20 June 2010

The Trainer Must Have Something

The phrase "the trainer must have something" has been around for quite some time. It doesn't mean that there is no significance to it. Apologists and those who benefit from the use of undetectable drugs like to call it sour grapes, and in some cases that may be true, but overall, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it is a cheating trainer.

Even tracks like Woodbine admit there are undetectable drugs being used. Maybe not in words, but that is what the detention barn is all about.

The reality is that it is expensive to test for everything, and it is difficult to test for something that is successfully masked, or even worse, an unknown substance.

Rats aren't popular, and it is almost impossible to find one amongst the backstretch community. Shane Sellers admitted he used a buzzer, and he was ripped by many as being a possible liar, or just a despicable person for putting it out there. Personally, I'd love to see a former "super trainer" come out one day and expose himself. Might make for a best seller, assuming there are enough horse racing fans left to buy it, when the book finally comes out.

There are only so many ways to legally train a horse, and most trainers know the angles. That is why when you see a 25% plus trainer over a long stretch, it is an insult to one's intelligence to buy into the excuse that it is the trainer's methods that are behind the win rate.

Sure, there are ways for trainers to increase their win percentage without doing anything underhanded, like spotting horses in small fields (like they do in California), or dropping significantly enough, however, with each win comes one less condition, and therefore tougher competition, so the longer a horse runs under a high percentage trainer, the less likely their win rate will remain as high, in a drug free world that is.

Lots has been written about Super Trainer Lou Pena (harness trainer). Andrew Cohen wrote a series of articles questioning Pena's prowess. The most significant is this one which includes many facts:

"Moreover, the average horse improved over five lengths in those starts. And many of these former trainers are well known and respected horsemen."

In another article, Bob Pandolfo left a comment:

"When you run Trackmaster's Statmaster for Cal Expo (it only goes back to 2005), from 2005 through June 17, 2010, Lou Pena sent out over 3438 horses and had a 14% win percentage and he won 10% first off the claim. Again, according to Statmaster, at Harrahs Chester, his win percentage over the past year and a half is 47% and he has won 75% (12 for 16) first off the claim. At the Meadowlands he won 26% and was 33% first off the claim. At Yonkers he has a 32% win percentage, and is 67% first off the claim. At Pocono he has a 40% win, and 62% first off the claim. At Freehold he is at 27%, and 100% (2 for 2) wins first off the claim. So those who reported how great he did at Cal Expo seemed to have exaggerated. There is no doubt that his overall win% and win% first off the claim have skyrocketed since he moved east."

What I find most disturbing are the Pena supporters. Harness racing is dying faster than thoroughbred racing, yet, what I suspect is coming from a certain clique of trainers and owners, there are people going after Cohen and calling Pena criticizers witch hunters.

Between absurdly high track takeouts and insider drug info, how much chance does Joe Bettor have anymore? And with Super Trainers stealing purse monies, lots of incentives to new owners to try to make a buck in the game, is much depleted.

Sure, Pena might just be a great trainer who is getting extra lucky, but I like my chances of winning the Lotto Max jackpot next Friday more.

So what might Super Trainers be using these days?

One commenter, Joe, wrote this:

"The odds are 1 to 9 that the drug Pena is using to dope his horses with is Micera. It is a third-generation drug called CERA (continuous erythropoiesis receptor activator). It that lasts 6 times longer than DPO and 20 times longer than EPO. It requires only a simple ONCE-PER-MONTH subcutaneous injection. It is undetectable by urine-based doping controls. Micera is widely available in Europe, and has been approved in the USA. However, it is not yet commercially available in the USA due to a legal battle between Roche and Amgen. Certainly not a big problem to overcome."

There is a test for CERA, but I'm unaware if it has been implement at any North American tracks yet.

Of course, when it comes to undetectable drugs and blocks, synthetic cobra venom and snail venom always come up. There is a test for cobra venom, but it still hasn't made it to the North American labs. Here is an interesting video on the problem and the new test:

Venom blocks injuries which allows a horse to run through its soreness. This increases the likelihood of serious breakdowns during the race.

EPO/DPO/Micera are blood boosters. The use of these drugs have been known to have adverse long term effects on horses. Probably one of the reasons that if you pick up a Daily Racing Form from 2 years ago, many times, most of the horses entered aren't around today.

Super Trainers are one step ahead of the testing barn, and from recent conversations, I am starting to think that the real good stuff is most likely a narcotic, one that gets horses wound up like a crack addict trying to score more crack. Something that gets the horse so buzzed that they would run through a wall.

And who knows, more than one undetectable drug can be used at once, if undetectable, the more the merrier to the cheater. Bill Finley has been writing about banning Lasix for years, because according to research, Lasix is a very good mask of other drugs.

The other reason that Super Trainers are probably not using something known is the fact that there are many trainers who experiment all the time with concoctions that they hope won't test because of masking, in order to get an edge. Many do get caught. I'm sure the RMTC Recent Rulings section is full of such trainers.

Penalties just aren't high enough. Not high enough to deter many trainers from "taking a shot." I've always maintained that since we are dealing with both purse money and betting money, criminal charges should be laid in many instances. Why isn't illegal drug use on horses defrauding the public?

Of course, some might argue that if it isn't being tested for, it is legal. Obviously not, or there would be no detention barns.

If you have a tip regarding a cheater in Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission and Crimestoppers have teamed up. To make a completely anonymous call: 1-800-222-TIPS

Now For Something Much Lighter

Funny blog piece at ThatsAmoreStable.net: Seven Racetrack Characters To Avoid

I left the following comment: "I’m Talking To Himself Guy, except all the talking goes on in my head.

Another guy to avoid is Chronic Rooting Guy: He roots for his horse from the far turn right to end even if his horse is backing through the field at the head of the stretch."

A lot more comments on the piece can be found at Pace Advantage.


The_Knight_Sky said...

A most insightful piece CanGamble. I'll be back to read the comments on this one.

You wrote:

Personally, I'd love to see a former "super trainer" come out one day and expose himself. Might make for a best seller, assuming there are enough horse racing fans left to buy it, when the book finally comes out.


I'll be the first in line to get that book.

Have you done a post on which Harness tracks have gone out of business in the last five years and which are hanging on with the aid of the temporary crutch called "slots" ?

Anonymous said...

Great piece.

We need to ban lasix and all race-day medications. There are too many people running around with syringes and the horse, the betting public and the industry are being harmed because of it. Other countries don't allow masking drugs such as lasix and pain-deadening drugs such as bute and cortocosteroids. Nor should we.

That Blog Guy said...

Bravo. I love those defenders who say, nothing has been proven.

True, but do you need someone to tell you when you have been run over by a car? You know it.

bullring said...

I don't think any harness tracks in Ontario (and there many of them) could survive without slot dollars.

Anonymous said...

this has nothing to do with your topic but i have to get it of my chest---- who are these morons at woodbine that designed the barn layout with concrete roads do you think they know anything about horses, i just saw another horse dump his rider come flying off the track hit the road slipped over slide on his side for about 10feet cut hisselve to pieces, it is heartbreaking when you see it .I know alot of people read your site can you start some campaign to get them removed, lots of barn areas in the states have dirt roads.

Benjamin said...

Very thought provoking and well written piece. That all needed to be said, so i applaud you for saying it. Interesting comments too...