Finally, some six months after the suspicious death of Giddy Up Lucky, justice of a sort has come in the form of the New Jersey Racing Commission’s recent actions against those involved. And in another case of delayed justice, a trainer and veterinarian have been held accountable by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission in the July 8, 2009, death of a much less prominent racer named JJ Pilgrim at HoosierPark.
In the Indiana case, JJ Pilgrim died immediately after receiving an injection of “Clotol”, a non-salix diuretic. In an IHRC ruling on March 7, 2012, veterinarian Jerrilee Anne Cave was handed a 1462 day suspension (backdated to July 8, 2009, through July 8, 2013) for providing the loaded syringe and needle to trainer James L. Byers. For his part in JJ Pilgrim’s death, Byers IHRC license has been summarily suspended pending a hearing which the trainer is entitled to request.
In the New Jersey decision, trainer Josh Green received a $5,000 fine and a 90 day suspension (May 1 through July 29, 2012) for “Conduct Detrimental to the Best Interest of Horse Racing” for allowing his second trainer, Boyd Hudson, Jr., to inject the iron supplement (allegedly pig iron) which killed Giddy Up Lucky. Hudson and veterinarian Jan Henriksen each were dealt 365 day suspensions beginning May 1, 2012, and running through April 30, 2013. Hudson received a $1,000 fine for injecting the horse, while Henriksen was fined $5,000 for providing “a loaded syringe and needle to be administered by a trainer which resulted in the death of a horse”. Perhaps the bigger mystery surrounding Giddy Up Lucky’s death involves the horse’s earlier suspension due to an EPO positive and the possible use of pig iron as a masking agent in advance of any scheduled repeat testing.
While you may think these rulings will at least temporarily remove a few bad apples from the trainer and veterinarian baskets, a look at theYonkers card for Tuesday, May 1, should give you cause to reconsider this thought. There you will see at least one horse racing under the auspices of trainer Josh Green. As might be expected, Mr. Green has denied any wrongdoing and appealed his suspension. And if the ruling is upheld, we will surely see Mr. Green’s charges continuing to come to the track. As in almost every recent regulatory case, both in the US and in Canada, the suspended trainer will simply hand over his/her responsibilities to that most essential aide, the “paper” trainer sometimes referred to as the “beard”. We’ve certainly been down this road before, most recently after last December’s extensive NYRA suspensions were announced and again in March, 2012, when Casie Coleman was fined $5,000 and suspended for 45 days for an Ephedrine positive on her trainee Reibercrombie. The horse was allowed to participate in the George Morton Levy series at Yonkers thanks to an appeal on his behalf and, aside from the name shown on the trainers listings, little has changed in the Coleman barn. As with the NYRA trainers, many of whom have begun reappearing at Yonkers, life goes on in the trainer game.
While much was written at the time of Giddy Up Lucky’s death, surprisingly little has appeared following the NJRC’s recent regulatory announcement. Once again, racing has shown its ugly side but the fans and bettors have to do some searching or it will go largely unnoticed. Who actually reads the weekly regulatory lists published on the websites of either the US Trotting Association or StandardbredCanada? Who thinks to question the sudden absence of a regular trainer at their favorite track? While those fortunate enough to attend races in person may have somewhat greater insight into the comings and goings at their local track, the reality is that most of us are not in attendance and know only what we see on the track’s video stream or what we read in one of the two primary harness racing publications, USTA and Standardbred Canada. Good luck with that! Obviously the racing industry would prefer not having unpleasant news widely reported but, as fans and bettors, shouldn’t we expect more?
When “Conduct Detrimental to the Best Interest of Horse Racing” is allowed to slip past the racing fan’s attention, how can we expect any improvement in the treatment of our sport’s most important participants, the horses. Without equines such as Giddy Up Lucky and JJ Pilgrim there would be no harness racing. Shouldn’t we, as fans and bettors, demand better from all those who care for the horses – whether they be former Levy runners-up like Giddy Up Lucky or lower-level racers like JJ Pilgrim? If racing’s fans aren’t concerned about the horses, then truly our favorite sport will not only fail to thrive but will soon fail to survive.