Colorado Governor’s uninspiring response to unsanctioned horse racing

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

COLORADO (Horse Racing) — You remember the undercover report on “unsanctioned” horse racing exposed by the superb Fox31 ProblemSolvers’ team of Chris Halsne and Chris Keoberl.

Thanks to horse advocates like you a lot of pressure has been put on the Governor of Colorado and the State’s lawmakers, but chiefly on the Governor.

It is Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who has finally responded, stating he is “supportive of some sort of new oversight”.

What? There’s more.

“When financial self-interest is involved, people might dope up horses — do things that are unacceptable for almost everyone,” Governor Hickenlooper told FOX31 during a recent on-camera interview.

“You want to get all those people together and say how can we make sure these horses are not mistreated for the lowest amount of cost and intrusion into people’s lives? We want to make the regulatory part of as minimum as possible and still guarantee the welfare of horses.”

The key words here are financial self-interest.

Chief of Racing Enforcement, Ron Hammerzell, told the FOX31 Problem Solvers he hears complaints about unsanctioned horse racing, happening at rodeo grounds like in Deer Trail, but can’t do anything about it.

Hammerzell said, “Simply, our statutory authority doesn’t really allow us to get involved there. Again, when local law enforcement calls, we assist them in any way we can.”

How about reporting it to the FBI? Isn’t this type of activity where illegal gambling is involved a federal crime, like dog fighting?

Governor Hickenlooper thinks with the help of venue operators, animal rights organizations (like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), lawmakers, and racing regulators, the state can and should start thinking about crafting some simple safety rules that bring horse match-races out of the shadows.

The ASPCA are animal welfarists and exactly who you do not want in a situation like this. It is nigh to impossible to make these horses safe in sanctioned horse racing let alone unsanctioned. Look at the horrible day-to-day drugging, abuse and death connected with sanctioned horse racing.

Sadly we see that no firm stand for what is right is going to be taken by the politically ineffective Governor of Colorado. And we are not simply talking about the horses here even though they are our main focus.

Hickenlooper asked, “How to we get to a compromise where everyone is satisfied – where we can make sure horses are not mistreated, the spectators and racers are safe and the end of every day, everything is going to be okay?”

It is never right in cases of potentially dangerous and abusive activities to try to satisfy everyone. It shouldn’t even be a consideration.

Compromise. What an ugly word in the context of this barbaric issue. For the most part, the only ones being compromised are the horses. Sound familiar?

Response from Legitimate Racing

We have been trying to get a response from legitimate horse racing in Colorado but none will give Tuesday’s Horse or The Horse Fund a statement. However, we notice no one we spoke with seemed particularly concerned. Is it because this is a way of unloading racehorses they don’t want any longer without having to go through the bothersome task of getting rid of them some other way such as via the meat man at auction?

The undercover report mentions that the unsanctioned races they investigated were run primarily by hispanics. Since there are so many hispanics working at U.S. racetracks they are in a prime position to acquire racehorses for unsanctioned races. Is this another reason those running horses at sanctioned races prefer to stay mum or don’t seem to have a problem with it? It seems they would at least be concerned about the gambling revenues they are losing. Why aren’t they? Is someone in sanctioned racing taking kickbacks?

Take Action

Take action residents of Colorado.

State Lawmakers

Find your State Legislators and call or email them. The Legislature is not in session but they are working. Tell them that you are disappointed with the Governor’s response and ask them to amend an existing statute or pass a new one that will make unsanctioned racing illegal Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper

Please also contact the Governor of Colorado and tell him that you are disappointed at his response and to take a whatever steps are necessary to abolish unsanctioned horse racing in your State.

(303) 866-2471 (front desk)

Tip: Collect your thoughts. Make a note of what you want to say, rehearse it a few times until you feel you’ve “got it”. Then dial and deliver it. We all do that here so we present our views in the best possible way.

Use the Governor’s Share Your Comments Form
https://www.colorado.gov/governor/share-your-comments

Tip: Again, collect your thoughts, type it up and review it until you are happy. Be concise. Then copy and paste it into the comment area provided.

• Regular Mail

Office of the Governor
136 State Capitol Bldg
Denver, CO 80203

Last updated: 6:06 pm.

Unsanctioned horse racing flourishing in rural Colorado

DENVER, Colorado. KDVR FOX31. Chris Halsne and Chris Koeberl reporting. (May 18, 2017)  — Hidden cameras capture doping, gambling and abuse of horses as regulators, politicians, and law enforcement turn a blind eye. Go to full investigative report »

It’s Easter Sunday outside the Deer Trail Rodeo grounds.

Armed teams of private security in flak jackets set up a road block searching passengers and vehicles. What they are looking for is unclear, but alcohol and beer are allowed to pass. An Arapahoe Sheriff’s deputy drove by slowly on the street outside the stadium, but did not stop.

By early afternoon, approximately 500 spectators are lined up along metal railings near a long, manicured dirt track.

They were drawn here by an online advertising push from a company calling itself Parejeras Racing USA.

A Spanish language flyer promised 10 “match-races,” with prize money in the thousands of dollars.

At first glance, the horse races looked much like the legal, sanctioned ones held at Colorado’s only licensed horse race facility, Arapahoe Park in Aurora.

Jockeys, in colorful silk, mounted muscular Quarter horses draped with matching blankets embossed with large numbers. Handlers helped guide the horses and riders to a metal starting gate.

As the horses charged down the straight-away, it became apparent, there were few rules.

Whipping of the animals was harsh and nearly nonstop.

In one race, a jockey veered his horse into another competitor. The high-speed ramming pushed the thundering beasts toward spectators standing within inches of the track, including children.

In two other races, jockeys lost their balance and went tumbling among the hoofs of other race horses.

Problem Solvers, working with knowledgeable insiders, acquired hidden camera footage of not only the races, but all the activities happening just off the track.

Audio and video recordings show plenty of cash being wagered on horses. Continue reading at source »


 Drugging

Image source: KDVR.
Image source: KDVR FOX31.

The drugging of the horses is rampant and potentially lethal.

Hidden camera footage revealed a brown liquid being injected into a racehorse’s neck who moments later was entered into the starting gates and raced.

The liquid in the syringe was described as “ ‘typically a cocktail of stimulants’ to ramp up the horse’s heart – to get it to run faster”.

Equine veterinarian Bruce Connelly stated, “I’ve seen match-race horses run blind. Break themselves up because of stuff that was put in ‘em that shouldn’t have been.”

Local Law Enforcement

The problem is, the report points out, is that law enforcement and the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees some 1,400 pages of racing regulations, can take action only in sanctioned horse races. Adding “it seemed impossible to FOX31 that such a large event, widely advertised and attended by so many people could go unnoticed by local politicians.”

Oh, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by local politicians or law enforcement. They have either turned a blind eye to it like that Arapahoe Sheriff’s deputy who drove slowly by and didn’t stop, or profited by it, or both.

What about the Mayor?

According to state records, Deer Trail mayor, Kent Vashus is the “registered agent” of the Deer Trail Jockey Club. The Jockey Club is one of the oldest non-profits in Colorado and owner of the Rodeo grounds where the unsanctioned Easter races were held.

Vashus admitted to the FOX31 Problem Solvers he had allowed Parejares Racing USA to use the Rodeo grounds for races in the past. Records show he approved at least fourteen “Mexican Horse Races” in Deer Trail since 2015.

There is much, much more including video reports. This is an in-depth undercover report and one of the best we have seen in a very, very long time.

Take Action Colorado Residents

The Governor

Contact the Governor and register your concern using his online form.  Ask him to take immediate action against unsanctioned horse racing and the horrific abuses of the horses used for it.  Notwithstanding the horses, onlookers including children are put at risk of injury and even death. Share this shortened link to the full KDVR investigative report with him — https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

Colorado General Assembly

The Colorado General Assembly adjourned May 10, 2017 and reconvenes January 10, 2018.

(1) Contact your individual legislator stating this is an important issue to you and you wish to see it on the next Session’s agenda. Share this shortened link to the full KDVR investigative report —  https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

(2) Contact the following Colorado lawmakers urging them to place this issue on the next Session’s agenda and enact all laws necessary to make these unauthorized races illegal. Be sure to share the link to the full KDVR investigative report —  https://goo.gl/ajkEFl.

• Speaker of the House, Cristanta Duran (crisanta.duran.house@state.co.us)
• House Majority Leader, K.C. Becker (kcbecker.house@state.co.us)
• House Minority Leader, Patrick Neville (tim.neville.senate@state.co.us)

• President of the Senate, Kevin Grantham (kevin.grantham.senate@state.co.us)
• Senate Majority Leader, Chris Holbert (chris.holbert.senate@state.co.us)
• Senate Minority Leader, Lucia Garcia  (leroy.garcia.senate@state.co.us)

Oh, and throw that unscrupulous Mayor of yours Kent Vashus out on his ear next election Deer Trail residents.


FEATURED IMAGE
The image of the horse looking out from under the stands was taken at the Deer Trail Rodeo Grounds and is used here for illustrative purposes only. The image was not filed with the source report.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall calls for the end of doping in horse racing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) issued the following press release yesterday. It is of course important to demand it. It is another to actually introduce a bill, push it through and get it done. Udall is plucky and has the determination necessary to succeed.

Sen. Udall is of course keenly aware of racehorse doping as some of the most egregious abuses happen at New Mexico tracks, both in Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing.

Let’s not spare today’s dopers doing business as usual at Churchill Downs.

As a colleague just stated about today’s Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming:

Pletcher had 3 horses in including Patch, the one-eyed horse. And if you look at the list, it’s always the same trainers. Most of whom are drug lords.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

MAY 05, 2017
Ahead of Kentucky Derby, Udall Demands an End to Doping of Race Horses
Special gambling laws and subsidies support horse racing, even as egregious doping abuse plagues the sport

WASHINGTON – Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, U.S. Senator Tom Udall released the following statement reiterating his persistent calls for the horse racing industry to end its widespread abuse of performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers used on horses. Udall called for reform or the repeal of the federal law that makes horse racing the only sport specially permitted to offer online gambling and interstate betting:

“As long as we continue to reward the horse racing industry for its inhumane doping violations with sweetheart gambling privileges and millions in casino slots subsidies, these shameful abuses will continue. It is long past time for Congress to act to reform or repeal horse racing’s unique federal gambling law, to force the industry to look out for the safety of horses and jockeys, and to restore integrity to this once-dignified sport.

“This weekend, outside of the view of fans in the grandstand, horses competing in the Kentucky Derby will be injected before being loaded into the starting gate. As deaths and injuries pile up, it has become abundantly clear that there is no doping or corruption scandal outrageous enough to shame the horse racing industry into rooting out abuse.

“One harness trainer racked up more than 1,700 medication violations. Four track veterinarians — tasked with ensuring the health and safety of these animals – pled guilty to unlawfully and repeatedly administering performance enhancing drugs in Pennsylvania. No one caught giving racehorses dermorphin, a painkiller 40 times more powerful than morphine, has been permanently kicked out of the sport.

“New Mexico racetracks have some of the highest rates of horse fatalities and injuries in the country, yet the state has paid $682 million into horse racing purse prizes since 1999. Our state should not be subsidizing an industry that remains so shockingly indifferent to egregious doping abuses.

“A horse that needs to be injected to race should not be forced to compete. Unless we take meaningful action to insist upon real reform, Congress and the states that subsidize the horse racing industry will continue to be willful accomplices to the abuse of these iconic animals.”

Chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs is commonplace in horseracing. Almost every horse is given race-day medication — banned in other countries — and no uniform medication rules or doping penalties exist across the states.

As the New York Times reported in 2012, doping undermines the safety and viability of the sport, and 24 horses die each week from racing injuries — an alarming fatality rate likely caused by the misuse of permitted medication and abuse of illegal drugs.

Udall has fought for years to reform the horse racing industry. In 2015, Udall and former Representative Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to eliminate most wagering on horse racing to encourage the sport to end doping and crack down on cheaters.

###

WE SAY

Yes, horse racing must rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs. More importantly, it must rid itself of injury masking drugs, the most hideous of all of racing’s doping evils.

Injury masking drugs are what destroys racehorses resulting in their death at racetracks and their health and soundness overall to the point owners and trainers dump them making them vulnerable to the meat man.

Sen. Udall sums it up this way:  “A horse that needs to be injected to race should not be forced to compete.”

RELATED READING

See We Three Kings of Race Cheating Are by Jane Allin »

See also all posts on Horse Racing »

FEATURED IMAGE
Racehorse tied in stall. Unattributed source.

Last Updated: 8:18 pm

Federal Judge drops fraud charges against Thoroughbred trainer Webb

Cross-posted from The Blood-Horse
by FRANK ANGST

Samuel Webb, one of three trainers and four people facing federal fraud charges following arrests in November at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, had those charges dismissed June 5.

U.S. District Court Judge William Caldwell of the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed both counts of a federal indictment against Webb, saying the government’s allegations failed to meet the definitions of the two charges.

The decision appears to be a blow to law enforcement officials who argue that drugging horses violates federal laws because races are sent out for interstate wagering. The argument would be that fraud occurs when bettors are duped into wagering against horses running with illegal performance-enhancing drugs or on horses running on illegal performance-detracting drugs.

But in dismissing the charges, the court agreed with Webb’s argument that the government was attempting to “convert a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law … into a federal crime.”

One detail that appears to be an important one in the Webb case is that the horse he allegedly injected or intended to inject with an illegal substance, Papaleo, never started as he was scratched by the stewards before his planned May 2, 2013 start at Penn National. This would have made it impossible for Webb to bet on or against his horse, or anyone else to wager on him.

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission suspended Webb for two months (June 10-Aug. 8) last year for possessing syringes on the backstretch. He was fined $500 for lying about the incident. Webb again was suspended Nov. 22 pending resolution of the federal charges.

Read full report »
Samuel Webb Indictment, PennLive.com »
Casino and racegoers speak up after arrests at Penn National Race Course, PennLive.com »
__________

What a stellar character Webb is. Why does he still have a training license?

LMaris made this comment on The Blood-Horse report:
So the judiciary protects the cheats and animal abusers at the expense of the horses and betters. And some wonder why the sport is on its death bed here.

Although disappointed in the Judge’s ruling in the Webb case and no action has yet to be taken against the individuals in the Peta investigation, it helps our investigative teams immensely. Every investigation is vital no matter the outcome because it keeps the doping and abuses in the public eye. Learn more »

The Penn National case is not over.