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As most people know, horse racing is a contest of speed between two or more horses. Usually thoroughbred. To most people it would seem that horse-racing was the purest sport imaginable. With tracks monitored by overlapping cameras and gates controlled by computers, it seems like the honest man’s game.
Horse-racing is a 15 billion dollar a year industry and the 2nd most widely attended spectator sport after baseball. It started around 4500 bc in central Asia and for thousands of years was the sport of kings and nobility. The main reason horse-racing is still around today is for the legalized gambling. Horse-racing is a major professional sport in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and the U.S. The most popular form of racing is thoroughbred racing. But other forms of racing are harness racing, steeple chase racing, and quarter horse racing.
The legalized gambling is the main reason for horse racings long life. All the betting done in American tracks is under the “Pari-mutuel wagering system”. Under this system, 14 to 25% of the amount wagered is taken out for track operating expenses, racing purses, and state and local taxes. The remaining sum is divided by the number of individual wagers to determine the payoff or return on your bet. The odds of the next race are automatically calculated by the tracks computers and displayed to the betters on screens during the betting period.
The odds are updated automatically every minute. If the odds of a certain horse winning are 2:1, you’ll get 2 dollars for every one that you wager. Say, for instance, that you bet $100 for a certain horse to win, you will receive $200 back. You can bet for a horse to win, place, or show. If you bet for the horse to win it has to get 1st, for it to place that would be 1st or 2nd. And to show is 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Other ways that a person could bet are exactas, daily doubles, quenelles, and the pick six. But those are way to complicating to explain.
But there is much more to racing then TV screens and gambling. A little beneath the surface is a whole new section of murders, cover-ups, bribes, and drugs. In the world of horse racing, there are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs everyday. But that doesn’t even begin to touch on the tons of sneaky activities that the people of horse racing pull off.
Like in 1997 when Richard Sklar, or better known as Richie Fingers, admitted to fixing over 1,000 races. The trouble for Richie began in ‘mid ’97 when Richard Pfau was implicated in a race fixing scandal. Pfau told authorities that he’d taken $2,100 from Sklar for slowing his horse in a race at the Los Alamitos race track. When the authorities confronted Sklar he immediately admitted to fixing the scores of races in California from 1983 up to 1995. He named the top jockey at that time, Ron Hansen, as one of his clients.
Ron Hansen’s decomposed body later turned up under a bridge in San Mateo, California. The California Horse Racing Board tried to maintain skepticism in an effort to keep the bettors betting. The California Horse Racing Board had Sklar charged with fixing just 3 races. And after the betting records were checked, Sklar was only to pay $5000. Richard Sklar characterized race fixing as widespread and easy to pull off. Because the average California racing purse is $3000, the winning driver will only get about $75. So Sklar would offer the racers $500 to make their horses go dead, or hold them back.
Another instance where things went wrong is with Chris Antley. In 2000 he was one of the best jockeys in the world, with 3480 wins to his name. Two of which were Kentucky derby wins. Antley was also a recovering drug addict. Antley met a man named Timothy Tyler when he was in rehab, Tyler was also Antley’s houseguest and they often fought over money. Tyler told the police that Antley had threatened to kill his wife. On December 2nd, 2000 the police found Antley dead in his apartment. The door was kicked in from the outside and blood covered the walls. His death was ruled as a homicide and Tyler was questioned.
Police discovered that Antley had fell into a wave of drugs and alcohol, and hadn’t spoken to his wife in days who was in New York. Antley had become a complete shut-in. Police later changed the cause of death to accidental and Tyler was let go. Cathy Park, Antley’s best friend and the person that found him dead, told the police that she saw Tyler outside of Antley’s place wielding a crowbar around the time of his death. But they wouldn’t re-open the investigation. A final autopsy found substantial wounds on Antley’s neck, but the death was ruled as a overdose.
Scores of trainers have been suspended in the past year after post-race tests detected that their horses had been loaded up with banned substances. “With so much money on the line, people will do anything to make their horses run faster.” Some of the drugs that have been banned are highly technical performance enhancers. Like pentoxifyline and clenbuterol, which were designed to help in breathing and increase the muscle endurance.
Bob Baffert, a two time Kentucky Derby winning trainer, got himself suspended last June when morphine was found in his horse. John basset, a champion trainer, got suspended in January when his horse was found to be high on cocaine. Also, Tammi Piermarini was suspended when five of her horses were tested positive for benzilpiperazine. Which is a central nervous stimulant similar to the drug Ecstasy. But most states don’t really have any interest in unveiling the widespread drug abuse in fear of the owners leaving for states with more lenient drug policies.
Though horse racing may seem like a very good clean sport, there’s a whole lot more to it then a five foot tall, 100 pound, grown man, wearing tights and riding a horse around a track. So horse racing is anything but the honest man’s game.