9 September 2010

Betting Scandal Is Worrisome

After a pretty lengthy investigation three Canadian harness horsemen have been given lengthy suspensions and large fines for allegedly fixing races at Windsor and at Michigan harness tracks.

Receiving suspensions and fines are:

Brad O. Forward, Woodstock, Ont. - 5 years, fine of $5,000
Gene T. Piroski, Cottam, Ont. - 10 years, fine of $100,000
Kevin W. Wallis, Maidstone, Ont. - 12 years, fine of $100,000

In addition, Arthur McIlmurray, (not currently licensed by the ORC) of Northville, Michigan is hereby ruled ineligible to be licensed in Ontario until such time as he appears before the director.

These fines and suspension were handed out before the parties received an ORC hearing, so with that in mind, I'm pretty sure that the evidence is pretty damning.

What I find worrisome is that Windsor and Michigan harness tracks have very little handle to begin with. These horsemen had to be selling out for only hundreds of dollars unless bookies were involved. But how many bookies would be willing to take too many hits on harness races? I don't think the bookie route could yield more than a few thousand dollars before the bettors were cut off.

So if a few horsemen will sell their souls for a few hundred, how many would sell out for thousands? I'm talking of course, tracks that have larger pools. Drivers only receive 5% of the purse, and harness horses can race once a week if they are fairly sound, so stiffing for a price isn't out of the question. Plus if you watch a harness race, it can be simple to stiff a horse, and it can also be easy to fix a race by just getting the top three contenders to play ball. Many drivers also train and even own which makes it easier to get a syndicate going.

It is more difficult to fix a thoroughbred race though. Jockeys are not the trainer, and the trainer is very often not the owner. From a trainer's perspective, horses may only race 6 or 7 times a year, so to not try when the horse is in peak form is pretty silly unless the purses are really inadequate.

Jockeys could conceivably get together to fix a race though, as they only get 10% of the winning purse, and whether a horse is ready to fire or not, is not of as much consequence, as they'll hop on another horse in a race or two in most cases.

Trainers who bet probably take advantage of their knowledge of how much vet work was put into the horse for the race combined with how the horse is really doing.

Again, like with cheating drug trainers to race fixing drivers, I think criminal charges need to be handed down. It is defrauding the public, plain and simple. Putting a violator or two behind bars is probably the best deterrent there is.

In related news, Doug O'Neill gets nabbed for his fourth TCO positive in California.

Is it me, or are we starting to see super trainers starting to slump in the last few weeks. Does their undetectable stuff work best during hot weather, or has someone come up with either a procedure or test that can nail them? Does it have something to do with the recent eight positives in Illinois for the drug etodolac?

Bob Summers, The Happy Handicapper, passes away. It is tragic to lose such a racing enthusiast who was part of the media. The worse thing is that there isn't a lineup of replacements. For more on Bob Summers: Jen's Blog and Pull The Pocket wrote tributes.

Canadian jockey Alan Cuthbertson succumbs to cancer. He rode his last race at Hastings last year, at 63. He had his first win at Woodbine in 1964.

Down on all counts: CTHS Sales numbers show the continued downward trend for horse racing, in Ontario too.

Woodbine needs to give more money to the lower end horses so that more owners will break even or make money, and this will attract more owners into the game. Stop kissing the elite's butt, it is no way to grow the game. Partnerships usually buy cheaper stock to begin with. Give them a chance to grow.

Ontario sired or Canadian bred claiming races need to be written too. It will help the breeding industry immensely, as demand for Canadian breds will rise, not only at sales but in the claiming game as well.

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