As a New Jersey-based owner, the FBI indictments of 27 people including Monmouth Park leading trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro resonated particularly strongly with me. I put together my first racing partnership in 1981, as a teenager in love with the horses and the sport. As is the case in any endeavor involving people and money, there have always been and will always be those who attempt to come out ahead by dishonest means. The difference between thoroughbred racing and other sports – businesses, is that our industry has for decades simply chosen to put our collective heads in the sand, ignore the obvious abuses and allow cheaters free rein to continue to do business. The charges are an indictment of our entire industry and the way it operates beyond the individuals cited. Many people have expressed concerns that illegal, performance-enhancing drugs were likely being used by well-known trainers. Had regulators and other industry leaders taken action, the bad apples might have been ruled off the track long ago without the need for Federal law enforcement intervention.
Our company, Kenwood Racing, has long advocated for industry wide strict standards, including uniform national medication regulations administered by an independent body. We continue to strongly support legislation to create uniform medication rules and prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs as a vital 'first step'. An independent anti-doping program run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) can help address issues of both legal and illegal drug use and put U.S. racing jurisdictions in step with international standards. The racing public, owners, trainers and the horses themselves deserve nothing less.
The real victims here are the many honest owners and trainers, the racing public, and the magnificent animals, all being abused by a minority of unscrupulous individuals being allowed to operate with impunity by those in charge. Kudos to the F.B.I for doing what our industry should have been doing ourselves years ago.
These indictments should be a wakeup call for all of us who share a common bond based on our love of the thoroughbred racehorse and, properly conducted, a sport millions of people have enjoyed for centuries. The time for talk and dithering is up. To survive as a sport we need new leadership at all levels who are committed to ferreting out cheaters, not only by testing but with vigorous monitoring, inspections and ongoing investigations. Reforms must go far beyond medication, to include all aspects of racing such as owner rights, respect for racing fans, track safety, training standards, and quality aftercare for all retired racehorses. In recent months we've seen Joe Besecker, perennially one of the leading owners in the industry, disperse his entire thoroughbred portfolio and Barry Irwin of Team Valor move his operation to Europe. If racetracks think it's hard to get full fields now, just wait. Unless we move swiftly to implement genuine reforms, the flood of owners leaving the business will leave racetracks, breeders and sales companies high and dry.
Kenwood Racing, LLC