JC / Railbird


Feeling Insecure

Nick Kling on the closing of the detention barn:

In an attempt to sway bettors in their favor, barn opponents alleged it had no deterrent effect. However, that belies several examples of success from the security barn.

The most glaring was the case of a trainer known for winning at a high percentage at every venue. The instant the security barn opened this person’s New York success fell off the table. The stable continued to win 25 percent everywhere else, less than half that in New York.


In the past four years, the New York entries from this barn have been fewer than half the number from the final five months of 2005…. This outfit has had ZERO New York starters in 2010.

7/19/10 Addendum/Edit: Trainer Rick Dutrow, one of the reasons for the detention barn? “They didn’t trust me, man.” (Not the case, says Hayward.)

Farewell, Detention Barns

Saratoga detention barns, August 2005

There’ll be more stalls available at Saratoga this summer, and fewer complaints from horsemen year-round. NYRA announced today that, five years after the detention barn opened, the secure area has been closed, to be replaced by random out-of-competition testing and other security measures.

Trainer Rick Violette, president of the NY Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, approved of the policy change, telling the Daily Racing Form:

“It’ll be more horse-friendly without sacrificing the highest level of integrity in the business.”

“Horse-friendly” is definitely one thing that can’t be said about detention.

In 2005, when I worked on the Saratoga backstretch, I was paid an extra $30 a day for horse-sitting in the barn. Working detention added a decent sum to my weekly pay; trainers always needed the help. But there was a jittery boredom to the assignment, a tediousness too often only broken when a horse panicked in the unfamiliar surroundings. It was hot and bright in detention, the humid air fraught with nerves. It didn’t take much for a horse to freak out, to turn into a sweating, quivering, dangerous mess. I remember once standing uncertainly in front of a stall, shank in hand, as a 3-year-old colt wildly kicked and bucked and a security guard shrieked behind me, “Get it under control!”

That horse left his race in the barn, and he wouldn’t be the only one to do so.

7/15/10 Addendum: Another benefit to ending detention? Says @superterrific:

now let’s get Zenyatta out here!

Come east, big mare. Forget the Clement Hirsch, consider the Personal Ensign. John Pricci is thinking along similar lines: “But now, the Personal Ensign at 10 furlongs and at scale weights at meet’s end eliminates any excuse …