the way we operate, forcing us to possibly retire or rest horses more frequently. I say good. If outfits like ours are forced to change or disappear because they cannot, so be it. I believe it is the only way racing will survive.
Tod Adamson, Tod Adamson Racing Stable
I don’t understand why race track stewards can’t draw up a race card so only “clean” horses run in a specific race. I think you will see more trainers willing to enter horses in these kinds of races since the playing field is even. It is a small step but a good one IMO.
No, I do not support the HPBA on their position on Lasix administration to race horses. Administration of any kind of drug to a horse for the purpose winning a race, is immoral.
The article about Doug ONeill is further testimony to my previous statements concerning the "look the other way" attitude of the racing officials at both harness and thoroughbred tracks. It has gotten way out of hand. I have been a harness racing official for 8 yrs and trained and drove for 40+ yrs, it disgusts me to see my peers take this attitude, they blame the commission for not backing them , I am not working full time, they are !
Our racing regulatory system needs revamping NOW. We are in such a rapid demise , if something is not done now, Racing will never be what it was! Stewards and Judges must not be intimidated by attorneys and their clients or racetrack management.
The rules are in place , some need enhanced penalties, but 95% just need to be enforced consistently.
Gary S. Broad, Oakmont Ranch, Owner
The battle against pre race drug use, is the moral battle for the soul of racing. LET THEM RACE DRUG FREE.
I have been a horse owner for about 9 years and a fan of racing for about 40. When I became involved with owning horses I just thought that you buy a horse and then turn it over to a trainer and then enjoy watching your horse either workout in the morning or race in the afternoon. Now 9 years later, I have learned that acceptable levels of 27 drugs, that injecting joints, both knees and ankles is not just accepted, but part of a trainers program. I thought about getting out of this dirty drug infested sport. I have come to the conclusion that if you really want to make a change in this sport that it has to come from within the sport.
Owners of the horses and the horse playing public are the lifeblood of this sport, what would happen if all concerned WHOA owners pulled there horses from competition? A national strike for a week or a month, maybe track owners may take owners seriously for a change. Right now the inmates (trainers) are running this asylum. It is insane to give horses drugs prior to a race, it endangers the lives of both jockey and horse. Why are we putting up with this? Why are we accepting our horses being abused by drugs? I don't know about any other owners but I care about the well being of my horses, I am responsible for their well being. I have found that most horse owners also have dogs, would you give your dogs thyroid medications that they don't need? How about bute or lasix? If you really care about your horse, tell your trainer NO DRUGS for racing, drugs are for recovering.
Andrew Kessler, Slingshot Solutions LLC, Substance Abuse Expert
As an advocate working in Washington, D.C. on the subject of substance abuse treatment and prevention, I see every day the damage that drugs can do to a life, to a family, and to a business. As a lifelong racing fan, I am witnessing a collision of my professional expertise and one of my greatest passions. While the policy I work on pertains to human health, I have developed an expertise on what damage unregulated drugs can to do a body. Whether we are human or equine, we deserve to live a life that is free from the destruction caused by illegal drugs, or even legal drugs administered in unsafe dosages.
Substance abuse does not damage only those who ingest drugs and narcotics. Amongst people, drug use causes severe economic damage, stemming from increased health care costs, lost economic productivity, and a plethora of other problems. The difference between humans and equines in this regard is negligible. Drugging of horses leads not only to bodily damage, but to economic damage as well, in the form of increased medical costs, and shortened careers.
Nothing should be more paramount to the Sport of Kings than the safety of its participants. Every other sport- football, hockey, baseball, etc- are taking part in a movement to place participant safety at a level never before seen. Thoroughbred racing must join in this movement.