NJ Racing Commission Unleashes New Resource To Help Catch Horse Racing Cheaters

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the New Jersey Racing Commission have deployed a new asset in the effort to prevent cheating in the horse racing industry – a specially-trained scent-sniffing dog named Shadow.

A two-year-old black Labrador, Shadow is New Jersey’s first-ever K-9 horse racing investigator, and is already proving to be a valuable tool in deterring licensees who might seek a competitive or wagering advantage by drugging race horses.

The Racing Commission has put Shadow on regular patrol at New Jersey racetracks, including Monmouth Park, Freehold Raceway, and the New Meadowlands Racetrack. Earlier this year, Shadow made his first find, detecting the presence of a prohibited substance.

“A big part of the job for any regulatory and enforcement agency is to stay one step ahead of those who would seek to profit by breaking our laws and rules,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Shadow is an incredible asset in that respect, because cheaters in horse racing can’t cheat without using prohibited substances, and he is specifically trained to sniff them out. Shadow is helping not only to protect horses, but to preserve the integrity of the horse racing industry throughout our state.”

Racing Commission Executive Director Judith A. Nason credits Shadow with having “vastly increased the Racing Commission’s investigatory ability,” and with helping to send a strong cautionary message to would-be horse dopers.

“One very important purpose of Shadow is to deter trainers or owners from even the thought of giving a prohibited substance to a horse,” said Nason. “We believe Shadow will prove to be an efficient, cost-effective tool in catching and penalizing licensees who cheat,” Nason said. “The Racing Commission already has four human investigators. That’s eight boots on the ground. By adding Shadow, we now have 12 boots on the ground – although four of them are paws.”

Earlier this year, Attorney General Grewal challenged the leadership of every division and commission within the Department of Law and Public Safety to look for ways to better serve the public by identifying new ways to collaborate with each other.

As part of that process, the Racing Commission identified the need for adding a trained, scent-sniffing dog that could detect the presence of substances unique to horse racing that cannot lawfully be possessed by anyone but a licensed veterinarian.

The New Jersey State Police partnered with the Racing Commission in this effort and through its Canine Academy found a two-year-old black Labrador retriever for the Racing Commission and, following a Racing Commission naming contest, the dog became officially known as “Shadow.”

With Investigator Joseph Sczerbowicz manning the leash, Shadow now spends Monday through Thursday patrolling racetracks and licensed farms to ferret out banned chemicals that might be concealed in stalls or barns – sometimes in places where a routine inspection might not uncover them, such as locked drawers, toolboxes or even piles of hay. And on race days – Fridays and Saturdays – Shadow is deployed at New Jersey’s thoroughbred and Standardbred racetracks.

For investigative reasons, Executive Director Nason will not disclose details concerning what substances Shadow is able to detect. However, she confirms that he is trained to find a host of banned chemicals known to be used by cheaters, as well as related paraphernalia such as syringes and hypodermic needles.

“The people hiding drugs and needles have always had an intrinsic advantage, because it’s easier to conceal these things than to locate them,” said Nason. “But Shadow could turn out to be a true game-changer. Not only can he search a lot of territory very quickly, he can also detect banned substances in hiding places where we humans might not find them.”