Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Todd Has Got Some Serious Issues

...especially after news of Wait A While’s positive test for procaine were confirmed. And you gotta love the title of that DRF article, someone's got his priorities straight.

As the Green but Game blog has pointed out, the most stirring part is that Wait A While’s disqualification was issued on April 23, almost exactly half a year after the race in question, last year’s Breeders Cup F&M Turf in which WAW finished third. To be fair the violation didn’t screw horseplayers that badly, given that The Todd’s penchant for his drugs cabinet is a factor every good handicapper works into his routine anyway.

But boy will Equidaily and others have a field day with this one. If we bloggers are hurting racing by actually covering incidents even if they happen in the brief timeframe during which there is some mainstream coverage, what secret PETA activists must there be in the Hollywood Park stewards office to wait until now with such a story.

Neil Papiano, paid liar attorney for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Arindel Farms will advise them to appeal the ruling. Advice, btw, is also the name of one of the The Todd’s starters in the Derby next weekend. No remorse there then, I guess.

Papiano’s main argument is that the sample was driven, not flown, to a lab at UC Davis, opening the door to all kinds of conspiracy theories for our less enlightened brethren. "You don't hand it to somebody in a car. We don't know what happened in the car”, Papiano says. Apparently he thinks that car drivers could easily alter the sample, while it’s physically impossible for anyone to do so in a helicopter. Hollywood stewards dismissed this argument as baseless. I'm not sure how it’s handled in American racing, but in every other sport tests are sealed, which makes it quite obvious if they were subsequently opened or not.

Procaine, a local anesthetic, has been tested in the blood of horses up to three weeks after its injection. Many vets will use alternative treatments for that reason, and the CHRB offers free pre-race testing for the substance. Pletcher, who has several medications violations and one two-month suspension to his record, obviously still doesn't think he should check.


  1. To make sure nobody accuses me of hiding my dirt: Yes, I did change the stance of the initial version of this post by striking one sentence and adding the last paragraph after reassessments forced me too realize I had overreacted, and that an "honest mistake" is indeed realistic.

    I don't mean to let The Toddster off the hook, tough. A longtime horseman with prior massive violations has no excuse to be so sloppy on such matters, and his attorney's reaction is plain unacceptable. The least you should do if it was a mistake is stand up and excuse to the fans.

    And by that logic: Sorry for the overreaction, Mr Pletcher.

  2. I'm not sure that reading someone else's story and commenting on it qualifies as "covering" a story. I've always thought of "covering" as talking to the people involved and doing independent investigating. I wonder whether bloggers' attitudes would be any different if they were talking face to face with the people about whom they're writing?

  3. I wouldn't call it covering, I'd call it commenting. I'm not sure why you would assume anything else. And I make it a point not to write anything I wouldn't tell to a person's face.

    Sorry, but do you think I shouldn't dare mentioning my opinion as long as, f.e., I haven't caught Mullins in the d-barn myself? Do I have to have inside info to allow myself an open opinion about trainers who violate key regulations repeatedly? Not to be misunderstood, I apologize again for being out of line in this case, but if you follow this sport for a decade and see the same trainers deny any responsibility for clear-cut rule violations time and time again it becomes hard not to have a knee-jerk reaction (with a capital "jerk" in this case) when for once they really just make a mistake. That's especially true if they see fit to bicker over technicalities instead of just admitting fault.

    I don't have the possibility to do "investigations" into things like racing's drug problem myself. Does that mean I should just bet my money, spend a copious amount of my time following the sport and promoting it to others, absorb whatever info/spin the powers that be in racing (by ways of their lackeys in the racing media) choose to indoctrinate me with and shut the f**k up if I see something I don't like?

    I appreciate your stance that blogging can't substitute investigative journalism (I absolutely share that opinion), but I do think that bloggers have more freedom to express their opinions, particularly when compared to journalists in the special-interest media. In my opinion, precisely this is the feature that makes bloggers a valuable addition to the existing media.

  4. You wrote in a comment: "I wouldn't call it covering, I'd call it commenting. I'm not sure why you would assume anything else."

    Because in your original post, you wrote: "If we bloggers are hurting racing by actually covering incidents..."

    You can obviously do whatever you want, but I think the sport is done more harm than good by people (and I am not referring to anyone in particular here) who weigh in with vitriolic opinions before facts have been determined. Things are often not what they initially seem, and it seems prudent to me to have as much information as possible before skewering anyone.

  5. Hoopla, skipped that sentence. There might be a simple misunderstanding here. I don't think that labeling the response of the blogosphere (as a whole) to the Mullins incident "covering" is inappropriate, if you use such strict standards, many local newspapers don't "cover" national news either, considering how much they rely on AP stories. But honestly I hadn't thought about that implication when I wrote it (please remember this isn't my mother tongue).

    On the bigger issue: I think occasionally shrill blogging doesn't do the sport nearly as much harm as the alternative would, which is to remain silent and let racing authorities handle the industry's dirty secrets as they please, only allowing ourselves a judgment to the extent that they choose to impart information on us. Sorry, but they have proven often enough that they don't deserve such trust. The racing media too has more often been focused on protecting the hand that feeds them than on upholding the highest of journalistic standards. There have been a handful of notable exceptions (Beyer, Drape, the new and improved Paulick) but by and large this group has dropped the ball investigation-wise, leaving the job of raising awareness to the group of seasonal mainstream racing reporters who are often shriller than bloggers and lack basic knowledge about the sport.

    As you will have noticed, the Mullins affair turned out exactly like most bloggers predicted: minimal punishment and a huge public embarrassment. Mullins and NYRA have basically reached a behind-the-scenes settlement, the open questions (such as: did Mullins administer the substance in plain view or did he conceal the process?) are still unanswered and won't get answered anytime soon. Again racing authorities have done a horrible job regulating themselves, every improvement that has been done in recent years can be traced to substantial outside pressure.