As of today we are three weeks past the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. To date, all the purse money has not been paid out. It is being withheld due to a “possible” positive drug test. The circumstances surrounding this rather significant development, once again occured on our biggest stage, as have some other major controversies in our game. That’s really not a good thing. Additionally most of what fans and the public know of this incident is unconfirmed innuendo and rumor. Official statements have been scarce, and in some, but only some, that is probably appropriate. There is one significant and very troubling aspect of this story that I have failed to see mentioned by any of the reporters or publications who wrote about it. That’s not a good thing either. We’ll come back to that later.
The Breeders’ Cup Sprint is the only Breeders’ Cup race this year whose purse has been withheld. There were 13 Breeders’ Cup races this year, and the other 12 have all had their purses paid. Generally when the purse is withheld, it is the result of a post race test issue. The Daily Racing Form quoted California Horse Racing Board Spokesman Mike Marten as stating “We cannot comment.” First place in the sprint is worth $825,000, second is worth $255,000, and third is worth $135,000. How much was lost or won by bettors has not been calculated, although with the computer technology we have available today, I’d imagine that could be determined if anyone cared. Again we’ll come back to that.
Although hush seems to be the word, we can somewhat safely assume whatever happened, or didn’t happen did not involve the winner Drefong, trained by Bob Baffert. When the story broke Bob was quoted in The Daily Racing Form as saying “All I know is we got our money.”
The first rumor to surface was that a horse in the sprint failed a pre race test. Pre race testing does occur randomly, often before big races. This is not unusual. A horse being allowed to race after failing a pre race test, or a trainer running a horse who failed a pre race test is somewhat rare. Worse having a pre race test done, and not having the results before the race is run would be rare, and rather silly, especially in an event like the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. We will have to wait for the smoke to clear in order to see what happened in regard to any pre race test and possible failure.
The rumor is the horse who failed the pre race, and for that matter post race test, is Masochistic. This horse is lightning fast when right, and managed to develop a reputation of mystery and scandal in lightning fast fashion when he was the subject of an investigation on Kentucky Derby Day following a run away win in the first race on the card. He took an awful lot of money in that huge pool, and anyone watching had to notice this horse was being wagered on stronger than his past performances suggested he would be. He had just one previous lackluster start, and was being bet like he had won the race already, and he ran to his backing. That investigation and the aftermath is a whole different story, and the horse was trained by Gustavo Avila back then. Now he’s trained by Ron Ellis, who is one of the last people I’d expect to have any testing issues. Nonetheless, the rumor is it’s Masochistic, and it is a pre race and post race issue.
Why it takes three weeks to sort this out is confusing. I’ve heard the purse can be withheld until mid December when everything is finalized. The procedure is for a split sample to be taken. That means blood from the same vile has to be tested, and if it comes back clean the first test is void and considered a false positive and all is “OK.” If it comes back bad, or positive, than the purse would be redistributed accordingly. That means Masochistic would be placed last, Mind Your Biscuits would be elevated to second and so on. Remember we had a smaller than usual field in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, not helped by the late scratches of Lord Nelson, and Joking. I can’t imagine they’d allow a horse to run who failed a pre race test, or why anyone would want to run under those conditions, but the whole scenario is odd to say the least. Another issue is there has to be enough blood in that original vile to do the split sample. If there isn’t , “oops.”
It would seem to me a laboratory can be contracted with, or hired indpendently to complete all these tests faster. I can understand “no comment” until the process runs its course, you would not want to smear anyone’s name without just cause. Then you have the forgotten matter of the bettor. You know, the one the show is put on for. The one who along with the owners are the ones who put the money into the game. The one who without; the prize for winning would NOT be $825,000 but a Blue Ribbon. What about them. Now we’ll remain cognizant of the difficulties associated of making this right for the bettors. Tickets have been indeed discarded since the race was declared official. Surely computerized bets through ADW’s and those made on track through bonus tracking systems could be traced, but that wouldn’t help everyone, nor would it recoup money paid it to the wrong people based on the official “official” results.
Not even a mention! That’s what gets me. The bettor suffers as much as anyone, and not even a word about it in any article or publication I’ve seen. The bettor has been reduced to less than an after thought in cases like this. This is even worse if the horse actually did fail a pre race test, or if there is not enough blood left to do a true split sample. The owners and all the connections deserve to have things made right. Bob deserves to be paid as he won and is not involved. The bettors deserve a mention and they are getting it here. As I coined a previous Past the Wire column “Hosed Again” which was about the tax regulations we were once again; “Hosed Again.” It isn’t the first time nor will it be the last, but at least give us a mention, a program, a hot dog, something.
Rajiv Maragh for getting his first winner back from a serious injury, and for just making it back to begin with. Congratulations Rajiv!
Do I even have to say?