View From The Eighth Pole: Of Rulings And Squeaky Clean Racing

We get questions all the time from readers about rumored drug positives or possible suspensions of trainers. It’s seldom easy tracking down official rulings since there is no single, all-encompassing resource that provides timely, up-to-date information on such things.

In another era, Daily Racing Form was the go-to publication for stewards and commission rulings. The Form had a chart-calling crew at every racetrack in the country and forwarded copies of all official rulings to DRF offices. The rulings were published alongside entries and race results, sometimes almost as fillers, in editorial or statistical sections of the Form. If you wanted to find out who got caught smoking in the shedrow, parking illegally in the stable area or was fined or suspended for a post-race positive test, America’s Turf Authority had ’em all.

Now it’s not so easy.

The Jockey Club operates a website, ThoroughbredRulings.com, where you can search for regulatory rulings by trainer name, track or regulatory authority. But the information published there is not always complete or timely.

The Association of Racing Commissioners International keeps a regularly refreshed page of recent rulings – not just for Thoroughbred racing but also Quarter Horse and Standardbred – but it’s also not entirely up to date or comprehensive and there is no search function to find rulings that may be more than a few weeks or months old. The ARCI does have a more comprehensive website for its members to access but it is not available to the general public (or media).

Individual racing commissions or government bureaus post rulings on their websites with varying degrees of efficiency and functionality. Some, like the New York State Gaming Commission or California Horse Racing Board web pages, are maintained regularly and have useful search functions. Others, like the Maryland or Indiana racing commissions, have outdated or incomplete information.

This is something that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority can put on its “to do” list, though not sure where that project will rank by priority.

Squeaky Clean Racing In New York
In searching the New York State Gaming Commission website recently, I could only find one ruling for a medication violation in all of 2021 at New York Racing Association tracks – a phenylbutazone positive for Jeffrey Englehart-trained Runningwscissors after a third-place finish in a stakes at Aqueduct on Jan. 9. The ruling states that Runningwscissors was disqualified from any part of the purse money (though Equibase still credits the horse with a third-place finish and the purse money). Englehart served a 10-day suspension and was fined $1,000.

I could find zero positive tests in the New York State Gaming Commission rulings database in 2020 and zero positives in 2019 for NYRA tracks. Zero. That’s one positive for the last three years at NYRA tracks.

By comparison, in 2019, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission reported 37 medication related rulings. California had 99. Pennsylvania 80. Florida 55. West Virginia 57. Ohio 24.

Perhaps New York’s testing laboratory at Morrisville State College, under the direction of Dr. George Maylin, is using different criteria for calling positive tests than laboratories testing for other racing states. Maybe the Morrisville lab isn’t very good. Or maybe, just maybe, racing in New York is cleaner than anywhere else in the country.

While I don’t know about the criteria used by Maylin to call positives, the idea that his lab is not very good is foolhardy. Maylin was the head of drug testing at Cornell University going back to the early 1970s until moving his test tubes and lab kits to Morrisville State College in 2010. That’s nearly 50 years of being the kingpin for drug testing of New York racing, bridging Oscar Barrera to Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis.

The only conclusion I can come up with for the absence of medication violations in New York is that there aren’t any. Not only is there no cheating going on, but horsemen there don’t make the kinds of mistakes they occasionally do in other jurisdictions or have contamination issues from poppy seed bagels and grooms urinating in stalls. It must be the cleanest racing in the U.S.

Well done, New York racing. Well done.

That’s my view from the eighth pole.

 

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