Monmouth Park horsemen are hopeful that the Aug. 24 special meeting and decision by the New Jersey Racing Commission allows them to get paid soon. The commission approved a plan by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to pay out purse money without waiting for results from post-race drug tests at Monmouth Park.
Since the already-delayed July 3 start of the meet, which was cut short due to COVID-19, local horsemen are owed nearly $8 million in purse money. But with delays in test results from Truesdail Laboratories in Irvine, California, only about $3 million has been paid out.
“Whoever is controlling the Racing Commission, whether it’s through the Attorney General’s Office or otherwise, it’s a joke that they will not come forth with any statement or give any guidance to the poor men and women that are relying on that purse money,” Jockey Club president and COO James Gagliano told the Asbury Press. “I can’t think of any other industry where that would be allowed to happen and frankly, I’m ashamed for New Jersey.”
Horse Racing Industry’s Black Eye
In March, the New Jersey Racing Commission suspended the racing licenses of seven people for their involvement in providing illegal medications to racehorses. One of those individuals was Jason Servis, who was the trainer for Maximum Security. His horse finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was subsequently disqualified for interference in the stretch.
Now Monmouth Park horsemen are dealing with lab result delays and non-payment of purses. The Aug. 24 meeting would allow the NJTHA to guarantee the purse money should a positive drug test come back on a horse and the owner does not return the money. Payouts could begin within a week if the New Jersey governor’s administration approves the proposal and NJTHA plan.
The first-place horse is tested after each race, along with another randomly chosen runner.
But the delays in testing and obtaining timely results from Truesdail Laboratories has caused some chaos. The racing commission is in charge of overseeing the program and has a contract for testing with Truesdail Laboratories.
“Frankly, at this point we’re evaluating filing lawsuit against Truesdail,” Dennis Drazin said. Drazin is the chairman and CEO of Darby Development, LLC, which operates Monmouth Park.
The delays affect not only horsemen, but bettors, who don’t know which horses are still running that have drugs in their system. It’s also a problem for anyone claiming (purchasing) a horse in a race at Monmouth Park. Buyers are allowed to void the claim if the horse fails a post-race drug test. But when the results are coming back more than five or six weeks later, that horse has likely already run back in a race. That causes problems in the entire process.
Monmouth Park Horsemen Frustrated
Post-race drug testing delays have held up purse payouts since the start of the track’s summer meet on July 3, causing tension and frustration. Silence from the New Jersey Racing Commission on the issues involving the testing program have made it more difficult.
“People are going crazy about this on the backstretch,” said trainer Gregg Sacco. “A lot of people back here rely on purse money to survive from week-to-week.”
The pandemic meant cuts to purses already, and a shorter racing meet, reduced from 56 days to 37 days. The meet ends Oct. 4, and Monmouth Park is expected to distribute around $20 million in purse money by the time the meet ends.
There are no uniform drug testing standards or federal oversight of regulation of rules in place for this. The responsibility for drug testing, penalties, protocols, laboratory accreditations, investigations and enforcement is up to each state.
The horse owner generally receives 60 percent of the purse, which in the case of the $1 million Haskell Stakes last month, means the owner of winner Authentic is still waiting to be paid $600,000. The trainers, jockeys and staff are also waiting to be paid.
“It’s fundamental. We’re a sport that at its core is about determining winners and losers, and there’s betting on it. So it has to have the highest level of integrity, and we just don’t have that today with the state-based systems currently regulating the sport.”