On April 25, Travis Tygart, the CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, was invited by the Coalition of Horse Racing Integrity to Keeneland in Lexington, to speak to a group of trainers interested in learning about USADA and its prospective involvement with anti-doping efforts in Thoroughbred racing.
During the meeting, there was an open exchange of questions and answers centered around the Horseracing Integrity Act. Some of the trainers in attendance were members of the Water Hay Oats Alliance, some were not. All of them were there to gain a better understanding of the proposed legislation and learn more about the ways it would affect their respective stables and their sport.
Among those in attendance was Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito.
In the wake of that meeting, Zito recently shared the following comments with WHOA:
"Like many of us in the racing industry, I am late to sign up with WHOA. I feel at this time, however, with what I have seen over 40 years as a trainer, that today's medication rules don't add up, and they do not work.
"So many states are different in their policies, and the penalties are harsh. In some cases, the penalties are harsh when they shouldn't be, when honest trainers are penalized because of poor testing and rules that are not uniform.
"However, with WHOA's position, the help of USADA, and anyone else who feels that this sport and this game is bigger than them, we can find a level playing field.
"If you are a Hall of Fame trainer and you are caught taking an edge, if you are a high percent winning trainer and you are caught taking an edge, you should be treated accordingly.
"Going to the recent USADA meeting was very encouraging. Travis Tygart made perfect sense; you can't both promote and police, and you can't catch a cheater if you don't test for what they are cheating with.
"Some horsemen oppose this legislation because it will result in the prohibition of Lasix. Personally, as far as Lasix goes, I was fortunate to win my first Kentucky Derby with Strike the Gold, and he did not have Lasix when he ran and won, so I have no reason not to support this bill.
"I give credit to the people who have joined WHOA and are supporting this legislation. I know this isn't going to be fixed overnight. I hope they can start on this soon because, again, this game is bigger than all of us.
"Everyone knows about the word 'perception.' Perception is reality. To quote 'The General,' Ted Bassett: There is no alternative."
Nick Zito grew up near Aqueduct Racetrack in New York and went to the track with his father at an early age. His first job at the track was as a hotwalker while still a teenager. He moved on to become a groom for trainer Buddy Jacobson and then worked for trainer Bob Lake. He was an assistant to trainer Johnny Campo for four years and to Hall of Famer LeRoy Jolley before going out on his own in 1972 at the age of 24.
Through years of hard work and dedication, Zito became a Hall of Fame trainer and a two-time Kentucky Derby (G1) winner.
Zito won the Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold and in 1994 with Go for Gin. He won the 1996 Preakness Stakes (G1) with Louis Quatorze and two editions of the Belmont Stakes (G1) with Birdstone in 2004 and Da' Tara in 2008.
Beyond his Triple Crown victories, Zito has won numerous graded stakes in New York, Kentucky, Florida and Pennsylvania. He spends half the year in Saratoga based at the Oklahoma training track and is something of an adopted son of Saratoga Springs. He has a barn at Belmont Park, and his stable heads south to Florida for the winter. He returns to Saratoga via Kentucky, where he participates in the Keeneland and Churchill Downs meets.