Horse Race Bettor Settles Doping, Racketeering, Fraud Lawsuit

PETA Pleased as Precedent Promises More Bettors Could Sue Over Use of Prohibited Substances

For Immediate Release:
August 12, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Newark, N.J.

As reported by the Associated Press, the bettor who filed a first-of-its-kind, PETA-supported lawsuit alleging that a horse trainer and an owner violated state and federal racketeering laws and engaged in fraud by illegally doping a horse used for harness racing has just secured a $20,000 settlement. Noting that the horse was a victim, too, the bettor will donate $7,500 of the settlement to the nonprofit New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, which rescues Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses and provides them with a safe haven, rehabilitation, and placement in experienced, caring homes. 

In the lawsuit, Illinois-based bettor Jeff Tretter alleged that trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. and owner J.L. Sadowsky LLC illegally influenced the outcome of a January 2016 race at the Meadowlands, an East Rutherford harness track, by doping the horse Tag Up and Go, who went on to win the race in an unprecedented fashion. Unbeknownst to bettors, Tag Up and Go had tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production, thereby increasing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. The complaint also alleged that both Bresnahan and Sadowsky falsely affirmed via their racing application that the horse had not been illegally drugged.

Not including the amount that will be donated to the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, Tretter received twice what his winnings would have been had Tag Up and Go not run or been properly excluded from the January 2016 race.

“Doping horses has got to stop—not only is it cruel, it’s also race fixing,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “This settlement serves as a shot across the bow to trainers who care more about their bank accounts than about horses: Stop cheating or risk having to pay up.”

“We faced a lot of opposition because of the precedent involved, but I hope this will open the door for others to come forward and hold those responsible accountable for their blatant cheating at tracks across North America,” says Tretter. “Bettors must organize and go after the cheats for every verifiable dime that was lost. Electronic wagering has given bettors a chance to do just this, and we are talking about millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Hopefully, my lawsuit will lead the way and give others the confidence to do just that. It’s very disturbing that people in racing with integrity will eventually be put out of business, but that is what the sport has become. I still believe there are more good than bad in the sport, but the bad are ruining the game for everyone. The people in charge who have failed to protect the honest bettors, trainers, and owners are every bit as much to blame as those holding the syringe.”

The group notes that performance-enhancing drugs often mask horses’ pain, allowing them to race and train with injuries that would otherwise be disabling. Illegal doping and the overuse of medication are rampant and frequently lead to injury, broken bones, and death.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

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