2 May 2008

Alleged Race Fixing At Woodbine Involved Mostly Or Only Standardbreds

Upon doing a web search on the alleged race fixing that went on at Woodbine around 2001, I came across a Sun article. Not sure of the date, but it looks like it is from 2003:

Race-fixing claims probed
ORC investigating former fraud artist's allegations

Drugged horses, payoffs involved in 400 races, he says


The Ontario Racing Commission is investigating a former fraud artist's claims of race-fixing at Woodbine and other tracks.

The allegations arose in documents and testimony in the court case of police officer Robert Kelly, a 15-year member of the Toronto force who pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of cocaine possession.

In an agreed statement of facts, a man identified as "the agent" — a key prosecution witness in the case against Kelly previously identified in court as Robert Clarke Jr. — claimed to have "`inside information' that certain horse races were likely fixed." In further testimony, the agent was said to have offered to place bets with bookies on races at tracks such as Woodbine and Mohawk.

In a Toronto Sun story published yesterday, the agent — who was not identified as Clarke — said he was part of "400 fixed races" that involved cocaine-drugged horses and payoffs to grooms and trainers.

"We're aware of this individual," Jean Major, executive director of the Ontario Racing Commission, said yesterday while not confirming that the man under investigation is Clarke, a 31-year-old who has been convicted before of fraud involving promises of race-fixing.

"We've spoken to him before," Major said. "The facts that are related in the (Toronto Sun) story don't quite add up. We have been looking into this for some time and we're continuing to investigate it."

Major said the individual under investigation was not licensed as a trainer, although he was described as such in the Sun story.

He added that "predominantly, if not all" of the allegations concerned standardbred races in Ontario.

Prominent standardbred owner Bert Smith, whose Almost Doesn't Count Stable has had the most Woodbine and Mohawk starters for the past six years running, said he was surprised at the allegations.

"I've talked to three other owners and trainers today, and a couple of big bettors," Smith said.

"Even if there was a whisper of it, something would have come down the pipe by now.

"Especially cocaine. Cocaine isn't something you could get away with, especially when horses that aren't supposed to win jump up and win."

The Canadian Parimutuel Agency conducts drug testing of horses, with urinalysis on samples from the winner and another horse chosen at random from each race.

In 2001, 48 standardbreds tested positive for banned substances, or 0.2 per cent of the approximately 25,000 horses tested.

Despite the assertion that Clarke was a trainer with connections to grooms, Smith said: "None of us have heard of this guy at all."

Law authorities handling the Kelly case say they are also baffled by Clarke's published remarks.

Staff Superintendent Dave Dicks said the agent was being re-interviewed by the RCMP-led task force that investigated Kelly over apparent discrepancies between what he told police and later told the Sun.

During Kelly's preliminary hearing, the court heard that Clarke had been involved in about a half-dozen allegedly fixed races.

Kelly had supposedly piled up winnings of $25,000 betting on the races, but when Clarke didn't pay him there was a dispute between the two and Clarke went to the police.

Peter Brauti, Kelly's lawyer, said that if Clarke lied to the police about the number of fixed horse races then he should be charged with obstruction of justice.

"The task force spent an incredible amount of money and resources prosecuting my client for three grams of cocaine," Brauti said in an interview. "Now their own witness has come forward to say he has been involved in 400 gambling frauds at the racetrack.

"I expect that the task force should show the same tenacity in investigating, charging and prosecuting this agent if these allegations have any substance. I'm a big believer in equal application of the law."

Well, it has been at least 5 years. Where is the result of the Ontario Racing Commission's investigation? I must have missed it.

Again, to view the CBC report, click here. Around the 8:40 mark of the video you will see the allegations regarding horse racing. They show thoroughbreds breaking from the gate, making many, including me, to assume the fixing was thoroughbred related.

I know I've been predicting that Woodbine will decrease purses shortly thanks to their pathetic handle, well I was surprised to learn that Woodbine raised purses (on the harness side), but the raise was most likely contractually driven because of cancellations in the winter and a higher percentage of lower pursed races that filled. Woodbine admits that wagering on the harness product is down 5% on the year so far.

Woodbine Entertainment Group and the Ontario Harness Horse Association today announced a six per cent increase to overall Standardbred purses beginning with the season opening of Mohawk Racetrack this Thursday, May 1.

"There are a number of factors in place that allow the purse increase," said Bruce Murray, Vice President of Standardbred Racing.

"Though wagering this year is off approximately 5%, there has been significantly less purse money paid out to date because of fewer race dates at Woodbine, and a lot of winter races were filled with less expensive classes.

Our purse structure is among the highest in the industry, but we hope this increase will further assist our efforts to attract the best horses in this very competitive market."

The 115-day Mohawk meet is on a five-night a week (Thursday-Monday) schedule until October 6.

Maritime harness racing expands drug testing.

Montreal Gazette article on horse racing's struggle to survive. From the article:

"I like the sport. I followed it 20 years. I just don't see where I can make money doing it," said professional poker player John Erickson of Ontario.

Besides Fort Erie, another Canadian track with outrageous track takeouts starts its season this weekend. Tonight Assiniboia has its 2008 opener. I'll be watching South Park.

1 comment:

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