Horse racing scandals can create vast sums of money, fame, and fortune for the corrupt. The downside is potential prison time and social paraigh status. The integrity of horse racing is an essential component for everyone involved. However, not everyone got the memo. Here we look at the most high-profile horse racing scandals but these are just a fraction of the ones we know about.
Lester Piggot Doping (and Tax) Scandal
Everyone in horse racing knows of the famous Lester Piggot who had a love/hate relationship with the British taxman. What is less well known is that he was a key player in a major 1980s horse racing scandal involving doping. In the 1980s, a group of trainers and jockeys in the UK were found to be doping horses in order to influence the outcome of races. Poor old Piggot did end up in jail, not for doping horses but for tax evasion, the most heinous crime known to the UK government.
Aqueduct Race Track Scandal
Slightly less well known is the Aqueduct Race Track horse racing Scandal in the US. In 1966, a group of jockeys at New York’s Aqueduct Race Track were using battery-powered shocking devices to shock their horses into running faster. Doing so helped gain a noticeable unfair advantage. The scandal resulted in several jockeys being either suspended and fined. It also led to new rules regarding the use of electrical devices on racehorses, not least to avoid causing undue pain and suffering.
Fine Cotton Affair
The Aussies love a good horse race more than most. Most thought the horse racing was all fair but the Fine Cotton Affair proved otherwise. This horse racing scandal is notable for a number of reasons including not only the sheer audacity but the fact it involved some of the sports major players at the time. The story goes that the horse “Fine Cotton” was entered into the Novice handicap on 18th August 1984 in Brisbane, Australia. The horse was average at best according to its published form. With astounding bravado, the owner and trainer attempted to substitute a faster horse in its place.
The switch was discovered, and both the owner and trainer were banned from racing for life. The scandal became known as the Fine Cotton Affair. It remains one of the most infamous examples of racehorse substitution in history. Quite how it was expected someone wouldn’t detect a substitution is questionable. As with most interesting stories, the specifics of the swap are lost to horse racing history.
The Rosenthal horse racing scandal
Bringing up the rear, no pun intended, The Rosenthal horse racing scandal. In the early 1900s, a big gambler and illegal bookmaker Arnold Rothstein was involved in a scandal at the Morris Park Racecourse in New York. Put simply, he bribed the jockeys to throw the race. The horse that was set to win (by unfair means) was called “Sporting Blood” and won the race. Rothstein made a substantial profit. All that profit for nought however as he was later murdered by Charles Becker, a Lieutenant in the NYC Police.
Could such horse racing scandals happen again?
In conclusion, wherever you find money you find scandal too. Horse racing is no different. That said, in these modern times a repeat of these kinds of scandals is very unlikely due to the increased visibility and hyper-connected world. Vigilance on the part of race organisers and governing bodies also seeks to ensure that horse racing outcomes are fair to all parties with no-one getting an unfair advantage. Such a scandal in today’s ‘always switched on’ world would be catastrophic for all. May the best horse win!
Feature image for illustration only.