YONKERS, NY, Friday, November 8, 2014-Yonkers Raceway's harness drivers are big winners off the track, too. This Thursday (Nov. 13), nine of Yonkers' leading drivers-with more than 44,000 career victories and $535 million in career purses between them-are going to be among a contingent of Empire City/Yonkers Raceway employees and Standardbred Owners Association of New York horsemen to assist the hungry, volunteering at the Food Bank for Westchester. "Down to drive" are (alphabetically) Jason Bartlett, Eric Carlson, Dan Dube, Brent Holland, Pat Lachance Mark MacDonald, Brian Sears, Larry Stalbaum and Jordan Stratton. The eager beavers are scheduled to be at the Food Bank's operation in Elmsford, about 20 minutes north of Yonkers, from 1-3 PM. It's the third consecutive season ECYR has helped out in this worthy cause. The Food Bank's staff first hosts a tour of the giant warehouse, before putting their visitors to work packaging food to be distributed countywide throughout Westchester. "Helping such a worthwhile cause at the Food Bank has now become an annual tradition," Empire City Vice President and COO Bob Galterio said. "When our employees and horsemen volunteer their time, it makes it very special." "We're again delighted to be able to help the Food Bank for Westchester," SOA of New York president Joe Faraldo said, "We appreciate the assistance of our horsemen, the SOA staff and Yonkers Raceway management and employees. These efforts address the most basic of human needs, to be free of hunger." (About the Food Bank for Westchester...Incorporated in 1988, the Food Bank for Westchester is one of eight regional food banks in New York State. It acquires, warehouses and distributes more than 7.2 million pounds of food annually to 265 frontline hunger-relief programs, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, day care and residential programs serving the estimated 200,000 Westchester residents who are hungry or at risk of being hungry. In 2013 the Food Bank served 6,204,101 meals to Westchester County residents. Based in Elmsford, NY, the Food Bank is located in a 37,000 square foot warehouse and is home to Westchester's largest refrigerator and freezer. To learn more, or to donate to the Food Bank's Turkey Drive, please visit www.foodbankforwestchester.org, or text FB4W to 88500. Located at 200 Clearbrook Road, they can be reached at (914) 923-1100) by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
With any bet there is risk and Yonkers Raceway is willing to take a gamble on a six-week experiment that could pay off handsomely down the road. Beginning Nov. 9 and running through Dec. 14, Yonkers Raceway will conduct a live-card of racing starting at 11 a.m. every Sunday, which will now be simulcast throughout Europe. "It's time to test the waters with this international relationship with France," said Bob Galterio, the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Yonkers. The races will be simulcast by PMU, the French Horse Racing Association created company that is the second-largest wagering network in the work behind only Japan. The races will be available on television in Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Holland, Estoria, Malta and parts of Spain. "People in Europe are no different from people in United States," Galterio said. "They are just looking to wager on competitive races over there." While Thoroughbred racing is more popular than Standardbred racing in many jurisdictions, Yonkers has been focusing on targeting the large global markets where standardbred racing is popular, such as Australia and New Zealand, where their signal is offered. There is a huge market in France, where Standardbreds are just as popular as Thoroughbreds and there is no American football to compete against. Most Sundays, most racetracks in North America have a tough time competing against the National Football League in the fall and the winter, but it works perfectly in Paris, as there is only one racetrack running on Sunday's where the action would start at 5 p.m. "It's hard to say now but maybe we can handle $1 million Euro for the five races we will take action on," said Benoit Fabrega the director of LeTrot, which deals with France's international racing affairs. A website has been created by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York that features statistics of drivers and trainers to help the Europeans wager on the races and it will be promoted during the simulcasts to help try and generate revenue. You can view it at www.yonkers-france.com. "This exposure for the Yonkers racing product will produce more revenue to Yonkers and its horsemen and eventually open up a global market for American racing," said Joe Faraldo, the President of the SOA of New York. "If the overall handle is $125,000 Euros per race at a current exchange rate of $1.30 per US dollar that could very well open up this market substantially." Currently, $1 million Euros is equivalent to around $1.33 million US dollars. Yonkers will move their premier Friday night Trot to the Sunday card and will card races from a mile up to a mile-and-a-quarter, hoping to attract field sizes of 10 to 12 horses, while the average field size in a trotting race in Paris is around 14 horses. "We are starting to forge an international relationship and everything seems to be moving in a more international direction," Galtiero said. It's one of the reasons why Yonkers is bringing back the International Trot in 2015. On Oct. 25, Yonkers will offer the International Trot Preview, pitting some of the best trotters in America and Sweden before going full swing next year, trying to attract trotters from all over the world including France. Yonkers is the first to admit that their on-track handle and attendance will suffer on those Sundays, but will try to entice fans to come to the track with free breakfast and by showing the NFL games throughout the facility. For bettors that don't make it out to the track, the races will be shown live on TVG starting at 11am ET. "Honestly, this will be a learning process for us from the first Sunday to the last Sunday," Galtiero said. "We're going to look to see where we are at the end of the experiment versus the beginning of the experiment. It's not a money-making experiment. It's an experiment to see what's available in the future. Hopefully it works out and we can expand later on it." To help promote the Sunday races at Yonkers, officials from the Westchester track asked and received permission from the New York State Gaming Commission to allow advance wagering on the races starting Saturday night. "It's great that everyone's getting on board," Galtiero said. "The trainers, drivers and the Gaming Commission. Let's try things to see what sticks because we aren't going too far too fast now. Supporting the industry is better for everybody." And it's a bet Fabrega believes will be a winner, "People will discover the racing on Sunday. That's a bet we're going to make." By Jerry Bossert, for the SOA/NY
YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, November 4, 2014-Yonkers Raceway has drawn the first of its six Sunday matinee harness racing programs. The half-dozen cards, running from Nov. 9th to Dec. 14th, inclusive, replace five Tuesday nights (Nov. 11th through Dec. 9th) and shall offer an 11 AM first post. The Sunday programs are going to be front-loaded with trotters, as the first five races of each card-all added-distance (1Â¼ miles) with higher purses and oversized fields (12, 12, 10, 10 and 10, respectively)--are simulcast to France. Included in that quintet is a dozen-horse Open, which goes as the second race during the 12-race dossier. "We brought up that we'd like to try it (simulcasting races to France), and they have been very receptive to the idea," Raceway COO Bob Galterio said. "It's a new venture for all of us, and we appreciate the cooperation of the horsemen, the New York State Gaming Commission, the French PMU and our simulcast partners who are taking these Sundays along with our usual nighttime races." The overseas pool cannot be comingled, so the French betting won't be included here. Toward that end, Yonkers is altering the wagering format for some of the early Sunday races. Race 1 - no triple Race 2 - no triple, no Pick 3 Race 3 - no superfecta, no Pick 4 Race 4 - no Pick 3. In an effort to generate as much on-track interest as possible, Yonkers is doling out the freebies, including...a free Sunday live program with the purchase of a Saturday live program (advance wagering for YR's Sunday races is available all day Saturday)....free Sunday breakfast (egg sandwich and coffee) trackside between 10 AM-12 Noon....free Sunday bets--a $2 daily double (races 1 & 2) and $1 exacta box (races 2, 3, 4 & 5)--to the first 200 existing (or newly-enrolled) Empire City Bets members between 10 AM-11 AM (all tickets are "quick picks"). Also, there's a free promotional gift (while supplies last) and a chance to win dinner for two at any of restaurants on premises. Select Empire City Bets members are eligible for a $10 bet/get for wagers made on the first five "French" races. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
The following letter was sent to the membership of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York by its president, Joe Faraldo. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York and Yonkers Raceway have spent a great deal of time, effort and resources in securing new markets to simulcast races from Yonkers. It started with a relationship with Australian harness racing, which has now grown to a market that wagers more than $30 million a year on races from Yonkers. The next new market is Europe. For the last year, no kidding, we have been working on getting races from Yonkers simulcast to the PMU, the French pari-mutuel wagering association that takes bets from much of Europe. Those efforts are coming to fruition with the start of Sunday simulcasting on November 9 and continuing every Sunday through the end of the Yonkers meet December 14. It’s always challenging to enter a new market and this European market is extra special. The PMU hosts the second largest wagering pools in the world. And Yonkers will be the first track, harness or thoroughbred, which will be simulcast there from the United States on a weekly basis. Here are some of the things Yonkers & the SOA of NY have teamed together on to educate bettors overseas and to help make this venture a success: Developed web site in French www.yonkers-france to promote Yonkers and have an easy way to give out racing information to bettors overseas. Created social media pages (facebook, twitter, pinterest) in French for fans to keep up with American racing. Started and funded in cooperation with Yonkers an ad campaign in the daily French racing form, The Paris Turf, and also on the French racing television channel in an effort to insure that we properly promote Yonkers’ signal. Engaged domestic ADWs to offer promotions for members to wager on Yonkers on Sundays. Some ADWs will provide multiple reward benefits for wagering on this special Sunday card. The Yonkers signal will also be distributed to Switzerland, Belgium, Spanish Basque community, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Holland, Estonia and Malta The French PMU marketing branch is offering $5,000 Euros (approx. $6,500) on the first two Sundays to the French bettors that wager on Yonkers. Engaged an expert as an overseas liaison to help us make decisions and coordinate our efforts to put our best foot forward. We believe this will open the door to more of this simulcasting at more reasonable times on a different day of the week – that would be more convenient to the horsmen . Obtained permission to have advanced wagering on Sunday card from the NYS Gaming Commission. As part of this effort the International Trot will return in 2015 to Yonkers Raceway and its Preview will be raced October 25th, 2015 on a blockbuster card including the Yonkers Trot, The Messenger Stakes, the Lady Maud and the Hudson Filly Trot. The real payoff to the global expansion is commingling because it presents the opportunity for much bigger wagering pools which would be very attractive to our players currently based here in the US. Basically, we have busted our butt to for a long time and with a lot of days, weeks and months of extraordinary cooperation with Yonkers and the NYS Gaming Commission. The Commission has been encouraging us to move forward to promote our sport and has been extremely sensitive to the sacrifices and unique needs of the French initiative. There is no doubt as to its untapped potential. We realize that this initial Pilot Program will mean sacrifices for everyone and so far everyone has gone out on a limb to make this work, however but this initial sacrifice will lead to the start of a global exposure for Yonkers and our industry. It will insure to a large extent, more than anything else, a future for our game. We are excited about the Pilot Program’s potential expansion which will not be as onerous on all of our resources as this startup is. We are pleased about the participation and cooperation from the NYS Gaming Commission and Yonkers and truly believe that Tim Rooney, Sr. aptly said of these six weeks of the Program, “we have but one chance to get this right, we can’t fail”. The SOA and Yonkers will see to it that those horsemen participating in these French simulcasts will be rewarded. We know the sacrifices the SOA and Yonkers have made; the numerous meetings, the planning, the expense and we sincerely hope that all horsemen join hands in the effort to insure the vitality of our business. Programs like this are essential for our future. A future which as we have seen can be altered overnight.
The New York State Gaming Commission announced today that it is proposing amendments to its rules and regulations governing the administration of the bronchodilator clenbuterol in harness horses. Concerns about the purported misuse of clenbuterol were highlighted during an investigation into a rash of catastrophic breakdowns at New York's Thoroughbred tracks in 2012. The drug is thought by some to have anabolic properties, and is reportedly used as a muscle building substitute for steroids in athletes. The anabolic affect of clenbuterol in racehorses has yet to be conclusively established. The rule proposal, as revised, deletes a per se rule violation whenever the Commission's laboratory detects clenbuterol in excess of 140 pg/ml in urine or any clenbuterol in plasma by testing race-day samples. The revised proposal allows clenbuterol to be administered by any means until 96 hours before the scheduled post time of the race, except if a horse has been required to qualify when not showing a current performance within 30 days or more and has not yet raced after qualifying, then such horse may not race for at least 14 days following an administration of clenbuterol. The United States Trotting Association and Standardbred Owners Association of New York actively participated in a public hearing conducted by the Commission in January 2014 and advocated for the changes proposed today. "I laud the New York Commission on today's proposal, which not only follows the science, but also does what's right for the health of the horse," said Joseph Faraldo, SOA of New York President. "Because our horses by and large race weekly, the 14 day withdrawal rule adopted for Thoroughbreds would take clenbuterol out of the treating veterinarian's pharmacological armamentarium. The 96 hour rule ensures that horses cannot be excessively treated with the medication between races for an illicit purpose, but can still benefit from the relief it provides to horses constantly exposed to pulmonary contaminants in the environment. Mandating the 14 day withdrawal period for harness horses qualifying off a 30 day or more layoff, however, ensures integrity. There is no question that the Commission's well thought-out proposal has struck the proper balance." In addition to SOA President Faraldo, USTA President F. Phillip Langley testified at the January public hearing. Those also testifying at the request of the USTA and SOA at the January hearing included Dr. Thomas Tobin, DVM, PhD, University of Kentucky, Gluck Equine Research Center; Dr. Kenneth H. McKeever, PhD, Professor, Rutgers University, Department of Animal Sciences; Dr Peter M. Kanter, DVM, PhD, Harness Track Veterinarian; and Drs. Janet A. Durso, DVM, and Vincent DiCicco, DVM, Practicing Equine Veterinarians. From the SOA of New York
Recently, the New York State Gaming Commission announced that it has promulgated final regulations governing the conduct of Out-of-Competition Testing in harness racing. In light of this announcement, the Empire State Harness Horsemen's Alliance (ESHHA), representing the interests of thousands of owners, trainers and drivers who regularly compete at harness tracks in New York State, wish to make clear its position regarding Out-of-Competition Testing. ESHHA affirms its position that Out-of-Competition Testing can be an effective tool among an arsenal of investigatory and enforcement devices utilized in the furtherance of integrity in racing. ESHHA's concerns are not grounded in the concept of testing horses who are not competing at a certain point in time but rather regulations that are not seen as effective in the fight to control medication abuse. The problem for harness horsemen is the unconstitutional, unscientific, often contradictory and overly broad scope employed by the Gaming Commission in its proposed conduct of the testing. The recently promulgated rules do nothing to ameliorate the potential overall harm to the industry which was contained in proposed regulations the Gaming Commission's predecessor, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, attempted to implement in 2010. That compilation of introduced regulations was challenged by the industry in court, and while a trial level judge struck down the majority of the Racing Board's proposal, the Appellate Division, Third Department was less sympathetic to the horsemen’s concerns. The industry's concerns regarding that original introduction and the specifics of Out-of-Competition Testing in general, will now be heard by the state's highest court, the N.Y.S. Court of Appeals, with oral argument scheduled for mid-November. In sum, ESHHA will continue its attempts to work with the Gaming Commission to establish an Out-of-Competition protocol that is both rational and legal, and continue with equal fervor to resist attempts to implement rules with no basis in law or science. From the SOA of NY
YONKERS, NY, Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Yonkers Raceway Saturday night hosted the 25th edition of the New York Harness Racing Night of Champions. The $1.8 million event--richest night of racing in the state--offered eight, $225,000 sire stakes finals for 2-and 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. Once again, each race was sponsored by a prominent Empire State breeding farm. Despite Mother Nature sticking her nose in--rain throughout first half of card and delays due to track maintenance-the state's best were summarily saluted. Here's the chronological compendium... Crawford Farms 2-Year-Old Filly Trot - Slight second choice Barn Doll (Jeff Gregory, $4.40) was the best coming in and best going out, winning (from post position No. 5) by five lengths in a soggy 2:00.4. Nunkeri (Mark MacDonald) was second, with Betcha (Jim Morrill Jr.) a recovering third after a break. Concentration (Brian Sears), also at 6-5 but the tepid favorite, broke early, though came back to finish fourth. For Barn Doll, a daughter of Conway Hall co-owned by (trainer) Steve & Nancy Pratt and Purple Haze Stables, it was her seventh win in nine seasonal starts (3-for-3 here). The exacta paid $44, with the triple returning $192.50. "She just knows what she's doing, a total pro," Gregory said. "I wasn't worried about her coming up sick (in her last scheduled NYSS start, because Steve said it wasn't that bad and she had trained well. I'm hoping she keeps it going next season as a 3-year-old.. Cameo Hills Farm 3-Year-Old Filly Pace - As expected, the 11-10 choice, pole-sitting Spreester (Jason Bartlett) cut the mile, but she was no match for the lass on her back, It Was Fascination (Brett Miller, $6), from post 2, ducked inside and won by a length-and-a-quarter in 1:57.2. Table Talk (Matt Kakaley) was a first-up third. For "Fascination," a daughter of American Ideal co-owned by (trainer) Tony Alagna, Riverview Racing and Bay's Stable, it was her fourth win in 13 '14 tries. The exacta paid $12.20, the triple returned $38.60 and the superfecta (Major Dancer [Sears] was fourth) paid $85.50. "I've never driven her before, but I watched her replays and thought if she was close enough, she'd have a chance," Miller said. Winbak Farm 2-Year-Old Filly Pace - The three-headed, Ron Burke-trained monster in Band of Angels (George Brennan), Sassa Hanover (Morrill Jr.) and Bettor N Better (Kakaley) were considered so potent, they were barred from all wagering. The finished fourth, fifth and eight (last). It was just-over even-money Mosquito Blue Chip (John Campbell, $4.10)-seventh at the three-quarters from post No. 6-furiously closing to snap Bossers Joy (Bartlett) by a nose on the money in 1:56. Heavenly Bride (Sears) was a from-last third. "Sassa" led to the lane before tiring to fifth. For "Mosquito," a Bettor's Delight lass co-owned by (trainer) Paul Jessop, Our Three Sons Stable and Donato Falcicchio, she's now 4-for-9 this season. The exacta paid $18.60, with no triple wagering due to the limited number of wagering interests. "I thought Jason (Bartlett, driving Bossers Joy) had lost me around the last turn, but in the straightaway, my filly just kept going," Campbell said. "She's a lot calmer than when I baby-raced her, maybe a bit too calm, but she was strong at the finish." Stirling Brook Farms 3-Year-Old Filly Trot - Last season's champ is now this season's champ. Odds-on Market Rally (Morrill Jr., $2.40, part of entry) put a whuppin' on her outclassed foes. From post No. 6, she had open-length lead seemingly from the post parade. Up 10 at the half, she coasted home by 5Â¾ lengths in 1:58. Second went to Cutup Hanover (Gregory), Glowngold (Sears, part of another entry) third. For Market Rally, a daughter of Cash Hall co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Weaver Bu7rscemi and Panhellenic Stabler, it was her seventh win in 10 '14 efforts. The exacta paid $31.60, with tbe triple returning $82. Market Rally is 6-for-6 here in her career. Morrisville College Equine Institute 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Trot - Odds-on Crazy Wow ($3.80) and driver Dan Rawlings are each a perfect 2-for-2 locally, winning the draw and leading at every pylon in 2:00.1. Wings of Royalty (Sears) was a first-up second-beaten 3Â½ lengths-with Buen Camino (Trond Smedshammer) third. For Crazy Wow, a son of Crazed owned by Joseph Hess and trained by Dan O'Mara, he's now 4-for-7 in his first season. The exacta paid $15.80, with the triple returning $34.80. "I really didn't care where I was leaving the gate, as long as he left trotting," Rawlings said. "I saw too many horses 'blow up' earlier and I wanted to make sure he didn't. The fact that I was able to get a breather made me happy." Blue Chip Farms 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Pace - Odds-on All Bets Off (Kakaley, $2.30, part of entry) beat down his overmatched foes. From post No. 5, he took no prisoners, going down the road by four lengths in 1:54. Stay Up Late (MacDonald) was a first-up second, with Western Conquest (Brent Holland) third. For Art Rooney Pace winner All Bets Off, a son of Bettor's Delight co-owned (with Frank Baldachinio, Panhellenic Stable and Rosemary Shelswell) by trainer Burke, he's now 9-for-12 this season (career earning nearing $830,000) for an original $7,000 yearling purchase). The exacta (two wagering choices) paid $6.60. "He's just better than these horses," Kakaley said. "Ronnie has had him good all season. There wasn't much to it tonight." Genesee Valley Farm 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Pace - Driver and trainer teamed up again, this time with Cartoon Daddy ($15.40), though not before surviving an inquiry. Away third from post No. 6, he extricated himself from the cones just before Oneisalonelynumber (Bartlett) came to him on the outside. That move placed Cartoon Daddy second-over behind Berkley, before grabbing that rival and winning by a couple of lengths in 1:55. Betting Exchange (Sears), as the 3-2 choice, crossed the line, but was set down to seventh for impeding Oneisalonelynumber soon after Cartoon Daddy was acquitted for possibly doing the same thing. Southwind Masimo (Pat Lachance) and a tiring early leader Americanprimetime (Morrill Jr.) were advanced to third and fourth, respectively. For fourth choice Cartoon Daddy, a Aert Major frosh trained by Burke for himself (as Burke Racing) and Joe DiScala Jr., it was his fifth win in nine seasonal starts. The exacta paid $125.50, the triple returned $681 and the superfecta paid $1,526 Allerage Farm 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Trot - Defending champ Flyhawk El Durado (MacDonald) led to the lane, only to make a bad break and take any suspense out of his meeting with Gural Hanover (Morrill Jr., $2.90, part of entry). The latter, never out of range from post No. 2, then had the race all to himself. He defeated Zoey De Vie (Sears) by 4Â¾ lengths, with Daley Lovin' (Dan Daley) third. "El Durado" recovered to finish fourth. For Gural Hanover, a Crazed gelding co-owned by trainer Burke, Little E and Panhellenic Stables, it was his eight consecutive (sire stakes) win and his ninth win in 11 '14 tries. The exacta paid $21, with the triple returning $187.50. . Saturday's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by Bigtown Hero (Kakaley, $17) in 1:53.2 The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. Frank Drucker
It’s been almost 20 years since the acronym HIPAA entered the American lexicon. Shorthand for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, HIPAA was promulgated to, among other things, regulate the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) and standardize electronic health care transactions for billing, reimbursement and other purposes. Everyone has been exposed to HIPAA. When filling out those numerous clipboard information forms in the doctor’s waiting room, a HIPAA release form is included. With some limited exceptions, a doctor may not speak about a patient’s condition or treatment with anyone, including family members and friends, without the patient’s express consent. Do the privacy aspects of the HIPAA statute make sense? It’s obvious that our health is one of our most guarded secrets. Like it or not, certain conditions and illnesses like depression, cancer and alcoholism carry public stigma, our enlightened 21st century society notwithstanding. Moreover, aspects of human dignity must be considered. Think about two doctors in a hospital elevator nonchalantly talking about the hopeless prognosis for the elderly lady in bed 602, not aware that her daughter is riding the elevator with them. Pre-HIPAA, such unfortunate breaches were commonplace. Making sure our confidential health information is judiciously safeguarded has its place. Should racehorse veterinary records be afforded HIPAA-like privacy protection? Do reports regarding the administration of medication or the performance of therapeutic procedures qualify as protected health information? If the questions sound somewhat absurd, consider that equine health records are treated as rather secretive data, the disclosure of which generally can’t be compelled. This summer, the issue of veterinary record transfer was discussed at theGrayson-Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit. The conversation mostly involved the claiming realm. When a trainer successfully claims a racehorse on behalf of an owner, he or she gets the horse, and nothing else. The conditioner receives no information about any special feed or vitamin regimens, quirks or idiosyncrasies; much less any information about prior illnesses and surgeries. Inasmuch as veterinary records are the property of the owner, it is it’s generally believed that vets can’t turn over treatment records to new owners without the permission of the owner who authorized the treatments. Interestingly, this may not legally be the case. In New York, for example, Education Law § 6714 governs the disclosure of treatment records. The relevant subdivision states: “Upon written request from the owner of an animal which has received treatment from or under the supervision of a veterinarian, such veterinarian shall provide to such owner within a reasonable time period a copy of all records relating to the treatment of such animal. For the purposes of this section, the term "records" shall mean all information concerning or related to the examination or treatment of the animal kept by the veterinarian in the course of his or her practice…” Nothing in the subdivision appears to prohibit a veterinarian who previously treated a horse from disclosing those records to the animal’s new owner. In fact, it might mandate it if a request is made. Of course, identifying the horse’s previous treatment providers might prove difficult. This is especially true in the harness realm, as many of our horses are on private farms and training centers, as opposed to the backstretch of a racetrack where a trainer’s choice of vet is open and well known. Here are some points to ponder before you decide what’s best for the industry: Horseracing, like other professional sports, is a competitive endeavor. Why should trainer Smith be obligated to turn over a horse’s records to trainer Jones, who might subsequently race the horse against one of the other horses in trainer Smith’s stable? Unlike virtually all other professional sports, however, wagering on the outcome of contests is perfectly legal. Why shouldn’t trainer Jones have all available prior veterinary information at his disposal in order to assist the horse to compete to his maximum ability? After all, isn’t that level of performance what the betting public expects? Isn’t the health and safety of the animal always paramount? While there should be no requirement to tell anybody anything about the horse while in trainer Smith’s possession, once control is transferred to trainer Jones, shouldn’t the new conditioner be able to do everything possible to promote the horse’s wellbeing? Horses can’t talk, but the human previously charged with supporting the animal’s health can offer much in the way of assistance. Once the claim is consummated, why can’t trainer Smith’s vet disclose to trainer Jones exactly what he’s gotten his owner into, thereby assisting Jones’ vet to properly maintain the horse? Some trainers are known to be specialists at getting horses to the winner’s circle first time off the claim. The lack of the horse’s health history certainly doesn’t hamper these trainers as much as others. The key to victory might just be trainer Jones’ unique husbandry, which is performed without, and possibly in spite of, whatever trainer Smith thought the horse needed. If you’ve read this far, you’ve already thought about the metaphorical elephant in the room: How many treatments, procedures and administrations are done under the radar, such that there are no records in anyone’s possession regarding their performance? Whether accomplished by a phantom vet or the unscrupulous trainer Smith himself, no amount of mandated rules will help trainer Jones know what has really been done to the horse. In this realm, couldn’t incomplete records be worse than no records at all? Stated another way, if trainer Jones can’t justifiably rely on the records provided, do they have much value at all? On this last point, if trainer Jones later discovers that the records provided are incomplete, can Jones’ owner sue Smith’s owner for damages, or even void the claim? Would the legal issue only trigger if the records were found to be substantially incomplete? Materially incomplete? Consider the damage this would do to the claiming game. In this same vein, what about yearling auctions? Inasmuch as there are absolutely no warranties for anything, save some express limited guarantees regarding freedom from certain conditions and procedures, why should the turnover of information be required? If every illness, injection or surgery is to be disclosed, would nondisclosure, innocent or otherwise, trigger lawsuits? In effect, would the traditional “buyer beware” nature of auctions be forever changed? Assuming the propriety of the mandatory exchange of veterinary information, a broader discussion involves just how it would be accomplished. Vets keep records, so should a rule simply state that every vet who previously treated a horse is required to turn over data to a new owner on request? Such a protocol would seem cumbersome, as all prior vets, including those of owners remotely in the horse’s past performance chain, would need to be identified. Rather, should regulated disclosure involve an electronic database repository, such that a racing commission could review the information at any time? In New York, trainers or their veterinarians must report all corticosteroid joint injections within 48 hours through an Equine Steroid Administration Log. Should this form of reporting be expanded to include every administration of a substance or completion of a procedure? While on the subject of horse health, should the database include records of vaccinations, shoeing and teeth floating? Who would bear the expense for such reporting and database maintenance? What would such a system do to the cost of veterinary care? Moreover, given the multistate nature of Standardbred racing, such a protocol would need to come by way of interstate compact to be efficacious. For example, assume Pennsylvania has a record disclosure rule. If I claim a horse at Pocono Downs, what good would the rule do me if the horse spent the majority of its career in a state where no similar rule existed? Finally, if the formidable task of populating and maintaining a database is to be undertaken, shouldn’t it simply become information freely accessible in real time to handicappers? While betting on football isn’t legal, player injury reports are openly disseminated. Since the bettors know if a horse got a Lasix® shot this afternoon, shouldn’t they also know about the epiglottic entrapment corrective procedure the horse underwent last year? Why can’t the savvy punter research whether a horse’s dam ever foundered, or whether his sire suffered a bowed tendon as a 2 year old? In fact, shouldn’t veterinary reporting extend to treatment of breeding stock? To be clear, the USTA doesn’t have any pronounced opinion or official position on any aspect of this subject. The issue is presented because it has been recently raised in a public forum. As folks who care about this industry, your opinion about what should or shouldn’t happen is important. Think about it, and let us know how you feel. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.
The SOA of New York and Yonkers Raceway are pleased to announce a new handicapping feature which will provide useful information for both casual and experienced bettors. The Empire Report is a new feature available at www.yonkersraceway.com/cer. On the web site page that normally has daily entries and results for Yonkers, there is an additional box below which will contain pre-race analysis and post-race reviews every racing night. The Empire Report is compiled by a team of handicappers that have followed Yonkers Raceway and harness racing overall for decades. The goal is that the daily analysis will be used as a guide that can help players become familiar with horses and how races might be contested, rather than just telling someone which horse to bet. The rationale being you give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, you teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. It will help point out vulnerable favorites and live longshots which should prove to be very valuable for anybody looking to map out exotic wagers and multi-race bets The in-depth post-race reviews are not currently offered by any other tracks. They will be helpful to handicappers - and owners - in providing much more information about how each race was contested and subtleties in each horse's performance that can't be gleaned just from looking at a results chart. Combining the pre-race analysis with the post-race commentaries will hopefully allow players to continually sharpen their skills, and gradually do better and better at the windows. Yonkers Raceway's five nights a week racing schedule continues with live racing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:10pm. Beginning on November 9, six daytime Sunday cards will be offered at Yonkers Raceway to replace the Tuesday night cards as a simulcasting experiment that will send North American harness racing into Europe on a weekly basis for the first time. From the SOA/NY
YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, August 13, 2014-Yonkers Raceway is the backdrop for the latest harness racing installment of The French Connection. The Raceway has received approval from the New York State Gaming Commission to conduct a half-dozen Sunday matinee cards-from November 9th through December 14th, inclusive-as part of a new wagering relationship with the French parimutuel agencies. The races are to be televised and wagered on through much of Europe. First post of these trotting-dominated programs is scheduled for 11 AM ET, with more information regarding field sizes and race distances as it becomes available. Please be advised that these six Sunday cards replace five Tuesday evenings (Nov. 11th thru Dec. 9th, inclusive) on the Raceway's live schedule. "We think this endeavor could lead to more international simulcasting in the future, which would be extremely beneficial TO racing throughout New York State," Raceway Chief Operating Officer Bob Galterio said. "We appreciate the cooperation of the Gaming Commission, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and our racing friends across the Atlantic. "It's a new experiment for us, and we're anxious to see how it works out." Until that schedule change, the Raceway's five-night-per-week live docket continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. Frank Drucker
Yonkers Raceway already has the highest purse structure in North America. What the half-mile track has lacked is the ability to get bettors to play along. Despite its lofty perch for horsemen, Yonkers has been unable to get on track, with money through the windows virtually stagnant. This is not a news flash for the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. Over the last year they have made a concerted effort to bring about change, not necessarily by playing to the same audience, but by looking overseas. Earlier this year they announced an agreement with PMU (the wagering arm in France) to simulcast races during the fall. The initial conversation saw Yonkers ask and receive permission to race on Tuesday afternoons, but the French team expressed a desire to give Yonkers a window if they agreed to race on Sunday afternoons instead. The arrangement was forged and for five Sundays during the heart of the NFL season, the track will open at 11:00 a.m. for a live racing program that will commence with five consecutive trotting races of varied field sizes and distances. “I don’t think there’s that big a difference racing Tuesdays or Sundays,” said Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director of the SOA of New York. To view the rest of this story click here.
There are few, if any, issues facing the harness racing industry where all segments are in complete agreement. Just mention of words like whipping, takeout or Lasix® evokes countless vocal opinions across a broad spectrum. If ever there was a matter on which the entire horseracing community could stand uniformly positioned, it is the obstinate insistence by the Internal Revenue Service to treat horseplayers differently from all other types of investors with regard to withholding of portions of their winning wagers. On June 6, the United States Trotting Association joined a chorus of prominent industry groups, publications and federal officeholders in calling on the I.R.S. to stop harming racing by failing to either understand or appreciate the unique nature of 21st century pari-mutuel betting. This lack of knowledge or concern results in the unfair calculation of the amount of tax withholdings assessed against handicappers who successfully prevail when playing super-exotics. Fortunately, much has recently been written about the withholding problem in industry publications. This article will identify the problem; summarize how the industry is attempting to formulate a solution, and how you can play a part in getting the solution implemented. In our grandfathers’ day, tracks offered only win, place and show wagering, later adding a revolutionary bet called the daily double. In essence, it was difficult to make an outrageous score on a $2 wager. Very few horses go off at 99-1 or better, and only an infinitesimal amount of them actually win. Only the rare daily double pays in the hundreds of dollars. Today, the superfecta, pick-six and other combination and parlay offerings constitute the lion’s share of wagers made on horse races. These dominant betting opportunities often produce payoffs in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single $2 wager. Of course, winning the big one is usually not simply an exercise of pure luck; professional players often invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in an attempt to cover as many potential outcomes as possible. By anticipating the probable value of a payoff, the bettor assesses the risk and intensively wagers accordingly. These plays constitute what is aptly called gambling, but arguably the gamble is little different than, for example, those involved in oil wildcatting or opening of a high-end restaurant. Of course, it’s the province and duty of the I.R.S. to assess and collect taxes. If a bettor hits a score over $600 and the odds are 299-1 or more, the track is required to report the winnings on I.R.S. Form W-2G. In applying this law, consider a bettor who cashes a $50 win ticket on a horse at 50-1 odds and receives $2,550. Since the odds were less than 299-1, there is no reporting requirement. Conversely, if a neophyte bets a single, straight $2 superfecta on his 4-digit street number and hits for $1,000, the lucky first-timer would go home with lots of cash, as well as a copy of Form W-2G which the track uses to report his gain to the I.R.S. While the reporting rules might appear to produce conflicting results, the true concern involves the area of mandatory withholding on certain winning wagers. Although the I.R.S. recognizes that legitimate expenses are to be subtracted from gross revenue in calculating taxable profit for a business venture, the problem is that the assessment of tax withholding from supposed “profit” in the racing realm is skewed, to say the least. The applicable section of the Internal Revenue Code requires racetracks to withhold 25% of purported profit when the bettor wins more than $5,000 from a wagering transaction in a pari-mutuel pool with respect to horse races, provided the amount of such proceeds is at least 300 times as large as the amount wagered. From the statutory language, it plainly appears that Congress intended that the total amount wagered into a particular pool be treated as the handicapper’s investment capital. Like in any other business, that capital investment should serve to reduce by equal amount his gross winnings when calculating his profit for withholding purposes. Unfortunately, congressional intent in the tax realm is solely determined by the I.R.S. In a 1976 private letter ruling, a vehicle by which the I.R.S. gives its guidance to taxpayers under a set of submitted facts, the Service determined that only the investment on the actual winning combination counts as the “wagering transaction in a pari-mutuel pool” for tax reporting and withholding purposes. How does the present application of this archaic Service interpretation of the Code create the problem? Assume a gambler invests $800 to cover 400 possible pick-six combinations at $2 a pop. He hits the parlay, and it pays $5,600. While the payout is over $5,000, the fortunate bettor really only received odds of about 6-1 in relation to his investment: or did he? The I.R.S. takes the position that only the wager on the winning combination, and not the other 399, constitutes the specific “wagering transaction” referenced in the Code. In other words, rather than credit his entire $800 outlay in the pick-six pool as congress unmistakably envisioned, the Service credits only the $2 spent on the cashed winning combo. Thus, while only receiving 6-1 on his total investment, his I.R.S. imputed odds are about 2,800-1. This triggers not just Form W-2G reporting, but also a 25% tax withholding on winnings. The racehorse gambler actually walks away from the mutual window with $1,399.50 less of the payoff. The overwhelming majority of horseplayers don’t invest thousands of dollars into super-exotic pools on a regular basis. Should we cry for the successful, high-end handicapping aficionados? Maybe not; but the concern is that some of these folks might place their investment capital elsewhere. Undoubtedly, some already have. This simply drains the already well-parched pari-mutuel pools. Moreover, by taking 25% of earnings out of the hands of the career players who are still around, the industry loses churn; meaning that instead of being able to wager this money again and again, the sum literally sits on account with the Service unless and until the big gambler can recoup it months later via her federal tax return filing. This decrease in handle, especially in racing states with no alternative gaming, is devastating. Racetrack managements, horsemen, breeders and the state all miss out on countless sums of takeout dollars. Luckily, it doesn’t take an act of congress to reverse this situation. While previous attempts at congressional clarification have failed, the problem isn’t really with the language of the law, but rather with how the I.R.S. inexcusably construes it against horseplayers. Consider a medium-sized retailer who embarks on a $1,000,000 marketing campaign. The endeavor actually yields a 6% increase in gross sales. Would the I.R.S. limit the deduction for the marketing expenditure to $60,000? Hardly. Yet, the I.R.S. withholds pari-mutuel earnings as if only that tiny fraction of the total investment made by the horseplayer allocated to the single winning combo was his cost of doing business. You can help change this surreal circumstance by adding your name to an online petition already supported by thousands of individuals and groups. The petition simply mirrors what at least 17 members of congress have already demanded: That the I.R.S change course and consider the total amount invested by a taxpayer in a pari-mutuel pool when determining whether tax withholding on winnings is warranted. A link to the Petition is here: Apparently, the Washington-based tax lawyers working for the Service don’t frequent Rosecroft Raceway or Laurel Park. If they did, they’d understand the business of pari-mutuel wagering from the big bettors’ prospective. We can only hope that they amend their tax guidance in this matter soon, while there are still some whales around that can benefit. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network. Chris E. Wittstruck Courtesy of the USTA web newsroom
Bob MacDougall, Chairman of the co-sponsored SOA of New York/Yonkers Raceway Scholarship Committee, has announced that Alleysha Reynolds is the winner of the 2014-2015 Scholarship Award in the amount of $5,000 and Sarah Vallee is the winner of the $3,000 award. Alleysha Reynolds is currently enrolled at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in Equine Science and Management. Alleysha was introduced to the harness racing industry at a young age, She has been working as a groom in New York and Pennsylvania where her special bond, talent and love of horses made her decision to study to become an Equine Veterinarian an easy one. Alleysha is the daughter of Luann Reynolds of Duryea, Pennsylvania. Sarah Vallee has been accepted to enter the University of Delaware, in Newark, Delaware this fall, where she will study to become a Veterinarian. She has been an exceptional student in high school, on the High Honor Roll and Principles Honor Roll for all four years at Jackson Memorial High School. She has been influenced by her parents, Anita and Shaun Vallee, of Jackson, New Jersey, and is presently an active groom at Yonkers Raceway. "The scholarship records of both winners, along with their participation in extracurricular activities were excellent," noted MacDougall. They should serve as examples for all high school and college students to follow. The Committee wishes all of the applicants the very best as they continue on with their education". The annual SOA/Yonkers Raceway scholarships are awarded to SOA members, or members of their immediate families, or to covered individuals (backstretch personnel) or a member of their immediate families, for study beyond the high school level. The recipient is chosen on the basis of merit and financial need. The winners and their families will be acknowledged one night at Yonkers Raceway this summer. by Alex Dadoyan, for SOA/NY
Ever wonder what makes a gallon a gallon? A yard a yard? A bushel a bushel? Units of measure in customary commercial use in the United States are established by government. In addition to several other enumerated powers, the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to “… fix the standard of weights and measures” (Article 1, Section 8). It’s government that decides how old you have to be to buy cigarettes or liquor, cast a vote or be drafted. Like it or not, government prescribes what a safe speed limit is for streets, roads and highways. Conversely, government cannot decide the size of the moon. The moon is a sphere with a defined circumference. While government decides the standard by which a mile is measured, the number of miles that make up the circumference of the moon is defined by the moon itself. Government reports, but it’s the moon that decides. Can government determine whether the species of horses is inherently vicious? As the state of being vicious is descriptive of a disposition that either exists or doesn’t, it would appear at first blush that government has no say in the matter. Unlike the size of the moon, however, the determination can’t be arrived at with a tape measure. A species’ distinctive traits can only be ascertained via subjective human observation. Reasonable people will necessarily come to different conclusions; and that makes the perception adopted by government determinative on the subject for all practical purposes. Last October, we reported on a case progressing through the appellate courts in Connecticut that dealt with this very issue. In Vendrella v Astriab, an intermediate appeals court concluded that whether a horse bite is foreseeable given the nature of all horses was a question of fact to be decided on a case by case basis. The matter was further appealed, and on April 1 Connecticut’s highest court, the Supreme Court, issued its decision. The Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate appeals court’s ruling, agreeing that whether horses have vicious propensities and are, as a class, likely to bite or otherwise cause injury, is to be determined on a case by case basis. The court further concluded that the owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable if the animal belongs to a class of animals that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, regardless of whether the animal had previously caused an injury and, accordingly, the owner may be held liable for negligence if he or she fails to take such reasonable steps and an injury results. The high court decision gives absolutely no comfort to an industry that stables over 51,000 horses statewide. As we stated in October, such a ruling would have devastating ramifications for the horse industry in Connecticut, and potentially nationwide. While the court did not determine as a matter of law that all horses are vicious, it left it up to juries to decide the issue based upon specific facts presented in each case. In any case, a jury could determine that an owner was negligent in failing to secure a horse that had never bitten before, and gave no indication that it was inclined to bite, simply by finding that all horses have the propensity to bite. Each case would devolve into a battle of experts on the issue of whether horses are inherently prone to cause injury. If a jury determined that horses have such vicious propensities, the only real issue left would be how much the injured party should recover. In short, the ruling would render virtually all equine operations of any sort uninsurable, due to prohibitively expense premiums. That’s ironic, considering that the state’s capital, Hartford, Connecticut, is also nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World,” given the proliferation of headquarters for several major nationwide insurance companies in the city. The irony was not lost on Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, Malloy renewed a push to clarify once and for all the inherent nature of equines, not for scientific purposes, but as to the issue of prospective liability for owners, stable operators, riding academies and others. The result of the Governor’s thrust was the unanimous passage of a bill in both legislative houses that essentially rendered moot and unenforceable the Supreme Court’s pronouncement regarding the nature of horses. The new Connecticut law does three things. First, the law states that in any civil action for personal injury caused by a horse, pony, donkey or mule, these animals shall not be found to belong to a species that possesses a naturally mischievous or vicious propensity. Second, the law establishes a presumption that such horse, pony, donkey or mule does not have a propensity to engage in behavior that would foreseeably cause injury to humans. The presumption can only be rebutted by evidence that the specific animal, not its overall class, put the owner or keeper on notice that it had a propensity to engage in the behavior that allegedly caused the injury. An example would be proof that the horse in question had previously bitten someone; not that all horses allegedly have a tendency to bite. Third, the law prohibits causes of action in lawsuits based upon a strict liability standard. In other words, in each case an injured party can only recover if he or she can prove negligence on the part of an owner or keeper. Again, all horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys are presumed to be other than vicious or mischievous. The injured party can’t recover solely on the basis that injury was caused; there has to be a showing that the owner or keeper knew or should have known that the animal could cause injury, and then failed to adequately prevent against the injury. Do all horses have vicious propensities? While zoologists, equine behaviorists, research veterinarians, and other scientists study the inquiry at length, a group of political officeholders have already conclusively answered the question in the negative. That’s good enough for our industry, and the Connecticut legislature’s action should rightly serve as a guidepost for all states to follow. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.
Recently concluded stakes’ series at Yonkers Raceway underscore the consequences created by the coupling of horses for wagering purposes. The Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Pace consolations each contained an entry. That reduced those races’ betting interests to 7 and, with a scratch, further reduced the Matchmaker consolation to 6 interests. Finals of these series each contained two coupled entries, thus reducing the program choices for these two prestigious races down to 6. What’s the point of coupled entries? Racing commissions require that horses with certain types of common connections race as a single betting interest to preserve integrity, or at least its appearance, for the wagering public. If horses A and B from a trainer’s barn are permitted to race as separate betting interests, the thought is that the two drivers might work together to disadvantage other horses in the race. For example, the weaker half of the uncoupled entry might be used as a sacrificial lamb, parking out the horse with the best chance of beating the stronger half of the entry. Another scenario is that the trainer might nefariously give instructions to the drivers that are calculated to ensure that the horse with longer odds outperforms his more favored stablemate. The problems created by coupled entries are obvious. The fewer betting interests offered in a race, the fewer opportunities for the bettor to find value. This is even more pronounced when a standout is in the race. With few wagering alternatives, the standout goes off at even shorter odds than expected. The contest presents an occasion for the bettors to abandon the mutuel window in favor of the concession stand, while awaiting full, competitive fields later on the card. For those bettors willing to take the plunge, fewer betting interests equate with less exotic waging combinations to cover. Either way, the result is the significant loss of wagering handle. Not only does that financially injure the tracks, the state, the horsemen and the breeders; as these entries occur primarily in major stakes races, it also deters from the excitement surrounding what are the marquee events at a particular oval. It also negatively impacts the sport in another way. The insinuation that horsemen would seize upon an opportunity presented by uncoupled entries to cheat is a sad condemnation of them, as well as the industry as a whole. Stated plainly, the signal sent is that horsemen shouldn’t be trusted to race horses honestly. The unavoidable hint is that the horseplayers might want to skip much more than just a race or two, and put their wagering money into scratch-off tickets, multi-state lotteries or some other endeavor purportedly more on the “up and up.” The coupling rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While Pennsylvania harness rules require coupled entries for horses trained or owned by the same individual or entity, a trainer can request uncoupling in non-overnight events despite common ownership In Delaware, the Association can request uncoupling of horses with a common owner or trainer in non-overnights. Interestingly, the New York rules are markedly different for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Thoroughbred rules require coupling of entries with common owners in all races, except when the race has a purse of $1 million dollars or more. Horses with common trainers in overnight races may be carded as uncoupled, so long as there is no common ownership. Conversely, the harness rule expressly prohibits coupled entries in all overnight events (except with commission approval), permitting only one horse per race to be entered by a trainer or owner. The rule mandates coupled entries for horses with common owners and trainers in non-overnights. In this regard, a horse to be driven by a full-time employee of another driver in a race is considered to be racing from the same stable. Despite a common trainer or owner, horses from the same barn will necessarily be steered by different drivers. Today, professional catch drivers are the norm, not the exception, and this is especially true at the stakes level. Paper appearances aside, it would appear objectively implausible that a stakes-class catch driver would risk a severe, potentially career-threatening penalty by following “bad orders” from a trainer with uncoupled entries in a race. Ironically, if a driver were to heed such orders, he is more likely to do so when his mount is coupled with a stablemate. In such a circumstance, the #1’s so-called “defensive drive” in assisting the #1A would be innocuous; it cannot be said he harmed the betting public by “sacrificing” his charge for that of the other. Moreover, ensuring integrity in stakes events through coupling is to a large extent counterproductive, as the bettors in general shy away from races with fewer betting interests anyway. Not in spite of the punters, but in furtherance of their interests and that of the entire industry, it’s time to consider the uncoupling of entries in stakes, early and late closers and other non-overnight events in all jurisdictions as a rule. While it can be reasonably argued that every publicized integrity violation presents a real danger to pari-mutuel handle, there is no question that pari-mutuel handle suffers each and every time betting interests are reduced through coupling of entries. Harness racing can ill afford to lose any more handle, or the chance to pick up a few bucks through uncoupling for that matter. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.  PA. Harness Rules § 183.198 (a)  Delaware Harness Rule 7.1.4  N.Y. Gaming Commission Rule 4025.10  N.Y. Gaming Commission Rule 4111.15
Woody Allen’s Bananas is one of the all time classic comedy flicks. To impress a love interest, the Allen character travels to the mythical banana republic of San Marcos to help a band of revolutionaries oust its ruthless ruler. When the revolutionaries prove successful, their leader declares himself El Presidente, and immediately pronounces that the nation’s new official language is Swedish; that underwear will be worn on the outside at all times and that all children under sixteen… are now sixteen! Real laws can sometimes appear to be as ridiculous as fictional ones. Laws often sound absurd because the facts and circumstances that justified their promulgation have drastically changed. Consider that until relatively recently it was still illegal in New York City to shoot pigeons off the decades-ago extinct Fifth Avenue trolley. Occasionally, deep-rooted traditions are clung to long after everyone else has discarded them. So, while most American jurisdictions have abandoned laws preventing retail businesses from operating on the Christian Sabbath, Bergen County, New Jersey still enforces so-called “Sunday blue laws.” Then again, some real laws appear ridiculous simply because they are ridiculous. Is there a check or limit on what laws a legislature may create? The only true test is whether the law squares with the Constitution. Unless completely devoid of all logic, an otherwise constitutional law will stand. In a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a completely arcane law concerning the election of judges, Justice John Paul Stevens took note that his late colleague, Justice Thurgood Marshal, was quite fond of saying, “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.” While legislatures have wide latitude in their power to make laws, administrative agencies are much more restricted in their ability to pass rules and regulations. The distinction is important, because in most jurisdictions, harness racing is heavily controlled via administrative rulemaking. As a creation of the legislature, an administrative agency may only act in the limited manner that the statute which enables it permits. In most jurisdictions, when an administrative regulation is challenged by someone affected, it will be upheld only if it has a rational basis and is not unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. In other words, the rule must not just be constitutional; it must also make sense. The additional strictures placed upon administrative rulemaking are many. In New York, for example, the State Administrative Procedure Act mandates that an agency consider in its rulemaking the utilization of approaches which are designed to avoid undue deleterious economic effects or overly burdensome impacts of the rule upon persons. Further, New York law requires agencies to prepare a ‘needs and benefits statement’ for each proposed regulation setting forth the purpose of, necessity for, and benefits derived from the rule. Moreover, the agency must provide a citation for and summary, not to exceed five hundred words, of each scientific or statistical study, report or analysis that served as the basis for the rule, an explanation of how it was used to determine the necessity for and benefits derived from the rule, and the name of the person that produced each study, report or analysis. Additionally, New York specifically requires administrative agencies to give due consideration to the impact a proposed regulation may have on small businesses and rural areas, and to provide flexibility, even to the extent of exempting some from coverage by the rule, or by any part thereof, so long as the public health, safety or general welfare is not endangered. Further, unlike legislated laws, rules and regulations proposed by agencies must undergo a public comment period before their enactment is considered final. In this vein, the agency may choose to hold a public hearing to better understand how proposed rules impact communities, industries or segments thereof. Against this backdrop, the New York State Gaming Commission recently considered a series of proposals put forth by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in the RMTC’s quest to establish uniform medication rules in all racing jurisdictions. While the official position of the United States Trotting Association is that uniformity across the states is desired, the USTA requires that the standardized rules must comport with the specific needs of harness racing. In this regard, the RMTC proposals have in many ways proven to be centered solely on the wants and desires of Thoroughbred racing, as well as the customary training and racing attributes of their horses, without the least bit of concern for the Standardbred industry. The RMTC pitch regarding the administration of Clenbuterol is but one glaring example. Clenbuterol is a therapeutic medication used as a bronchodilator. While some question its effectiveness, others swear by its curative and restorative qualities, and urge that there are no legitimate alternatives to treat common respiratory ailments in horses. At least one scientist has put forth a study that long term use of the drug could be associated with heart failure. Yet, neither the purported safety nor efficacy of the medication was the driving force behind the RMTC’s submission to the various racing commissions. The RMTC’s position is that prolonged use of Clenbuterol has a ‘repartitioning’ effect in horses. This means that in certain quantities over certain periods the substance may turn fat into muscle, and thus has a mechanism ostensibly similar to anabolic steroids. Does it, and if it does, how long of an administration is required to cause such an effect? In truth, there are no good peer reviewed scientific studies on the matter. Nonetheless, RMTC recommends that the Clenbuterol withdrawal time for all racehorses be established at 14 days. This means that any administration of the medication given at any time within the 14 day period before a race would be a violation. Such administration would be determined by a scientifically-established threshold. If a race day specimen contained more than the threshold, the assumption would be that the medication was given within the prohibited timeframe. In New York, the previous Clenbuterol withdrawal time for both breeds was 96 hours. The Thoroughbred rule was recently changed to 14 days, and late last year the Gaming Commission proposed a similar 14-day withdrawal time for Standardbreds. Are Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds the same animal? Hardly. While classified as the same species, Standardbreds have been a closed breed since the late 1800s, with Thoroughbreds being a pure breed for at least a century before. It doesn’t require a science degree to perceive that the breeds are distinguishable in both the conformation and temperament of its members. Some argue that despite the foregoing, there remains a physiological identity to all horses. On this point, consider that there is an open question as to whether the supposed increase in muscle mass some attribute to the medication occurs with equal effect, or at all, in Standardbreds. One consideration is that Thoroughbreds have a high percentage of fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibers, while Standardbreds fall into an intermediate range. Such fact would infer that the purported repartitioning effect cannot be lumped upon the entire species. Again, studies are sparse, and legitimate studies involving racehorses are non-existent. Even more relevant, while members of both breeds might share an equal 64 chromosomes, the marked differences in both the husbandry and placement in service of the distinct breed members are undeniable. Gaits, surfaces, feeding and training routines are all patently dissimilar. The glaring difference, however, is in the frequency with which the breed members compete. The average Thoroughbred makes fewer than 7 starts per year. Whether due to physical necessity or the lack of opportunity offered by the condition book, most runners get several weeks off between races. Standardbreds, on the other hand, race weekly during most of the year. This is especially true when a horse is competing in a high-end elimination series. Thus, the irony is that while a 14-day rule would still present ample opportunity for “loading-up” Thoroughbreds with Clenbuterol for non-therapeutic purposes, the rule for once-a-week harness horses would simply prevent use of the medication as a legitimate treatment option. What is more, the present 96 hour rule prevents an ulterior illicit use of the medication in weekly-competing Standardbreds, since the administration of the substance would be limited to scant days between races. In sum, a 14 day withdrawal rule for Standardbreds would not simply be nonsensical, but also would prove to completely damaging to the health, safety and welfare of horses that industry regulators are charged to protect. It is for all the foregoing reasons that the USTA, in conjunction with New York’s harness horsemen and assisted by equine scientists and practicing veterinarians, made its case against the 14-day rule in a January public hearing before the N.Y. Gaming Commission. Subsequent to the hearing, the Commission proposed a modified rule. The modification retains a 96 hour pre-race withdrawal period for harness racing, with the exception that if the horse has not raced for a period in excess of 30 days and needs to qualify, that the 14 day withdrawal rule will be in effect for its first race back. In this regard, the Commission has acted in a way consistent with its mandate to do what is both rational and sensible while protecting the health and safety of the horses and the welfare of the horsemen and wagering public. The breed-specific rule ensures that competing harness horses will not denied a necessary therapeutic medication, and also makes certain that one on an extended layoff will not be administered the substance in a way that might cause performance enhancement. Perhaps RMTC will take the hint. Authoritarian regulations that provide strict and inflexible blanket commands which intentionally ignore conspicuous nuances so as to affect one segment of an industry over others might be expected from the ruling junta in San Marcos. Such edicts shouldn’t be generated by a group that is purported to be based in science and objectivity. Finally, those that believe they can steamroll ill-advised rules by threatening the resistant with government intervention and oversight should take pause; New York government just joined the resistance. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.