As I said the other day, Chance was wild. Running harder than I had ever seen him during any of his workouts at the Thoroughbred Training Center. What does that have to do with Gary Stevens? Two words. Rehab duration.
When I got Chance in 2009, the plan was to give him time off and then run him. And I did give him time off. But was it enough? We, as humans, make determinations of what we think is enough time off. I really thought he would run well last year (2012) but that was not meant to be. I didn’t even train him in 2011. And this winter I decided to give up.
And then Gary Stevens came out of retirement. I had read his book and learned he has serious knee problems, and clearly enough pain to force him into retirement. Now, after 8 years off, his knees feel good – or so he said in an interview I saw on TV. And I believe him. In eight years his body has healed at least some of the damage.
Perhaps Chance – and any horse – needs a longer rehab than we think. I can only say that when I watched Chance the other day, I didn’t see an “old”, or slow horse. Far from it. He is only 10 – a horse in his prime really. A horse whose body has had time to heal – not that he had any noticeable issues, but maybe he just felt burnt out. Now he seems to feel fresh.
I’m excited to see how he does in training.
Chance is number 4 and breaks on top. He falls back but is in the frame (farthest to the right) all the way down the backstretch, and is visible with the rest of the horses as they come around the turn for home. He is the last horse in that frame.
Chance is fine. He has been completely sound since my last post.
I have to say that he was a different horse the day after the race. It seems so unlikely, but he actually appeared in better shape after racing than he did before he raced. For example, he normally has mild windpuffs both front and hind. For 2 days after his race they were gone. I expected them to perhaps be a little more puffy. I didn’t expect his legs to be so tight after running. And cool, cooler than normal which is slightly warm. His whole demeanor was different. You’d have to be with him every day probably to see it, but he felt good! He wasn’t tired, he wasn’t achy. It was very surprising to me and I have to wonder why. My first thought was that it was the Polytrack. And that may be part of it – but trainers do complain it’s hard on the horses – so I don’t know. But still, even if the Polytrack is better, racing is hard and doesn’t normally improve the legs, visually. It does, of course condition them and increase bone density.
So it has to be considered if running barefoot is responsible. It’s accepted by barefoot trimmers that the more exercise the better. Could it be that the force exerted on the foot at maximum load causes such an increase in “hoof mechanism” that circulation is greatly increased? Can it be that even for that brief period of time (1 minute and 40 odd seconds) circulation is so optimal that blood gets to places that barely get blood? Would be some interesting research.
Whatever the answer to that question, it is pretty apparent to me that there is a huge benefit to running barefoot when a horse comes out of a race better than he went in. And some of the effects have lasted. I’ve commented before, I think, on how Chance drags along behind me at the end of the lead rope. Well, not anymore! He now walks along easily and at whatever speed I go. His windpuffs have returned, but windpuffs never go away – or so it’s believed. I’ve never seen any go away permanently, though they will “disappear” for a while when the legs are bandaged or during work. Again – situations in which circulation is increased.
Anyway, Chance’s response to the race opens new areas of thought. And certainly it appears that there are positive results to racing horses barefoot.
I haven’t posted in a while, since I have done nothing with Chance since my last post. Since we won’t resume racing until December I’ve decided to let him have some time off. He was very worried that he was going to be left at the track. After the race, while I was cooling him out, he indicated he needed to pee, so I put him in his stall. He peed right away and I took him out. A few minutes later – we had already walked for a half hour – I wanted to put him in for a few minutes to do something. I led him into the stall and turned him around and he made it very clear he wanted out. He wouldn’t let me close the screen. He was very afraid I was going to leave him at the track. I think he had actually been worrying about it all day. So now he knows he gets to come home and be a horse. I’m letting him savor that.
I’ve also been working on a consulting project (designing a database and application) so that has kept me busy. Now that it’s just about wrapped up it’s time to start riding Chance again, and also time to start working with Zola.
And so the experiment continues.
As I let Chance out of the round pen a little while ago, I noticed that he appeared off on the right front. What a sickening feeling. As he walked away instead of trotting to be with his friends on the far side of the field, I could see a head bob. Well, I thought, we won’t be racing Sat or Sun, or perhaps never again.
I took a hoof pick and went over to look at his foot, as it did appear to me it was the foot. I pressed all around his knee, tendon, and ankle, and couldn’t see any reaction whatsoever. No heat, no swelling. And it has now been 72 hours since he raced. Since he wasn’t on any medication I imagined a problem would have shown up before now. But you never know. I took some dirt out of his foot and the hoof pick caught on his bar – which is surprising since I trimmed him only 4 days ago (Sat). I pulled off a small chunk of the bar with my hoof pick, then went to get my knife.
Amazingly, there was a little more bar to come off, along with some sole – both on the lateral side. Click here to see a photo of his left front foot taken in August, where you can see his bars were not long. Anyway, after I took off that sole and bar I asked him to walk off. He walked just fine. When asked to trot, however, there was still a slight head bob.
Could be a bruise, could be an abscess brewing. Could be neither, I suppose. But I do definitely feel it’s the foot since it improved immediately upon trimming. Will see how it is tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have canceled my vet appointment tomorrow (need a health cert dated within 72 hours of arrival at Turfway to race), and will probably not go to the TB center as planned.
Update to follow.
A recent comment raised the issue of what jockeys earn. Below is part of the Jock Mount Schedule for Kentucky. I didn’t list purse sizes below $5,000, but this is enough to give a very good idea of how it works. Note: the winner’s share of the purse is most often 60%, second is 20%, third is 10%.
Purse $5,000to $9,999 - Winning mount (Jockey) 10% of winning purse, 2nd place $65 3rd place$50 all others $45
Purse $10,000 to $14,999 – Winning mount 10% of winning purse, 2nd place 5% of 2nd place purse, 3rd place 5% of 3rd place purse, all others $50
All that changes from here on is the losing jock fee. It goes up as below:
$15,000 to $24,999 losing mount fee $55
$25,000 to $49,999 losing mount fee $65
$50,000 to $99,999 losing mount fee $80
$100,000 and up – losing mount fee $105
Alright – bad news first. Chance only beat one horse in the race. (Details to follow.)
I think people rarely tell the whole truth – especially if it will make them look weird or crazy. But since this is my blog, I am going to now tell something I would not normally ever say other than to close friends.
There was a reason I have never said how I felt Money Talkin would do in his first race. That reason is that I felt he would lose. As in be last. That was how I really felt – logically and intuitively. What I feared was that he would break from the gate, immediately fall to last place and continue to lose ground until the field was so far ahead of him that he would be at least a quarter mile behind, if not more. Why didn’t I say this before? Because I do believe in not putting negative energy out there – bad enough to have the thoughts, no need to multiply the energy in them.
So, that said, I am actually relieved that my worst fears were not realized. Money Talkin didn’t run as well as I obviously would have liked, but he ran better than I feared. So now the worst has happened and I can go on from there.
Why did I feel, logically, that he wouldn’t win? Because though he was fit enough to race without suffering harm, he hadn’t really worked hard enough to have real stamina at speed. It was my decision to race him for that very reason. I could have continued to take him to the training center, but it would have been pointless. He wasn’t getting enough out of his work there. It was a difficult decision to race him, as I dislike embarrassment, and being judged stupid and weird. And I will say that it’s hard to do things you KNOW are not going to go well. Which I did. The cowardly part of you wants to put things off til you feel it’s safer. Why do it, if you know it’s not going to turn out the way you want? But still, it needed to be done, so I bit the bullet and entered to run. One might ask why I picked a mile and 1/16 race and not a shorter race like 6 furlongs. My answer is that in a short race you normally run into more speed and I felt he would be even further behind. Looking at the results for Sunday going 6 furlongs, that might not have been true.
Now the good news. He loaded into the gate perfectly, stood perfectly, and broke first (this is according the Equibase, not me, I could only tell he broke with the first horses out of the gate.) He kept up with the pack fairly well until they went into the backstretch.
Now the not so good news. On the backstretch, just as he started to gain ground – which really means the other horses had started to slow – he got tired and fell behind to last. Coming out of the far turn and starting down the stretch he did catch and pass the horse in front of him, and so didn’t actually finish last. He never quit trying.
There was one thing that happened which may or may not have affected his performance. It was my intention to run him without blinkers and when I entered I did state no equipment. No comment was made. In the paddock I was told I needed blinkers as I hadn’t gotten permission to take them off. That is clearly my fault. So they found blinkers for me, which were full cup. As I put them on I had a really bad feeling. And I do honestly feel they made a negative impact. Still, he would not have won or been in the money, so no harm no real foul. I will be sure to get them off when the office opens on Thursday.
Now to the jockey, J.J. Sunseri. My instructions to him were that from what I could tell from the charts of all his previous races, Money Talkin appears to like to run just off the pace. I did state a couple times that this was his first race in almost a year, meaning he probably needs at least one race. I said not to abuse him, which means, don’t whip him if he has nothing to give. I feel that J.J. rode the race very well. When Chance came back I asked the rider what he thought. He immediately began with excuses as to why the horse didn’t run well. First he said he had a breathing problem and his tongue should be tied. Then he said he should at least have front shoes on. Both of these I expected, since they were the two noticeable things I did differently than everyone else.
I’d like to explain here that jockeys have a very unenviable position. They are charged with riding horses to win races. To me, it’s only logical that one horse will win, and the rest will finish somewhere behind him/her, and someone will be last. I don’t believe the jockey can win with a horse that isn’t up to it. Horse are not machines. However, many trainers find fault with the jockey, and blame them for their horses’ poor performance, or just not winning. Jockeys are very unlikely to tell any trainer, let alone one they don’t know, the real truth. Trainers are quick to ride a different jockey if they hear something they don’t like. I, of course, know the real truth – my horse wasn’t racing fit. I thanked Mr. Sunseri, as did Marilyn who had come with me, and as I was walking away he yelled to get my attention. I was almost out of hearing range but he pointed at me and said, “he handled the track well.” That of course completely contradicts his initial comment regarding shoes, and I completely believe it to be the truth. When he realized that I wasn’t upset by the results and certainly didn’t blame him, he realized he didn’t have to be defensive and he then wanted to say something meaningful and honest. For which I am grateful – he certainly didn’t have to do that.
Now I only have one issue to worry about. Getting Chance more fit. As hard as it will be for my pride, I am going to try to race him back on Saturday or Sunday. I don’t expect him to run a great deal better, but he needs the work, and I have to do what I have to do to get him in shape.
Now the really good news! I just can’t believe how well he came back. When Marilyn and I got back from the track I turned Chance loose in the pasture. He trotted up to meet the herd, who all ran over to greet him. Then they all ran around bucking and playing. It was nice to see he felt good. I knew the next day would be when he would feel the effects of the race though. Well, this morning I went out to give him his breakfast. And he feels good!!! He chowed down his meal and while he did, I felt his legs, which were cool (it’s very cool outside today) and tight. I then felt along his loin area and glutes, where he is often sore after working. No reaction. So, he’s not sore. That is huge! Clearly the Polytrack is much easier on him that way.
A lot of trainers are complaining about running on artificial surfaces like Polytrack, saying their horses don’t like it and it makes them sore in the back and hindquarters. In fact so much ruckus has been raised in California that Santa Anita is taking up its artificial surface and putting dirt back down. I believe the surface is really a lot safer for the horses. It’s so cushy to walk on. I really feel it’s a shoeing issue. Polytrack is cushy, but the feet don’t sink in. A horse with long toes (which almost all of them have) finds itself with no place for the toe to dig in and help ease breakover. So the full effect of the long toe/delayed breakover is felt in the tendons and muscles. Of course that’s just educated supposition. All I know for sure is that Chance is prone to muscle soreness and he didn’t flinch at all this morning.
I plan to ride J.J. Sunseri back on Chance, as he will be able to tell me if he feels any improvement. I thought of using a different jockey, but think it would be a mistake. I would be starting over from scratch with someone who doesn’t know the horse.
There is a race for him on Friday, which I wouldn’t have really considered if he hadn’t come back so well. Also one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
I went up to Turfway this morning to turn in Chance’s foal papers (his Jockey Club registration certificate) and to enter for Sunday.
I entered the 4th race in the book which is shown below.
I stayed around for a while to see if entries would draw. It was good news that the race drew 10 entries, while others had very few. They were still taking entries when I left so I didn’t know if the race would go or if we would get in.
I just called a few minutes ago and we are in!!! Money Talkin will have post position 4 in the 7th race at Turfway Park this Sunday – the 26th.
My friend Marilyn and I took a ride up to Turfway this morning. There were some things I had to take care of in the office, and I wanted to check out where everything was before I have to ship in. (Click here to go to Turfway Park’s official site.)
Unlike other places I’ve been, the Racing Secretary’s office was very friendly and helpful, as was the Licensing office, and the Horsemen’s Bookkeeper. I was very pleasantly surprised. Even Security was friendly to a new face. The track facility itself – where people go to watch and bet on the races – was very nice. Not super large, but clean, bright, and attractive. I really liked it. The track surface is Polytrack so it’s always rated fast. We didn’t check the entire backside, but went to the receiving barn, where we will be should we be lucky enough to get into a race before the meet is over – last day is October 3. And it’s the nicest I’ve seen.
The whole barn is indoors, but still very light and airy. A center row containing things like washracks, restrooms, as well as soda, candy, and ice machines, was a real surprise, especially actual washracks (8) with hot and cold water. Such luxury! Stalls run down the outside walls of the building, and all had windows that actually open! The stalls themselves were good sized and bright, already bedded in fresh straw for the next arrivals, and have nice stall screens, so no struggling with webbings and screw eyes. There was even an actual bridle rack at each stall.
After leaving Turfway, Marilyn and I stopped in at the Keeneland sale and looked at some of the yearlings. Such cute babies, and mostly sweet faces. So it was a horsey day.
Now the goal is to get Money Talkin in a race. This is where the Condition Book comes in. Understanding the condition book can be the difference between winning and not winning. (Those interested in seeing an actual condition book can view Turfway’s online.
Every day there are a specific number of races actually run at the track. Yesterday, Friday, there were 12 actual races. However, in the condition book for Friday there were 13 races – 12 races that they wanted to go, and 1 substitute race in case one of the main races didn’t get enough entries. In some instances there are up to 4 substitute races.
Each of the races in the condition book is categorized as to type of race; Maiden, Claiming, Allowance, Handicap, and Stakes. Those are basically levels, or classes, of competition. Money Talkin’s first race will be a claiming race. He has won an allowance race (2008) but hasn’t raced in almost exactly a year and we want the easiest race we can find for him. He is a gelding, and since some races are only for fillies and mares, that reduces our choices. Since some of them are for Maidens – horses who have never won a race – that further reduces our choices. Since Money Talkin is not really a speed horse, we will want a race of at least 6 furlongs, and better would be a mile or over. So that takes out races that are shorter than that. Then, because Money Talkin has not won a race since 2008, he has what are called “conditions”. We don’t want to run him against horses who’ve been winning – we want to run against horses who haven’t been winning. Basically you want to run against similar horses to your horse. If you run your horse over his/her head it can be very discouraging for them, and they may not try hard next time. Plus you do want the best odds you can get of doing well.
Unlike a horse show – only so many horses can be in each race. Let’s say 12 for an example. So if 16 horses enter for a particular race, 4 will not make it in. They will be on the “Also Eligible” list, in case someone scratches, but most likely they won’t get in. So, those horses will get a “star”. Meaning the next time they’re entered in a similar race of similar distance, the horses with stars will get drawn first. This is a good way of being fair.
How are horses chosen to be in races? The entry forms are put in a narrow holder – a wooden box – standing upright, and someone shakes a bottle of numbers. When a number is taken out of the bottle (which is not see-through) an entry form is pulled from the box. The horse listed on the entry form is now in the race, and the number on the “pill” is his post position. This continues until the numbers are gone. Then, if there are slips left, 4 more are drawn and they become the “also eligibles”.
The key words regarding stars are “similar distance”. In looking at the condition book, there is actually what would be a good race for Chance next Friday (Sept. 24), however, the only OTHER good races for Chance are all at 1 mile and a 1/16, and since we prefer that distance – and any star we got for the 6 furlong race wouldn’t help us get in – that’s our goal. Because there are only 8 more racing days at Turfway, I don’t want to miss a chance of getting a star. There is a good race for Chance on Sunday, September 26th, going the distance we want. If we don’t draw in to that race, we will get a star. (In some cases a race may not “go”, which means it wasn’t used for the day’s races. If that happens, there are no stars given, and you have to wait for the next appropriate race to enter. Any stars you already had you will keep though.) If we don’t get in, then we will have preference for the next mile and a 16th race we will try to get in, which is Thursday, the 30th. If by some chance we don’t get into that one we will have 2 stars and we can still enter one more time, for Friday October 1. If we don’t get in then, or the race doesn’t go, then I will guess that the Universe didn’t want us to race!
For those who were paying attention and like a challenge, I deliberately didn’t say which race we’ll be entering on the 26th. Anyone who’d like to test their racing savvy is welcome to go look at Turfway’s condition book and try to figure it out. Send a private email to me – my contact info is on the main site (www.theracehorseexperiment.com) – and I’ll announce who was right after I get all the emails.
I went to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission office on Friday to get my license. It turned out that the woman at the desk is an owner/trainer/breeder. Evidently she’d been very successful back when she did it full time. She had also been a jockey!
We chatted for quite a while and it turns out her daughter is a jockey. Shelley Moran. I’m going to call her in a couple weeks and ask if she’ll work Chance at the training center to see how they get along and what she thinks. Hopefully this will go well, as having a jockey who likes the horse is a big bonus.
It would be nice to have that hurdle out of the way!