Two officials who work in the racing department at the tracks operated by the New York Racing Association testified on Thursday during a New York Gaming Commission hearing that employees of the racing office are aware that they are not permitted to tell a trainer the identities of horses that have been entered in a race prior to the draw.
The officials, Chris Camac, an assistant racing secretary at NYRA’s Aqueduct Racetrack, and Martin Panza, who is NYRA’s senior vice president of racing, provided the testimony as the New York Gaming Commission attempted to wrap up its case against the trainer Linda Rice, who has been accused of paying racing office employees for information on entries prior to the draw. Camac and Panza were the only two witnesses to provide testimony during the eight-hour hearing.
When asked by the commission’s counsel, Rick Goodell, if racing-office employees are given instructions on what can be told to trainers prior to entry time, Camac said that the rules were clear and simple.
“Do not give them the name of the actual horse, and do not give them any trainer name,” Camac said.
In separate testimony under cross-examination from Rice’s attorney, Andrew Turro, Panza said that all employees of the racing office are told the same thing.
“Anybody we hire we sit down and tell them” the rules, Panza said. “We tell them you can’t gamble on any racing in New York, you can’t tell people the names of horses in a race. But you can tell them there’s not much speed in here, there’s a lot of speed in here, you don’t fit well in here.”
This was the third day of hearings into the case, reserved for counsel of the New York Gaming Commission to lay out its findings and call witnesses. The commission was initially given two days to present its case, but the time period was extended an additional day after the commission did not get through its witness list last week.
On Thursday, the commission did not have time to call its final witness, state steward Braulio Baeza Jr., who will now appear at the start of the next scheduled day of the hearing, Nov. 17. Rice’s attorneys will then be allowed to present their case for three days.
The gambling commission is holding the hearing to determine if Rice should have her license suspended or revoked on allegations that she provided money to racing-office employees in exchange for information on entries in upcoming races. The commission’s attorneys have said the acts, if substantiated, amount to “corrupt and improper acts in relation to racing.” The allegations cover a period from 2011 to early 2015.
The commission has obtained 74 emails sent to Rice during the time period that show that former racing office employees provided her with names of horses prior to the draw of the race, attorneys for both sides said during the hearing.
Turro attempted during his cross-examinations of Panza and Camac to blur the distinction between what Rice was given and other information that racing office employees provide to trainers when attempting to get them to enter horses in undersubscribed races, a process known as “hustling.” Turro also asked Panza and Camac if NYRA had any written rules at the time of the alleged offenses that would prohibit providing names to trainers. Both Panza and Camac testified that no written rules exist “to their knowledge.”
Turro also attempted to downplay the advantage that the information would have provided to Rice, pointing out that entries on some days could have been taken long after the emails were sent to the trainer. He also provided a sworn statement from another trainer, David Donk, that he had obtained similar information to that given to Rice, though that statement involved Donk being able to look at a list of entries on a racing-office computer, according to the statement.
Turro also pointed out that the racing-office employee who was eventually fired after the scheme was uncovered, Matt Salvato, told investigators that at the time he provided the information, he “didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.” In previous testimony, Jose Morales Jr., a former entry clerk at NYRA who had his license suspended for other racing-office infractions, said that he enlisted Salvato to help in the scheme when Salvato was an intern.
But Panza and Camac testified repeatedly that all trainers and racing-office employees are aware that providing names of horses prior to the draw is impermissible.
“Never before in my 30 years has a trainer come into the office and ask me, ‘Tell me who’s in the third race.’ Never,” said Panza. “And that’s because they all know it’s wrong.”