It just amazes that some trainers are able to hit at 20%+ levels. Most races average 8-9 horses, so the average trainer should be hitting at around 11-12%. Yes, some are better than others. Some are hands on and they know what they are looking at, while others maintain a production line type of operation. But there are only so many ways to train a horse.
Nowadays, whenever I see a 20%+ trainer, or a major improvement in speed figures (especially at a previously run distance) by a less than "above average" trainer, I always assume drugs that aren't being tested for have helped the horse out more than the trainer has.
I don't think that is an unreasonable position to take either, since many of the suspensions and busts we see have to do with the supply side first.
Take the recent suspension of horsemen Daniel and Scott McFadden. The two got "ratted" out for buying Aranesp® (brand name for darbepoetin-alfa which is known as DPO) before their horses were tested for the substance (investigators found traces of EPO as well).
In 2006 this happened:
Notice to Industry DiFlorio pleads guilty
Sandy DiFlorio, of Toronto – charged last year after authorities seized large quantities of various controlled drugs and adulterated, unlabeled substances – plead guilty last week in Provincial Criminal Court to the unlawful fabrication, packaging and distribution of drugs without a license, and the unlawful sale of a Schedule F drug (erythropoietin - commonly known as EPO) contrary to the Food and Drugs Act.
In April of 2006, the Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) Investigations Unit, working with other police and regulatory services, participated in the execution of search warrants at two Toronto area locations. Products used for performance enhancement of racehorses were seized, including the blood builder Aranesp®, strong analgesics, bronchiole dilators and sildenafil citrate.
Who are the horses who wound up using the drugs supplied? Where are the trainer and/or vet suspensions that resulted from this investigation? You don't just catch a drug dealer and assume that he just got into business yesterday and was unlucky enough to get caught right away. Most recently Ken Hornick got nailed as well. Again, the same questions can be asked.
It is a fair assumption that DiFlorio and Hornick had active client bases and that there are many horses who ran faster times and screwed over the public and fellow horsemen probably a countless amount of times.
Oh yeah, and because DiFlorio was not licensed with the ORC, he had to turn over his drugs and was fined a whopping $600, and then was a free man.
I just don't understand why those who use and supply illegal drugs to race horses aren't nailed with larger charges: HOW ABOUT CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE PUBLIC!
Yes, tests for DPO, EPO, etc. are expensive. But obviously the fines and suspensions are not a large enough deterrence. I think criminal charges and hard time need to lobbied for.
From my internet perusings I've decided to list off many of the known drugs that have been plaguing the game of horse racing in recent years (I'm not even sure if there are tests for some of these or if they are ever performed). These drugs are administered to bring about artificially enhanced performances:
Many states have no laws regarding anabolic steroid use on horses, but there has been an aggressive change in attitude lately with New York and Kentucky leading the way to their banning.
Why ban anabolic steroids? Because they artificially build up a horse's strength and because they have been known to have adverse long term affects, at least on humans.
Using bicarbonates (milkshaking) on horse cleans up the lactic acids that are produced naturally in horses. Less lactic acids help the horses chances to run faster and longer.
As an aside, I was talking to a harness trainer who told me that he complained about the turnaround a horse had to another trainer. He said that the trainer of that improved horse must be milkshaking, to which the other trainer replied "he bought my old bicarb machine, do you need one?"
Many jurisdictions try to test for excess bicarbonates in the blood stream. Obviously there must be ways around it.
Propantheline bromide relaxes muscles and increases blood flow.
Benzoylecgonine is a bi-product of cocaine and results in a horse being less fatigued during a race.
Darbepoetin-alfa which is a major ingredient in the prescription drug Aranesp® is becoming as notorious in Ontario as EPO (see below). The drug increases blood flow and reduces anemia. Long term side effects are thought to be similar to that of EPO as well.
Erythropoietin is probably the most talked about illegal drug that is thought to be used in many jurisdictions including Ontario. EPO has a bad rap associated with it besides being an illegal enhancer, it allegedly can cause horrible long term side effects like an immune mediated anaemia and even death.
What EPO does in a nutshell is increase the red blood supply which increases oxygen capacity within the horse's circulation.
For more about the devastation EPO does to the horse read this.
ETORPHINE And MORPHINE
Etorphine (aka elephant juice) has analgesic tendencies that are 1000 times more powerful than morphine. This drug is used to immobilize elephants. For some reason analgesics even in small doses act as stimulants in animals like horses and cats. FYI from Wikipedia: "Veterinary-strength etorphine is fatal to humans; one drop on the skin can cause death within a few minutes."
This drug is common in dentistry on humans for local anesthesia. In horse racing it used nefariously as a pain killer that also can constrict blood vessels which reduces bleeding.
AKA Viagra, yes, Viagra. Viagra opens blood vessels which enriches muscles which is thought to enhance racing performance. Instead of making jokes here, check out the PACE ADVANTAGE FORUM thread that I started recently, if you want some examples of those caught using Viagra on horses and of course, some laughs.
SNAIL AND SNAKE VENOM
In an article over 3 years ago, Andy Beyer mentioned the strong rumour that trainers were using cone snail venom in synthetic form as a pain killer on horses.
Cobra venom has been in the news lately during the Biancone fiasco. It is used to deaden nerves and has been around at least since 1978 when Alydar allegedly was treated with it.
A reader just alerted me that a high percentage trainer, Justin Evans, in Turf Paradise got nailed because a horse of his got injected with Vodka (to kill pain).
Back in 2005 a vet admitted to injecting vodka 75 times at $15 a pop. The vet called this a "pre-race adjustment" on the bill. They have to be using something cheap at Turf Paradise. The purses there are abysmal.
I'm sure I've missed a few drugs that are being tested (by trainers) today. But I just wanted to give my readers a dose of what bettors and the racing game is up against.
Not only do bettors have to try to overcome an average track takeout of 21%, but we also have to factor in whether a horse is doped up today or was doped up in the past when they came up with extraordinary results.
Potenetial claiming outfits have to worry about whether a horse is on its last legs because of EPO or DPO use. This is a major deterrent when claiming a horse.
As stated earlier, drug violations should not only be met with gigantic fines and suspension but also actual criminal charges as well.
RMTC (Racing Medication & Testing Consortium) has a site set up that picks up industry headlines having to do with drugs and horse racing. Check it out.
They also have a resource available to horsemen that allows them to check out drug withdrawal times for every jurisdiction in North America. Here is the link.
Of course, all withdrawal times should be uniform in North America. Should is a very tough word to act on in horse racing though. There should also be uniformity for which drugs can be used as well. Maybe one day.
Two more things. All race tracks and jurisdictions should follow Tampa Bay Downs example of making public on their sites the Stewards' Daily Reports and Stewards' Rulings.
Woodbine has their own site, and the HPI site as well, and there is also the Ontario Racing Commission site. Good luck finding anything to do with jockey or trainer suspensions. It is just one big secret.
Finally, I just want to repeat one of Bill Finley's biggest complaints. A must read: Lasix also one of the drugs that has no place in the game
Bottom line according to Finley; "it appears that Lasix doesn't solve bleeding or keep horses in training longer. Then what does it do? According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, it masks other drugs."