(Justify / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Every so often, we will be addressing a few things: comments, decisions, people, whatever that – for one reason or another – should be tossed into the literary “muck pit.”

It is in the spirit of cleanliness, recycling, and protecting the environment that we offer this service of “addressing the muck” – free of charge. After all, someone has to do it, right?

And, it didn’t take long for us to find a few pounds of, well, manure — thanks in large part to our great friend and counterpart in the world of Thoroughbred racing and breeding blogs, websites and opinion spinners — “The Paulick Report” and its’ publisher “Please Spray” Ray.

Again.

And, again.

And, again. Truthfully, is there a guy who steps into the muck more often than this guy?

“Please Spray”Ray not only fell into “The Pit” this month, as he is want to do from time to time, but on this occasion? He’s wallowed around in it. Head to toe. Toes to nostrils. And, to be honest, “Please Spray”Ray has come out smelling a bit on the ugly side.

Anyone got the Secret (“Strong Enough for a Man, but Made for a Woman”)? Handy?

Here is a look at our at the next edition:

Does Vienna Have Paulick on Retainer?

The answer to the headline’s question is, well, maybe, in a way.

For years, the former trainer (who really wasn’t very successful in playing his hand at that profession) and now a current attorney (who won’t challenge the legendary Perry Mason in this job, either) has been paying (one would guess) the “Paulick Report” for advertising on his site.

And, for years, the “Paulick Report” and its’ journalistic-challenged publisher have been defending Vienna and his respective clients more than the attorney, it seems.

The latest example is in the on-going, never-ending, often-debated and often-settled case in California regarding the 2018 Santa Anita Derby when eventual Triple Crown winner Justify easily whipped Mick Ruis’ and his colt Bolt d’Oro.

For the sake of sanity, let’s skip reviewing the “what, when, where and hows” to this case. Let’s just say that the case had to do with a positive test for the Class 4 drug Scopolamine, which can and has turned up in other cases before and is likely to do the same in the future. The “drug” can be found in a native weed species that grows wild in California and can sometimes can end up in alfalfa and hay feed products that make their way to the racetracks. And, at the levels that were discovered at the time? Nearly everyone agrees that it was due to accidental contamination, and, in no way, affected the performance of the horse in that race.

Yet?

Leave it to the likes of the hack artist Joe Drape, of the “New York Times,” who first reported the situation in 2019, and the likes of Mic Ruis, Darrell Vienna and Ray Paulick to keep the matter growing like a mushroom in a heavily-fertilized and dark-room stall.

Just 10 days ago, the California Horse Racing Board’s stewards — John Herbuveaux, Kim Sawyer, and Ron Church — released its’ very detailed and comprehensive report on the matter. They reviewed everything they could find on the matter. They did their due diligence as required by Dr. Gregory Ferraro, the new chairman of the CHRB. They issued their findings and conclusions.

And, just like the previous authorities at the CHRB, they found that the issue had already been adjudicated and that no further actions were either warranted or needed at this time — including a waiver and reallocation of the purse money from the Santa Anita Derby.

Finally.

Done.

Right?

Only we could wish.

The ink was not even dry on the report and the decision before Ruis was crying again; before Vienna was filing again; before Paulick was accusing again and supporting his pay pal buddy. Again. Of course, the CHRB will take the issue up — yet again — in January to consider the latest appeal.

On Dec. 10, Paulick opined:

“…they took the ultimate copout. ”

He ventured on.

“Are you kidding me? Unless this was some kind of carefully orchestrated kabuki theater involving CHRM members, staff and stewards to go through the motions of a hearing in order to satisfy the terms of the settlement agreement with Ruis — which seems highly unlikely — the final order of the stewards is mind-boggling.”

What is mind-boggling is that Ray Paulick wants to continue to stir a pot that he doesn’t even have a spoon in. Unless, he does? Unless, his good friend and advertiser is somehow providing more than intel?

Here’s the truth, whether or not you think that Justify should be disqualified and that his trainer, Bob Baffert, should be penalized. Maybe they should have been. Maybe they should not have been. Reasonable people can debate and opine.

But here’s the facts:

One, there were other horses that ran on the same day in question and they, too, came back with the same “positive” results. The chances that the “contaminating” drug was accidentally part of a feed product? Considerable.

Two, did the CHRB Board Members err in not announcing the “positive” and requesting a complete hearing at the time? Probably. But, at the time, they concluded that the evidence did not warrant such an action, and that is an official action. The recent review by the Stewards concluded that the “inaction” was an official action. Maybe the firm of Vienna & Paulick could consider the theory of “double jeopardy?”

Third, the current CHRB — led by Dr. Gregory Ferraro — did the best thing for the entire industry when he and the entire board entered into a “Settlement Agreement” with both Ruis and Vienna regarding the case. There has been a legal remedy considered. There has been a legal remedy rendered. Money has been paid. From the CHRB. To Ruis. And, they got a full review of the case by a new set of California Stewards to look into the facts and matters of the case.

Four, after this Steward’s report and decision was announced, it didn’t take a minute or two before Ruis and Vienna sought more. More money. They have filed another lawsuit challenging the Steward’s decision. But let’s not mistake here, folks. This is not about justice or doing the right thing. This is about money. Ruis wants more. Vienna wants more. Who knows what Paulick wants.

Five, at no time during this whole matter, has Ruis, Vienna or Paulick acknowledged that the current CHRB’s Vice Chairman — Oscar Gonzales, Jr. — used to work for a trainer by the name of, let me see, Darrell Vienna. It was only after “The Pressbox” raised this issue and question that the CHRB had to seek legal review on whether the Vice Chairman should recuse himself from any discussion of this matter.

Hmmmm.

And, six? There are six facts that have been ignored? Yep.

Six — at no time in any of his postings, reportings, opinion pieces, and/or editorials — has Paulick acknowledged his professional relationship with Vienna. At no time has Paulick acknowledged Gonzales, Jr.’s conflict of interest in this matter. At no time, has Paulick even addressed his own perceived “bias” in the matter, either.

Now, to be truthful and to use Paulick’s own words?

“That is mind boggling.”

And?

“That is the ultimate cop out.”

Racing is at a severe crossroads in its’ professional life, especially with its’ global reputation with the public. It is way past time to put this issue to bed. Forever.

Journalism is at a severe crossroads in its’ professional life, especially with its’ global reputation with the public. It is no time to ignore such facts. It is no time to ignore what is, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest. It is not time to cast stones, Ray. Especially when your abode should be  a glass house. It is way past time for Paulick to set the record straight. For everyone to know.

It’s called ethics.

The same ones that you have called into question with others.

And, either you have them or you don’t.

My guess is that you don’t. But that’s my view from whatever “pole” you want to call it.

Some Interesting “Hitters:”

  1. Find it interesting that Paulick could not wait to take a blast at Churchill Downs and the “new and improved” Turfway Park. On the first night of racing over the newly installed Tapeta surface, that was installed after Churchill Downs purchased the track earlier this year, a horse sustained an unfortunate and catastrophic injury that required euthanasia. Paulick — who has been an advocate of replacing traditional dirt surfaces with more all-weather tracks — called it out that very night. Wrote a piece for his blog. Didn’t wait for a veterinarian’s report, or a finding by the track’s management team. Just a rip job. Fair? You make the call. But then, again, why didn’t Paulick write about the horse that was injured at Keeneland in one of the Breeders’ Cup undercard Stakes events and had to be euthanized? Too close to home? Fairness and ethics don’t pick venues and sides, Ray. They stay the same. That’s why they call them “ethics.” Interesting.
  2. Find it interesting that our American riders and jockeys take such great umbrage with the whip rules and changes being considered, contemplated and implement here. Especially when you consider that the European jockeys whipped our butts — if not their horses — in nearly every grass race during Breeders’ Cup. And, of course, they employ the “underhand” method with the crop as opposed to the more aggressive and visually-concerning overhand style of our riders. Interesting.
  3. Find it interesting that Oscar Gonzales, Jr., the very same CHRB’s Vice Chairman that we mentioned above, took on Chairman Ferraro and orchestrated enough votes on the board to block a vote to grant Los Alamitos’ request for a year-long license application. Instead, the track — which holds both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing — will get a 6-month license. No matter what you hear. No matter what Gonzales says. This was a blind-side job on one of the best people to ever take the job at the helm of the CHRB. And, it was a sucker punch to Los Alamitos and its’ longtime owner, Ed Allred. When Santa Anita was struggling with on-track injuries and many public relations nightmares, it was Allred and Los Alamitos that stepped up and stepped in to offer many horseman a safe haven. When Hollywood Park closed, creating a nightmare in the Southern California racing schedule, it was Los Alamitos that stepped up and stepped in to offer a possible solution and alternative. On Saturday, Los Alamitos will host one of the best 2YO Thoroughbred Stakes events in the State, and one of the most prominent in the “Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby.” Going into the CHRB meeting this week, Los Alamitos was working diligently on installing new protocols and safety measures — including greater veterinary oversight measures — which had received overwhelming support at the July meeting of the CHRB. In fact, it seemed as if the entire Board was ready to work with and assist Los Alamitos. Until this week. The Chairman supported a year-long license. Gonzales orchestrated a coup. I know the Chairman. He’s a class act. I don’t know Gonzales. But I am beginning to wonder what’s up with this guy. Wonder what Paulick thinks about this? Interesting.

Merry Christmas, from the Muck Pit