S P E C I A L R E P O R T
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Written and Researched by
May 1, 2014
Orb — ridden by Joel Rosario — comes down the final stretch on his way to winning the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
N E H R O — literally tortured to death — (Photo: NBCSports)
Phenylbutazone; Estrone; Flunixin; Hyaluronic acid; Lasix; Adequan; Xylazine; Vitamin B12; Methyprednisolone; Calcium.
While all of these drugs are considered therapeutic, enough is enough. Any horse that requires this much medication to run should not be running at all. Just like Asmussen’s unfortunate colt Nehro.
“The video details Nehro’s acute foot problems, but despite warnings from a blacksmith that one of Nehro’s feet has become ‘a little bitty nub,’ Asmussen and Blasi continued to train and race him. Nehro died at Churchill Downs on the morning of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Asmussen said Nehro had colic and died on the way to the hospital. Blasi described it as the most violent death he’d ever seen.” 
Outside of the misuse and abuse of legal therapeutics leading up to a race, Pletcher also has numerous illegal medication violations on his record.
For example, in 2008 the CHRB fined Pletcher $25,000 and suspended him for a minimum of 10 days when Wait a While tested positive for the anesthetic procaine a Class 3 drug in the state of California. Procaine can act as a stimulant and Wait a While was found to have more than 300 times the allowable limit in her system.
“In defense, Mr. Pletcher, through his vet, said the ‘overage’ came from a weeks-old granuloma (which formed after treating a fever) that ruptured and released the trapped drug during the race. The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) practically called this ridiculous. More likely, it said, Wait a While was given another shot(s) of procaine closer to raceday, perhaps within 48 hours. But since there was no proof that Pletcher ordered or knew of it (imagine that), he was handed a 10-day suspension. Wait a While, then 5, never ran again.” 
It doesn’t stop there.
In 2004, the horse, Tales of Glory, trained by Pletcher tested positive for the Class 2 drug mepivacaine – the same illegal nerve-blocking agent that suppresses pain that Asmussen received a suspension for.
Pletcher appealed with the tried-and-true excuse of environmental contamination along with other possible explanations for the positive but the appeals court dismissed them all.
Life At Ten and John Velazquez win the Beldame Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010,
at Belmont Park in New York. (AP Photo / NYRA).
Then of course there is the Life at Ten controversy – the two-time Grade 1 winner who placed last in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic.
Not a drug violation per se but rather a not-so-subtle attempt to cheat the bettors – the very crux of the racing industries source of profits.
“Life At Ten came into the Breeders’ Cup off her two-length 2010 Beldame victory and was sent off at nearly 4-1. She finished last after Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, in separate television interviews, made comments suggesting that the mare was listless in the paddock and was not warming up properly. During the race, Velazquez did not push Life At Ten, who days later developed a fever and was found to have a high white blood-cell count indicative of infection.
Neither Velazquez nor Pletcher had contacted Churchill Downs stewards or track veterinarians before the race, but an HRTV producer, Amy Zimmerman, did relay their comments to the stewards.” 
Simply put, Life At Ten should have been scratched.
Cheating the bettors – a sure way to eventually shut down the entire industry – not knowing whether the performance of a horse is related to talent, the drugs they have received or injury. The mindset of those who support this is unthinkable. Preying on the bettors is such a sorry and non-humanitarian way to generate profits.
This is just a snapshot of three of the most controversial trainers out there.
Sadler and Hollendorfer have their own drug violations, as do other prominent trainers, and consistently rank in the top repeat offender list — there is little difference in their perverse methods.
What is clear is that the vast majority of the top trainers in North America resort to illegal and intentional use of therapeutic medications for the single purpose of performance enhancement. And it follows that if top-tier trainers are participating in this level of illegal and “legal” drugging, the competitive rational for trainers at all levels is to run with the herd.
An article penned by Andrew Cohen “The Ugly Truth About Horse Racing” says it best:
“The alleged behavior goes on, decade after decade, because the industry is unwilling to police itself. Because state regulators are feckless and because there is no uniformity among racing jurisdictions. Because the people who develop performance-enhancing drugs are almost always one step ahead of the officials developing tests for those drugs. Because veterinarians give their horses too many drugs too often. And because too many still within the sport equate real reform with a bad-for-marketing acknowledgement of how bad things are. Well, guess what. We are here. There is no longer a man behind a curtain.
How about telling the truth? It can finally set this industry free. Instead of pretending this problem of abuse does not exist, or claiming that the problem is under control, the sport can take the bold leap it will need to take to get to the other side—the side where animal activists aren’t picketing racetracks. That will mean more money for enhanced drug tests. It will mean legislative efforts to better regulate trainers and veterinarians. It will mean swifter and stricter punishment for offenders. It will mean an end to the insider’s code of silence.”