Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

11 April 2009

Jeff Mullins Is Horse Racing

Being a horse racing fan was a tough haul this week. The twin stories being brutally beaten over and over have made their way to the mainstream. After a winter of nil publicity the game has made the TV news and the front page of the NY Times sports section. They say bad publicity is better than no publicity but the negative tone and the amount of the internet comments is overwhelmingly negative. The entire derby trail is being neglected this year while sensational tabloid journalism riddled with errors and misrepresentations is having an unprecedented run. The beating that Jeff Mullins is taking is the same beating that horse racing is about to take during the triple crown. It is unfortunate and deserved. If the same voices making a mountain out of the detention barn incident continue to sing their strident song for the mainstream media we could be looking at a banned sport in just a few years.

The derby story lines are being buried and it seems like the buzz surrounding the derby will focus on the soiled name of Jeff Mullins. It is not enough that his horse was scratched from the Bay Shore, he has to be publicly humiliated and repeatedly flogged in blog after blog and article after article. He was wrong to do this in the security barn. Mullins will have his hearing and punishment will be doled out. The sensationalists must have their public stoning as they gather around and squeal in pleasure as stone after stone is applied. The reaction is outrageous and not based in reason. For them the application of an all-natural product sold in tack stores is proof that Mullins is a dirty cheater/pharmacist that has concoction after concoction of secret substances that make horses run at the front of the pack like machines. The fact that he has been winning horses racing since he was seventeen years old is not considered. Backstretch backstabbing may also be at work here. Reason and fairness have been scratched from the race alongside Gato Go Win.

Condemnation of Mullins is not the end. After the condemnation of Mullins then comes the condemnation of racing period. There is an agenda at work here. The anonymous comments on these on-line articles referring to how most racehorses are routinely abused while they are in training is troubling. Yes these things do happen in isolated incidents but the game is being defiled as a activity filled with abuse and cruelty by people who have never been near a barn and surely have never mucked a stall. Racing has made tremendous strides to clean up the game. There is a stereotype that racing is a very dirty game and that the racetrack is a dirty place. Like many stereotypes there is some truth to the matter but the facts are being exaggerated to make the make the story fit into the anti-racing agenda.

Tell someone you are a horseplayer in New York and they will turn up their nose to you. The
assumption is that you are a degenerate gambler through horse racing betting, disgustingly profane and a low-life.
It is a ridiculous assumption but these stereotypes help simple people navigate the complex social landscapes where snap judgment decisions must be made with limited information. Simple people are applying the same stereotypes to Jeff Mullins. The way Mullins is being dragged through the mud is a foreshadowing of how the game will be dragged through the mud. Forces and agendas are building to remove horse racing from the American tapestry.

The public beating that Mullins is bearing is the same beating that horse racing has been taking for many years. Isolated examples are blown out of proportion while the beauty and positive parts of the game, the hard work and love for the animals is completely ignored. Do you really think all of the horses in Mullins barn are abused and drugged to win races? Why is it that Michael Matz is the national spokesperson for Air Power yet his name has not been soiled in any of this? Is it because Mullins grew up riding at bush tracks and Matz is a high-class dressage legend? Does Mullins only employ only animal abusers? The almost unanimous condemnation against Mullins is beyond all reason and could only survive in the preposterous bleating of the flock of sheep against indoctrinated into shunning anything not politically correct.

Many people want to see racing go away and those giving inordinate amounts of coverage to this sensational story are feeding the fires for the extremists like PETA who do not understand the complexities or appeal of horse racing. These people deal in half-truths , sound bites and sensationalism which has been produced by the lot this week. The articles appearing in the mainstream and extremist press are riddled with errors or poor information. If they can not get the minor details correct they are surely wrong on the big picture. The deluge of negative information from on-line racing sources and bloggers with good intentions are feeding the frenzy that will look to besmirch the game during the upcoming triple crown season. In this deluge of negative information there is but a trickle of attention on how this may be the best crop of three year olds to emerge in the decade. It is like good sense and perception have yielded to cheap attention and the sheep mentality.

Few things in life are black or white, good or bad but Mullins almost universally denigrated all bad. He is like the Emmanuel Goldstein of racing, the boogieman that Big Brother uses so the masses have a target to direct their angst towards. The sensationalists have had a field day dragging out Mullins violation record. Yes there are offenses there but when we are dealing with the numbers of horses Mullins has in his care the numbers are skewed. While he is besmirched as a cheater most of the violations are for racing office violations like scratching a horse without permission or paperwork issues. There is a difference between cheating and the violations in Mullins record.

Mullins has a green light on his head for abuse, he is one of the few people in racing that can openly be abused without consequence. Like Mullins horse racing is one of the sports that can be openly abused in the mainstream without consequence. A combination of success, working class background, frank talk to reporters and past offenses have landed Mullins squarely in the cross heirs of the sensationalists. Racing's use of animals for gambling have landed in the crossheirs of the politically correct and the animal rights extremists.

Frank talk never gets you very far when talking to the masses and when Mullins called horseplayers idiots he displayed a lack of media savvy and tact. Sometimes frank talk like this is very helpful. The game has ridden itself of steroids due to the frankness of Rick Dutrow. America needs more frank talk and less smiling liars. America needs less sensationalism and more good racing.


Anonymous said...

Power Cap:

For every "sensationalist" there is an "apologist" such as yourself. Neither the "sensationalists" or the "apologists" are serving the interests of horse racing.

Wake up and smell the coffee. Mullin's arrogant attempt to flaunt the rules by administering a substance other than water to his horse in the detention barn prior to the race is a clear violation of the rules - plain and simple. This is not a debatable point but rather a fact. His attempts to feign ignorance of those rules is nothing short of absurd. He deserves whatever penalties are handed down as a result.

If you are going to defend a trainer for actions that skirt the rules I would suggest you pick someone other than Mullins as your poster boy. He is a cheater who has proven many times that he does not respect the rules.

Whether or not "Air Power"

Brewman said...

With all the blogs and comments about the Mullins incident there is one thing that hasn't been mentioned that really troubles me.

If you have some sort of "juice" that is short-acting, and undetectible (by today's testing procedures) and has to be given to the horse just before post-time, what better way to do it? And then you can claim it was an "honest mistake", you didn't know the rules, blah,blah.

I find it troubling that Mullins himself said he immediately rinsed the syringe after administering the air power. If he was a trainer without any black marks I could give him the benefit of the doubt, but in his case?

If it walks like a duck...?

Anonymous said...

This post by your is a immature defense of what Mullins did.

You are the same person who said you don;t like baseball because of steroids in the sport. Care to guess how many horse are on the juice?

hoist the flag said...

There may in fact be many people who want to use any opportunity to take shots at the sport, with an ultimate goal of shutting it down. This is not news. So why would a top trainer want to give them such an opportunity? Mullins surely was aware of the scrutiny the sport itself is under and no doubt is aware of the scrutiny he himself is under. His behavior simply was moronic.
With a leading contender for the Derby, much of the focus of the media, which knows a story the public will latch on to when it sees one, will be focused on Mullins' rulebreaking past and present. He is a man who doesn't learn. Mullins does not have "a green light on his head for abuse." It's more like a self-affixed giant "Kick Me" sign.

Unknown said...


I was about to give you the benefit of the doubt regarding this commentary. You make some excellent points, even while neglecting to mention an important issue or two about Jeff Mullins.

And then I reached the end of the piece, and the live link connected to your "less smiling liars" phrase.

Here is a simple takeaway thought. When you are trying to make a point and, in effect, sway public debate, don't include something that has no connection whatsoever to that which you are speaking or writing. Your credibility drops to near zero.

Regarding the Mullins imbroglio, you left out one salient point. In defense of his alleged use of Air Power at Aqueduct, he said he gives it to all his horses.

California officials have pointed out Air Power's use before post time, as described by Mullins, is against their rules. So either Mullins was making it up as a justification for failure to follow the NY rules, or he has illegally been giving it to his California horses, and racing officials there have either missed it, or turned the other check.

Either way, it is one more example of why he is the type of individual racing doesn't need.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt regarding his Mepivacaine positive, there is no justification for the two TCO2 positives. There is no reasonable excuse, other than breaking the rules, for milkshaking a Thoroughbred on raceday.

Anonymous said...

Mullins has been quoted as saying people who bet on horses are idiots. I think he is right people are idiots to bet on a sport where people like him cheat.

Anonymous said...

I do not castigate you for your point of view as flawed as it is.
It's that to prove your point you used the worst possible trainer.
He is arrogant and has no use for the bettors who support the sport AND himself.
That being said he has been cheating and skirting the law too long.
His excuse -ignorance of the rule that bringing in a syringe to a barn is illegal- is PREPOSTEROUS.
They should throw the book at him-which they won't and racing will suffer another dishonest individual getting away with it.
We do not need The Mullins' in the sport of racing

Cholly said...

Until yesterday, I’ve been mostly in lock-step in agreement with what I’ve read in your blog. So I hate to join the crowd dog-piling on you, but…

To be ultimately successful, an industry based on gambling requires to be squeaky-clean. If there is a grey zone between fair play and cheating, you should get zapped for even venturing into the grey zone. If Mullins is to be publicly bitch-slapped for getting in the grey, so be it. It’s the way things need to be, and it needs to be very public for everyone to get it.

As for the greater tragedy of the week, I’ll bet if asked the Humane Society members who found Paragallo’s horses are not condemning PETA as overly activist. The sad fact is it was people from the other team, and not racing enthusiasts, who smoked this out.

Anyone who witnesses race horses in flight knows of the great joy the horses experience. But for the privilege of being party to that joy, we humans incur responsibility. And the horse racing industry is not fulfilling that responsibility. Too many horses still are dying on the track, and too many of them are not adequately cared for after their career is over. Sweeping all this under the rug is not a formula for sustainability.

PETA and overzealous news media are not the enemy of the horse racing industry. The enemy of the horse racing industry is…the horse racing industry. Do a better job or get ready to lose the above described privilege.

p.s. Nice hit on the Arky Derby

G. C. said...

Thanks for taking the time to leave comments and more thanks for keeping the tone civil. Cholly makes the most compelling points and I fully agree with the statement in the forth paragraph. There certainly is a responsibility to the horses and perhaps in the mix of statebred breeders rewards/slot-enhanced purses these responsibilities are being neglected.

Whoet's Picks said...

Wake up POWER CAP, read the results to your post, people are feed up with business as usual,
we need to clean up horse racing,

malcer said...

Should bloggers just gloss over serious incidents? Should we pretend that a veteran trainer is believable in saying he didn't know what a D-barn is just because some journalist might use the arguments we publish against the sport we love?

If racing's public image can be attacked so easily and fundamentally as to threaten the very existence of this beautiful and fascinating sport it is absolutely not the fault of bloggers who argue for it to be cleaner and point out leaks in the roof. It is entirely the fault of an industry rotten enough and so unable to reform by itself that such stories regularly outweigh its positive aspects in public perception. A few extremists aside, racing is chosen for a whipping boy because it presents such an easy target, and honestly doesn't do nearly enough to change public perception by deeds rather than words.

Others have already pointed out that you chose an extremely weak example to make your point.

Sure some extremists who hate racing for no good reason might misuse our arguments to try to ban the sport altogether, but that is like saying journalists shouldn't question their government's reason to go to war because it will lead to less public support. Being a racing fan is not to entirely subordinate yourself to the interest of racing industry leaders and the goal of a racing blogger is not to be a PR spokesperson but to express one's thoughts on the sport, which includes pointing out problems, especially those the industry should be able to solve itself.

Every single detail I learned about the incident after the story initially broke (AirPower is not only performance-enhancing, but also non-detectable; it has been banned in CA for a long time; Mullins didn't administer the substance, as he claimed, in clear view) convinced me more and more that my early reaction and that of other "sensationalist" bloggers was no more "sensationalist" than it absolutely should be.

Oh, you mention how the Dutrow incident lead to a ban on steroids. How has racing "ridded itself" of that problem, seeing as how a ban would have been the right decision decades ago? It happened only because the attention raised by journalists and "sensationalist" bloggers raised tremendous outside pressure and the industry finally had to give in to its customers and the broad public.

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