Writing for the Daily Racing Form, Jay Hovdey said last week that the recent changes to the claiming rules in several states across the country are the equivalent of a war of attrition on the claiming game. While proponents of the changes argue that they will discourage trainers from running horses with injuries, Hovdey questions whether horses at the center of voided claims should have been racing at all.
After all, he wrote, what are the chances that all 13 horses whose claims were voided in the last month in California all picked up their flaws in the course of one race?
Instead, those 13 reveal fundamental problems with the mentality of the whole system.
Today's claiming game is designed to move inventory, and even the most revered of horsemen have found themselves relieved to have gotten rid of a problem horse. In 2003, trainer Bobby Frankel told Hovdey that the huge purses available in claiming races discourage trainers from improving their horses and moving them up.
“There's less horsemanship, the way claiming is now,” Frankel had said. “But it depends on who you are, and how much you care about the animal. With a lot of guys, it's a quick fix. You get one, you start injecting, you call the vet. Now you've got clenbuterol, and everything else you can stick into these horses . . . keep him for a few weeks, do everything you can to him, and you can drop him in half and still be running for a good purse. The horse is just a commodity now, like Nascar.”
Instead, Hovdey ventures, it would be nice if American racing could reorganize into the same format as other countries—allowing claiming level horses to find a spot where they can be competitive, without the opportunity to make short-term use of them.
“For all the changes being made in the rules,” he said, “the devil is not in the details. It's in the culture.”
Read more at the Daily Racing Form
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