27 May 2012

Pena, O'Neill, Horse Medications, Apologists, and Slots

I don't know what pisses Horseplayers off more, the fact that some "super" trainers win at 25% plus because they are obviously either using undetectable drugs or illegal methods in order to gain an edge over their rivals, or the fact that they are able to get away with it year in and year out.

I know what pisses me off more than anything, it is the apologists who claim that these trainers are superior and know where to place their horses.

There are only so many ways to train a horse, and only so many ways to feed a horse. It is insulting to the intelligence of the Horseplayer to state that these trainers have found a magical way to feed and train a horse that triples their productivity over average trainers. Especially since many of these "super" trainers have operations all over North America.

It only makes sense that if a trainer is superior at winning without cheating, that they would be detailing their horses daily, knowing their horses inside and out. Yet we often see high percentage trainers winning at two or three different tracks a day. No way are they on site. And to think that their training program is superior or that the assistant trainers at these tracks have an edge over the trainers who have an operation and race at one track or circuit strikes me as complete fantasy.

For a few years, I've seen apologists make their case for "super" harness trainer Lou Pena, who was very average when training in California (though he did get a few positives there). His record since moving to the East has been nothing short of sensational, and his win off the claim percentages defies any sort of logic. Yet, he was able to go on and on and on because there was no evidence that he was cheating...so it must be superior hay, oats and water that was giving Lou the edge. Nobody with half a brain or more bought it, but the apologists were spewing it anyway.

It seems the apologists were wrong. According to a thorough investigation, using vet records, Pena was throwing in the kitchen sink, yet somehow getting by the test barn, which is cause for rage amongst Horseplayers and any Horseman who plays by the rules.

It goes to show that all these defenders who state that with today's technologies even the itsy bitsiest of overages can be detected, thus making horse racing the cleanest sport out there, are full of hooey up to their eyeballs.

You have to wonder what exactly is motivating a drug trainer apologist. I can think of three reasons. 1) They are a trainer who knows they can't compete without cheating. 2) They are an owner who does well with a drug trainer. 3) A Horseplayer who gets good tips from outfits that rely on using performance enhancing techniques.

California just suspended Triple Crown hopeful I'll Have Another's trainer Doug O'Neill, but the suspension will not start until after the Belmont. The ruling is a bit mind boggling, stating that they found that O'Neill didn't milkshake the horse but the horse in question had a TCO2 level of a horse that was milkshaked.

Here is a list of violations by Doug O'Neill since 2005 compiled by Ray Paulick:

2005: 2/5/2005, Bay Meadows, Jake Skate, Dantrolene; 3/10/2005, Santa Anita, Spirited, Dexamethasone; 5/27/2006, Hollywod Park, Wisdom Cat, TCO2; 1/17/2008, Santa Anita, Chicks Rule, TCO2; 12/27/2008, Santa Anita, Esperamos, Flunixin; 8/20/2009, Del Mar, Bench the Judge, Bute overage; 2/12/10, Gulfstream Park, Pinkarella, Testosterone; 4/3/2010, Hawthorne, Stephen's Got Hope, TCO2; 4/30/2010, Churchill Downs, Enriched, Omeprazole Sulfide; 8/25/2010, Del Mar, Argenta, TCO2; 2/5/2011, Santa Anita, Separate Forest, Etodolac; 9/17/2011, Fairplex Park, Naturaliste, Hydroxydantrolene.

Now these are violations that actually showed up in test results. Remember, harness trainer Pena has 1700 such violations in one jurisdiction, and none showed up in test results.

Horse racing has a problem. A big problem. It is a culture of chemists (trainers and vets) who are taking well educated shots when it comes to giving horses the right concoctions that get past the test lab. I'm positive Lasix helps with the overall masking of most of these concoctions.

On a positive note, a vet, Sid Gustafson came out with a must read piece in the New York Times Racing Blog (The Rail) called Alkalinization, Lasix and Milkshaking. In it, he call Lasix a performance enhancer, and hints that race day meds (and even meds given up to three days out) are not only usually done to enhance performance but are outright dangerous to the horse and the rider on race day.

This is surprising coming from a vet because usually you have to question a vet or trainer's financial interest when they discuss drugs, and same day medication, etc. Maybe the tide is turning.

Finally, slots. What does slots have to do with this post? Right now there is a grim outlook when it comes to the Ontario horse racing scene as the Ontario Liberal government has decided to put an end to the slots at racetracks program come the end of March next year. I've supported the horse industry tremendously on this blog and other places regarding what I believe is a terrible mistake by the government in ending a program that works, and is good for the Ontario economy, and even if it was destined to end, a year is not a fair time considering that the breeding and ownership of horses is a four or five year cycle.

But when I go to sites like Standardbred Canada and see apologists calling the suspension of Pena a witch hunt, my sympathy for the horsemen goes out the window, and it actually makes me OK with the ending of the slots program, anywhere. Word of advice to super trainer apologists: SHUT UP ALREADY, your attitude is akin to sealing a coffin.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that the super trainer arguments are incredibly inept the evidence against Pena is not the smoking gun that it appears. Much of what is being called a positive test is innocous stuff, magnesium sulfate is epsom salt, and used by virtually all trainers. While your premise may be correct, the smoking gun is more of a red herring than anything. those meds arent making anyone a super trainer regardless of when they were given. As for Sid Gustafson, he is a quack who is simply not credible.

Cangamble said...

Anon, there are a lot of drugs Pena got nailed for that horses shouldn't be taking a day out. He basically throws in the kitchen sink, and some of those drugs should cause overages but don't, which leads me to believe he is doing a great job masking and who knows what is he using that doesn't come from the vet. In other words, nobody is that good.
As for calling Gustafson a quack, he doesn't appear to be one to me, he makes a lot of sense. If you care to refute him, go ahead.

I'm finding a lot of apologists honing in on the epsom salts. I find it irritating. Go through the whole list and quit cherry picking.

www.Abler.com said...

This is what happens when cheaters are left unchecked. When they finally reach national prominence they embarrass the game even more (Mullins, Pletcher, Gill, etc.). Next year it will be Jamie Ness, and so on and so on. These trainers that cheat, and there are 4 or 5 at every track, are ruining a great game at all levels of racing, top and bottom tracks.