An editorial in The Maryland Horse names the people who caused the greatest disgrace and embarrassment for thoroughbred racing in 1980. Inasmuch as the abuse of drugs in the sport has become a national scandal and race-fixing conspiracies hit the headlines with regularity, one might think the list would be encyclopedic in scope.
But editor Snowden Carter compiled a selective "enemies list" for racing, with three culprits on it. The second name on the list is mine.
I cannot quarrel strenuously with the magazine's charge that I am "an odd sort of person." I cannot be concerned about the bald statement, "His columns have little basis in fact," since the writer neglects to cite even one sentence that he deems unfactual.
But there is one familiar charge in the editorial that makes me want to respond.
"When he loses," The Maryland Horse says of me, "the fault does not lie with his figures. It's Bute or Lasix or something more sinister."
Anytime a horseplayer expresses a critical opinion about the sport he will inevitably encounter this kind of reaction from the Establishment. If he points out to stewards or track officials that a jockey strangled his mount or that a horse ran as if he were drugged, these observations will be automatically dismissed as the sour grapes of a loser.
This view of horseplayers held by Carter and people like him is as ignorant as it is condescending. No one has to look at the sport as honestly and objectively as a serious bettor.The gamblers who yell, "The bum stiffed me!" everytime they lose a bet will be busted quickly. Paranoics can't win in this game. To be successful, a handicapper has to observe and understand what is happening on the track.
One of the many things for which a realistic horseplayer must watch is evidence of larceny. There are times when a bettor may conclude justifiably that certain jockeys are losing races deliberately or that trainers are using drugs that alter horses' form. Apologists for the racing industry may be able to ignore such unpleasantness, but a gambler cannot, if he wants to survive.
The drug Lasix provided a classic example of the way bettors and establishmentarians view the game differently. When the drug was first introduced illegally in Maryland, even casual bettors could see that certain stables were waking up certain horses overnight by 10 or 20 lengths. But the people whose interests would be served by making Lasix legal -- trainers, owners and veterinarians -- maintained with a straight face that the drug did not affect horses' form. They believed what they wanted to believe, however wrong; it was bettors who were watching races because their money was at stake who perceived the truth.
The many scandals of recent years demonstrate how right even the most paranoid of horseplayers were. When Pennsylvania chemists came up with a test for a previously undetectable narcotic, stewards at Keystone Race Track notified vets so that any drugged horse could be scratched. There was a wave of scratches that day, because every single state-licensed vet at the track had been using the illegal drug. And yet The Maryland Horse still suggests that horseplayers concerned about drugs are a bunch of lunatics.
The people in this sport who truly deserve condemnation are the ones with the mentality expressed in The Maryland Horse. Corruption in the sport has been allowed to fester because they have so long refused to recognize it. And the popularity of the sport has been declining because of their arrant contempt for the betting public.