On a day that the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association was distributing a commentary from Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry urging Thoroughbred owners and trainers to fight the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, we learned of a jaw-dropping stewards ruling from Delta Downs racetrack in Landry’s home state.
“Louisiana horse racing has effectively policed itself for over 200 years, evolving over time to meet modern challenges while maintaining its unique identity,” wrote Landry (emphasis mine). “As in other states, we know how our horses handle our unique climate, our tracks, and our footing. We know the history of our bloodlines, the traditions of our sport, and the nature of this industry far better than anyone else.”
Meanwhile, stewards at Delta Downs had just issued a ruling against trainer Greg Tracy and his brother, assistant trainer Jim Tracy, that read in part: on Feb. 4, 2023, “a search of Barn 9, Tack Room E at Delta Downs, the Louisiana State Police found 59 bottles of injectable medications, 352 hypodermic needles, 256 syringes, and 75 packs of Albuterol Sulfate inhalation solution; 9 syringes with clear liquid were inventoried; the syringes with clear liquid were sent to LSU-EMSL for testing.” The tack room was assigned to Greg Tracy and occupied by his brother, Jim, the ruling said.
Both Greg and Jim Tracy were suspended six months, the maximum stewards in Louisiana can give. The case was referred to the Louisiana State Racing Commission.
The Tracy brothers both appealed the suspensions that were to begin March 5. Stewards granted their appeal and Greg and Jim Tracy are permitted to participate in racing despite the Louisiana State Police’s prodigious haul of drugs and paraphernalia that would make Charles Rudolph Walgreen envious.
It’s curious how Jim Tracy managed to get licensed in Louisiana in the first place. According to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission, Jim Tracy was indefinitely suspended in 2015 for writing $1,000 worth of checks that proved worthless. The issue was never resolved and the suspension is still in place, a Pennsylvania commission executive confirmed.
So much for reciprocity from one racing state to another.
I have to give Landry credit for one thing. He is correct that Louisiana racing has maintained a “unique identity.” Unique is not necessarily good.
I do take issue with his statement that Louisiana’s horse racing industry “effectively policed itself for over 200 years.”
That is laugh out loud funny.
Is it really effective policing to allow licensees who allegedly were caught with 742 items the stewards referred to as “contraband” to continue to conduct business as usual? I can’t imagine any state racing commission staying a suspension over alleged violations that serious. There are reasons summary suspensions are issued in matters like this.
Louisiana is the place where Sean Alfortish went to jail after orchestrating an election fraud to keep him on as president of the Louisiana HBPA. Federal prosecutors had the goods on Alfortish, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, identity fraud, and health care fraud. Alfortish admitted that funds from the industry’s Medical Benefit Trust were used to pay for extravagant gifts, entertainment and travel.
What did the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission do when Alfortish got out of jail? It gave him his owner’s license back.
Louisiana is also where jockey Gerard Melancon was arrested last August by Louisiana State Police for what Charles Gardiner III, executive director of the Louisiana Horse Racing Commission, said was “possible possession of an electrical device.”
Only a few weeks earlier, Melancon partnered with Landry, the Louisiana State Racing Commission, the Louisiana HBPA and others, joining in a lawsuit designed to block the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority from enforcing its federally mandated rules in Louisiana.
Interestingly, since Melancon’s arrest more than six months ago, the case has gone cold. No charges have been filed and racing officials have not taken any action against the rider. They also haven’t cleared his name while he continues to ride under a cloud of suspicion.
Over the years, there have been so many scandals in Louisiana racing they are too numerous to mention. From race fixing, to the use of sinister drugs like dermorphin (also known as frog juice), to shocking horses with electrical devices, Louisiana is a national leader in horse racing. More accurately, its regulation of the sport is a national disgrace.
That’s my view from the eighth pole.