Well, for those who didn’t watch the races, Beholder lost the Oaks by half a length to longshot Princess of Sylmar, who paid $76! Beholder did fall down in the post parade, so that may have had some effect. Close Hatches finished 7th and Pure Fun finished 6th. Pure Fun went off at 20 to 1, so she ran well. She also apparently sustained an injury to her ankle during the race.
As for the Derby – the mud was a big factor and no doubt the race would have been very different on a dry track. Revolutionary finished third, Oxbow finished 6th, with Goldencents running 17th. The winner, of course, was Orb, and there is a chance we may have a Triple Crown winner this year.
I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Bob and Jill Baffert this week and was at their barn this morning. I got to see Midnight Lucky, Code West, and Govenor Charlie, among others, and to talk with Bob, very briefly, about drugs.
Bob said something that I know to be true, that if all drugs are eliminated from racing, the trainers who will be most affected, negatively, will be the small trainers. This was not news to me, but after seeing Bob’s horses in person, and then hearing what he had to say, I suddenly saw very clearly one of the reasons Bob, along with Todd Pletcher and other “big name” trainers, is so successful.
In a blinding flash of insight I saw how small trainers get horses – in a way I never really thought about before. An “ah ha” moment is when all the things you know suddenly fall into place, along with a new piece that makes you see things in a whole new perspective. Well, I had an ah ha moment after leaving Bob’s barn this morning, and this is what I realized; Bob Baffert has first pick of the best horses in the country. Being able to judge horses is a gift. Not everyone has it, so Bob, and others who do, get the best horses first. And this is the key. First.
Where do most other trainers get their horses? Lots of people buy young horses at sales, but the cheaper, or less well bred, etc., horses are often lacking in conformation, and/or other more ephemeral qualities. Already they are at a disadvantage. The other source of horses available are those that go to Bob Baffert’s barn, or Todd Pletcher’s etc. – first – and after some training are found to be not as highly talented as was thought. Or they have physical or mental issues. They are sold or dropped into claiming races and make their way down the ranks to the barns of less successful trainers. There are many many well-bred horses in the cheap claiming ranks. (I personally have a son of Aptitude out of a Broad Brush mare and learned to ride on a son of Summer Tan.)
The trainers of those horses are most likely not going to improve their performance. In addition, with each start horses are at risk of arthritis and other injuries, further limiting their performance. And, not least of all, top trainers like Bob don’t have to run a horse who is not fit or ready or not in the exact right spot. Less elite trainers are often pressured into running horses strictly for financial reasons.
So yes, superior racehorses and even champions can come from unexpected places, but they are the exception, not the rule. As in anything, money helps. If you can afford the best horses, you have the best chance of winning. Trainers’ talent is also a factor. Not to offend anyone, but some trainers are sorely lacking in horsemanship. There are trainers who could have a horse capable of being a champion, but in his or her hands, the horse will never reach its potential. Lava Man is such a horse. John Henry, and before him, Seabiscuit, were such horses.
If you think of it in terms of cars, there is the new-car lot with high performance cars, and there is the used-car lot with the same cars, just not in as good condition. Then of course there are the Chevy’s.
Now for my Oaks and Derby favorites. In the Oaks I am pulling for Beholder. I saw her on the track this morning and she is really stunning. Close Hatches also looked very good, and I like Pure Fun as a longshot choice.
In the Derby I am rooting for Gary Stevens on Oxbow. Purely sentimental. It would be great to see both Gary and D. Wayne Lukas win another Derby. I am also cheering on Goldencents – I always root for the least expensive horses, and he was a $5,500 yearling! I like Revolutionary as my longshot. His win in the Withers was spectacular. The Derby is a traffic jam and, to me, Revolutionary seems to be okay with that kind of race, not all horses are, and I think that’s why the Derby winner is often a surprise.
On the light side, I got to watch D. Wayne Lukas give an interview to ESPN. And I got to see him grazing a horse, which is something that says a lot to me. I overcame my shyness and asked Angel Cordero if I could take his picture, and talked very briefly with ESPN’s Jeanine Edwards, who is much more petite in person that I think she looks on TV. I got a good look at Kenny Mayne as he walked over – much cuter in person than on TV! It was kind of fun to see so many famous people. I got to shake hands with Bode Miller, and Game on Dude’s owner, Mr. Schiappa. Celebrities were everywhere; Donna Barton Brothers, Mike Batagglia, Bob Neumeier, and many more. All in all a very enjoyable morning.
The second race on Sunday at Keeneland was won by a barefoot horse. According to the article at the link below it has been discovered that going shoeless helps horses on artificial surfaces. Huge progress for horses!!
It was announced yesterday that the Breeders Cup Board has backed down from their stated position that as of 2013 all Breeders Cup races would be run without Lasix. Two-year old races will still be run without Lasix but all others will allow it.
This is very discouraging. If no one is willing to stand up for what they’ve said, how will things ever change?
If people say they will not run their horses in the Breeders Cup – there are plenty who will. As long as racing management is so stupid as to not understand owners and trainers WILL run their horses, nothing will ever change. If tracks would just stick together and do what’s right where else could people race?
Just as with jockeys, tracks hold power but are either too weak or stupid to use it.
Perhaps racing will just die – and would it be such a bad thing if it did.
New drug rules were slated to take effect in Kentucky on September 4th. The new rules lowered allowable Bute levels to less than half of what they had been, as well as doing away with adjunct bleeder medications. The HBPA went immediately to the legislature and got them to stop the new rules from going into effect. No surprise there. However!! Kudos to Governor Beshear for taking a stand and overruling the legislature!!! So the new drug rules have gone into effect. That is a huge step forward for racing – and not so much the rule changes, as the fact that someone in power stood up and did what was right!!
Whether or not they were taking Governor Beshear’s example and running with it, or not, the majority owner of Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico has also taken a stand. Beginning in 2013 any trainer that has a horse test positive for a Class 1 or Class 2 drug during the 2013 race meet at Ruidoso Downs will have their stalls revoked and will not be allowed to enter horses at the track. Shortly after that announcement, The Downs at Albuquerque announced that under their new policy, following an initial positive test for doping conducted by the New Mexico Racing Commission, the trainer will have their privilege to participate in any racing at the Downs at Albuquerque suspended. The New Mexico racing commission has a new statute is now in effect that makes horse doping a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in jail.
A few months ago I had no hope that racing would change anytime soon, and now change is actually happening! It’s not huge change, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, it will grow like a snowball!
I read today, in The Blood Horse, that new drug rules go into effect on September 4th, here in Kentucky. Imagine my shock to find that Salix/Lasix will be the only raceday drug allowed!!! Wow! What a step forward.
Seeing the way Chance has become so eager to run, and how he just pounds over the hard, hard ground, I think I’ve stumbled onto a good training regimen. Every other day, not every day.
I also think that galloping slow is perhaps not the best way to condition a horse to run a mile and 1/4 or less. It’s just too easy for them. I am a believer of long, slow distance to strengthen tendons, especially on young horses, but once a horse is racing – or has raced for years – I don’t think LSD is necessary. Especially on horses like Chance, who have full-time turnout on acres of varied terrain.
Years ago, I bought Tom Ivers’ book, The Fit Racehorse. And I read it too. My brain thought it made sense, but my gut said not really. I noticed, then, that no one had reported tremendous success using interval training, and now I am not surprised. It’s just way too much work, and too hard on their legs. Horses are not humans, they are born to run. Running them into the ground is not the way.
There are people who believe a version of interval training would work, but I’m not sure anyone is doing it, aside from Standardbred trainers and some Arab trainers. And trotting or pacing is very different from running. I really think heart rate is key – and the limiting factor. The faster a horse can go without sending his heart rate rocketing into the stratosphere, the better runner he or she should be.
I am so glad that I bought that heart rate monitor! Now I can’t wait to start taking Chance to Churchill, where he can run freely without the danger of tight turns – and to see what his heart rate is, and if it improves with each trip to the track.
I’ve been reading the Paulick Report (www.thepaulickreport.com) about the Senate hearing on the need for drug oversight in the racing industry. I agree that racing needs oversight. It’s been proven that racing will not or cannot police itself. Even those found cheating are seldom punished, no matter how many offenses they have. I have to say I am proud of Kentucky for not granting Rick Dutrow a trainers license. But of course, that is not real punishment.
Reading is good – but listening to the idiotic, defensive, arguments FOR drugs has been very discouraging. Thanks to Dr. Larry Bramlage and his propaganda campaign regarding Bute being nothing but aspirin, many believe (or profess to believe) that Bute is not a powerful painkiller. There are even those who deny it’s a painkiller at all!!! Merely an anti-inflammatory. Worse than the self-serving blindness regarding Bute, is the attitude drugs are not only necessary, but okay. People argue that horses DESERVE drugs. If they have problems, should they suffer??? It’s just aspirin after all.
In addition, those who speak up for clean racing are attacked and vilified and accused of making something out of nothing, of lying, and of not knowing what they’re talking about.
The ignorance level is very discouraging. Few seem to recognize the problem (aside from animal abuse) is public perception of racing. I posted that for every racing fan there are thousands who are not racing fans. That there are millions of people who are tired of animal abuse and of horses dying. These people have power (as they should) and the slaughter industry has learned that they can’t be ignored. And truly, if racing continues on the way it is, people will demand it be banned.
Of course no one responded to that post. And I don’t think they believe it will really happen.
I have to say that if I were not trying to make a difference – for the horses – I would wash my hands of racing and be done with it. Maybe racing is too big to change. Maybe it’s too late.
It seems that every time drugs come up in horse racing – legal drugs – the pro-drug people are quick to say the rules only allow a very tiny amount be in the blood. Nanograms everyone says. Tiny tiny amounts. Curious, I decided to look up nanograms. What I found at the following sites, is that 5 nanograms of THC (the active ingredient in Marijuana) is considered under the influence and you can be arrested as a DUI. I further discovered that 5 nanograms of THC is equivalent to .04% blood alcohol level. So certainly an effect can still be felt with nanograms. For those interested, if you are a commercial driver, you can be charged with DUI in any state in the country.
A lethal dose of botulism is 1ng/kg (or 1000 ml). Hard to deny an effect there!
Bee stings can be fatal at .035 ng/ml. Again, hard to deny an effect.
So nanograms – not so innocent as drug users would have us believe. And it certainly doesn’t mean the substance has left the body!
If you read about racing, or watch TVG or the coverage of any of the big races on TV, you’ve most likely heard the comments about racing times not being any faster than they were back in the day.
The more I read, study, think, and observe, the more I feel I am beginning to truly understand what is going on. It is common for columnists, reporters, etc., to compare Standardbred racing time improvement with the lack of improvement in Thoroughbred times. This, really, is what made me think, because in truth, it is comparing apples and oranges.
The fact is that speed – the dead run – is the horse’s survival strategy. Horses do not trot for their lives – they run for them. Since the trot is not their natural “speed” gait, there is room for improvement. Conformation for superior trotting is not the same as for running short distances fast. However, there will come a time, no doubt in the near future, when Standardbreds too will hit their peak ability and times will cease to improve – for the mile at least, which is the distance they currently race.
Our focus on speed, as opposed to endurance, has – I believe – brought us to the point where we are basically running horses at their innate genetic level. What I mean by that is that our “so-called” training/conditioning is almost non-existent, and makes horses only fit enough to run survival distance/speed with some fast galloping thrown in. I would bet that a horse taken out of training and put in a pasture for 3 months could still return to the track and run nearly as well as he did before – for say 5 furlongs. After that he would tire rapidly. A few weeks of galloping and I bet he would be as good as before.
Compare the TB to the cheetah. The cheetah does not train. The cheetah lies around in the heat, or perhaps stalks around checking things out and getting water. Then when it decides to run, it can run 75 mph for a short distance. Would training make it any faster? I doubt it. Its motivation to eat makes it run as fast as possible. What training could do, maybe, would be to get it to run further.
The racehorse is little different at this point. If we want better racing, and better times, we need to run longer distance races. We need to train athletes, not just get a horse in condition to run at survival level.
There is a reason that back in the day horse races were 4 miles. That made it a sport where conditioning and strategy came into play. And it was clearly understood that racing luck could keep the best horse from winning – hence three heats. Best two out of three and who would have won the Breeders Cup Classic where Blame “beat” Zenyatta? My money’s on Zenyatta.
Now that I am older and more knowledgeable, experienced, and hopefully wiser, I can look back on the man who got me started in racing, and see that makes a great case for my argument.
To train his horses, he lunged them in a circle, at a hand gallop – and not that large a circle, perhaps the size of a 60’ round pen, though it was not enclosed. The footing was good, not too deep sand, and he did drag it to keep it maintained. He started out at 5 minutes of cantering and worked his way up to 10-12. At that point he would take them to the track to work a couple times and then run them. No they didn’t win necessarily, but neither did they run last. And they did run in the money and win on occasion. He did not work, and made his living running the horses. He owned his own home, had the horses on his own property, had a horse trailer and a couple cars, and always had cash for whatever he needed. He was not struggling.
Chance showed me, back in 2010, that the way racehorses are normally trained provides even less work to the horses than I thought. He ran 2.5 miles at what was at least a 2-minute clip (4 times around a 5/8 mile track). It was all his idea, and it sure seemed effortless. As we were going down the backstretch on what turned out to be the final lap, he WANTED to take off and RUN after a horse he saw up ahead. Fortunately, when I asked him not to, as my legs were like Jello, he didn’t. But he WANTED to and would have if I had let him. Not asked him, let him. And let me make it clear I was not carrying a whip. And he did not stop on his own at the 2.5 mile mark, I had to ask him.
The point of this story is that he was not tired. That ride made a huge impression on me and really opened my eyes. Not only was he not tired, he was not even breathing hard by the time I rode him back to the barn. Oh to have had my heart rate monitor then!!! Nor had I even trained him much. We were galloping a very easy mile and a half at the farm. You cannot make a human athlete fit to run 2.5 miles at 3/4 speed (with ease), by getting him to jog 1.5 miles at slightly under half speed.
So what does that mean? It means horses are athletes. Real athletes. Today’s trainers are successful because the horse is capable of running at high speed for short distances, naturally. Horses living in stalls do need exercise, so the minimal training racehorses get has to suffice. Speed works are necessary to build wind and bone strength. Galloping toughens tendons and builds muscle. These form of exercise allow horses to reach their natural level of performance. With better training and conditioning, I believe horses would be more sound, but not any faster over short distances.
This lack of true conditioning is one reason horses can “no longer” run a mile and a quarter with ease. There is not a racehorse in training today who could race three 4-mile heats, twenty minutes apart. Not because horses are no longer able, but merely because they are not conditioned to do it without suffering fatigue and injury.
There are countless factors in play when horses race, and which determine who the winner will be. Some of those are diet, hoof form, natural talent, health issues (ulcers, etc.), personality, conformation, mental/emotional state, jockey, track surface, etc. But all those things have nothing to do with how fast horses are able to run as a species, and it is my belief that they are maxed out for pure speed, with plenty of room for improvement in speed over distance.