The Internet is buzzing about the latest high-profile scandals to hit U.S. racing just as the Triple Crown season gets under way. The first black eye came as trainer Jeff Mullins was caught administering an oral paste to a horse in the detention barn before a race in New York, which is illegal under the rules of that state. The paste was contained in a plastic oral syringe – which most people not used to dealing with horses have probably never seen or heard of. So the headlines have been transformed into “Mullins caught with syringe,” which makes it sound like he was injecting some substance. The confusion could draw attention away from the real issue of what should and should not be permitted on race day (the right answer, of course, is that nothing should be permitted).
The second black eye came from Ernie Paragallo, a big owner in New York State who apparently has better things to spend his money on than feeding his sizable bloodstock holdings. Several emaciated mares from his farm ended up at slaughter auctions in New York as Mr. Paragallo enjoyed cocktails at Aqueduct over the weekend.
Both incidents shine yet more light on an industry in trouble, but how much worse does it have to get before any real change happens? U.S. racing is like a substance abuser that has to hit bottom before being hauled off to rehab, but where in the hell is the bottom?