Mojo News and Notes Preakness Blues

May 21, 2007

By Fred Taylor, Jr.

To say that another tragedy befell the Thoroughbred Industry at Pimlico this year when Curlin beat Street Sense in the Preakness is probably an overstatement; but it certainly left me with an uneasy feeling once the race became official.  Here’s why:

It’s not because the chance of a Triple Crown winner was spoiled once again—although, that certainly is a downer.  What concerns me is the fact that the horse that won the Preakness is trained by a man who has been cited 22 times because of medication violations.  (This trainer recently served a six-month suspension when one of the horses that he trains failed a drug test for an excessive, albeit suspicious, quantity* of a banned substance.)  The fact that one of the Classics was won by a horse that has a trainer that has numerous medication violations is disturbing and raises the following concerns:

  1. Why would a person with so much at stake put his reputation at risk? 
  2. Why doesn't the industry adopt national standards** for medications?
  3. Improper use of medications allows horses that shouldn’t be in a race (because they are injured or incapable) to compete - although for a short period of time before the horse breaks down.  
The subject is a controversial, confusing, and frustrating for trainers, owners, and racing fans alike.  Medication policies are complex and vary from state-to-state.  Passive acceptance "that's just the way things are" is not the solution, and efforts should be made by everyone who participates in the Thoroughbred racing industry to better understand the process.
What can be done?

  1. Whether you care about medication rules or not, the “win at all cost” mentality should not be part of your stable's strategy.  Mojo Racing Partners want to make sure our Runners are competitive, but we will not "cheat" to have it.
  2. Expect the highest quality of care for your horse(s) win, lose, or draw.  Mojo Racing Partners demand and provide the best services for our Runners.  
  3. Become familiar with your trainer's policies, practices, and procedures surrounding the use of medications.  Make sure your trainer knows that you insist on strict adherence to the medication rules and his services will be immediately terminated if he knowingly violates the medication rules—which we have.
  4. Demand stiff penalties (including immediate suspension and hefty fines) for trainers who are caught breaking the rules and/or using illegal substances.
  5. Call for uniform/national medication rules.

I'm sorry if this topic leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Mojo Racing Partners is setting a cutting-edge Ownership standard, and I want you to know that I do not condone practices that will jeopardize the integrity of our Mojo Product, this Industry, or this Sport.

After the Preakness, Carl Nafzger (Street Sense’s Trainer, who also won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic with Unbridled) said:  “Winning isn’t everything in this game."

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*The substance found in the horse's body was not a typical medication, and was well beyond the limits of a normal/rational medication dose.  

**United States of America is the only country (around the world) that allows medications to be used in Thoroughbred racing.  Thoroughbred racing does not have a centralized racing office, and all rules and regulations surrounding medications are “state based."