Flashback to 2005

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been dipping into To the Swift: Classic Triple Crown Horses and Their Race for Glory. The book, edited by Joe Drape, is a collection of New York Times articles, from 1875, the year of the first Kentucky Derby, through Rags to Riches’ victory in the 2007 Belmont.

I’m still working my way through it, but below are a few morsels that I found worth passing on, perhaps indicative of a little of the racing glumness I’m currently feeling..

From “At The Derby, Racing Takes On Its Drug Problem,” by Joe Drape, published May 1, 2005:

In 2002, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium was created in Lexington
to come up with a uniform drug policy for the 38 jurisdictions in the United
States, and to update testing for a wide range of therapeutic medications, as
well as for drugs that are simply performance-enhancing.So far, 13 of the
jurisdictions have agreed to uniform guidelines, and another 13 are expected to
sign on by the end of the year.

This encouraging declaration was followed by an explication of Jeff Mullins’s milkshaking charge and subsequent suspension and surveillance. Drape spoke with C. Steven Duncker, at the time chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s Graded Stakes Committee and co-chairman of the New York Racing Association, about the need for greater attention to the use of drugs in racing:

Duncker…says uniform regulations, increased testing and greater surveillance are
progressive steps. The New York association will take an extraordinary measure
when Belmont Park opens Wednesday. All horses will be isolated in a detention
barn six hours before their races, with only the state veterinarian having
access to them.

“We need a paradigm shift in what our punishment is; it needs to be tougher,” Duncker said. “Right now in many places, a trainer can get suspended for seven days, pay a small fine and have his assistant run his horses while he’s out. That’s meaningless. What the tracks can do, however, is take away their stalls and not allow their horses to run at their tracks.”

These passages, written four years ago and read today, in the wake of the most recent Mullins incident, are almost laughably disheartening.

Oh, and Mullins’s penalty for his presence in the detention barn and attempt to administer AirPower to his horse? A seven day suspension—to be implemented the day after the Kentucky Derby—and a $2,500 fine.

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