By: Jeremy Balan
California Horse Racing Board member Madeline Auerbach, at an Aug. 24 meeting of the agency’s Medication and Track Safety Committee, called for increased scrutiny on certain trainers through “profiling.”
The Wednesday meeting at Del Mar touched on several topics, from cell phone use by exercise riders to drug policies employed in New Mexico, but during a discussion about medical violations for the 2015-16 fiscal year, Auerbach made her point.
“I’m going to be very politically incorrect. I see nothing wrong with profiling at all,” Auerbach said. “If certain barns are doing things in a (manner) that is not leveling the playing field, I have no problem looking into it more carefully.”
CHRB equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur said the regulatory agency is already employing some of those tactics.
“If there is credible information, we do that,” Arthur said. “Frankly, if you’re a more than 30% trainer, you should expect to see us in your barn.”
When asked to clarify her statement after the meeting, Auerbach said indicators for increased scrutiny for drug testing and investigation could be statistical in nature.
“There are certain situations where you would be curious as to—is there anything we’re not aware of going on? I would not paint with a broad brush,” she said. “We’d be looking for an anomaly—a constant anomaly where they are more successful than would statistically make sense. Let’s profile that. Let’s look at that. That doesn’t mean they are doing anything wrong, but let’s find out.
“I don’t think it’s a problem, but I don’t want it to become one, either. We’re supposed to police the game. We’re supposed to make sure it’s fair and even-handed—not only for the owners and trainers, but for the gamblers out there. We’re trying to keep the game clean, and I think we’re doing a damn good job of it.”
California Thoroughbred Trainers executive director Alan Balch somewhat agreed with Auerbach’s sentiment, but also voiced concern after the committee meeting.
“The word ‘profiling’ has a lot of baggage because the people who oppose ‘profiling’ immediately think of racial profiling—profiling people to be inspected of things. It has a connotation of discrimination,” Balch said. “There’s a place for profiling. I have to agree. But to the extent it is employed, it has to be very carefully done and with great evidence, rather than indiscriminately.
“Generally speaking, the administration of racing has to be fair and seen to be fair, and profiling tends to counter that.”
Balch also commented on potential conflicts of interest regarding profiling.
“The one problem with profiling is that certain people are—we all have friends and we all have people who are not friends. The rule should never be used to ‘get’ someone, and that is a potential perception that can come from profiling,” he said. “If somebody has had a bad experience—because this guy has had a problem in the past—we’re going to go after someone and ‘get’ him. That would be a nefarious use of profiling.”
As for the hard numbers, the CHRB reported 20 Class 1, 2, or 3 positives and 56 Class 4 or 5 medication violations from 11,012 total post-race tests (9,896 blood and urine tests, and 1,116 blood-only tests). The report also said there were zero positives from 960 out-of-competition samples and 20,676 pre-race samples from Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.
“Generally, the results of out-of-competition testing shows that the game is clean,” CHRB executive director Rick Baedeker said.