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PETA announces lawsuit filed by bettor

March 07, 2018
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PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has issued the following press release:

In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, a bettor is alleging that a horse trainer and owner have violated state and federal racketeering laws and engaged in fraud by illegally doping a horse used for harness racing. As reported by the Associated Press this morning, Illinois-based bettor Jeff Tretter alleges that trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. and owner J.L. Sadowsky LLC illegally influenced the outcome of a January 2016 race at Meadowlands, an East Rutherford harness track. The horse in question, Tag Up and Go, tested positive for erythropoietin (or EPO), a banned substance that increases the production of red blood cells.

(Editor's Note: Tag Up And Go won at the Meadowlands on Jan. 15, 2016, by 5 1/2 lengthsand finished fourth on Jan. 8, which were his only two starts in the month. His USTA record in Pathway does not show any positive test for the win and no disqualifications. Trainer Bresnahan also shows no positive tests for EPO with the New Jersey Racing Commission for races in Jan. 2016. The Meadowlands conducts its own out-of-competition testing. The lawsuit says Tretter placed wagers through an online betting site on a harness race at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Jan. 15, 2016. The horses he picked to place first through fourth instead finished behind Tag Up and Go, who had been a longshot in the race. The Meadowlands revealed on Jan. 31, 2016, that Tag Up and Go had tested positive for EPO based on blood samples taken in December 2015. As a result, trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. was barred from competing at Meadowlands. According to his lawsuit, Tretter correctly picked the horses that finished second, third, fourth and fifth behind the doped horse in a variety of wagers that would have paid a combined $31,835 if Tag Up and Go had been disqualified.)

The complaint also alleges that both Bresnahan and Sadowsky falsely affirmed via their racing application that the horse had not been illegally drugged. If the trainer is found liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, he could be required to pay up to three times the amount of the bettor's losses.

While final placing of the horses in a race can be changed and winning purses redistributed in such cases, bettors are not compensated for losses because of drug violations. The plaintiff in this case approached PETA with his concerns about the effect of the illegal substance on Tag Up and Go's performance.

"The use of illegal substances and the misuse of legal medications not only harms horses—it amounts to race fixing," says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. "This lawsuit is a wake-up call for any trainers who dope horses—they could be sued for racketeering and fraud by bettors who lose money from betting on a race in which a horse is running under the influence."

Drugged horses suffer as well, as performance-enhancing drugs often mask their pain, allowing them to race and train with injuries that would otherwise be disabling. In 2014, PETA released an exposé documenting that medication was misused by the horse racing industry. As a result, trainer Steve Asmussen was fined $10,000, sweeping new medication regulations were introduced in New York State, and a federal bill was introduced that would put the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in charge of overseeing medication use and drug violations in horse racing.

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