Monday Morning Quickie: Thoughts on horse welfare, race dates, and Frankel

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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.

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  • Beachy

    I too don’t believe I could ever say “better or worse”, because what they truly are is “different”, each with their place in history, just like the great artists and their work.  Frankel, of course, is VERY special, but look also at a horse like Desert Orchid, who triumphed on 3 mile turf courses over hurdles, sometimes also running on a left-handed track, which the horse apparently HATED.  (Frankel also showed that brand of heart running on a boggy track on Saturday–Queally said he prefers to “skip over” but that was not possible that day, and still Frankel won…) Bummer that he(Dessie) was gelded, but he lived a wonderful life till age 27.  I don’t know if there is anything like “greatest” out there, but so many have touched our lives for the better, and God bless them for that.  

  • Beachy

    I too don’t believe I could ever say “better or worse”, because what they truly are is “different”, each with their place in history, just like the great artists and their work.  Frankel, of course, is VERY special, but look also at a horse like Desert Orchid, who triumphed on 3 mile turf courses over hurdles, sometimes also running on a left-handed track, which the horse apparently HATED.  (Frankel also showed that brand of heart running on a boggy track on Saturday–Queally said he prefers to “skip over” but that was not possible that day, and still Frankel won…) Bummer that he(Dessie) was gelded, but he lived a wonderful life till age 27.  I don’t know if there is anything like “greatest” out there, but so many have touched our lives for the better, and God bless them for that.  

  • nu-fan

    Mr. Paulick: From this fan’s viewpoint, you’ve hit the nail on the head with all three points:  1) ”In those states…[that do not require veterinary soundness inspections]… the racing commissioners who regulate the sport should be brought up on animal cruelty charges unless and until they require these exams.”  Not only is this essential for the safety of the horse and rider but, also, may save the horseracing industry from losing more fans.  The public does not see a sport or entertainment in seeing a horse injured and euthanized while its jockey sustains, perhaps, life-long injuries or death.  2) Nothing ever stays the same.  Businesses fail and others start up.  It’s the way things are and should be.  It doesn’t make it any easier, though, especially for those who will mourn the loss of old friends, associates and, even, customers (fans).  For some, it will be likened to a death in the family.  But, being flexible and adapting to change is what makes one a survivor. 3) ”I’m of the opinion that there is no “right” answer as to who [which horse] is the greatest.”  I’ve never quite understood why anyone would really want to rank “the” greatest.  It’s too subjective and there really isn’t any true standard of measure.  Besides, doesn’t it diminish the other greats if they are not “number one”?  Lastly, as far as the what to do with Betfair Hollywood Park…that is a tough remedy.  But, more than one stakeholder will come up with a solution–that will benefit itself.

  • nu-fan

    Mr. Paulick: From this fan’s viewpoint, you’ve hit the nail on the head with all three points:  1) ”In those states…[that do not require veterinary soundness inspections]… the racing commissioners who regulate the sport should be brought up on animal cruelty charges unless and until they require these exams.”  Not only is this essential for the safety of the horse and rider but, also, may save the horseracing industry from losing more fans.  The public does not see a sport or entertainment in seeing a horse injured and euthanized while its jockey sustains, perhaps, life-long injuries or death.  2) Nothing ever stays the same.  Businesses fail and others start up.  It’s the way things are and should be.  It doesn’t make it any easier, though, especially for those who will mourn the loss of old friends, associates and, even, customers (fans).  For some, it will be likened to a death in the family.  But, being flexible and adapting to change is what makes one a survivor. 3) ”I’m of the opinion that there is no “right” answer as to who [which horse] is the greatest.”  I’ve never quite understood why anyone would really want to rank “the” greatest.  It’s too subjective and there really isn’t any true standard of measure.  Besides, doesn’t it diminish the other greats if they are not “number one”?  Lastly, as far as the what to do with Betfair Hollywood Park…that is a tough remedy.  But, more than one stakeholder will come up with a solution–that will benefit itself.

  • Meyer1127

    No pre race fitness examine should be no race dates for those states.And not just a look and he’s ok but a real exam.
    Training should be do no harm.Training on meds that is still allowed can cause more injury to the horse and no pre race exam together can spell disaster for animals and jockeys.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/RL4DAVFJAEBP4GAWSGGYWM265M Alexander

      That’s al well and good, but as it stands a lot of “pre-race inspections” are tantamount to nothing, as a lot of state vets are strongly discouraged from scratching horses by their higher-ups. This is especially true at winter meets in cold weather states, where cards get increasingly hard to fill as the winter wears on.

  • Meyer1127

    No pre race fitness examine should be no race dates for those states.And not just a look and he’s ok but a real exam.
    Training should be do no harm.Training on meds that is still allowed can cause more injury to the horse and no pre race exam together can spell disaster for animals and jockeys.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RL4DAVFJAEBP4GAWSGGYWM265M Alexander

    That’s al well and good, but as it stands a lot of “pre-race inspections” are tantamount to nothing, as a lot of state vets are strongly discouraged from scratching horses by their higher-ups. This is especially true at winter meets in cold weather states, where cards get increasingly hard to fill as the winter wears on.

  • Tbhorseman

    The soundness exam on race day is like the make up on a body in a casket.   Looks good and feels no pain…. The meds are given before they come check

  • Tbhorseman

    The soundness exam on race day is like the make up on a body in a casket.   Looks good and feels no pain…. The meds are given before they come check

  • Larryburndorf

    I know Usain Bolt is the fastest man to ever be timed, don’t know if he can paint though.

  • Larryburndorf

    I know Usain Bolt is the fastest man to ever be timed, don’t know if he can paint though.

  • Barney Door

    There is no “greatest” in history  There is the best at a particular trade, on a certain day(s) and for limited a period of time. At a particular time the best were unsurpassed based on the competition and the standards at that time; the most frequent standard is winning.  Competition and other standards change over time and make way for new heroes. 

    No horse, including Frankel, could  beat horses from other years or in races he did not run.  The “Greatest” is for pundits in need of a topic for a story or an endless unresolved debate.

  • Barney Door

    There is no “greatest” in history  There is the best at a particular trade, on a certain day(s) and for limited a period of time. At a particular time the best were unsurpassed based on the competition and the standards at that time; the most frequent standard is winning.  Competition and other standards change over time and make way for new heroes. 

    No horse, including Frankel, could  beat horses from other years or in races he did not run.  The “Greatest” is for pundits in need of a topic for a story or an endless unresolved debate.

  • Joltman

    The industry is confronted with these serious symptoms of decline – like the Turfway failure. The Hollywood debacle threatens the entire West Coast year round circuit, and if it happens as planned (It has been pushed back for years), that circuit will be decimated.  No one ‘at the top’ seems to have a clue as to what to do – and I’m think that Frank Stronach will probably gobble up dates, despite their own internal problems (viz your ‘Verge’ report). 

  • Joltman

    The industry is confronted with these serious symptoms of decline – like the Turfway failure. The Hollywood debacle threatens the entire West Coast year round circuit, and if it happens as planned (It has been pushed back for years), that circuit will be decimated.  No one ‘at the top’ seems to have a clue as to what to do – and I’m think that Frank Stronach will probably gobble up dates, despite their own internal problems (viz your ‘Verge’ report). 

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Better treat “THE ANIMALS” fair are pay the price cause the Amercian public will not put up with anything less…BOOK THAT!!!…ty…

  • http://Bellwether4u.com James Staples

    Better treat “THE ANIMALS” fair are pay the price cause the Amercian public will not put up with anything less…BOOK THAT!!!…ty…

  • Lowechris18

    Which states do not require pre-race inspection?

  • Lowechris18

    Which states do not require pre-race inspection?

  • jack

    name the top 10 turf milers…..I’ll price Frankel at odds on against the lot of them

  • jack

    name the top 10 turf milers…..I’ll price Frankel at odds on against the lot of them

  • Bob Hope

    “one of the most competitive elements in horse racing is the corp of practicing veterinarians” and until that fact is realized, we have a serious problem!

  • Bob Hope

    “one of the most competitive elements in horse racing is the corp of practicing veterinarians” and until that fact is realized, we have a serious problem!

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