Last Friday afternoon, as I was out shopping for the Belmont Child Care Association’s holiday party, this landed in my inbox:
“If you know who is responsible for the NYRA/NYS Gaming Commission’s equine injury and death database, could you please alert them to this entry for 11/20/2013. Something seems amiss.”
Over the weekend, the Gaming Commission confirmed that the information was indeed “test data” and “should be disregarded.” The entry was quickly removed from the database.
The Gaming Commission has not yet responded to inquiries about what was being tested; how long the entry was live on the site; who is responsible for inputting such data and maintaining the site; and how the decision came to be made to use the names of Richard Dutrow, Hall of Fame horse John Henry, Monticello Raceway, and Joel Leveson in the test report of fake dead horse.
Joel Leveson is the name of the man who was the New York State Racing and Wagering Board’s director of investigations and who testified in the Board’s case against Dutrow. Leveson discovered the syringes in Dutrow’s barn in the incident that led to the trainer’s unprecedented 10-year suspension. (See David Grening’s DRF report here.) In the Gaming Commission’s October report on this year’s Travers Stakes, Leveson is identified as the acting director of racing investigations.
New York State’s Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database was launched in March 2012, a welcome, groundbreaking, and essential element of New York’s attempts to reduce equine injuries and fatalities. While its conception is laudable, its execution has not been without flaws; on more than one occasion, the database identified horses as dead when they were still very much alive, and it has at times been slow to include horses that have not been immediately euthanized following an injury.
In such circumstances, the Racing and Wagering Board (which became the Gaming Commission earlier this year) declined to identify the people responsible for such errors, citing confidentiality; when the state’s steward was suspended a year ago, following a four-month investigation into an incident in which he prematurely shut down the mutuel system at Saratoga, the Board declined to issue a statement, saying that it does not “comment on internal employee disciplinary matters.”
What would appear to go without saying is that someone at the Gaming Commission thought it quite a joke to link Dutrow to a fake fatal breakdown of a harness horse at Monticello, perhaps the state’s most downtrodden and struggling racing facility. Given the Commission’s power in the state’s racing industry and its relentless pursuit of a trainer that led to his exclusion from racing, one might imagine that neither Dutrow nor his lawyer thinks it’s that funny.