Earlier this month, trainer Mark Casse penned a widely circulated op-ed explaining how some of his peers were legally abusing clenbuterol, a respiratory medication, in their horses.
Days later, federal investigators arrested 27 members of the racing industry on charges of contributing to a wide-ranging doping scheme. Among them was trainer Jason Servis, with evidence alleging him administering clenbuterol to the Grade 1 winner World of Trouble without a prescription.
That, Casse had said in his op-ed, “leads to unimaginable form reversals on a weekly basis,” with clenbuterol carrying similar effects as an anabolic steroid when given in much higher doses than recommended.
Recently named a finalist for racing’s Hall of Fame, and likely to get in after winning two legs of the 2019 Triple Crown series, Casse said he was motivated to write his letter in part because a top owner was considering leaving the game.
Also, Casse realized he’d lost his own motivation to continue.
“For so long, we’ve known it’s been going on, and to sit there and see it happen — I think back, and I think about how those cyclists must have felt when they worked their entire lives to be all they could be and watch Lance Armstrong go cycling by,” Casse said on HRRN.
“…It’s frustrating, but in life you have to figure out what’s more important: winning at all costs, or your integrity?”
Those indicted this week by the federal government chose the latter, Casse added, and “now they’ll pay the price.”
Casse said he considered Monday, which began with FBI agents raiding barns in south Florida, a good one for the industry.
“I can tell you since that happened, my outlook on horse racing has changed 100%,” he said. “Now I’m not questioning whether I want to do it again. It’s making me want to be that much stronger.”
The events of this week also made Casse reflect on the recent decisions by trainers Kiaran McLaughlin and Gary Contessa to close their stables for new opportunities in racing. Within his own barn, David Carroll, an assistant overseeing a string of horses at Fair Grounds, works for Casse after working out on his own for many years.
“There’s a lot of David Carrolls out there who have went by the wayside because they chose to do the right thing,” Casse said on HRRN. “That’s sad.”
Casse said he’d like to see tracks, upon owners and trainers signing up for licenses, consent to more oversight, including random barn checks. He is also a recent supporter of the Horseracing Integrity Act, which if passed would appoint a singular third party in charge of the sport’s medication issues.
Amid a chaotic week for racing, Casse said he had an owner call to check on his horses.
“Well,” the trainer told them, “they’ve gotten a lot faster over the last couple of days because the competition’s going to get slower.”