PERCEPTION AND REALITY, PART 2

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

No so long ago, we chimed in about the medication controversy saying only that if the general public, government, bettors and media think racing has a drug problem, then racing has a problem.  It may not be “drugs,” and if you look at the evidence, drugs isn’t really the problem, as much as it is enforcement, consistency and some other related issues, but racing clearly has a problem. A big one.

And, that problem is perception. Today as we approach the second jewel of the Triple Crown, a lot of main stream media is focusing in on the impact of drugs (perceived or otherwise) on horse racing.  Today, the iPad app called The Daily ran this piece excerpted below about Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neil which was, no doubt, read by a few million folks that know little, if anything, about horse racing.

The story is a classic demonstration of the perception problem from which the industry suffers and is a big part of the reason it is so hard to cultivate new fans in our ever-changing, animal-loving, urbanizing society.   

More of the current status quo will only lead to more of this type of coverage and an on-going decline in the popularity of the sport.  
The Jockey Club which advocates “medication free racing” and the various horsemen’s groups around the country who advocate race day Lasix need to find a common ground, develop a policy and then invest millions in a P.R. campaign to sell it to the fans, media and government.  
(For the purposes of simplicity, and with an eye toward stemming the overall decline of the breed, how about race day Lasix in all races other than graded stakes?  Seems a logical place to start…)

With all of that as preface, here is the article from The Daily.  Happy Preakness and good luck Bodemeister and Audely Farm! – Glenn Petty

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

TRIPLE FROWN: Derby winning trainer’s record brings scrutiny, concern.

By Dan Wolken/THE DAILY
  

BALTIMORE — Doug O’Neill is not the stodgy, blueblood racetrack type. He is undoubtedly the thoroughbred trainer I’d most want to have a beer with.



O’Neill is not the reclusive type either, which comes in handy when you win the Kentucky Derby as he did on May 5 with I’ll Have Another. Of all the personalities on the backstretch, he’s the one I’d choose as the spokesman for horse racing during these five weeks of the Triple Crown.

But if I owned a racehorse, would I want O’Neill to train it? Not if I cared about the safety of the animal and playing by the rules.



 O’Neill, who will saddle I’ll Have Another in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, insists he’s not a cheater. He swears he takes as good care of his horses as anyone in the business, and you’re welcome to hang out at the barn some time and see for yourself. That’s O’Neill’s standard-issue response when anyone questions why his horses tend to fail drug tests and break down more than most, and maybe there are reasons to believe him. 



But winning the Kentucky Derby has changed everything for the 43-year-old O’Neill, who operates a stable of 90-plus horses in Southern California. Though he’s been winning big races on a pretty regular basis since 2005, it wasn’t until I’ll Have Another pushed past Bodemeister in the final eighth of a mile at Churchill Downs that his record came under significant scrutiny.

 And it’s a record that suggests he’s a master of the gray area at best and a complete phony at worst.



 “It’s been a distraction, but we play by the rules and I’m vigorously fighting the previous allegations,” O’Neill said yesterday. “We run pure horses.”



 The California Horse Racing Board might disagree…



To read the rest of the story, click here.



Here is another story about O’Neil in today’s Baltimore Sun.