In Wake Of Fatal Racing Injury, Turf Paradise Seeks To Tighten Rules On ‘Eased’ Horses

by | 01.10.2017 | 3:02pm
Turf Paradise
Turf Paradise

Turf Paradise had two catastrophic breakdowns on Jan. 8 – the second and third in a span of 24 races – but Vince Francia, the Phoenix, Ariz., track's general manager, said there is no evidence track condition was a factor in the two latest fatalities.

Francia is pushing for the tightening of an existing rule that permits horses “eased” in their most recent start – provided they finished within 35 lengths of the winner – to run back without going on the stewards list or requiring a workout.

One of the horses fatally injured Jan. 8 was eased in its last start, beaten 17 lengths, according to the Equibase chart.

Turf Paradise did not run its scheduled programs on Jan. 1 and 2 because of track conditions and cancelled the remainder of its Jan. 3 card after a fatal breakdown in the day's first race.

Francia elected to cancel Jan. 1-2 after walking the dirt track with members of the jockey colony. “Ninety percent of it was okay,” he said, “but now and then we would run into a soft spot (created when the track was sealed on Dec. 31 during a rainstorm).”

Jockeys walked the surface again with Francia on Jan 3 and said the track was safe, but Francia said it was his decision to cancel the remainder of the program after the 3-year-old filly Running for Annie broke down and fell in the stretch of the opener. Jockey Jake Barton escaped injury. Another horse lost its rider trying to avoid Barton, but neither that jockey nor horse suffered a serious injury.

“The horse stepped in to what appeared to be a soft spot and broke down,” Francia said of Running for Annie.

The Jan. 4 and 7 programs were conducted without incident, but two breakdowns marred the Jan. 8 race.

In the first race, the Quarter horse With Love Too broke down and fell after the wire and was euthanized. Jockey Enrique Garcia suffered bruised ribs. In the seventh race, Mydancingshadow, ridden by David Lopez, broke a foreleg and fell at the top of the stretch. Lopez was struck in the leg by a trailing horse. His agent, Mark Anderson, said Lopez had some bumps and bruises and would likely miss a couple of days.

Mydancingshadow, trained by Valorie Lund, was eased in the stretch of his last start on Dec. 20, a $3,000 claiming race at one mile. Mydancingshadow prompted the pace for six furlongs, but jockey Scott Stevens did not persevere in the final furlong when the horse was hopelessly beaten.

After Mydancingshadow broke down on Jan. 8, Francia went to the jockeys room to check on the condition of Lopez. “I spoke to Scott (Stevens), who had ridden this horse in its previous race, and Scott felt the horse was lame right after that race,” said Francia. “But because he didn't get beat 35 lengths he didn't have to work back.”

That is the rule Francia wants changed, placing on the stewards list any “eased” horse or one vanned off until it works a half mile in 52 seconds or less.

“Does that put a little burden on the trainer?” Francia said. “Yes. But safety is more important.”

There were no breakdowns on Turf Paradise's Jan. 9 program, though two horses were vanned off and three were eased, according to Equibase.

  • Richard C

    – Waterford Park –

    • Charles Smith

      Oh, the bad old days at Waterford Park….9 race cards, eight of the races for 1500 claiming with the “feature race” for 2000 claiming.

  • billy

    How bout a vet exam before the horse can return to the track along with the work under 52

    • Guest

      Good idea, and how about a vet exam in the AM? Turf Paradise doesn’t require a pre-race exam by a veterinarian.

      • ForLoveOfTheGame

        Should be mandatory.

        • Lehane

          Absolutely.

      • Glenys McNally

        No vet exam?

        • Guest

          Nope. Not at Turf Paradise. Not at Mahoning, either. Those are just two without AM exams.

          • Dan

            Do you know of any others that don’t require it?

          • Guest

            Pretty sure none of the Ohio tracks require AM exams. There are no doubt others – I’m not familiar with all of them.

          • Mindy

            MVR is another where there seem to be breakdowns every time I tune into a race there on TVG :(

          • Mindy

            Mahoning Valley is also already running newly-turned three year olds against older horses…now, we all know, many, if not most, of theses babies are still biologically 2 years old…most tracks don’t put 3YOs in against 4s or 4-and-ups till at least summer, what MVR is doing is a recipe for disaster, if they have so few horses, that they have to open their races for olders up to 3YOs, *run fewer races or days*!

          • michaelstapler

            Who are you talking to here? Most here wanted to see Songbird in against older horses much earlier than the BC race. They even wanted her against the boys………. She got what she deserved. She got beat. Way to go, owners.

          • Mindy

            define “much earlier”…and “most”
            I didn’t want her facing olders at least till late summer or autumn

            and I’m not at all talking about horses of her quality, I’m talking about horses much further down the class scale, who may be seen as ‘disposable’ by their owners, hence throwing them in against more physically mature horses so early on

          • Lehane

            You are correct, Mindy.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            In England, there is a Group I stakes for 2yos and up at 5f called the Nunthorpe. And guess what, two year olds win it from time to time.

          • Lehane

            That doesn’t make it right.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            And your opinion doesn’t make it wrong.

          • Lehane

            I’m entitled to an opinion.

          • LongTimeEconomist

            Of course. But you don’t offer any facts to back it up.

          • Lehane

            For newly turned 3 year olds (many of which are in fact 2 year olds from foaling date) to be racing with older horses is wrong. That is my opinion. To my knowledge there has been no research done on this.

          • Mindy

            that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea

          • Charles Smith

            I noticed this, I’m not a Mahoning Valley player, but gee whiz………how up against it must they be to run 3yos against older stock in early January???

    • ForLoveOfTheGame

      Should be required.

  • Will Styles

    There just aren’t enough horses on the backside these days for these tracks to run 4 to 5 days a week. The racing office pushes trainers for entries, and threatens to take their stalls if they don’t enter. The results are sore horses are asked to run 2 to 3 times a month, which results in these break downs.

  • paully123

    Sounds like the track is in disarray.

  • Charles Smith

    The racing office at TuP has been hustling horses hard for the last 3 race meetings….Oct.13 to May 14, 14/15 and 15/16. There are MANY unsound horses at Turf that would have been relegated to Rillito and the AZ fairs in years past, but with the continuing horse shortage, this kind of runner shows up in the M5000 and 3000 bottom claiming spots frequently now. As a gambler who bets TuP frequently, I used to be frustrated when a rider would wrap up prematurely, but I don’t feel that way any more. I’m just risking my money betting, the jockeys are risking their lives riding unsound horses. A LOT of the TuP unsound runners ran for bottom claiming tags at ASD, Emerald and Northlands all spring and summer without serious incident but, sadly, they are paying the piper at Turf Paradise.

    • Will Styles

      The reality is the sport is dying on the vine. It’s time to close some of these tracks do to lack of demand and lack of horses. Those in our industry just don’t understand the concept of supply and demand. If you have less horses you write less races. It’s time those working in the industry get a full time job and not look to make their living running horses.

      • Larry Sterne

        Amen

      • Charles Smith

        Your point is well taken, but speaking frankly, what percentage of backstretchers from trainers on down could easily transition to another line of employment? A majority of backstretch workers are marginally employable. If grooming, hot walking or any other sort of backstrectch vocation was out of the picture, a sad percentage would be up against it. I had horses at Yapavai Downs years back when the meet was canceled before opening day, but not until roughly 400 head had shipped in, mainly from Turf Paradise. When I drove into Prescott to pick up my stock and van them out, I recognized people I knew from the backstretch thumbing their way out of town at the highway on ramp….working horsepeople who lived from paycheck to paycheck, a sad, sad sight.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          That is true. But should horses die so those people can have jobs?

      • longtimehorsewoman

        Amen!

  • ForLoveOfTheGame

    I has hate to hear about breakdowns! But thanks for reporting it, PR! We can’t attempt to fix what we don’t know about.

    • Lehane

      Likewise – thanks Ray Paulick for reporting this issue which needs to be addressed.

  • Linda Daly

    Horrible, and how about Golden Gate Fields who (last week?) allowed a horse who had not raced in 3 years, with no recent works to race–subsequently broke down and had to be euthanized. It’s an industry issue.

  • El Espresso

    Turf Paradise is a joke… always has been… it survives on catering to bottom of the barrel horses… now tracks are working the surfaces less to save money… look what happened at ABQ this year when management/ owner brought in a bargain surface maintenance provider. Same at TP .. funny how everyone that manages the track surface gets so defensive after a bunch of horses start breaking down…telling everyone of how they care and are serious about their job….they are only serious about boosting the casinos bottom line …. by cutting maintenance on the track… less track work equals less expenses

    • Mindy

      if Turf Paradise closes, where will the California castoffs go?

      • Curt Muth

        They don’t belong on any race track, so that is a ridicules question.

        • Mindy

          it’s not ridiculous at all, I was merely asking the question, because you know that, if their owners want them to continue racing, they’re going to end up somewhere, and, while TUP is *far* from a perfect solution, it’s better than completely unregulated bush tracks (TUP, at least, has officials, they talk to the media, and it is shown on television, so the public can see what’s going on there), or being sold at auction, or just shipped over the border

          why the need to be insulting, Curt?

    • Deb Curtis Olivas

      Maybe you should look at how few breakdowns Turf has had over the last 3 years and tell me again about bargain basement , maintenance.

  • Dusty Nathan

    There are no state vets in the paddock and at the starting gate? These horses did not trot up to the gate, on their toes, tail erect, to just fall over after the bell rang. I’m happy to hear the general manager and Turf Paradise are going to begin following the rules.

    This in the state that recently ended Greyhound racing, forever, for the exact same reason. (The difference being they dug mass graves in the desert for the pups and dumped the bodies in.)

    • Guest

      If a horse looks lame in the post parade, behind the gate, that’s really lame. If a horse is lame in the paddock, why lead him over? There are many reasons it’s not sufficient for a veterinarian to simply observe horses behind the starting gate.

      Turf Paradise has no AM veterinary exams. Pre-race is when it’s possible to catch many problems but of course, field size will suffer – and Turf Paradise would have to pay veterinarians to perform pre-race exams.

      • Dusty Nathan

        Let me answer your first question. You lead him over in the hopes that he gets claimed and/or gets a check. We’re not referring to California Chrome, but some horse who races for $5,000 and is probably worth $1,500 if he is so sore he cannot finish. The top riders aren’t aboard a vanned off nickle, so the guy who has the mount knows he’s up on a gimp, but desperately needs that mount. If Turf Paradise has no AM vet exams then shut the track down until they can figure how to streamline some other area to pay somebody $2,000 a week to do that job – hell, the track can pay $1,000 and the purse account can pay $1,000. Field size will mean zero after one of these lame-ohs pops the gate on top, flips on the final turn, kills two horses and riders, and have this same conversation again – this time with $100 million in lawsuits because this story will be the first piece of evidence by a big law firm.

        • Guest

          Rhetorical, and of course I agree that’s why trainers run sore horses.

  • Eeee

    I don’t know that Lund is the trainer to call out off of one jock’s opinion.

  • Eeee

    If jock can scratch a horse before a race if they feel the horse is not right, they should make the same opinion heard after a race. Give jocks the power to pit a horse on the vet’s list, or be evaluated post-race by a vet.

    We had a jock gate scratch our mare. Thank goodness he did, though we were upset at the time. He told the trainer what he thought and a day later turned out he was certainly right. Mare was retired.

    • I agree 100% standard instruction to anyone that rides for me… If something doesn’t feel right stop. If the horse is done (tank empty) don’t pound the guts out of him. I Have no issue with a rider doing a gate scratch. Even if there is a fine

      • Larry Ensor

        In Jump racing a horse that is not jumping well, doesn’t like the going, turf conditions or is going to be hopelessly beaten. The jocks know and or are instructed to pull up and save the wear and tear on the horse for another day.

        I’ve had to explain this to a couple of young, competitive jocks. Why the heck did you stay in the race?

        Seeing “Pulled Up” on Jumper’s (steeplechase) PPs should not be interpreted the same as with a flat horse.

  • Jack Frazier

    What is coming to light is that year round racing is detrimental to the health of the horses. Back in the day, there was no racing in New York or northern tracks during the winter months. Tracks were shut down and horses had a chance to recover. Now with 365 days of racing, horses are merely a commodity. Racing is at best, a throw away industry whether it is horses, grooms, exercise riders or jockey’s. When they get hurt, they are discarded. An evaluation of year round racing needs to be done.

    • Bryan Langlois

      I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately you will never get the horsemans groups to even entertain the idea these days. Well that and todays modern owner or owners group who wants a return on their investment yesterday…

      • Jack Frazier

        It won’t stop.

    • Mindy

      I agree that the top-level horses, and the high-end outfits who usually raced in NY, etc., did used to give their horses the winter off, but haven’t the lower-level ones pretty much always just shipped to a track that is still racing?

      • LongTimeEconomist

        Actually, it was the other way around. The better horses went to Hialeah, though some went to the Carolinas. There were few races for cheaper horses at Hialeah, so they often were the ones that were freshened up back up north.

        But even with year around racing, you can still give horses time off when appropriate. Goose Heimer was a very successful trainer around Philly and New Jersey who often gave his horses the summer off. Besides avoiding the heat, he said it was easier to win races against the quality of horses racing in the winter than against those racing in the summer.

      • Jack Frazier

        I remember horses wintering in Claremore, Oklahoma awaiting the opening of Hot Springs. From November until the end of January or early February. The cheap horses, and I recall one in particular named Rebuy who belong to Boyd Finnell, a very good horseman and trainer. He raced him on the Kentucky circuit. He gave him a few months off after the last races in the fall, gave time to rest, got him ready and usually won with him the first out. He would get claimed and Boyd would reclaim him and did so time after time. He was $2500 claimer and like others, was given time off each year.

    • Mr J

      New England always had a year round circuit

      • Jack Frazier

        Some did but most didn’t.

  • Southwest Dude

    Tracks that vets inspect the horses in the AM prior to racing show a great decline in the number of breakdowns. It should be done at all tracks.

  • Molly Julia

    Lots Of Trainers Tell The Jockeys To Ease The Horse In Order To Get High Odds Next Time Out & Win The Race – Called Bluffing?

    • Larry Ensor

      While I don’t disagree because I have been on the inside of things for a long time. There are rules of racing and one of the many jobs of the Stewards is to make sure, ascertain/judge in their opinion that the jockey is “riding to win”.

      Steward or other horsemen have a keen enough eye to see if a horse is hopelessly beaten or the jock was not really riding to win. But IMO there is a difference with “holding a horse” and “just giving a horse a race”.

      “Riders must then attempt to ride their horses to the best of their ability in an attempt to win the race. Disqualifications and further sanctions may occur if, in the stewards opinion, the rider has not done this”

    • michaelstapler

      Yes, they all cheat and THAT is why you lose at the track.
      Why are you still betting???????????

      • Mr J

        Ive made some big scores on the inside. Jockeys paid extra to hold up.You obviously know nothing aboutracing and betting except ” Go Chrome!”. Lol

        • michaelstapler

          Liar.
          And I made over $200k last year wagering. Plus $1900 this year and I took off the first
          You see; LOSERS, bet. I wager. Until you understand the difference, you are nothing but talk. I never BET on a horse in the last 25 years. It is pari-mutual wagering. All I need to do is be smarter than the masses “at the table”.
          Anyone who says they BET on races doesn’t make a profit. Dad taught me that years ago and it always hold true.

          • Mr J

            The curtain was pulled back a long time ago,Stapes. Bet,gamble,wager,who cares about terms. Just a way for you to cloud the facts.The gig is up. Everyone knows your track record. Not very good,my fine feathered friend.

          • michaelstapler

            One day, about 1 week before you die, you will look back with remorse at all the money you blew at the track and remember the guy that tried to show you the light, but you just couldn’t grasp it. Pace/Speed/ROI. It doesn’t matter WHICH HORSE you bet if all these things are in your favor. It could be an allowance horse against Chrome, if all three lie up correctly.
            Talk to Muscle….. Your conversations are on the same level.
            MY QUESTION STILL REMAINS>>>> If you KNOW they cheat…. WHY do you still gamble??? You have to be the sorriest man on the planet to GAMBLE on a sport that you KNOW is crooked.
            No will power? A degenerate? Can’t control yourself enough to make 1-2-3 plays a day across the entire country?? You simply HAVE to bet??
            They have a club for idiots like you…. Gamblers Antonymous.

          • Mr J

            I dont bet on cheap races. I dont have time to explain to a dunce like you what races are more likely to be fixed. I had alot of inside info when New England had races.And made some scores that would make you cry with jealousy.A guy has my means and connections because I am a winner in life,business,track,family. Whatever I do. Contrary to what Trump says I dont ever get tired of #Winning

          • michaelstapler

            I understand.
            TRANSLATION>>>> They cheat. You know it. You have inside info. You still bet on a crooked sport. You are a dope.
            I crap more money in the morning that you have ever won at the track. I see your comments and they are that of a fool. PLEASE do not reply.
            I laugh at guys like you that lose continuously lose and still throw their money away.
            Then again, you do support my lifestyle, $2 at a time; and for that, I thank you!
            I have NEVER and I mean NEVR saw someone that KNOWS they cheat and says they still win. think about it. if it makes you feels superior to me to be the better handicapper, ALL HAIL MR J, king of the cappers. Maybe one day, Ill see you in the same restaurant at the track and I can send you a bottle of wine, or whatever Kool-Aid you are drinking from.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            You must not know too many smart people. There are many gamblers who make money at the track, Knowing that cheating is going on does not make a person a fool – it makes them a realist and they act accordingly.

          • michaelstapler

            If you “act accordingly” then you know who is cheating. I will offer $5000 for every race that you know is fixed. No problem. Cash, check, cashiers check. jHowever you want it. You put up $5000 also and if the horse loses, I take your money.
            Its simple, huh? Just “act accordingly” LMFAO

          • longtimehorsewoman

            acting accordingly doesn’t mean you KNOW who, if anyone. is actually cheating. It means you do not just read the pp’s and assume the most likely looking horse will win. It means you are betting with OPEN eyes, not naively. It sounds like you don’t know much about horse racing. Personally I do not bet, nor do I know who’s cheating. I am just speaking from logic. You should probably not bet and I don’t see why you care who does.

          • michaelstapler

            I wager on horses for a living and I do just fine, thank you.
            Anyone who thinks they cheat has ALWAYS been a loser from my meeting with people at the track. Never seen on having the lobster in the track diing room complaining about “cheating”. Only in the cheap seat.
            Just my observance.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            You are too funny. You wager on horse racing. But you’re a genius because you don’t believe people are cheating, and Mr. J is a loser because he does believe cheating is going on. Apparently you are both doing well. so where do you feel you are different or smarter ?

          • michaelstapler

            I must be amazing. it hit at 40% in a sport where they cheat.
            He, on the other hand knows they cheat and complains about it.

          • Mr J

            Wow,you drink alcohol at the track. No wonder you lose all the time. I can tell by your lack of comprehension and your responses that I am superior to you in EVERY aspect of life.I have to go handicap Oaklawn now. Ive had my fun with you,peon.

    • Mr J

      It was practiced alot more in the old days,before bigger purses and advanced technologies

  • ConsultantInAction

    A study was conducted at Washington State University; the study concluded that Micro-Fractures have been the Root Cause of horses that Break Down on the Track. It would appear to me; Horses should have Routing XRays after Campaigning for a to be determined number of races.

    As far as Campaigning a Race Horse Continuously; of course there should be Down Time. A horse needs to be a horse periodically during the year. They need to Graze and Decompress, Relieve the Stress of Racing. A great example; the Success California Chrome has had; after it was determined CC was not at his best, he foot injured, the Connections laid him up. When he came back, he came back a much better horse. He grew and has been an exceptional horse.

    I guess we will see just how good he ultimately became when he competes in the Pegasus on January 28th 2017…..
    ..
    However; BEWARE OF SO CALLED RESCUES !!!
    Recently in Washington State, a Rescue had all of their Horses Confiscated by Law Enforcement. The Owners are being Prosecuted for Animal Cruelty. The horses were starved. They Blanketed horses, to conceal the horses real condition. Authentic Rescues, have to combat the actions of others calling themselves Rescues… Some of the so called Rescues are Hoarders, looking for others to support their Hoarding… BEWARE !!!

    • Lehane

      Agree. Recover, rest and repair is absolutely necessary for all racehorses. Bone fatigue is a factor in limb fractures/breakdowns. I think it was Sue Stozer (UC Davis) who found that about 80% of the fatal breakdowns were due to bone fatigue. There should be more owners like you.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      All athletes of any species require down time. That is why there is basketball season, football season, etc. No one can or should compete year round. And it is a very sad truth that many rescues are run by what are basically hoarders. The fact is horses are expensive to keep and you can only help those you can afford to help. This is a common problem, unfortunately.

  • WT

    “Does that put a little burden on the trainer?” Francia said.

    Who gives a d*mn about the trainer? He ran an unsound horse to begin with or it wouldn’t have been eased or broke down. Totally agree that any eased (lengths beaten should not be a factor) or vanned off horse be put on the vet’s list and must have at least one work and a vet exam before being allowed to race again.

    • Mindy

      why on Earth should lengths beaten matter? just because the others are also slowing down in front of a horse, thus keeping the ‘gap’ smaller, should be of no significance, the horse in question should be the only one looked at, not in comparison to the others

      as an opposite comparison, other than Sham (who was injured), were any horses being “eased” in Secretariat’s Belmont? yet they were all beaten 31+ lengths

    • jj

      Watch race 1at Tup head on view1/03/17 the jockey is trying to get the horse to change leads shifting his weight many times.

  • JustJoe

    Soft spots? Seems to me they should grade off the cushion and thoroughly inspect the base.

  • j gee

    the fastest racetrack in the world might need a new base?

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