Day At The Track

Newly promoted rules are flawed

02:00 AM 12 Jan 2018 NZDT
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Harnesslink is not a harness racing blog but in this case these newly promoted rules by Woodbine and Gural have not been very well thought out and there is so much at stake for all parts of our Industry we believe that we should run a few of these letters to expose as much of the truth as what we can. What is really happening with this badly flawed 'New Rule' proposal?

Here is a letter from Gordon Banks with a response to the Howard Taylor article run on harnesslink yesterday. Also make sure you read the Anthony MacDonald article run yesterday as well.

Here is the letter;

I read with a little sympathy and much bemusement, Howard Taylor's letter to Harnesslink.

The newly suggested rules to be applied by WEG and Jeff Gural's Meadowlands were intended to target serial positive drug test trainers, serial owner employers of drug test positive trainers, and any trainer having a class 1 or 2, or steroid / CO2 positives beginning in 2018.

As initially rolled out, the proposal suffered from multiple and significant flaws, and was widely criticized by owners and trainers alike. The most serious problem centered around the potential financial effects on; 

1) trainers and owners who had no direct connection to a positive test other than thru at least a 25% partnership with an owner having a horse with a new class 1 or class 2 positive, or, in a trainer's case, training horses in which the troubled owner had  a share. The threatened harm to owners and trainers in this case struck all as unfair, and dangerous to the industry, especially to the yearling market so heavily dependent on partnership money.

2) the concept as originally suggested did not just punish owners who knowingly went to proven drug trainers, but equally owners whose trainer gets a positive out of nowhere, with no history of positives. For this rule to be meaningful, it had to punish those who knowingly sought out, used, or created "drug" trainers or beard trainers, but treat owners who could not have anticipated a positive from a clean record trainer in a softer way, giving them the chance to switch trainers without penalty once knowledge of the surprising positive surfaced.

The original rules created other concerns as well. Why just apply it to stake races when condition and claiming races comprise 90% of North American racing, why target owners rather than the direct offender - the trainer? Is it reasonable to force partners who are often strangers to, in essence, stand as guarantors of such partners? Will the rules ban offending trainers, and will positive test histories be made easily accessible to owners who will need to perform due diligence on their trainers? When will the penalties attach, at time of positive, after confirmation via split sample, after public charging by a regulatory body, during and after appeal??? Also, is testing accurate enough to base significant penalties on? 

As a consequence of these and other concerns, some voiced by Mr. Taylor, both Jeff Gural and WEG (clay Horner) have reassessed and intend to modify the rules as first presented. While it is not my place to be specific, I can assure readers that both WEG and Mr. Gural have assured me and other prominent owners/trainers that they understand and accept many of the criticisms and will re introduce modified rules in the near term that all hope and believe will properly resolve the issues. If, for some unexpected reason, the new regulations seem problematic I, and many others, will object vigorously- but, at this time, Mr. Taylor's call to arms is both late in the day and premature...an unusual daily double that is rarely seen!

I only write this response because, on the basis of conversations with other major owners and trainers, and with Clay Horner and Jeff Gural, I and most of the owners and trainers to whom I have spoken, and who led initial criticism of the original plan, are reasonably confident that the revised rules will eliminate most of the problematic enforcement effects and accurately place blame, risk, responsibility, and incentive where they should be put.

North American racing has been beset by drug trainers having positives often without significant consequences, and by owners who knowingly, willingly, and repeatedly use such trainers. At least one major U.S. trainer has over 15 significant positives on his resume, and is still licensed and training! These rules, rightly, target these offenders who are making a joke of integrity and drug rules. If Mr. Taylor, or any other owner, will, in the future, willingly, knowingly and repeatedly use drug or beard trainers, these rules will prevent them from competing in our sport's signature juvenile stake races. Owners knowingly using drug trainers are as guilty as the trainer. About time we go after all of them - but in the right way! This time I think Jeff Gural and Clay Horner will!

Gordon Banks (ENVIRO STABLES)

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