8 January 2019

What Is Cheating In Horse Racing?

When I see accusations that a trainer with a high win percentage cheats I have to ask "What Is Cheating?" There is lots of buzz lately, both pro and con, due to a recent Sun article. The article doesn't really define what cheating is or where the line is drawn. It is hard to cheat when you can't define what cheating is. Cheating of course includes overages and jockeys using buzzers, but what else does cheating include?

Let me bore you with my thoughts.

I recently conducted an unscientific poll on Twitter. The results were the opposite of what I expected:

This illustrates how subjective cheating in horse racing is.

My definition of a super trainer is someone who wins a very high percentage of races. I'll go one step further. I've watched thousands of races in my lifetime and the one thing I've noticed about recent super trainers is the way their horses tend to have a second wind during the stretch run, as if they were buzzed or as if an oxygen tank was turned on mid stretch causing the horse to rebreak.

I've written about super trainers as far back as 9 years ago. It is a fact that some (many?) trainers push the envelope and try new things, things that aren't tested for. We know that, because some have been "caught" doing that. But where is the line when it comes to cheating?

Trainers can use non banned supplements to build a horse up. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use drugs that aren't being tested for to do the same. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use hyperbaric oxygen chambers to build up a horse. Is that cheating?

Trainers can use shock waves or acupuncture to lessen pain. Is that cheating?

What about using plant derivatives to kill pain or increase red blood cell counts? Is that cheating?

I hope you see where I'm coming from. Here is where I'm getting at:

I'm not sure about just going the hay and oats way, but in order to curb "cheating" there has to be a definitive list of approved drugs and treatments. Anything not on the list would count as cheating.
Will that stop cheating? It depends on the on the consequences when one gets caught. Right now, there isn't much of a deterrence out there. How can there be under today's guidelines and rules?