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Horse Racing Scandals and Cheats
 By Winniefield Park   •   8th Jul 2018   •   493 views   •   0 comments


The newest triple crown winner may have been aided by a block. The newest Triple Crown winner may have taken his lead thanks to another horse, a long shot, Restoring Hope, swerving and then pinning another horse to the rail, keeping other contenders away from Justify. But, although the controversy lingers, officials are satisfied with that race. And, there have been lots of larger scandals in the horse racing world.

Doping is perhaps the best known method that causes scandals. And, every race day, there are accusations of bumping, jostling, weaving and blocking that change the outcome of races. But, there are a few big scandals, where cheaters prosper by millions, if only briefly, and investigations take months to sort out.



Fine Cotton
Many horses, especially Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds look almost identical. This makes it tempting for cheaters to switch out one horse for another. Add in a little hair dye and a criminal desperate to make some money and you’ve got all the elements necessary for a ringer or ring-in. One of the more famous switcheroo ringer stories involves an Australian horse named Fine Cotton. At stake were millions of dollars.

Fine Cotton, a brown TB born in 1976, was not an outstanding racehorse. Before the switch took place, Fine Cotton ran 10th in a field of 12. In his next race, with amazing odds starting at 33-1, Fine Cotton won the race. But, the horse was disqualified as officials, seeing what appeared to be a miraculous improvement in the horse’s performance, discovered that Fine Cotton had been switched with a much better race horse, Bold Personality. The dye used to disguise the horse also began to run, revealing the markings of Bold Personality.

Dr. Mark Gerard
Dr. Mark Gerard was a prominent veterinarian with a clientele that included Secretariat and Kelso. But unfortunately, Gerard is also known for a scandal involving two horses; Lebon and Cinzano. During a trip to South America, Gerard bought two colts, almost identical in coloration. Cinzano was Uruguay's’ Horse of the Year. Lebon however, did not show the same promise. Gerard sold both horses, but continued as their trainer and they were kept on his farm.

In 1977, Gerard claimed that the champion Cinzano had fractured his skull, and he was euthanized. The insurance money was collected. And, Lebon was later entered in a race, and ran with 57-1 odds. Gerard pocketed a large amount of cash when the horse won. And that alerted officials that something was amiss. A reporter from South America recognized the horse in a photo, and was revealed that the horse that ran the race was actually Cinzano, and not Lebon. Gerard spent jail time for the fraud. Cinzano however, went on to distinguish himself as a point-to-point champion with undefeated starts over 10 races.

2002 Breeders’ Cup
The 2002 Breeder’s Cup was run for the first time at Chicago’s Arlington Racetrack. But it wasn’t this ‘first’ that made this particular race different. After a longshot with 43-1 odds won the Breeders’ Cup Classic race, officials discovered that three men had manipulated the betting, netting them each about $1M. A computer programmer and two friends hacked the system so they could print unclaimed tickets. But, knowing they’d eventually be discovered, the programmer who worked at the track, conspired to go for one big win. Had a better horse won the race, they might never have been found out. But, the enormous amount of money paid to one person alerted officials to a possible scam. The upside is that the fraud prompted tracks everywhere to make their betting systems more secure. The three men all received jail time and their winnings were split amongst the rightful bettors.

Steve Asmussen
Anyone with even a casual interest in horse racing probably recognizes the name Steve Asmussen. Asmussen is a trainer with an impressive string of credentials including winning the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer twice and being inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. But many of us remember Asmussen being accused of cruelty by PETA. Their accusations included non-therapeutic drugging and using an electrical instrument to make a horse run faster. PETA posted a nine minute video supposedly exposing the trainers shockingly cruel methods. But, it was found during the investigations that PETA had edited the video footage to make things look much worse than they were. Of the fourteen complaints lodged against Asussen, only 4 minor infractions were found. All other cruelty complaints were dismissed.

Shergar
Shergar was foaled in 1978 and after an impressive string of wins over a two year career, was retired to stud as a four-year-old. After one year of standing at stud, Shergar’s groom, who lived near the stable with his family, answered a knock at the door. What appeared to be a police officer entered, but the man was wearing a balaclava. Three men more entered and held the family at gunpoint. The groom was taken outside and forced to load the stallion on a trailer. He was taken in a car, but later pushed out onto the roadside. Thanks to bungling by the real police and the timing of the theft with a major horse sale that ensured the roads were full of horse trailers, Shergar was never recovered. It’s speculated that the Irish Republican Army was responsible for the theft. The motive was to collect a ransom, but it’s likely the kidnappers could not handle the stallion and some think he was shot within hours of being stolen. The scandal was later made into a Hollywood movie, and a race has been named in his honor.
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