According to an article in today's New York Times, I'll Have Another had various physical ailments that his connections were dealing with well before he was withdrawn from the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on the eve of the race. He was being treated with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs even as excitement built for his bid at racing history.
Times' writers Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich were able to obtain veterinary records from the New York State racing authorities, which showed I'll Have Another's front ankles and knees were X-rayed only four days after his triumph May 19 in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the second leg of the Triple Crown. Those X-rays revealed that he had osteoarthritis.
Then, just two days before the Belmont, the colt was injected with what the Times writers described as two powerful painkillers as well as a synthetic joint fluid.
New York authorities had access to the records only because they insisted that O'Neill, who has had repeated drug violations, provide them if they were going to license him in New York for the race.
Foster Northrop, a racetrack practitioner who also serves as a member of the Kentukcy Horse Racing Commission and is vice chairman of the American Association of Equine Practitioners Racing Committee, called osteoarthritis a very common condition in both horses and people. “It simply means inflammation of the joints,” he said. “It could be bony changes or soft tissue or just the synovial lining. It's a word that sounds horrific but in reality, it's something we all deal with every day.”
Northrop specifically took issue with the term “powerful painkillers” used in the New York Times story. The Times did not name the drugs that were used.
“Powerful painkillers are not legal two days out in New York or Kentucky or Louisiana or Florida,” Northrop told the Paulick Report. “i can't speak for states i don't work in. That is a gross misrepresentation of the word. They were probably anti-inflammatories like Bute or Banamine. The joint fluid was most likely Legend, produced by Bayer. It's a hyaluronic acid, completely safe, and it's been proven there is no downside to its use. It's been documented that it makes the joints healthier and it will not mask pain.
“The science is incredible,” said Northrop. “The liver acts to store certain products that are bennficial to joints, and when joints need something it signals the liver and and the liver delivers it. Sometimes the liver can't keep up, which is why we give a synthetic hyaluronic flud.
“If f there is an uneasiness over the use of these types of beneficial products, it's because of misuse of inflammatory labels by some media people that misreprenet what the drug is.”
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