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Lawson, Gural Discuss Indictments

Published: March 23, 2020 4:07 pm ET

Last Comment: March 24, 2020 10:02 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In the days leading up to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic that has brought the globe to a halt, the biggest news in North American horse racing was that of the 29 indictments in the United States against members of the industry.

Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman Jeff Gural recently commented on the indictments (for more, click here, here and here), and now Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson has discussed the situation with Trot Insider.

Both Gural and Lawson have confirmed that the investigative company 5 Stones Intelligence has been retained by racing entities since 2016 in order to investigate wrongdoers in the industry. The entities include the Meadowlands Racetrack and The Jockey Club, the former of which Lawson holds a position.

While speaking with Bloodhorse, Gural recently confirmed that the Meadowlands has utilized 5 Stones' services in its fight against wrongdoers. He also took the chance to reiterate his support for federal oversight of the United States horse racing industry, and he stated that he believes that the systems that are currently in place are not working.

“The funny thing is that when I would talk to people who oppose the government taking over, the next thing I would ask is if the current system is working, and 100 per cent would say no,” Gural told Bloodhorse. “I don't understand that. They knew the system wasn't working, and they were happy with it.”

Gural went on to say that he believes that further indictments will be coming in the future. He believes that anyone that did business with the indicted could be next.

Making reference to the 29 individuals that have been indicted, Gural said, "People will (provide information to authorities)," and that, "anyone who used these people who were indicted cannot be sleeping well."

Trot Insider’s discussion with Lawson was candid, as the CEO of Canada’s racing leader spoke rather frankly of his knowledge of the investigation and situation, generally.

When asked whether he or Woodbine Entertainment was aware of the investigation before the indictments were unsealed on March 9, Lawson stated that the announcement didn’t come as a surprise at all.

“I definitely was (aware),” said Lawson. “I stood on the safety and integrity committee of the Jockey Club in the United States who… I don’t know how much has been published publicly, but certainly the Jockey Club of the United States was very involved in this, including other racetracks.

“I had talked to 5 Stones on a couple of occasions. You know I’m not telling you anything confidential, but the breakthrough in this was the wiretap evidence. That had been secure for a good 12 months, so I was aware.”

Lawson told Trot Insider that he did not know all of the names of the horsepeople that were being investigated, but he “knew it was going to be groundbreaking when the indictments came through.”

The Woodbine CEO stated that he’d been working with Jean Major at the AGCO and Brent Stone to make them aware of the situation, and that it was just a question of when the indictments would be unsealed.

In speaking with Trot Insider, Lawson described the situation, generally, as “unfortunate,” but said that the indictments are “a good thing for the industry.”

In clarifying his position, Lawson said, “I think it’s time that people start to change the way we look at the industry, and as you’ve heard me say many times, we just need to change the culture of the industry much like other sports have had to change. If you’re in a hockey dressing room and you look across the way and someone has clearly been taking performance-enhancing drugs (on steroids), we just have to change the culture at amateur levels, junior levels so that doesn’t go on anymore. We’re not being defensive about the horse racing industry, but it goes on in other sports and we all have to just change the culture. We knew we had a problem, so it didn’t come to any surprise to me and that’s why I’ve been speaking so loudly about it the last couple of years, knowing that this was coming.”

Like everyone in horse racing, Lawson wants the industry to change, and he wants it to change now.

“For me, it’s (the indictments are) a positive, and hopefully it will have horsemen understand that we need to change the way we’re doing things, because at the end of the day it’s about the horsemen. It’s an industry that’s proud and has been around forever and we hope it will be… but if this sort of thing continues, people will not support it, people will not wager on it.

“At the end of the day, these people (that break the rules) are only hurting themselves because this is the type of industry that’s multi-generational. People’s grandparents were in the horse racing industry, and their parents, and then they hope to get involved, and then these people who are not creating a different culture for the industry are going to ruin it for themselves and ruin it for their children and everyone who loves the sport.

“So, we just have to change the culture, because we know what’s going on, but it hasn’t happened. And people who think they’re outsmarting people, they really aren’t because in the end they’re the ones who are going to suffer.”

With a sigh, Lawson said, “Boy oh boy, the industry has change. They have to change because they're going to destroy this industry if people continue to have that attitude that it's OK if we can get away with it."

(With files from Bloodhorse)

March 24, 2020 - 10:02 amIt's long overdue to get the

John Carter SAID...

It's long overdue to get the cheats out of the game and level the playing field. Not only does it give them an unfair advantage over there fellow trainers but it also cheats other owners out of purse money and it also cheats the public who bet on other horses in the same race. But just as importantly there is little doubt that some of these illegal drugs are very, very hard on the horses and these animals deserve to be protected from all forms of abuse.

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