New Rules of the Game

By Gary C. Young

The subject of illegal medication has been addressed frequently in recent issues of The Blood-Horse. The following is one person's opinion. I believe that this wonderful sport is facing the biggest threat it has ever seen because of the fact it is not being conducted on a level playing field and hasn't been for years.

There are two kinds of trainers and there are two kinds of veterinarians out there today, folks: those who play by the rules and those who don't. That is common knowledge; just as it is that the two dirtiest states where the cheaters can get away with the most are Kentucky and California. However, no circuit seems to be exempt.

During a conversation I had with a prominent racing figure prior to last year's Kentucky Derby, the subject of The Deputy and his trainer, my friend Jenine Sahadi, came up.

"Does she play by the rules or does she use the black bag?" I was asked. "She plays by the rules," I replied. "Then she is in trouble," was the response. As we sit here and watch trainers put up numbers that seem unachievable and listen to fans stand under TV monitors yelling, "Kick in with the juice!" it is obvious to me that our sport is at a crucial time.

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying" is a commonly stated slogan around American racetracks these days. About five years ago, while visiting Belmont Park, I stood along the rail of the paddock with trainer Shug McGaughey, who summed it up this way: "I told my boss that they can come up with all the national organizations they want, but until we clean up the drugs, we're going to have trouble."

On the same trip, the recently deceased Chris Antley and I were talking about the same subject. "It used to be that the juice boys were claiming horse barns but that is all changing now," he said. The Ant Man had his share of problems, but he was right on in this case.

In my opinion, anyone who doesn't think this game faces a serious threat and says that illegal drug use on these great animals does not occur regularly is as dense as a prison wall, watching the world through rose-colored glasses, or using the black bag to their advantage. If the National Thoroughbred Racing Association really wants to do something for this sport, it should find a way to implement its super-test from this time forward.

When a trainer bursts upon the scene winning at an astonishing percentage, transforming lifetime losers into stakes horses; when a trainer starts dominating after struggling for years, the majority of racing fans and I know in our hearts that something is rotten. These people didn't suddenly learn how to train overnight.

Is it any wonder Europeans feel our game is a battle of the best untraceable drugs? When the subject of legalizing medication comes up over there, the detractors always warn that they do not wish to become like us.

I am a year-round resident of California and I can honestly say that the water started to get dirty when the migration from other breeds started in the early 1990s. I have sat with trainers and watched our game go down the tubes, only to see them jump the fence, reasoning that if you can't beat them, join them. May they rot in hell, also.

I've also seen trainers practically disappear off the face of the earth after the test for clenbuterol was developed. They will more than likely return because, here in California, our sport is policed by a bunch of buffoons who could not have caught Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

How can we wholeheartedly promote our sport at this critical time when we know what internal problems we have?

No doubt, my opinions will upset many people. The guilty will scream the loudest, but to all the people who want to tell us that we don't have a problem, please tell it to the fans, not the players.

GARY C. YOUNG is a professional clocker, bloodstock adviser, and horseplayer in Southern California.