Trainer Jeff Mullins, center of controversy over comments made in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, expressed regret that his remarks offended anyone and contended that the article's author, columnist T.J. Simers, used his quotes entirely out of context.Mullins, whose horses at Santa Anita Park are subject to 24-hour detention prior to racing because one of his horses exceeded testing limits for sodium bicarbonate, drew fire for saying the problem with racing "are all the addicts and idiots crying because they lost a $2 bet." Simers also quoted Mullins as saying: "I train to win and that's all I care about. It's not my problem (if the general public is deceived). They ought to bring in slot machines, then we could run our horses and make a living without worrying about some crybaby calling the stewards and raising a fit."
The conditioner said he lost his temper at Simers when they had a heated discussion outside the Mullins barn early Saturday. The conversation started, Mullins said, when Simers suggested that racing fans should have access to even the minutest details involving the care and well being of racehorses.
"It started because he was still upset about losing a pick six on one of Vladimir Cerin's horses who had throat surgery," Mullins said. "That's when he said he wanted everything listed in the Daily Racing Form, from how many nails there are in shoes, to a horse's temperature the morning of the race, to how old a horse's bow is and to quarter cracks. I told him he's going to have to face the fact that we're not going to know everything.
"He said, 'I can't consistently come out and lose my money.' I said, 'If you come out here and consistently lose your money then you're either an addict or an idiot.' He asked if he could print it and I said to go ahead. Because I called him an idiot, he chose to take everyone with him.
"And because he put it in a quote doesn't make it true. My comments were reserved strictly for him and not the general public."In an e-mail response to a message, Simers said he's "not surprised" Mullins isn't holding himself responsible, but stood by his version."I repeatedly asked him why his horses were winning at a 30% clip before he was hit with the milkshake penalty of sending his horses to detention barn and were hitting at 9% when we talked, and in each case he diverted the attention elsewhere," Simers said. "First, to a conflict of interest with Bruce Headly and Ingrid Fermin, second to Dr. Rick Arthur's alleged conflict of interest, and then third to the '(gambling) addicts and idiots' who bet on horses," the writer said. "I repeatedly told him he was way off base for ripping the racing fan who supports the horse racing business. That's when he suggested they ought to bring in slots and let the owners and trainers run their horses without the fans being involved."
Mullins, currently second in the Santa Anita trainer standings, said he knows how valuable fans and horseplayers are to the survival of the sport. He called them the "backbone" of the industry.
"I've been a horse trainer for more than 25 years and I know where the purse money we're running for comes from," Mullins said. "My comments were obviously taken out of context and I'm sorry if anyone was insulted by it. By no means was I referring to all racing fans, just one in particular."
Mullins said he has seen first-hand the problem with addictive gambling.
"As long as I've been in the game I've known people who have had gambling problems, unfortunately," he said. "Those problems lead to all kinds of personal problems that are hard to watch. I tried to be a gambler but I was a terrible one. That's why I don't bet."I told (Simers) that I understand his part of the business--gambling--but that he doesn't understand mine. I told him to come over to my side, show up at 4 o'clock in the morning every day and get home just in time to see your kids eat supper before heading right to bed. I guess he doesn't want to do that."Mullins also defended remarks he made about Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. He said they were distorted to suit Simers' agenda. Mullins, in talking about the ongoing testing program at Santa Anita for "milkshakes," was quoted as telling Simers: "For a guy who has won as many Breeders' Cup races as Mandella has, I'd like to see his tests."Mullins had noted Mandella's day-to-day veterinarian is Rick Arthur, who is in charge of the Santa Anita milkshake-testing program. He cited another conflict involving trainer Bruce Headley and his sister-in-law, Ingrid Fermin, the California Horse Racing Board executive director. "(Mandella's) name was only brought up because of the conflict of interest issue," Mullins said. "I called him the morning the article came out and told him that. I told him that I think he's an amazing horseman and I wasn't in any way accusing him of anything. He said to me, 'It does make a difference that you called.' "Mandella declined to comment on Mullins' remarks, as did other trainers who were asked for reaction.Mullins said he hopes to put the incident behind him and concentrate on business and training racehorses. His 30 days in detention are over following the March 10 program, he said."I'd just like the whole thing to be behind me, focus on the positive and let my horses do my talking from now on."Jack Shinar contributed to this article.Read Simers Column Here