Monday Morning Quickie: Thoughts on horse welfare, race dates, and Frankel
With preparations and fund-raising calls for Breeders' Cup or Bust in full swing, the Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale getting under way, and leaf raking in full season, there's only time for a Monday morning quickie.
Here are some random thoughts on issues that may matter to some of you:
—Last week's Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit IV at Keeneland provided some very enlightening, practical information for a range of horse industry participants. We can only hope the information does not fall on deaf ears.
The Equine Injury Database presentation by Dr. Tim Parkin, coupled with the talk by Dr. Mary Scollay on Pre-Race Inspections, can help regulatory veterinarians, during pre-race inspections, focus on horses that are at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries. (You can see their presentations here.)
Believe it or not, however, some racing jurisdictions still do not require pre-race veterinary soundness inspections. In those states, in my opinion, the racing commissioners who regulate the sport should be brought up on animal cruelty charges unless and until they require these exams. Pre-race veterinary inspections can save horses and riders from serious injuries if vets are allowed to do their job and use the tools that the Equine Injury Database and related research are providing.
Thoroughbred trainers can learn from Dr. Larry Bramlage's talk on Selected Effects of Training & Racing on the Musculoskeletal System. Bramlage explained how the benefits of long, steady gallops to the cardio-vascular system can be detrimental to the musculoskeletal makeup of a horse. There were some practical take-home messages from his talk (see above link). Any trainer who is concerned about soundness of his horses needs to read what Bramlage had to say.
—The decision by a committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to award September dates to Churchill Downs that traditionally belonged to Turfway Park was really a no-brainer. No one likes to see a once-thriving business fail, whether it's a neighborhood hardware store that can't compete against Home Depot or a racetrack that is overwhelmed by gambling competition. But Turfway Park has been non-competitive in those dates with its purses and racing programs for years now, and it's forced many Kentucky stables to look elsewhere during the late summer and early fall.
If Churchill can offer the kind of purse levels its management claims for a September meet, this is good news for the Kentucky circuit.
—The California Horse Racing Board has been kicking the can down the road for years over what it will do with Betfair Hollywood Park racing dates once the track closes, and now it finds itself in a panic if the doomed-for-development racetrack runs its final meetings in 2013, as feared.
Whether Los Alamitos or Fairplex Park can fill the void of some of the Hollywood racing dates is unclear, but there's another question the CHRB needs to deal with when the Inglewood plant shuts down: intertrack wagering from Hollywood.
Many believe the owners of Hollywood Park should not be rewarded for what is essentially bad behavior and be allowed to continue to benefit from ITW after closing live racing. But a betting location in that heavily populated area of Los Angeles is essential. It will not be an easy issue to resolve.
—Debates (other than the presidential kind) can be fun, and the discussion about Juddmonte Farm's undefeated Frankel's place in history, in the wake of his career finale victory in Saturday's Qipco Champion Stakes, gives racing fans an opportunity to compare the relative merits of our sport's all-time greats.
I'm of the opinion that there is no “right” answer as to who is the greatest. American racing has a stopwatch, Beyer Speed Figures, Thorograph and Ragozin numbers. European racing has Timeform and other performance figures. They are all inexact as far as I'm concerned.
Sometimes passion overtakes reason when debating the relative merits of one horse over another and its place in history. From my perspective, these great champions come along so infrequently that their demonstrations of superiority should be should savored and enjoyed.
Can anyone really say whether Renoir was better than Degas or Monet or Van Gogh? Each of them created masterpieces to be enjoyed for all time. And so, too, has Frankel.