JC / Railbird

Fairly Stupid

Here we go again,” as Brooklyn Backstretch writes. A supremely talented colt stamps himself a likely Kentucky Derby favorite in a performance that defies belief and barely has he returned to the barn before his unsavory trainer comes to the fore. “Mullins allegedly violated detention barn rules,” is the headline on the Thoroughbred Times story and the details don’t look good: The trainer, already infamous for calling bettors “idiots,” serving milkshakes, and enjoying a little bling (a gratuitous bit of class-based criticism), is now accused of administering an over-the-counter equine medication called “Air Power” to Gato Go Win in the NYRA detention barn, for which officials scratched the horse from the Bay Shore Stakes. The blogosphere is already working itself into a lather over Mullins’ stupidity (and oh, it was a stupid, stupid thing to do, given how clear the rules are, how blatant is the reported act), with the words “syringe” and “inject” getting a great deal of play.

Let’s be fair, though: Mullins is alleged to have used an oral syringe to administer an anti-cough formula orally. He claims the plunger was brought into the detention area openly, in a bucket searched by NYRA security, reports the New York Post. Even if true, Mullins violated detention rules, which allow for nothing to be given except Lasix by the track veterinarians. He may have done so because he believed the substance — a mix of honey, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, menthol, oil of eucalyptus, lemon juice and ethyl alcohol, guaranteed not to test, being an “all natural” product made up of legal ingredients — would give Gato Go Win a little edge in the starting gate [or because, as he stated later, he uses Air Power “on most of his horses”]. Regardless of the reason or motive, if Mullins did what is alleged, he should be punished for breaking the rules by the NYRA stewards. But the rest of us — by which I mean, everyone, blogger or journalist, commenting or reporting on this story, also have an obligation, and that is — even in the midst of calling Jeff Mullins a stupid, stupid man and a likely cheat — to be accurate in the details and not fan ignorance or prejudice unduly.


right on. Mullins already looks like a (deserving) lock for a punching bag of the week and it’s not even lunchtime on Monday!

and hey, wouldn’t it be nice if the kind of stories we’re seeing about Paragallo & Mullins were broken all year? mind you, I’m really glad Paulick and DeRosa broke these stories but this stuff does happen all year long, right?

Posted by dana on April 6, 2009 @ 10:58 am

Couldn’t agree more.

I don’t know, Dana–is a syringe in the detention barn THAT common? Wow, that would be disheartening (says the naive).

Posted by Teresa on April 6, 2009 @ 11:27 am

I don’t quite see what difference it makes that it was an oral syringe (something the TT article, which all of the early blog posts seem to be based on, didn’t mention). Mullins isn’t attacked for causing the horse pain by piercing it too brutally, but for the violation of the sports rules and integrity.

I also don’t know why it’s important how he got the syringe into the barn, unless of course he really is so incredibly stupid not to know that he isn’t allowed to administer ANYTHING to a horse in a detention barn.

And finally, there are differing stories on the net about whether or not the substance was legal in New York, not everything available over-the-counter or all-natural is necessarily legal to administer to your horse prior to a race.

Posted by Malcer on April 6, 2009 @ 11:39 am

T – my point was that I’d like to see stories of cheating, if that’s what this was, and owner neglect, if that what that was, reported vigorously ALL year. Not just when everyone is paying attention.

Posted by dana on April 6, 2009 @ 11:47 am

To be fair should we let this go? I’m missing something cause stupidity isn’t an excuse or ok in this sport. He shouldn’t be given a pass cause he didn’t understand the rules. There is no black/white here where Mullins can assume he knows the rules, or cause he understood the rules differently than everyone else. And Cause some $10/hr security job laxed on their job he should not be granted immunity.

“If it wasn’t, they should have stopped me then.”
– – – It’s not my fault I’m a cheater if they let me cheat.

“Some good owners were penalized (when Gato Go Win scratched), and that’s a shame.”
– – – It’s a shame owners still trust their investments w/ an idiot like this guy.

Posted by Handride on April 6, 2009 @ 11:53 am


I think we see stories all year of this kind of stuff – they are buried in track reports as one paragraph joints with little substance. You have to read between the lines or go to the track and ask someone what happened, etc.

No one cares why someone like a Julian Canet was suspended last year. I do, because I follow what his horses are doing … but few care about the claiming game. After all, the majority of races are claiming races. Imagine what going on at the margins? Big purses, no oversight, no reporting.


I don’t think anyone is going to stop this freight train now. This guy has been persona non grata for quite sometime. His history coupled with his unfortunate quote about people who play horses. That quote is the stinger. It’s really got nothing to do with the story itself. All it does is turn the gas up on a story that has been ripe for weeks.

At least Dutrow bet on horses and had that degenerate look to him.

Call me naive, but I actually respect Mullins more for not betting on horses. If every single person who works on or at a racetrack were not allowed to wager, a lot of the oversight problems start to disappear.

Posted by o_crunk on April 6, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

Patrick, no one’s arguing Mullins should get a pass for ignorance. If all is true, he brazenly broke the detention barn rules, which are quite clear that *nothing* is to be administered except Lasix by the track vets. He’s in the wrong.

Malcer, we disagree on the difference a word makes. It was an unfortunate omission that DeRosa’s otherwise excellent article didn’t include “oral” because to not qualify “syringe” when used in the context of injecting a substance is to connote a far more nefarious act then what allegedly occurred. Again, that act was wrong, Mullins should be punished, I’m not making excuses or interested in defending the guy … just advocating precise language and fairness in presenting the facts that underly our conclusions.

Posted by Jessica on April 6, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

Jessica: You’re right that syringe projects a slightly more negative image without the qualifier (although as far as I know “milkshaking” is done with an oral syringe, too). I didn’t want to imply that you try to defend Mullins’ acts and of course I agree with your basic argument that bloggers and journalists should be accurate and fair in their descriptions.

And of course o_crunk is right that some of the harsh reaction has more to do with Mullins history of cheating, but I really don’t see Saturday’s events as something minor. I might have a bit of a kneejerk reaction because NYRA’s first reaction indicates that they want to treat this affair as usual: play it down as a minor thing, more an honest mistake than a real infraction, and off we go for a $200 fee and a public apology by Mullins for not reading the small print in the rulebook of an unfamiliar racing jurisdiction carefully enough.

Posted by Malcer on April 6, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

Mullins is working on that defense already, Malcer. I’m with you in hoping NYRA takes this seriously, doesn’t cut the trainer any slack (for that matter, neither should Gato Go Win’s disappointed owners). The rules in this instance are pretty straightforward.

I think you’re right, o_crunk … this story has legs.

Posted by Jessica on April 6, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

I think people have been pretty fair with this. This is a huge violation, not a small one. A trainer at Woodbine received a $10,000 fine and days for bringing an empty syringe in his truck, not even in D. Another got her horse scratched for giving yogurt in D and mixing it with feed. Yet another got a horse scratched, fined and days for bring electrolytes in. Days and a fine for Gatorade. This is zero tolerance.

If someone brought a gun on a plane and his defense was “well I did not know you could not, and the gun was not even loaded” we would not report that as “being fair”. We would call it as it is, an insane defense from someone grasping at straws to save their ass.

Posted by PTP on April 6, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

PTP, I was thinking while typing of your Steve Asmussen post, the one about how not every medication overage indicates cheating. Not because I consider the cases similar — the rules here were clear, no exceptions, no excuses for Mullins — but because reaction in some quarters struck me as insinuating and out of proportion. Racing is so broken when it comes to drugs that when allegations such as this arise, many assume the worst, details be damned, and that’s not always the best — or the most honest — response.

Posted by Jessica on April 6, 2009 @ 11:35 pm

O_crunk, actually Mullins did have a gambling problem, but not sure if he still does. John Scheinman wrote about it in this article about Mullins in 2005: Questions follow trainer Mullins’s success.

[Edited to create a link to Scheinman’s WP article. Thanks for posting this, Valerie. – JNC]

Posted by Valerie on April 7, 2009 @ 11:51 am

I’m not going to defend Jeff Mullins as I don’t know him, and I don’t know much about the circumstances of this incident. However, people make mistakes all of the time. Should they be held accountable? Absolutely. But making a mistake does not necessarily mean that he was trying to cheat. How many people have made unknowing mistakes on their taxes that, when discovered meant that they had to pay back taxes, fines and penalties? But that does not necessarily mean they were trying to be dishonest. The facts need to be ascertained and then the response by the industry needs to be consistent with the facts.

Posted by FourCats on April 7, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

The guy is a proven rules violator. Has been since his days at Wyoming Downs in the 1980s and Turf Paradise in the 1990s. He always has an explanation or an excuse. As his violations go, this probably isn’t too bad (assuming the stuff was actually Air Power). But this is what he does. Personally, I’d like to see him gone.

Posted by Steve on April 8, 2009 @ 1:40 am