Senator Bernie Sanders
332 Dirksen Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
July 7, 2010
Dear Senator Sanders:
I am writing to you because you are one of the few politicians for whom I have respect. In the past, I have written to my Senator(s) and to the Committee in charge of investigating the horse racing industry, but did not receive so much as an acknowledgement of my letters, much less did there appear to be any action taken. A lot of hoopla, no substance. Perhaps this is just the way things are in D.C. but I have noticed that you not only make noise, you accompany it with action. I am a fan.
I have been a supporter of the horse racing industry for a few years now. It is my favorite sport and it is devastating how it is imploding. Tracks are closing, people are losing their jobs, horses are being slaughtered for meat and no one seems to have an answer. Chaos has ensued. Quite frankly, sir, the industry is in crisis. It needs help.
One of the subjects which is continually swept under the carpet is the issue of medication. The Committee convened two years ago after the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby touched upon it somewhat, but did not fully investigate - at least not to my satisfaction - the effects of drugs on horses. Horses in Europe and Australia do not use Lasix, Clenbuterol or any other medication on race day. The death and injury rate of European and Australian horses is far lower than the death and injury rates of horses in this country.
The Europeans also take a different tactic when a trainer is found to have broken the rules about medication. They are ruled off / banned for life. In the U.S., it is an entirely different story. Trainers here are fined, often a very small amount (in some states as low as $50) and allowed to continue training. There have been trainers of note who have been given larger fines and have been suspended for thirty days or more, e.g., Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Rick Dutrow, Jeff Mullins, for repeated violations and substantial infractions of the rules. Yet, these repeater cheaters are back at work, with seemingly nary a care, getting quality horses and winning stakes races while their honest counterparts with zero violations are stuck training lower-level claiming horses and making very little money.
And this is not the end of the story. Because who do you think is really getting stuck with the short end of the stick in all of this? The consumer of the horse racing product - the gambler. We are constantly being defrauded by the racing boards who continually allow these trainers to break the rules and retain their license.
Attached are examples from the California Horse Racing Board which shows how we, the consumer, have been duped and ripped off for our monies. In both cases, the trainer in question has had multiple violations. In each case, the horse is tested after the race and declared over the limit for medication. The purse money is returned by the original winners’ owner, trainer, et al and re-distributed to the place horse and the other top four finishers. However, there is no re-distribution of the mutuel pool money. Those of us who now have winning tickets receive no compensation and have no recourse to recover our initial investment nor whatever winnings we would have been awarded.
I understand that it would be virtually impossible to recall the tickets deemed winners on the day of the race and re-distribute the mutuel pool. What I propose is that race day medication be banned and that the trainers who repeatedly violate the rules be ruled off for life. It would be better for the horses and better for the industry as a whole. The statistics in other countries show that there would be fewer breakdowns of the horses. The trainers would be rewarded for their ability to train, not their ability to administer medication. And the consumers of the horse racing product would know that the information given to them in the past performances and the Daily Racing Form is accurate. No longer would we have to factor in a trainer’s propensity for using illegal medication(s) or improperly medicating the horse when deciding how to make our wagers.
I have attached copies of the California Horse Racing Board Stewards’ Decisions to this letter. Senator Sanders, I hope you can help. I would appreciate it very much. I am sure many others, including the horses, would be grateful as well.
Traci Spencer Roche