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Will Horsemen Pay For More Testing?

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Published: September 21, 2011 8:58 am ET

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In a war of words waged between New York racetrack owner Jeff Gural and Standardbred Owners Association of New York President Joseph Faraldo, issues of drug testing have come to the fore prompting Gural to wonder if horsemen would pay for increased testing.

In early September, both Faraldo and Gural were asked to speak and testify at the State Senate Committee Hearing on the Future of Horse Racing in New York. Gural was asked about the future of harness racing and addressed three points inhibiting growth: horses retiring early, aging fan base not being replaced and integrity issues.

The next day Faraldo testified and disputed those issues of integrity, claiming Gural "unfairly characterized both the overall issue" stating that no one has a greater vested interest in the sport than the horsemen.

"[There] is no group of individuals with a more compelling and direct interest in protecting the integrity of horse racing than the horsemen. The security of our financial investments in this sport -- from horses to farms to equipment -- is directly related to ensuring that racing is conducted fairly and legally, and therefore we have every interest in making sure that racing is as well-regulated as possible. Any inference that the horsemen believe differently -- whether it is specifically related to drug testing or any other regulatory requirement -- is both unfair and simply not grounded in this factual reality."

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Gural noted that differences in drug testing between New York and Pennsylvania came up when the 2011 Cane Pace was shifted from New York to Pocono Downs in light of the devastating floods that washed out Tioga Downs.

"What happened next was very disturbing as several of the trainers called us when they learned of the change and advised that they could not race in Pennsylvania because their horses would test positive as a result of the strict protocol used in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, we were able to work out a plan since the race had already been drawn to be raced in New York whereby Pennsylvania authorities agreed to use New York testing protocol and as a result everyone was able to race."

Gural then found out why some of the trainers had issues with the location shift, discovering that while Pennsylvania is testing for anabolic steroids, New York is not.

"Worse yet, the reason that New York was not testing for anabolic steroids was the fact that the equipment to test for steroids had been purchased by the Thoroughbred horsemen. Richard Violette had mentioned this to me previously and he complained that Mr. Faraldo, on behalf of the harness horsemen, had refused to contribute to the cost of purchasing this equipment which I believe was about $400,000. What I did not know and only learned when I inquired about the differences in testing in New York and Pennsylvania was that because the Standardbred horsemen refused to contribute, the Thoroughbred horsemen insisted that the equipment could only be used to test Thoroughbred horses for anabolic steroids and not Standardbreds."

Gural had hoped to work behind the scenes and find some common ground between the two jurisdictions, but opted for a more public approach after being called out by Faraldo. Gural has stated that he will pay for a survey to determine if the horsemen in slot-rich New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware would dedicate a portion of purses for increased testing.

"One thought I have is that it might be a good idea to determine if Mr. Faraldo actually represents the views of the majority of the horsemen. I would like to call on the USTA to do a survey of their members in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware to determine if horsemen would consider taking one percent of the $500 million going to purses in those three states and use it for drug testing. I would like to think that a majority of the horsemen would support this proposal. I would be happy to pay for the cost of this survey."


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