It took four years, but an Illinois harness racing bettor is finally cashing in on a 2016 Meadowlands Racetrack wager.
In a settlement posted at New Jersey District Court level on Wednesday, Jeffrey Tretter agreed to accept $20,000 from owner J.L. Sadowsky and trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr.
One of the unusual aspects of the case is that the lawsuit was financed by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization that objects to horses being fed potentially fatal stimulants designed to boost race performance.
In January 2016, Tretter, of Granite City, wagered online on a horse that placed second behind race winner Tag Up and Go, a longshot, and also bet on the horses that placed third, fourth, and fifth. The winning horse later was found to have been receiving performance-enhancing epogen, or EPO. Bresnahan was banned from the Meadowlands by track operator Jeff Gural, the harness racing industry’s leading opponent of such violations.
According to the lawsuit, Tretter is a serious harness racing bettor.
“Mr. Tretter conducts in depth research prior to selecting horses upon which to place bets,” his initial filing read. “His research involves analyzing each race in the past and performances of the horse’s racing form.
“As part of this process, Mr. Tretter cross references horses by watching race replays to look for any trouble a horse may have had or how he was driven. He bases his observations and notes and race figures on the understanding that horse doping is banned within harness racing. As a result, Defendants’ misrepresentation that they complied with the laws, regulations, and rules are material.”
The cost of not betting on the doped-up horse in the race
Tag Up and Go’s win cost Tretter win, place, and show bets as well as the exacta, trifecta, superfecta, pick-3 (winner of three straight races), and pick-5 (winner of five consecutive races) — for total potential winnings of $31,835.50.
Bresnahan had been disciplined by the U.S. Trotting Association in 2012 for doping the horse Mr. Caviar with Oxymorphone. Another of Bresnahan’s horses, Game of Dreamers, was found to have ingested EPO in 2016.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2018, and the defendants replied in part, “A horse race is a very complex endeavor, and it is impossible to determine a certain result simply by eliminating one horse from the competition. … Plaintiffs’ losses, if any, are speculative and incapable of being calculated.”
In June 2020, an attorney for Bresnahan and Sadowsky objected to a demand for details regarding their payment of legal fees.
“This claim is tenuous at best and seems to be nothing more than thinly veiled harassment,” the attorney wrote. “Sadowsky is burdened with paying for Bresnahan’s legal fees because Bresnahan has no money, Sadowsky is Bresnahan’s step father and married to Bresnahan’s mother, and doesn’t want to see Bresnahan railroaded by PETA because he is unable to pay his legal bills.”
The case was settled later that month.
Both sides react
In a statement, the winning bettor said, “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. Bettors must organize and go after the cheats for every verifiable dime that was lost. ”
An attorney for the defendants countered. “It was rough for us to defend this case on all fronts, because of the amount of money that PETA was pouring into it,” he said. “It shows they had no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, or they wouldn’t have settled so cheaply.”
It is unclear if this unusual case will open the door for more disgruntled bettors, since it was settled without a court ruling on the matter.