Thoughts on Be Bullish

On May 17th in the 3rd race at Belmont Park, the 10 year old gelding, Be Bullish ran what would become his final race. It was an otherwise nondescript $16,000 claimin race held in the middle of the card on a Sunday afternoon. There were no expectations of large amounts wagered; few fans intrigued by it, however there was a story. Be Bullish, a 10 year old gelding was running for his 87th overall start and 3rd start this year as well as his third win.  Be Bullish was in for a tag and was availble should someone wish to purchase him for the amount of $16,000.

Someone did purchase him. That person is Mike Repole, owner of Repole Stable. Mike had claimed Be Bullish at least twice during his career, knew the horse and wanted to claim him for one reason, to retire him. Be Bullish had run in every level there was to run in New York. He had won at every level as well, including being a multiple stakes winner. Repole knew this horse deserved to enjoy retirement and immediately announce that Be Bullish would be retired to Old Friends Cabin Creek, a post racing retirement facilty in Saratoga Springs.  Mike understands that racehorses like any athlete have a shelf life where they can perform to their potential. Be Bullish, while a gelding, raced longer than most. He won his last 4 races, a noticeable feat for horses more than half his age.

Contrast this with the comments made by Be Bullish’s most recent trainer, David Jacobsen. He state to David Grening of the Daily Racing Form that“If Mike Repole claimed this horse to retire him, I don’t see it,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s foolish. He shouldn’t be taking this horse away from the public. This horse is a real professional, he knows how to win. I guess that’s one less good horse I have to run against.” Clearly Jacobson doesn’t get it.

Owners and trainers of horses have a duty to insure the safety and well being of the race horse. That includes making sure the horse has  a good life in retirement. What Mike Repole did should be lauded and copied. Fortunately thoroughbred aftercare is finally getting the attention and devotion from the owners, trainers, track management and other stakeholders it deserves.  The industry should laud Mike Repole for his actions, looking out for the horse before a catastrophic injury happens.

The fact that Jacobson doesn’t realize this is confounding since one of his former large clients (and former owner of Be Bullish) Drawing Away Stables has donated a paddock to Old Friends in the name of Saginaw, one of their horses that was injured so severely during a race at Saratoga that he had to be put down.

Should you consider buying a horse,  when you meet with a trainer talk about post racing plans. Make sure you are on the same page with respect to off track placement.  A owner must realize that post race life for these animals is a serious consideration for the owner that require discussion, planning and placement.


Categories: Animal Cruelty, Equine Law, Horse Racing, NYRA | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

April Ocala Sale

This week begins the Ocala April sale of Two Year Olds in Training. This is an outstanding sale to find horses of value for both the entry level purchaser and the mid range buyer. This sale takes place over 2 days in Ocala FL, with a undertack show that started at 8:00 this morning.

Two Year Old in Traning sales like this are an important marketplace for those interested in owning and racing horses. Not all horses will be competing for stakes company, that is why there are 8 other races carded on the program. One of the best avenues to obtain horses at a reasonably affordable price point is in this April sale.

You can watch the results at  the OBS Sales page.  Remember most of us cannot own a piece of a major sports team, but many of us can own a piece of a world class thoroughbred. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to discuss horse ownership with you.


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Update on legislation to benefit Finger Lakes Race Track

An article on discusses the fact that there is legislation in New York to require Tom Wilmot and Lago Casino to pay monies to Finger Lakes Race Track to make their purse structure whole to 2013 levels as part of  their  requirement to have a casino in Tyre, New York.

This is meant to make things palatable for the horsemen because they will keep purse and revenue levels at precasino levels. The truth is that the money is one thing and well worth it, but fan development is still going by the wayside. When you have a casino less than 30 miles from a race track; the number of gamblers who will attend both venues is minimal and those who attend the race track will be few.

What is clear is that the New York Thoroughbred Breeders have a much stronger voice and influence in Albany that Deleware North or Finger Lakes horsemen. For New York racing’s sake, it is my hope that this legislation passes and that the horsemen who work hard for so little in Canandaigua are protected through payments.



Categories: Equine Law, Legal | Leave a comment

New York: The Land where a split sample really isn’t a split sample

Ray Paulick in his excellent blog The Paulick Report wrote about the ongoing issue in New York regarding the ability or better yet the inability for those of us representing trainers before the Gaming Commission to obtain split samples of tests that are initially found to be positive. This inequity puts testing in question across racing and prevents those trainers accused of violations from getting a truly fair hearing.

A split sample is exactly what it sounds like. It is additional sampling of the urine taken post race from a horse. This sample is then sent in New York to the State University at Morrisville, where Dr. George Maylin tests the samples to determine if there are any overages of medications. The remainder of the samples are to be kept under a specific and codified methodology for chain of custody and safe keeping. When those procedures are not followed, the sample is rendered unusable and the defense counsel are at a loss to disprove the findings of Dr. Maylin and ultimately left with the inability to completely exonerate one’s clients.

A court does not throw out the positive sampling because the evidence was not maintained properly for the defense to get a split sample in racing cases . This is despite the well established rule that the fruit of the poisonous tree should not be admissible. The argument has been that the sample the Dr. Maylin utilizes was kept in accordance with the rules and therefore his testing is accurate. However, when a defense counsel cannot provide an expert enough of a sample to have an independent review of the process then that sample should be excluded as well.

Part of a lawyers job is to  vigorously protect the process as well as the clients rights. Failure to do that is failing to do the best for your client.



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Finger Lakes To Sue State Over Casino Siting

According to the Daily Racing Form, Delaware North the owner of Finger Lakes Race Track in Canandaigua, New York is suing New York State to bar awarding one of four casino licenses available in New York.  My question is what took so long?

When the siting committee made its announcement of the proposed casino locations one of the announced factors was whether an applicant would cannibalize another existing casino location. This was the logic used in denying a casino to Orange County. So it naturally made sense that when the siting committee arrived at the selection for the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes region, that the selection would go to the Binghamton area rather than the Tyre location of Thomas Wilmot. However, you can never handicap a political race until that decision is announced. Tyre was awarded the casino.

Interestingly, Tyre was the one area the missed all the marks set forth by the siting committee. The citizens of the town don’t support the location, as many of the citizens of the area are Amish and they are against gambling. More importantly with respect to Finger Lakes, Turning Stone and Vernon Downs, the siting committee’s devotion to existing facilities must not have travelled Upstate because the new casino location would be smack in the middle between Finger Lakes, Vernon Downs and Turning Stone, three existing facilities.

Clearly the fact that Tyre is 35 miles from Finger Lakes makes this a direct competitor with the racino. This is a true negative for those horse racing fans, breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys who plie their trade at the Thumb. Finger Lakes has to anticipate taking a large hit both in attendance and handle.  The issue with Vernon Downs and Turning Stone is that those two facilities will not only be hurt by people from the west who would drive out on the Thruway but also those coming from the East due to the Schenectady Casino.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Court.

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NYRA having troubles this winter

Every winter the New York Racing Association loses the top thoroughbred horses to warmer climates. Whether the climates are  Gulfstream Park, Fairgrounds Race Track, Oaklawn Park or various farms in South Carolina or Florida, the New York circuit loses the top quality horses through the winter. This is not new and has been this way for as long as there has been winter racing in New York.

Winter racing does however serve a purpose. It allows for trainers who have New York Bred horses to race them competitively as 42% of all New York Bred races are run at Aqueduct. It allows for claiming trainers to ply their trade as this is the time when horses are of a different quality than during the height of Belmont or Saratoga. It allows for groom, hot walkers, hay delivery people, concessionaires, and other vital track people to be employed year round, contributing the the Queens, NY economy.

Two years ago, the New York Gaming Commission, then known as the New York Racing and Wagering Board, along with NYRA established a equine safety commission, chaired by Scott Palmer, DVM. This commission was instrumental in creating  a number of safety plans for winter racing in New York and racing as a whole. Those policies were followed in part, but not completely.

Fast forward to the inner track season of Aqueduct, 2014-2015. According to the Daily Racing Form, there have been 14 equine deaths since the inner track has opened. NYRA is consistent about one thing; it isn’t the track surface. Really? If it isn’t the track surface, then what is it? Are the same licensed trainers who run at Belmont and Saratoga incompetent at Aqueduct? Is it the disparity between workouts and racing? Is it management? Those of us vested in the industry deserve answers.

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Did the California Stewards make the right decision in the Breeder’s Cup Classic?

California’s Stewards, the people charged with the safety and integrity of racing in the state of California had the opportunity on Saturday to make a ruling that would have not only been correct, but would have sent shock waves through racing.

At the start of the race, Bayern, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, failed to stay straight and impeded the path of Shared Belief, the favorite in the race. Although Martin Garcia, the jockey of Bayern did in fact straighten the horse out, there is no argument that Bayern impeded  Shared Belief’s start and potentially even Moreno’s, another horse that would have normally contended for the lead.

While there was an inquiry after the race, the California Stewards refused to disqualify Bayern for this riding incident. The rational as reported in the Daily Racing Form  that rule 1699 governed the race. This rule is a two part decision; first did the horse interfere with another horse in the race, if that is found to have happened then the second part of the analysis is whether that interference cost the horse a placing in the race. The Stewards make the claim that Bayern’s interference did not cost Shared Belief a position in the race.

The interesting thing about that is it  is clear that Bayern came over into Shared Belief’s path. It’s also clear that Shared Belief did not have the opportunity as a result to set position and keep his lane. Would it have changed the outcome of the race had Shared Belief not been impeded with, we will never know.

The final point the Stewards make is that in California horses are not taken down for interference at the break. The problem with this theory is that it allows for the jockey to unfairly establish position by coming into other hoses and impeding their  ability to run. As a result the standard of review is changed to reflect a standard of non-review. My thinking is that does not benefit the sport. The courageous thing would have been to take down the horse who was the bad actor and not reward the owner, trainer and jockey  for impeding on Mike Smith and Shared Belief.


Watch for yourself and tell me what you think.


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RIP Cigar.

In 1995, Cigar was the ultimate horse, going undefeated that season. His Breeder’s Cup Race still sends chills down my spine and is one of my favorite Tom Durkin race calls. RIP Cigar you were definitely the champions champion.

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Three New York Trainers and One Jockey suspended by stewards this week.

According to the Daily Racing Form and the New York Gaming Commission website,three  trainers: Doug O’Neil,  Bruce Levine and Brad Cox were suspended for drug violations. Additionally jockey Junior Alvarado was suspended as a result of his riding in the Jockey Club Gold Cup that caused jockey Rajiv Maragh to fracture his arm in several places when his mount, Wicked Strong clipped heels with Moreno and unseated Maragh.

Doug O’Neil, the trainer of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another, was handed down the harshest suspension: 45 days and a $10,000 fine for a positive test for Oxapram, a sedative found in one of his horses that ran in July, 2013 at Belmont Park.  The gaming commission determined the severity of O’Neill’s fine in part due to the 9 previous drug violations O’Neill has had on his license.

Bruce Levine was suspended for 21 days and fined$5,000 for a positive dating from May 2, 2014 at Belmont Park. His penalty was reduced from 30 days because he waived his right to appeal.

Brad Cox was suspended 7 days for a positive finding of a drug in one of his horses from July 27th at Saratoga. He was also fined $1500.

Junior Alvarado was suspended 15 days for his ride in the Jockey Club Gold Cup when his mount, Moreno crossed into the path where Wicked Strong was running, causing Wicked Strong to clip heels and dismount jockey Rajv Maragh causing him to fracture his arm.

As in any sport, policing horse racing is necessary to make sure that everyone is on the same playing field and making sure that the safety of the other athletes, both human and equine are preserved.



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Why I Love Saratoga

I have been going to Saratoga for the racing season every year since 1977, this year will be no exception. When I started attending the track, I was merely a child, however I was captivated by both the town and the track. Almost 40 years later, nothing has changed and the excitement in the pit of my stomach has grown every day for the last week.

When I first went to Saratoga all those years ago, the saddling was done under trees in the backyard. Each horse would get a tree in the backyard and anyone could watch them get saddled, then the owners, their families and friends would enter the walking ring. Now, the saddling all takes place in the paddock, still around trees there, but the backyard is filled with families and groups having picnics and enjoying the day without ever actually seeing the front side where the races take place.

The majesty of the boxes remains today as it was then. People dress in their summer finest on major days now instead of every race day then. The owners and glitterati mix and mingle and it is wonderful people watching and photo taking.

This is because Saratoga is the pinnacle of racing. Owners point to a win at Saratoga as a goal. Last year, Ken Ramsey, one of the country’s leading owners made it a goal to win the owners championship. He had the most horses of any individual owner on the grounds and won the championship easily. He has said publicly that this year will not be a repeat performance so it will be exciting to see who will win the crown.

The trainers are the best from throughout the country. Todd Pletcher has won an unprecedented 10 titles, will he win another or will it be Chad Brown’s turn to bring the championship home to Mechanicsville?

For such a small community, Saratoga has some of the best dining anywhere. Quite often, New York City restaurateurs find their way to Saratoga for a better lifestyle for their families, and we as patrons are the beneficiaries. I can’t wait to see some of my old favorites as well as try new ones this year.

It is a gathering time for people who haven’t seen each other all year. Saratoga in many ways is summer camp for the horse racing set. While the racing is the tops in the country, The social life is unparalleled. Whether it is kibbitzing over coffee at the Morning Line as the horses work out, or seeing friends in the boxes, or the multitude of galas, parties and events there seems to always be something to do in Saratoga for the next 40 days.

Saratoga in many ways is a place where time has stood still. The track has updated but not aged. The wooden stands shake when the favorite of the Travers takes the lead midstretch and you hope this won’t be the year the grand dam of racing collapses under the collective weight of the fans. It is truly the summer place to be and I am glad to be there again!

Categories: Equine Law, Horse Racing, Saratoga | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment