Jockey Club chairman Stuart S. Janney III

Jockey Club chairman Stuart S. Janney III

Jockey Club Photo

Janney Stands by Criticism of Pennsylvania

Janney has questioned state's oversight of racing, quality of equine drug tests.

A request by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for Stuart Janney III to retract his recent criticisms of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission saw the Jockey Club chairman reiterate his disapproval Oct. 17.

In a letter to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, Janney repeated that racing regulators in the Keystone State were "asleep on the job," and that there was a "corrupted and ineffectual testing system," in Pennsylvania in recent years when several veterinarians and trainers were arrested on federal charges.

Janney cited testimony in the trial of one of those trainers, Murray Rojas, where fellow Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course trainer Stephanie Beattie estimated that 95%-98% of trainers at Penn National had their veterinarians provide race-day medications to horses in violation of the rules, adding, "It was a known practice." 

Janney's letter also included attachments of the testimony he cited. 

The war of words dates back to the Jockey Club Round Table on Matters Pertaining to Racing Aug. 13 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. when Janney said that the numerous violations and arrests in Pennsylvania were disgraceful.

"What has happened in Pennsylvania recently is disgraceful and sad, especially when you consider that the state is the sixth-leading producer of foals and that it hosted approximately 4,000 races and distributed more than $100 million in purses in 2016," Janney said at the Round Table. "Let's start by focusing on the federal trial involving trainer Murray Rojas on charges of fraud, conspiracy, and misbranding of drugs. I think it illustrates what we have to fix and how our problems interconnect.

"Uncontradicted testimony described widespread, in fact, nearly universal, cheating; regulators asleep on the job; a corrupted and ineffectual testing system."

Janney continued to note that the scandal in Pennsylvania was hurting the sport's image throughout the country and jeopardizing racing's ability to continue to collect money from added-gaming.

"It gives all of racing a black eye. It jeopardizes our share of slots revenue in all states. It arouses animal welfare groups nationally, as it should," Janney said. "It suggests strongly that similar problems lurk in many other jurisdictions. Ironically, the gaming money being shoveled into undeserving hands in Pennsylvania has made it very difficult to fill cards in other middle-Atlantic venues where one could argue that racing is being conducted properly."

Redding responded to the criticism in a Sept. 26 letter in which he said there was no evidence that regulators were not doing their jobs or that the state's testing system was corrupted and ineffectual. He called for Janney to make a retraction.

"The regulatory process in place, virtually identical to that in place in all jurisdictions, was circumvented by private veterinarians who initially committed criminal acts at the instruction of horsemen then added to their crimes by preparing fraudulent documentation to cover it up," Redding said in his letter.

In sticking to his initial criticisms, Janney cited testimony from current Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology Research Laboratory director Mary Robinson that the state did not have tests for a number of drug treatments given to horses on race day and did not test for every drug on every day. She noted that the lab's process of mixing urine samples from two horses before screening for various drugs effectively diluted any prohibited substance in an individual sample.

In his Oct. 17 letter Janney said this testing process and testimony from trainers such as Beattie that they were able to administer race-day drugs thousands of times, "provides ample evidence in support of my conclusions that there were 'regulators asleep on the job' and that there was a 'corrupted and ineffectual testing system.'"

Janney also restated his Round Table criticism of Pennsylvania's decision to declare two winners of the 2016 Parx Oaks as part of the racing commission's efforts to resolve a clenbuterol positive. He also criticized the Pennsylvania regulator's transparency, noting that the State Horse Racing Commission does not "widely and transparently announce its current medication rules."

In his Oct. 17 letter, Janney did compliment Pennsylvania's recent efforts to implement horse-positive regulations and penalties, especially since it is the first state to do so.

"Declaring a horse ineligible to race after it tests positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug anywhere in the country should certainly be a deterrent to potential cheaters," Janney wrote.

Long-term, Janney said the Jockey Club-supported Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 is needed to provide racing with a single, uniform set of drug testing rules and enforcement protocols.