Wednesday, April 9, 2014

PETA or Not We Need Fixing

Entertaining is probably not how the “powers that be” in racing would describe the ongoing discussions over PETA’s alleged “undercover investigation” of trainer Steve Asmussen’s operation and allegations of animal abuse and misdocumented workers.  However, I have found it to be just that.  There are so many sides to this issue I can’t keep the arguments straight.  So I made myself a list in order to keep things straight in my own mind.

  • If someone took 9 hours of video of me over the last 8 months and wanted to dice me to pieces in a 9 minute, heavily edited synopsis, they certainly could.  And I’m pretty sure that I could do it to anyone reading this;
  • How in the world did a groom get access to fancy dinners and so much “inner circle” stuff?  Just wondering…
  • Scott Blasi has a foul mouth;
  • How in the world did the Zayat’s NOT know about Nehro’s feet?  Seriously.  Do they NOT review the bills and see that the horse was costing them more than double on shoes than anyone else in the barn?  This didn’t raise questions?  Just who handles the day to day business operations over there and what is it are they doing?  While appearing “admirable” it appears a bit disingenuous given how outspoken and active they are;
  • Where is the Department of Labor?  Hard to believe we haven’t gotten a whiff of an investigation on the whole fake names and SS numbers debacle.  There’s a shoe to drop there and don’t kid yourself, it’s a big one;
  • There is a camp that wants Asmussen to move his top trainees, Tapiture, a top Derby contender and Untapable, a top Oaks contender, to other trainers so that he won’t be a disruptive influence in the biggest 3-year old races of the year;
  • There is a camp that feels that the best thing that can happen is that Asmussen not only stays in, but wins the races since all the “unwanted” attention will force the industry to clean itself up;
  • Horses shouldn’t have pulses in their feet and if they did it would be a sign of trouble – something PETA conveniently leaves out and actually lets the inference be that it’s quite the opposite.  Crap like that weakens your case;
  • Injections occur and they are not always bad.  Much as an elite human athlete may get cortisone shots to help treat a joint condition, many an equine athlete receives an injection to treat passing maladies as well.  Because it comes in a needle does not make it bad. We never know what is being injected and why – and that’s how PETA likes the public to view it.
  • Just because the messengers CLEARLY have an agenda and are, in my opinion, over the top loons, doesn’t mean that there aren’t things wrong in our industry that need to get cleaned up.  Pronto. 

WHATEVER side (and there are several) you come down on, the sport desperately needs two things: universal medication rules and a national governing body.  I really feel for trainers that come up to Minnesota from states that may not have as strict medication guidelines because it really changes the playing field for them.  And I’m not talking about what’s illegal, but those medications that are legal.  There is a lot more to prepare to move from one jurisdiction to another than just lining up trucks.  Changing a horse’s entire regime may be necessary.  Again, I’m not judging good or bad, but it is different.  Uniform rules would take out this one huge headache for trainers and make the transition from state to state easier.  Now, they’ll need to come together on race day Lasix…

While states may give way on universal medication rules and standards, I find it hard to believe that any of them are going to want to give any ground on the regulation.  States have been regulating racing since the beginning and there is a lot of revenue that is associated with it.  Perhaps state racing commissions become unnecessary with a National Horse Racing Commission or the local entities exist more to police nationwide regulations and racing infractions?  It’s a bit more complex than calling for a commissioner, but I think it’s doable if someone/some group would sit down and do it – at least develop the framework to get it started.  But then who will be the first to offer to subjugate them to it?  Which state would lead the way?  Which governing body would be the first to back it?

There needs to be collaboration, cooperation and, to paraphrase everyone’s favorite Vulcan, a way to make sure that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Our sport needs it.


Dave Astar said...

Absolutely correct perspective in my view and appreciated by those of us willing to change the sport for the betterment of the sport itself.

Tom Metzen said...

There are to many alphabet soup organizations in the sport now,NTRA, HBPA,MTA (in each State)TOBA,Jockey Club, TRPB,RCI,After Care Groups, and on and on. Many of which have tried exactly the "fixing" you mention.Nothing changes if nothing changes.. and one wants to give up their bit of control unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

As senior turf writer, and branded a rebel for speaking out on PED issues and beyond, I keep praying for a pro-active group to get serious about issues we continue to have. Tom Metzen's comment hits the nail on the head. "There are too many alphabet soup organizations in the sport." Take the TOC, in California, which is a sad example of a group which has only its greedy members in mind. Don't shoot the messenger, in this case PETA. We already know about their dirty linen. The edited down SPYCAM snippets are clearly proof of issues that are disgusting and should be dealt with. Could not agree with you more regarding Zayat's lack of oversight. Everyone who's worked on the backstretch is fully aware of the abusive use of illegal labor. It was going on way back when I was a hotwalker. But fake IDs? If my lifelong friend Stan Bergstein were still alive he would have written about this industry eyesore that nobody, including some who have spoken out, expects to do anything more than talk. The sport that I love has a culture which has grown used to believing in time it(in this case PETA) will eventually go away. I think we can expect a second dose of from the many hours of PETA SPYCAM snippets in the not so distant future. What in the hell is it going to take to get industry leaders to "walk the walk" and stop with their "talk the talk" baloney?

Theodore L. Grevelis said...

Thanks, guys, for taking the time to read and, especially, to comment. (And I know anon is a guy, too!)

Dave wrote a bit of a treatise on fixing racing's ills that deserves consideration ( Tom and Warren are right, in my opinion - too many alphabet soups and not a single one willing to join together with another or subjugate themselves for the good of the sport. Several of them need to get together, compromise and develop a real solution.

Theodore L. Grevelis said...

I just wanted to point out, at his request, that the Anonymous poster above is the esteemed Warren Eves. Warren had some technical difficulties and couldn't identify himself but wanted to make sure I did! Thanks, Warren, for your openness and taking the time to visit!