Here I go again, getting back to the real blogging world. What can I say, Myspace is so much fun;-) But if I plan on reaching my goal of becoming a professional thoroughbred handicapper, I’ve got to put my words out there where anybody can read them, no friending necessary.
Since my last post over a year ago (!) the whole racing world has been shoved into the national media glare without its makeup on and in sponge curlers.
Just last week, racing was on the CSPAN stage, the subject of a Congressional hearing on drug use, breakdowns, and other problems. Spurred by the public outcry in the wake of Eight Belles’s tragic death, lawmakers called the industry’s leaders to task, but to what end?
The hard truth is that breakdowns cannot be eliminated. The horse’s biomechanics are such that even the most inocuous ankle twist can blow up into a full-on fatal accident in seconds. Even with expert medical care, the complications of recovery can be too much for the horse to handle (see Barbaro).
Racing is not the only equine sport where fatal injuries occur — 3day eventing, rodeo, western working, even Friday night saddle club shows have been scenes of terrible carnage. It is simply that racing gets the most TV coverage.
Racing does have a few warts, and among them is the pervasive use of drugs, legal and not. Steroids are getting a lot of press because of Big Brown, but Dutrow is not the first or last trainer to use them. It looks like the industry wants to go steroid-free, based on what came out of the hearing. There’s also Bute, Lasix and other meds that are legal on raceday – but the question is, should they? Everybody uses them, and I have read convincing articles from both sides of the “hay oats and water” argument. I say the horse needs to have a demonstrated need for the lasix, ie, visible bleeding in the lungs. Horses who are ouchy should not be racing, so bute shouldn’t be legal on raceday. But the rules for racing depend on the states where the races are run, and that is the biggest development from the hearing — the creation of a national racing commissioner.
I have questions about how much power the commish will have — if he is based at the Jockey cClub (which I think he should be) in KY, how will he make the people in Cali adopt the model rules?
I think the commish should be part of the Jockey Club because it is the breed protector and owner of all the past performances. The JC also runs the racing medication and testing consortium, which outlines the model rules in place across the country. But they have no real power over the state racing commissions.
There was talk about synthetic surfaces, but dirt ain’t dead.
There was also a lot of talk about the HBO Realsports broadcast about the slaughter of racehorses. The program was incredibly misleading — racing isn’t the main supplier of horses to the meat buyers. Racing actually does a pretty darned good job placing ex-runners in homes. By far, the majority of slaughter-bound horses heading for the borders are half-breed, mixed-breed, no-breed “fuglies” produced by irresponsible backyard breeders. But THAT is not gonna get a congressional hearing. Heck, it doesn’t even get in the horse pubs. The only place I’ve seen talking about that issue is fuglyhorseoftheday.com
In case you’re wondering, Street Sense won that Derby I attended last year, becoming the first BC Juvenile/KY Derby winner.