If John (Ears) Hallaway, who is currently in residence at the Jackson (Mich.) State Prison while doing a bit for breaking and entering, would open his mouth, harness-racing officials across North America might find life simpler. At least, that is what many of those officials believe. Six feet tall and 190 pounds, Hallaway was born in Beirut, Lebanon 28 years ago, and he is known to at least one Detroit cop as a "mean s.o.b." Dubbed "Ears" because a birth defect left him with only tiny outer portions of those organs, Hallaway is suspected by Michigan racing authorities of being one of the practitioners of a new method for fixing races. This technique is called "wholesaling." Instead of following the traditional practice of stimulating one horse so that it can pour on the speed to the finish line, it involves the tranquilization of most of the rest of the horses so they move slower. In addition, the fixers—numbers and identity undetermined but already nicknamed "the Happiness Boys"—have come up with a tranquilizer that cannot be detected by regular laboratory analysis, and chemists in the employ of three state racing commissions and one Canadian province are going bonzo ransacking their reference books for leads.
Whatever the importance of their contribution to scientific chicanery, the Happiness Boys and their exploits might have gone unsung had they not outdone themselves recently in New York. There, on Sept. 23, they exuberantly set a U.S. track record of sorts by drugging dizzy seven out of the eight horses entered in a $5,000 pacing event at Yonkers Raceway, which happens to be the biggest betting wheel in harness racing. Unfortunately for the Boys, they gave the horses overdoses, and hours before post time the pacers were lazing about with a glaze to their eyes that would have seemed normal in a Macao opium den but not in a racetrack paddock.
The first pacer to show signs of inordinate pacification was Beau Meadow, who was stabled on the Yonkers grounds. About 11 in the morning a groom noticed that Beau Meadow was lurching around, and a track veterinarian confirmed that the horse was not well. Word quickly spread through the barns because there had been fear of an outbreak of equine infectious anemia, a debilitating disease that makes a horse listless. Three horses scheduled to race at Yonkers that night were at Roosevelt Raceway on Long Island, and two of them, Mr. Hoff and Worth Time, also looked a little dreamy, while the third, Assault, seemed fine. The Roosevelt horses were vanned to Yonkers where startled officials found that four other horses stabled at that track—Mighty Winston, Kiloran, Quarry Road and Hal Ruer—were off in lullaby land, too. All seven of the ailing horses had two things in common. They were due to start in the eighth race, and they exhibited these symptoms: a glazed, swollen look about the eyes, excessive sweating, lethargy, distended penises and acute diarrhea. The New York State Harness Racing Commission canceled the race. Only one horse entered in it, Assault, third choice at 9 to 2 in the morning line, continued to behave normally. If the race had gone off the Happiness Boys, without any conscious assistance from Assault's trainer or driver, could have made a killing. (One reason the Boys may have chosen Assault as their winner, and therefore stayed away from him, is that three Doberman pinschers are usually present outside his stall. Another is that he is a rambunctious animal and kicks up a fuss when strangers approach.)
Blood, urine and saliva samples from all the horses went to the state racing laboratory. The vets had found no trace of equine anemia, and the standard tests for drugs came up negative. "We never had an incident like this before," mused a baffled Harry Peterson, chief chemist for the lab. "I don't have an explanation for it." Despite the test results, the chairman of the New York State Harness Racing Commission, Robert A. Glasser, a former Buffalo police captain and sheriff of Erie County, is certain someone got to the horses. "Seven out of eight horses in the same race," Glasser sighed. "That's a little bit more than you would consider pure coincidence. These horses were heavily tranquilized. It was probably done by a floating group. Right now we're operating on a minimum of clues. We're not even able to identify the chemical used."
Nonetheless, the commission had some leads. Yonkers asked officials in Michigan for the whereabouts of Ears Hallaway and the details of similar cases. It turns out that tranquilized trotters and pacified pacers have been stumbling around several U.S. and Canadian tracks for the last year and a half. Like the Yonkers horses, they usually are slated to start in one of the later races on the program, they all reveal signs of drowsiness, and none of them ever shows a puncture from a hypodermic needle or other skin bruises. It is a reasonable guess that the Happiness Boys are administering their drugs via the feed bag.
The first known instance of tranquilization √† la Happiness occurred at Wolverine Raceway in Michigan on April 21, 1969. Six horses entered in the 10th race were found staggering around. Three that were especially drowsy were scratched. The others, described as "just droopy" by one official, were allowed to start. They raced droopily.
On Dec. 13, 1969 the chief steward at Windsor Raceway in Windsor, Ontario canceled the 10th race after five out of eight entries behaved oddly. Four horses were dopey and the fifth "didn't look right" to the track vet. On Feb. 21 of this year Western Fair Raceway in London, Ontario canceled the eighth race after four of seven starters were found drowsy. Tests were negative.
On April 13, 1970 at Toledo's Raceway Park two of the five horses ready to start in the sixth race, a quinella event, were discovered in dreamland. The race was canceled and tests proved negative. Raceway General Manager Sylvester Jechura says, "We don't know who was responsible." For a brief time a wild rumor circulated that fixers were using a special gun normally employed by zookeepers to tranquilize elephants.
These are known cases. It seems probable that there have been races in which the Happiness Boys pulled off undetected coups. Whoever they are, they are able to melt into the backstretch crowd without attracting notice. And merely being able to discover the whereabouts of seven out of eight horses entered in a Yonkers claiming race is an impressive achievement in view of the maze of barns at Yonkers and Roosevelt.
Richard Morris, Michigan's deputy racing commissioner and supervisor of harness racing, agrees with New York's Glasser that the tranquilizing ring is well organized and operates nationwide. It is Morris and his investigators who are especially curious about Ears Hallaway. Ears has had various dustups with the law, ranging from a conviction for passing bad checks to a conviction for armed assault. He was between prison sentences from April 30, 1968 to April 14 of this year. He has been a habitué of harness tracks and has been observed currying friendships with grooms. Morris says he also has certain information about other suspects, but he prefers to keep it to himself at this time.
Somewhere, somehow, the Happiness Boys have found the secret of administering an undetectable tranquilizer to platoons of horses, and somewhere, somehow, the Happiness Boys are going to strike again. Chairman Glasser has one small cheerful thought for New York bettors, at least. He believes the fixers now will move on to another state. As he puts it, "No one would hold up two banks on the same street in the same day." Happiness Boys, wherever you are, the challenge is yours.