Horse Racing: Arrests Tie Racing to One of Mexico's Largest Drug Cartels

Robin Jutkiewicz@EllaMentryBRCorrespondent IIIJune 13, 2012

ELMONT, NY - JUNE 09:  Horses stand with Police officers up before the start of the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, 2012 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

With horse racing under public scrutiny from charges of carbon dioxide enhancement via ‘milkshaking’ to betting fraud, the arrest of seven at quarter horse stables across the country could not come at a worse time for the sport.

As reported by Reuters via Yahoo Sports, federal agents on Tuesday raided a Ruidoso New Mexico training stable as well as a facility in Oklahoma after months of investigation into a drug cartel money laundering scheme. Other states involved include California and Texas. Over 400 horses have been seized.

Operators Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, aka “Z-40,” and his brother Oscar Omar Trevino Morales remain at large, presumably in Mexico. Workers of the New Mexico ranch described duffel bags of cash arriving to buy race horses and that the brothers used false business names on bills of sale to hide the true purchasers in an attempt to launder illegal drug funds.

In 2012 alone, highly publicized charges involving Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill brought reality crashing down upon Triple Crown seasonal fans. O’Neill was found guilty of enhanced carbon dioxide levels in a race horse in his charge. He received a 45 day suspension and a $15,000 fine.

This is a slap on the wrist in a sport fraught with major problems and one that has no single governing body to protect the animals.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) was tagged for overcharging winning bettors to the tune of millions. So egregious was the scandal the state of New York took over the association’s jurisdiction.

Most sports that involve humans have a central governing body. From soccer to figure skating, there exists a regulating group that, among other things, ensures the safety and integrity of its athletes. Horse racing has no such central board, nor does greyhound racing (although dog racing has become nearly extinct in this country with most states banning the practice).

Horse racing is viewed differently, perhaps due to the “sport of kings” attraction as it applies to thoroughbreds. It also remains a huge money generating endeavor for tracks throughout the country.

Now with the legalization of Indian casinos, horse racing is no longer the only betting game in town, and the industry is suffering.

Granted, quarter horse racing may be seen as a lowly stepchild to thoroughbred racing; nonetheless, regardless of how this news plays out, without a national governing body, horse racing at large is in big trouble. It has been ripe for illegal interests to run amok, and with the arrests and allegations, it must take this issue seriously.

For the safety of all involved, central governance is long past due.