Commentary: How U.S. Trainers Can Win Respect

by | 09.03.2015 | 11:26pm

When an American trainer, with some notable exceptions, wins a Triple Crown race, peers, fans and writers invariably shake their heads and question whether the triumph was accomplished on the up and up. This has been going on with increasing frequency for the last several years.

Conversely, when an English or Irish or French trainer wins a Classic in the United Kingdom or Europe, there is not a whisper of impropriety and the only utterances heard are of a celebratory nature.

The reason, plain and simple, that this dichotomy exists is because drugs, both legal and illegal, taint American racing.

Trainers on both sides of the Atlantic work very hard to develop their horsemanship and training skills in order to achieve results that will yield a stable full of prospects with Classic aspirations, all in hopes of one day winning the Kentucky Derby or the Epsom Derby.

When this ultimate achievement is accomplished, trainers understandably anticipate a positive response from peers, fans and turf writers.

Lauding of Classic victories takes place on a regular basis in the UK/Europe, but it is not automatic in the U.S.

A Thoroughbred racehorse trainer has as his major goal in life the respect accorded a successful professional. Yes, I know, I have not forgotten that we live in a capitalistic society. Trainers want to earn money. But, if they are successful, they will earn plenty of money. That is a given. I repeat, however, that respect trumps money for a horse trainer, as it should.

So, why, in the name of everything logical, would racehorse trainers in America trade off a chance for total respect from their family, peers, writers and racing fans just to be able to continue using legal and illegal drugs on their horses?

In embracing a reliance of drugs, American trainers are robbing themselves, their family and the entire sport of horse racing of legitimacy and pride in their life's work. They are being selfish and short sighted. They are doing themselves, their associates and the game itself no favors.

In order to justify their actions, horsemen can continue to take a stance that giving therapeutic drugs to their horses is the humane action to take. And in many instances, both before and after a race, it can be. But not on race day; and not to such an extent that the state of a racehorse has been altered so that it cannot use its own senses to protect its well-being.

Strides have been made and are continuing to be made in various jurisdictions to rein in the use and amount of drugs given to horses on or near race day. But one hard fought victory pretty much sums up the battle in a nutshell.

State vets in certain locales, based on solid evidence, found that reducing the amount of bute in the system of a horse from 5 µg/ml of plasma or serum to 2 µg would allow them to be better analyzed for racing soundness on the morning of a race and lead to fewer catastrophic breakdowns.

Trainers and organizations representing horsemen fought the reduction in the threshold levels tooth and nail before the state vets won this important victory. Horsemen wanted enough bute in the system of the horse to mask its pain. Vets wanted an amount that would allow them to judge the racing soundness of a horse.

Who in their right minds among the racing public and professionals want to embrace a sport in which the reduction of a powerful drug like bute scares so many trainers?

Horses are not football players that have the ability to make a choice whether or not to take a drug that will alter their state on game day. And when a football player makes this decision, he is aware of the dangers.

A horse has no choice and is unaware that his state has been altered, so when he runs down the homestretch and gives everything he has for his connections, he receives no sensory warnings to protect himself as he would if bute was not in his system.

Do we want to have a sporting contest or do we want to sacrifice our athletes like gladiators of old?

When a trainer is standing on the stage at Churchill Downs holding an ear of the trophy after winning the Kentucky Derby, he wants to celebrate in the full knowledge that he has accomplished a credible lifetime achievement. But unless things change, this trainer is never going to get the credit he so richly deserves or so deeply craves.

  • David Worley

    Amen! Well stated and sensible article Barry.

  • ben van den brink

    The article says it all.

    As an european, which is loving horseracing and breeding, iam extremely cautious with the american game.

    It is about having the best vet around.

    • Figless

      So is Europe, which is laden with steroids and other drugs. Just because you don’t legally allow race day medication doesn’t mean the game is clean, far from it.

      So tired of this European superiority crap.

      How do you treat your unwanted horses? Oh yeah, you eat them.

      • Bond

        European racing is far superior and horse meat tastes very nice, you cowboys should give it a go….though maybe not a good idea considering the amount of crap you inject your horses with. Food for thought? Would you eat a US racehorse?, I would be more than happy to eat a European one….

        • Northern Dancer

          You had me until you stated that eating a racehorse is okay. It’s not okay.

          • Ben van den Brink

            Horse meat is a part of our foodchain, tainting makes it poisening for humans.

        • Rachel

          You’re a user, I see. Who eats their working companion animal, especially dogs and horses, who have historically and currently partnered with humans and served us tirelessly e.g guide dogs, police horses, EOD k-9, ranch horses, patient lesson horses for millions of kids, hearing dogs, for-hire trail horses who put up with millions of ignorant riders…
          …and race horses who give every bit of their big or small talent just so millions can be bet on them?

        • Philip

          you think racehorses are injected, you should examine the U.S. beef industry, beef cattle put on 60% of weight of their “finished weight” the initial 11 MONTHS, then the remaining 40% the last 60 DAYS of their life while at the feed lots, Now what is in the “feed” to cause such a rapid weight gain?

          • Whatever it is it’s in some of the yearling prep feed too!

          • artistinwax

            It’s antibiotics. Many feeds for equines also contain glyphosate (roundup) from grains “ripened” before harvesting which is very bad for the digestive tract of mammals, especially horses.

          • It may be just antibiotics for all I know, but it puts as good a finish on them as steroids. I’m not a big admirer of racehorse nutrition science – most of it is on a par with hair care science.

          • artistinwax

            I’m glad you noticed that. Do look at Dr. Huber’s work. He will also communicate individually with people and answer questions. He takes the time to be comprehensive. I’ll email you his contact information. I’ve long wondered whether the feed has anything to do with a lot of colic. When I mention this to horse people they mostly reject without understanding the benefits of saving animals that they have invested in. Different foods can be more expensive but not more than the loss of a superior stud raking in tens of thousands of dollars in stud fees. Just sayin’ …

          • artistinwax

            I think it is a temporary finish. Once the intestinal balance of digestive enzymes is permanently destroyed by the selective antibiotics, the animal becomes sickly and loses form. Its the same as in people. You can’t remain on antibiotics without getting strong secondary side-effects; stomach pain, loss of energy, elimination problems, etc.

      • Gaye Goodwin

        So … you don’t taint their meat with a cornucopia of chemicals that you would then eat – that is why Japan and Hong Kong are so strict, as well. Sad, but true.

        • Gaye these are two separate issues. We had our doping rules long before the EU introduced the human consumption ruling – I think it is an EU law that Brussels must produce so many directives every day!

          • Gaye Goodwin

            “…How do you treat your unwanted horses? Oh yeah, you eat them…”
            But in real time, today, Bill, our tainted horse meat IS an issue – in Europe and in the fact, the ground chuck you get at your local Safeway, or the local fast-food restaurant can contain some, as well. How about we just ban raceways, like the ROW

        • jose

          I’m pretty certain Hong Kong racers retire comfortably. From what I’ve read, I understand the owner of any horse which is imported to Hong Kong must put up 50k for that horse’s retirement.

          • ziggypop

            It is my understanding that people in HK are hugely opposed to eating horses.

      • ben van den brink

        Keep tainting them, and poisening other people is the way to go, must be a very strange way of thinking. Any horse that ever received bute, will be destroyed humanely btw.

        Figless, just keep gooiing on as you are lacking any knowledge about european racing, and believing that the more therapeutical medications the better.

        At least this is the shortest way, for a slow long industry death.

        You can not keep fooling people for ever.

      • Jocke Muth

        Seams you do as well, judging by recent press releases in the US.

      • Jepster

        I can assure you that the Europeans are “tired of this American superiority crap”. You should be called Clueless, not Figless. European racing is very clean, and it is absolutely not laden with steroids and other drugs.

        And how do many owners and trainers treat their unwanted horses here in the USA? They send them to feedlot auctions where they are bought and then shipped in atrocious conditions down to Mexico for slaughter.

      • Really?

        So true, nitrotain, cobalt etc etc. how many more European scandals have to come up for people to stop saying they’re squeaky clean. The cobalt controversy overseas triggered investigation in the U.S. And the last thing I heard was that Indiana was clean. So after trainers here take another beating it wasn’t true. Not saying the super trainers here aren’t doing anything but people are people…

        • Figless

          Thanks you perfectly captured my point. Just because there are no allowed race day meds does not mean racing is clean, there have been plenty of scandals. This doesn’t absolve the Americans, just tired of condescending Euros painting us as ugly and themselves so, so superior when many, including apparently some of the protesting on this thread, eat those same horses that they claim they treat so well.

          • Figless

            Secondly, the article was written about our Classics, not our everyday racing. Our protocols for these races are quite strict, ignoring the race day meds for a brief moment.

          • I suppose the point is that at least the incidents mentioned were scandals not an every day story of country folk. And do not overlook the American connections of both cases.

      • Why so defensive?

  • Erin Casseday

    Great commentary! Curious question. Has racing across the Atlantic ever had the drug problems that we have here? If so, how did the combat and beat it back?

    • Yes in 1900 when we had an American invasion. Most of them soon moved to France – which may account for a more cavalier attitude there until about 30 years ago.

      • Erin Casseday

        Thank you.

      • Tinky

        I’m inclined to mark 1990 as the turning point. American readers might better understand it as the year in which Patrick Biancone was – ahem – encouraged to ply his trade elsewhere.

    • Sal Carcia

      In the last two years, there have been two major steroid use violations in British racing. Mahmood Al Zarooni, trainer of a major Godolphin U.K. yard, was using steroids on a regular basis. It was not the first time Godolphin was involved in steroid violations.

      Gerard Butler was also caught applying steroids to over a hundred horses in the U.K.

      Gina Rarick, trainer in France and oft contributor to Paulick report, recently wrote steroids are still allowed in the U.K. for thereuptic reasons.

      • G. Rarick

        Steroids are 100 percent prohitibed in French racing, and we have out-of-competition testing to enforce it. A trainer caught with any steroid in the yard or a positive test will lose their license. The only thing the French haven’t yet done, and I hope they do, is follow the British example of using hair analysis to rule out steroid use before a horse comes into training or while it is out of training. No detectable level of any medication of any kind is permitted in a horse on race day.

        • Sal Carcia

          Thanks for setting me straight here.

          • Jocke Muth

            Has anyone heard a word about Zarooni since?
            Sheik Mo was not happy.

          • Sal Carcia

            Yes, he had his youngest wife (good to be the Sheikh) assigned do an investigation on the drug practices of his various stables. I don’t remember seeing the outcome.

          • Jocke Muth

            I know the Princess Haya did an investigation, but have anyone heard anything about Al-Zarooni since? Is he still in England or did he take a chance and return to Dubai?

          • Sal Carcia

            In 2014, he was in Dubai. Aug. 9 of this year he was in Austalia. It might have been a holiday though.

          • Al Zarooni like Lee Harvey Oswald will not have operated alone.

      • Erin Casseday

        Thanks. I had forgotten about Mahmood Al Zarooni.

      • Al Zarooni’s outfit has always been besotted with the American way.
        The Gerard Butler case may have been more complex in that this was a joint repair injection that either was not clearly illegal, or had only just become so – his DQ was more likely because he had injected the joints himself a l’Americain, which was against the law of the land.

  • Barry, the similarities with the efforts that were made to maintain the Corn Laws are striking. You might be able to Google Somerville’s letters on the subject in the mid 1800s. As you rightly point out there are undoubted benefits to all [apart from vets!] to straightening this out, but the vets have convinced their clients, just as the great landlords did the tenant farmers, that this is the only way.

  • Tinky

    Barry’s take is valuable, as usual. However, I would make a few additional points.

    First, the following is so patently naïve that I am inclined to believe that Barry simply slipped into a brief, romantic state when he wrote it:

    “I repeat, however, that respect trumps money for a horse trainer, as it should.”

    We may all wish that were true, but alas, were American trainers to be canvased anonymously, you’d be far more likely to hear something along the lines of “respect doesn’t pay for my kids’ college tuitions”.

    Interestingly, even those trainers whose careers were partly built on foundations of PED use have great difficulty giving them up and going straight. And, contrary to Barry’s suggestion to the contrary, this is at least partly due to the fact that their successes have led to quite a bit of “respect”, superficial as it may be.

    This should not be in the least surprising, as “success” in the contemporary U.S. is largely synonymous with money. The iconic Michael Douglas line “Greed is good!” neatly (and sadly) sums up the American business ethos over the past three decades or so.

    One factor that I believe Barry has missed, at least in the above post, is fear. As I have pointed out a few times previously, most American trainers have never regularly sent horses to post without the use of Lasix. They are frightened, which is somewhat understandable, and those fears are likely compounded by feedback on the issue that they receive from their trusted vets.

    This is not meant as an excuse, but merely to point out that drug reform would be a lot easier if American trainers were to all spend a month in the U.K., France or Hong Kong, and witness first hand how manageable EIPH is without the use of raceday medication.

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    • ben van den brink

      Tinky, you forget 1 important issue,

      The vet,s income are totally depended on administration and injecting from medications.

      Anything that is decreasing their income will be fight off.

      The poor horsies can not run without medications, that is in humanely, you know. The most used argument.

      Clean up the bizz and it will flourish.

      • Tinky

        You’re exaggerating, Ben. Lasix injections on race day represent a small percentage of their gross incomes.

        I’m not suggesting that it is a meaningless source of revenue, but they are not anything like “totally dependent” on it.

        • ben van den brink

          It is not only the Lasix to what I refered, but the total from legal therapeutic medications in use in the USA.

          Please read why the NAARV was formed. Let,s say the race track vet,s. Racing with unfit and/or unsound horses is inhumanely.

          When a horse is sufferingfrom let,s say arthritis, painkilling will not help the situation, It will only make it worse.

          • Tinky

            Ah, well, then I’m afraid that your goals, while admirable, are entirely unrealistic.

            You can see how hard the push-back is to the simple proposal to eliminate raceday Lasix; good luck micromanaging joint injections, etc.!

          • ben van den brink

            In all honesty,if lasix is such a big issue, I can not think on the real dangers.

            But as reported by Paulick report, testing in let,s say, Arkansas is laughable if it wasn,t so seriuous

            Maybe better if I give up, It is too much a difference in thinking, ethics etc.

  • MSM

    We could have an American Phaorah each year, but it would not grow the sport. To build the sport, it will require:

    1. Horses should be allowed therapeutic meds, but if so, they should be rested, not racing. There should be specifically defined and enforced turnaround times before they get back on the track in all 50 states.

    2. Race-day drugs have no place in racing. If you have a bad bleeder, you do not have a racehorse. Period. Bring racing, especially at the top levels, to an international standard. And do not breed severe bleeders.

    3. HR 3084 is totally necessary, because of the illegal drugs that are screwing up the sport and harming the animals. It is a safety issue for the animals. With the state of racing as it is, I cannot imagine anyone being against this bill, except those who benefit from the status quo.

    I love horse racing, but the perception of the sport is horrible among new fans. It should be. Until the animals are treated better and there is some sort of an equine retirement program, along with an anti-doping program, racing will circle down the drain. People are not into becoming racing fans to support gladiators. They want to see an equine competition behind which they can stand in good faith.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      Agreed. Racing is dirty and while racing doesn’t want to admit it, the public believes it. Racing is like an ostrich with its head in the sand, ignoring what is happening and what is coming.

  • Jack Frazier

    I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Irwin’s article with a few caveats;: those that are in charge, in the racing office, just want to fill races so they overlook or encourage what is going on. The passivity, acquiescence or ignoring what is happening lets the problem continue. On a personal note, one will lose their stalls if they need to give a horse time off to recover from an injury. Racing secretaries use this punishment to “encourage” trainers to enter. This happens more to small operators than the larger outfits. There are at least two sets of rules that apply; those for the the big outfits and those for the smaller outfits. That it itself is discrimination. And yes, it does occur. Private track vets don’t want it to change because they can squeeze thousands of dollars from their treatment of the horses. It is a far bigger problem than can be imagined.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      I agree that the racing office wants to fill stalls with horses who are racing. Horses who need time off do not belong at the track, they belong on the farm.

      • Jack Frazier

        Exactly however, there are trainers with huge stables that run a small percentage of them. In fact I know of one trainer who has raced only one horse in the past year yet has over forty horses in their barn. Explain how that fits into your logic. If the actual numbers of horses in a barn correlated to the number of starts by a trainer and if every horse in those barns had at least one start, your argument is valid. However, sometimes a horse with an injury can be treated and cared for better at the track than on a farm. Not all farms are Valhalla. Some just turn them out and forget them. And on the same vein, there are trainers who have huge numbers of horses on day money charges and don’t run them yet don’t want them to leave the track because they bring in an average of $65 per day in fees. Owners have to absorb that cost and is why a lot of owners are getting out of the business; because they are being given the business. At most tracks it depends on who you are, not whether or not you are a good horseman or horsewoman. Not everyone is treated fairly.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          I can’t argue with what you say. However, I have never felt that allocation of stalls is fair. To a large extent it’s who the trainer is. I think we all know that. I agree all farms are not Valhalla, but as you say, the stall are full and the day money is being collected by the trainer. Costs at a farm are much lower. And a good trainer should know where good farms are.

  • Figless

    Invariably? You are insulting many terrific horseman in an attempt to further your agenda.

    I dont remember anyone questioning anyone other than Dutrow.

    I dont remember many if any comments questioning the legitamacy of American Pharoah this year despite the trainers history.

    And most of the other Derby winning trainers of last 15 years were highly regarded trainers with clean records. You owe them an apology despite your little caveat.
    .

    • Neigh Sayer

      Ask yourself why the masses did question only Dutrow. People think Dutrow got ten years because of his drug violations. That is not true.
      Baffert, Asmussen, and more top trainers have more drug violations than Dutrow.

    • Gaye Goodwin

      There have been several comments questioning this year’s TC success.

    • never hit a horse

      I think many people just assume that American Pharoah was probably on some kind of drugs or items for problems he does not have, considering the trainer’s history, whether the trainer was caught or not (and every other horse trained by that particular trainer). If American Pharoah was trained by someone else then maybe American Pharoah might get more credit for what he did, rather than drugs. I hope one day, the owners are forced to take all the unnecessary drugs their horses take. I’m sure they would whine like tiny babies, complain about it and be very indignant, saying things like “how dare you shoot me up with Lasix”, etc. The owners forget, no one ever gets away with anything. In the end, they will have to explain themselves to God, and He does not take any flimsy answers.

  • togahombre

    i understand how important this issue is to mr irwin and many others, but not once in this commentary is the owners role mentioned, they choose the trainers program, they pay the bills, their place in this problem, intentional or not, is apparently being understated

  • Sal Carcia

    For many reasons, I respect Barry Irwin. And maybe his perspective comes from a different point. But, I fully respect Bob Baffert as a trainer. This might be controversial, but I don’t view Bob Baffert as a cheat.

    With respect to England, they have had some serious steroid violations over there the past couple of years. Also, steroids are still allowed over there as treatment for horses. This is according to a recent article by Gina Rarick.

    Yet, I do agree that the game would do much good with respect to its public image if race day drugs are dropped. I agree that doing nothing is hurting the game. Trainers really need to look at this more seriously.

    But, this all speaks to the greater issue of the game. This is no time in the game’s history for all the factions to continue with their adversarial ways. Whether it is realized or not, the game will never thrive unless there is unity.

    • takethat

      Re Gina’s comments. This is what she said about steroids in England.

      “The British decision to prohibit steroids at any time in a horse’s life and using hair analysis to back it up is an excellent initiative, and I hope they stick to their guns.”

      “So far, France has not followed suit, which is disappointing. Eliminating steroids and the overuse of so-called therapeutic medications is the only way to ensure the future of the Thoroughbred.”

      • Sal Carcia

        I had it backwards. It figures. Thanks.

      • longtimehorsewoman

        My mother used to say, “if one of your friends jumped off the Empire State Building, would you?” Foisting blame on other racing jurisdictions does not make what we do over here right. Trainers here care more about money than the health and well being of the horses they train. Barry is very correct in saying that horses do not know why they feel no pain, and pain is what allows them to know something is wrong.

        • Sal Carcia

          This issue is that Barry might be overstating the perception of integrity in the U.K. as well. I think our worldwide image is important in the breeding business, but we do need to look at this issue on a larger scale.

      • G. Rarick

        Just to clarify, as I said above, steroids ARE prohibited in France, but the French authorities have not followed the British move to extend testing to hair analysis to detect use in horses that have either not yet entered training or have been declared out of training.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      Then you are naïve.

      • Sal Carcia

        “Then you are naïve.”

        About what specifically?

        • longtimehorsewoman

          Your assumption that Baffert doesn’t cheat. Maybe not this year, but how do you explain 7 horses dropping dead? I doubt it was not experimenting.

          • Sal Carcia

            I can’t explain it. It is not easy as a handicapper to determine whether a trainer is cheating. I do have had an opinion on many trainers over different periods of time. As a player, one typically looks for change in form for horses new to the stable. I also look for dramatic form changes over different time periods. I look at the horses physical appearance to see any signs as well.

            Baffert does not have many horses changing over to his barn. He is not a claiming trainer. Also, I don’t remember a period of time where his horses were unusually good. He has been consistent over a number of years. He also is very careful with his runners and he will rest them and works them back to form. I just can’t think of a period where I felt he was cheating. I could totally wrong.

            I don’t feel this way about all the top trainers.

      • Sal Carcia

        I’ll just assume you meant that I was naive about Baffert. You see LTHorserwoman, it doesn’t matter whether I am or not. What we are talking about is perception. I have never seen Baffert as a cheat. Never. I have read about him pushing the envelope on some legal drugs. But, I have thought it never went beyond that.

        • Gaye Goodwin

          7 dead horses and thyroid meds didn’t convince you? Forest, meet the trees.

          • Sal Carcia

            Thyroid meds are used all the time by trainers without catastrophic results. I have no idea what happened to those horses.

          • Noelle

            Why would trainers routinely use thyroid meds? There is something very wrong with routinely dosing healthy horses with thyroid meds. You write as if you think it’s OK.

          • Sal Carcia

            Noelle, I had a trainer cite to me a number reasons. He also pointed to the fact it does not harm the horses in any way. I don’t know if it’s OK. I wouln’t even go near a horse. But, it does sound as if it is a regular practice in this game. The PETA tape also mentioned its regular use.

          • As Mandy Rice-Davis said [of Lord Astor during the Profumo trial]: “well he would say that wouldn’t he?”

  • Steve Nick

    The article and the comments from the peanut gallery touch on a lot of what is wrong with American racing today. There is no easy answer is there? But whatever it is we ultimately decide – if ever a conclusive ruling is put into place – the horse’s best interest must come first, no matter if it slices into somebody’s bottom line.

  • longtimehorsewoman

    Well said Barry. It makes the issue very clear.

  • Roark

    This past weekend a young trainer set a G1 stakes record in her 26th lifetime start. Not a drop of Lasix nor Bute nor any illegal drug was used, just a good old fashioned approach to training in the bluegrass of Kentucky. The workouts are public knowledge, look them up. Everyone is looking for something; either an excuse or an opportunity. All these hypocrite owners pledging to not use Lasix at 2 immediately break out the syringes on Jan. 1st of the 3yo season. Stop looking for excuses and do your job, trainers – otherwise we’ll get more of these blowhard editorials for the next 20+ years.

    • canyougetwithit

      First of all the trainer didn’t set any records the horse did. The horse did that because the horse has the talent to do great things but it’s training is unlike most horses. The horse is trained using an ETRAKkA heart rate monitor that is analyzed daily by Bill Pressy who happens to know more than most trainers. The horses training is fine tuned. Check the trainers record and see if she has ever used any Lasix or bute. Normally I wouldn’t respond to a post but people don’t need to have the misconception about the horse and how it’s trained.

    • artistinwax

      What woman trainer, what horse, what race? I don’t remember reading about it and would like to.

  • Larry Ensor

    I have been told by more than one trainer when it comes to using Lasix. “I pretty much use it for one reason, it is a performance enhancer”. Most horses by a large do not bleed.

  • Readers: in this short Op-Ed my goal was to make one point. It was purposely written with a narrow focus. I appreciate the additions some of you have made or suggested that I might have added, but I didn’t want to write the history of drugs in American racing on the head of a pin. I just wanted to make one point. I hope I was successful. Thanks.

    • Kevin Callinan

      I was watching a 30-30 on ESPN that included Rafael Palmeiro, a borderline baseball Hall of Famer (w/ HOF numbers) who famously pointed at the Senate and said he never took steroids. He was soon discredited, got less than 5% in the HOF voting and no longer even appears on the ballot. The show had him slinking into a college baseball reunion with many of his teammates embarrassed to approach him. He would love to have that respect back for a few less hits and I’m sure Dutrow would too but right now though I’m afraid temptation outweighs forethought.

      • Tinky

        The problem, Kevin, is that the vast majority of those in racing who have used PEDs haven’t ever had to “slink”. In fact, some of them are basking in the limelight to this day!

        In other words, the rewards have far outweighed the risks.

        • Gaye Goodwin

          Slink? The madding crowd adores them and the media is all to happy to hype them.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          Sadly very true.

    • Sal Carcia

      There are people from all groups in this industry that speak what is on their minds openly and passionately Maybe, you should all get in a room and hash it out. And then convince your constituencies to follow. It has got to come from somewhere.

      • You won’t need a very big room when they get to thinking about how straightening things out might effect them personally in the short term!

    • Rachel

      You hit the nail on the head and much more nicely than me.
      I say what kind of ethical person medicates an animal with pain and/or injury and then makes that animal run as fast as it can with a human on its back, in the company of other horses and riders over and over.

      • 4Bellwether666

        Remember no one has to twist a jocks arm to get them on the Horses back…They have to have a clue some of them are doped up…

        • Rachel

          We all know there’s drunk/high drivers on our daily commute, too, but we gotta’ pay the mortgage and feed our kids. :)

      • whirlaway

        A person who does not care. I always say not just in racing but in life
        ” I don’t listen to what people say I watch what they do ” that usually
        shows the type of person I may be dealing with. There are trainers and there are horseman and a vast difference exists between the two.

    • Keith L. O’Brien

      I agree Barry, but I would like to add a personal note. In 1991, my Dad trained the winner of the Irish 2,000 Guineas. It was the first and only time an American based horse won a European classic. It was a remarkable feat to take a NY bred to Ireland, and win a Grade 1 classic on a stiff, uphill straight mile. As a two year old, he was second in the Laurel Futurity to a very good French horse named River Traffic, trained by John Hammond and ridden by Cash Asmussen. It was that performance that convinced my Dad to point for the 1991 2000 Guineas. In regard to respect, it was an achievement hailed in Ireland at the time but here in the US it was given a very ho hum response. It was a personal ambition for my Dad, because he had ridden his first winner at the Curragh in 1960. He was lucky to have been training for a sporting man in Richard Bomze. He did not benefit from any “Big” spenders as a result and has continued to train a moderate string of horses for owners with limited budgets and less patience. The modern owner may be blessed with great wealth but there is a staggering absence of horse sense and common sense. For me, 1995 is the year it all began to truly come undone. Lasix was permitted in New York, and as a result we saw the emergence of the program training behemoths. There is absolutely zero incentive for young horsemen and women to truly strive to be better horse people. It is all about the program, perception and percentage.

      • togahombre

        whenever fourstardave is mentioned i can’t help but think of his little brother, never forget watching his classic win on the local replay show, that was when ny breds had to be ny bred

      • I would agree with you Keith and re-emphasize that the emergence of the trainer’s win percentage in print has caused a lot of harm. Nobody ever knew or cared what Charlie Whittingham or Woody Stephens’ winning strike rate was.

        • Tinky

          Eh, no Barry. You’re lashing out at data, which of course is not the problem. The problem is in how superficially (and often stupidly) contemporary owners in the U.S. choose their trainers, which has caused untold harm to countless good, smaller trainers.

          Hey – that guy wins at 20%, so he’s obviously better than this guy who only wins at 12%! Never mind that the former has a barn full of horses that average $125k at sales, while the latter has 12 horses, only two of which were ever worth that amount during their lifetimes.

          I know that you know all of this, but publicizing accurate statistics, no matter how superficial, is not the problem. When statistics are intentionally distorted or misused (e.g. GDP, the official unemployment rate, etc.), then they are a problem.

          • We have a youngish trainer here being interviewed as a genius and collecting A stream owners who is consistently winning 8% of his starts. Work that out.

          • Tinky

            Presumably a small sample, to begin with.

          • Not really

          • Tinky

            Hmmm…I don’t see any “youngish” trainer on the list with more than around 150 starts who is winning at anywhere near 8%.

          • I am not blaming the use of the stats, merely pointing out that trainers focus on them and it drives what they do. Obviously owners look at them, but the trainers are the ones totally fixated on them and they act accordingly.

          • Tinky

            Ah, thanks for the correction. I took your original post too literally.

            I agree with your point, and it begs the question of why trainers haven’t better educated owners. The main answer is probably that those with large stables prefer to maximize their advantage, so there is little incentive to do so.

          • vinceNYC

            well said…..a trainers win percentage has more to do with his stock…..also agree about the unemployment stat being distorted ..I remember when in hit 11.9 under Reagan I always felt it was twice that but funny no one seemed to complain then..guess we; have gotten smarter)

          • MLS

            Barry Irwin, of Team Valor International? The owners of Hay Oats and Water? The same horse that runs with Lasix??? Hmmmm I smell a hypocrite…..

      • An excellent post. Likely your father is/was[?] not fluent in gobbledegook – but the record, as they say, remains.

    • NJDerek

      I’d hate to read the long version.

      • It’ll cost you about $29.95 next spring. Look for it.

        • No-one wants to read anything – why would they given that they already know everything about the subject? [I don’t refer to NJ Derek specifically]

        • Rachel

          Thank-you for all your efforts.

  • It is frightening to think that so many trainers, those we entrust with the well-being of our horses, take a position contrary to the welfare of the animal and the jockey.

    • canyougetwithit

      Amanda I would say that if trainers do that then so do people who advocate for no drugs do the same exact thing. First let’s take cobalt. Cobalt is natural and when you start regulating natural substances found in the body then you aren’t looking out for the welfare of the horse. Then let’s take clenbuterol. Most people don’t have a clue what the active ingredient is that’s in it. They just hear certain things about it and go with what they hear without any knowledge of the product. Most vets will tell you and you don’t have to be a vet to know that every racehorse in a barn that is dusty with very little to know airflow should stay on it. It’s what’s best for the animal. When we stop using racetracks as training tracks then I could agree with some of the things people say. To keep a racehorse in a barn for 23.5 hours of the day should be outlawed but I never hear of anyone advocating for that.

      • Gaye Goodwin

        There have been PLENTY of people commenting that the European style training is MUCh better for the horse, especially when CC was in the UK. Cobalt is natural in very small amounts. Very small amounts is not the issue – loading an animal with ANYTHING in an effort to produce more red blood cells is an issue. Period.

        • canyougetwithit

          First let me say that the limits they set are for horses walking around in a field. It isn’t for horses working. If they would know at what level cobalt is detrimental and set that limit then they would be doing there jobs correctly and diligently. A horse doing more work will need more of every mineral in its body. By the way there are a lot of minerals and vitamins used in building red blood cells and specific time they should be given to work the best. Cobalt just happens to be one. It’s the way God intended it to be. Cobalt is also great for keeping horses from tying up. Whatever problem you have there is a natural solution for it. If we start resulting natural ways to prevent illness sickness and injuries where will the horses be then. Research what enormous amounts of vitamin c will do for you. Are we gonna start regulating that. Everyone wants to stop drugs but you also want to take away the natural substances we need to not have to depend on drugs

          • Neigh Sayer

            I get what you’re trying to say, but you are ignoring the fact that is well known that it is widely abused in large amounts. The vet that got a 10 year ban said, it improves their performance, but the downside is they are only good for about 5 starts because it ruins them. I’ve heard reports of the affects on some horses then given cobalt, and that vet said it does harm internal organs. It improves performance, it is bad for the horse in the amounts given, and is widespread abused. Now look at it from that angle. And the threshold level that is thrown around is above what is normally found naturally.

          • canyougetwithit

            Let me explain it this way. You will certainly agree that oxygen is a performance enhancer wouldn’t you. Everything being equal A horse that has a higher concentration of oxygen in its system should definitely perform better than a horse that doesn’t have a level that isn’t as high. The horse gets a higher level of oxygen because it’s body attempts to reach homeostasis after exercise. The body says wow we are depleted and we don’t want to do that again so it stores oxygen in the tissues so that when it does that amount of exercise it won’t be depleted again. Oxygen is something that the horse can get on its own through breathing. That horse is going to have and require a higher level of oxygen to do its job than a horse standing in the field. If it tried to continue doing the same job without the concentration of oxygen that it’s body requires to do that job it will start having major problems. Now think about cobalt and every mineral and vitamin that horses need. Do you think their bodies are gonna require the same amount as if they were standing in a field. How are they gonna get those essential vitamins and nutrients they need to do their job. How do we know what they actually need. If we have them each one free choice ten we would have some idea but we don’t. So this is the only angle that matters to me because it is what’s best for the horse. I don’t think most horses should suffer because some people choose to abuse a substance.

          • Neigh Sayer

            Well then, let me explain it to you this way. Trainers know that if they give a horse cobalt it performs better. So more is even better, and it destroys their internal organs such as the thyroid, so perfect then they give it thyroxine, another performance enhancer. Take out the last sentence, go to the second sentence, and that as you say is all I care about.

          • My problem with all this is: if cobalt, lasix, milkshakes all improve horses, and if the European visitors remain competitive even so, then how poor must the American horses be? Now before you have a heart attack, let me say that I don’t see any reason, overall, that there should be a kick in the A*** between the European and American populations. So it seems obvious that more training and less medication are likely equally effective from the results point of view – and less dangerous. This is not an easy concept to convey in a few words, but it is worth considering.

          • Europeans have superior training facilities and they put a better foundation in their horses. When they arrive here for a race they are usually fitter. We have trouble getting our horses as fit because we train on inferior surfaces and have to train with soundness in mind before fitness.

          • Eggzacly – but there is nothing preventing US trainers at least experimenting with two canters every day and 2 work days. One of our lads was with [Sir] Jackie Jarvis, Lord Rosebery’s trainer in the 1960s – ” we had 3 work days – and the only difference the other three days was that you didn’t turn the sheets up”. That harks back to the days of the best galloping grounds being “stripped gallops” – they were only supposed to be used when doing serious work with the clothing removed – his point being that Jackie’s never had an easy day.

          • Neigh Sayer

            No hear attack here. I have always maintained the European training methods are much better. And that is understating it.

      • never hit a horse

        There’s no way I would allow my horse to stay in a barn with no airflow. That is a direct path to illness. Ammonia rises from horse pee. Good airflow is basic to horse health and normal maintenance. No airflow? Time to go.

        • canyougetwithit

          There isn’t a barn that has adequate airflow for a horse.

          • Not true. There are some that have been designed and managed to provide good air flow.

          • canyougetwithit

            “Good” would be a relative term. What humans think are good for horses aren’t normally what a horse would prefer. There might be some that have better airflow than others but if that have a roof and four walls it isn’t close to being sufficient for a horse. Especially a racehorse. It doesn’t matter how many windows or doors they have.

  • Neigh Sayer

    The CHRB shockingly, after three years of review will not even approve third party lasix administration. Why is that.
    The President of the TOC said they are 100% against the USADA. The Thoroughbred Owners of CA also said they have yet to approve the national uniform medication program. I would just be curious why they are afraid of the USDA and have dragged their feet in just about every area of this serious problem. As Bob Baffert is on the board of the TOC, I would be very curious and love know why he is against the USADA and yet to approve the national uniform rules.

  • Elliott ness

    Here in Louisville ky at Whole Foods Market, they all show up during the meet. The top trainers that is . They all pull up in Mercedes Beemers Jags, buy 750.00 of groceries at a pop. One must respect the resource qualities of these American trainers, they drive the best , feed their families the best . I guess if they ran off the vets , they would drive kias, and feed Bologna and white bread to their kids , but they buy 40 dollar a pound salmon. The best schools they use also. It’s a big picture deal. Ethics will make you poor in the horse business. If you could make big money with drugs and take great care of your kids, or have respect and live a crap life , what would you choose?

    • First of all I’ve never seen $40 a pound salmon! Are you sure about that? Next, I still say you are dead wrong. All of the money, salmon, caviar and Maseratis in the world can not make a person feel good about himself or herself. Ask any mental health worker or priest/rabbi. Sure, certain sociopaths have made the subconscious adjustment to justify their behavior, but when push comes to shove, it is no way to live for a normal person. In the end, they all want respect. And I think they can earn it and prosper from it. That is the message I have for them. They deserve to feel good about their accomplishments. And every time a cheater wins a big race and people in the know fail to give these “winners” credit, the honest trainer suffers both by the loss of the race and the poor perception of all trainers in the eyes of the fans and the public.

      • Gaye Goodwin

        I applaud your efforts to appeal to their better instincts … if they still have any. Years and years of burying the guilt can leave a person annoyingly unrepentant. (See: Crimes and Misdemeanors)

        • I think what you may be seeing is the defense mechanism at work. Deep down the bad guys know what they have done. But I agree that years of living in denial among people that share their ethics eases the load.

          • Elliott ness

            I feel like it will be the love of the horse from all concerned, in the industry and out that will bring the necessary changes to save the horses from the abuse.. The thrill of a sizable check will never deter this group from injecting joints, clenbuterol, designer drugs, and all of the other shocking devices, it will be respect for the noble thoroughbred that will heal this gluttonous industry. Au moon for example, gluttons. One cannot appeal to this group of gluttons , they are simply blinded an deafened by the love of the good life. I like the piece you wrote Barry, although not an award winner, it was inspired by the love of the horse, and in the end this love will only and respectfully save the noble horse, peace.

          • Gaye Goodwin

            I think of the movie, “Goodfellas”, based on a true story, where the main character was angry at being a regular Joe Schmoe in witness protection and not a “wise guy” anymore – I think this is the basic mentality of some of the PED users.

      • G. Rarick

        A big problem with American training though, Barry, is that the trainers who are not cheating but are using a litany of so-called therapeutic medications don’t think they’re going anything wrong. In fact, many of them really believe that we’re the barbarians over here in Europe because we DON’T treat every problem with a chemical. They don’t have a pride problem because everyone in America is doing it the same way – they use the laundry list of drugs open to them because that’s just the way it’s done.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          I believe Barry included the overuse of legal drugs. And yes, those who overdue it believe it’s right. If it’s legal it must be okay. If there were more horsemen among trainers, drug use would not be so rampant – but there are few true horsemen.

  • Gaye Goodwin

    Unfortunately, the idea of a moral victory is as antiquated as an Edsel. I support what Mr. Irwin says, but I think he is, as one philosopher so aptly put it, “throwing his pearls at swine”. The non-cheaters are clearly defined. There can be no shaming those who conduct themselves without shame.

    • Kevin Callinan

      If the shame within the ‘community’ isn’t sufficient then maybe the recent approach in PA will work(Wells, Rojas). 3 hots and a cot are a long way from $40 a LB salmon

    • “There can be no shaming those who conduct themselves without shame.”I wish this comment was true.

      • Gaye Goodwin

        Thank you for an eloquent commentary and keep fighting the good fight.

    • MLS

      Barry Irwin, of Team Valor International? The owners of Hay Oats and Water? The same horse that runs with Lasix??? Hmmmm I smell a hypocrite…..

  • Memories of Puchi

    unfortunately many of today’s trainers do not have the horsemanship skills of yesteryear, nor do they have the facilities to enable better training methods (why do you think that Mr. Irwin invested in Fair Hill?). The drugs may be used as a compensation tool.
    additionally, trainers may be afraid to give an “advantage” to competitors by not using all the tools available.
    the nature of horse ownership has changed too. many more owners with way less knowledge of horses.

    • never hit a horse

      I hope horse owners will read Marion Seidel’s Racehorse Training Compared book. It is a true education. By the way, the amount of dollars I will give to a drugger trainer is zero. The only way a trainer could ever qualify for my consideration to train my horse is if they have a track record of no drugs. No Lasix, no metabolism enhancement, no steroids, no elephant juice, no vitamin shots, nothing but hay, GOOD feed, and water. So many trainers feed bad food and then expect the horse to run. On good food, my horse is a freight train.

      • canyougetwithit

        When did vitamins become a drug

      • canyougetwithit

        Please list what you feed

        • never hit a horse

          Seminole gold chance 12. Regarding vitamins, if whatever it is is necessary, then its in the feed, not the syringe. I was referring to “vitamins” given by needle.

          • artistinwax

            I looked up the ingredients in this feed and it was as I have heard. It contains Glyphosates, Corn with Bt Toxin, Wheat Ripened with Roundup, and Soy which is grown with lots of pesticides and ripened with Roundup. If this is good feed I am afraid of what another less quality feed contains as far as pesticides, fungicide, Bt Toxin and Glyphosate. If its not good enough for a human to eat, its not good enough for a horse. I, of course, am into organic and may well be dismissed automatically by experienced horse people. But these toxic ingredients must impact the intestines and could cause colic. Along with all the injections and steroids and illegal drugs, the food couldn’t be good for the breed if it contains constant levels of poisons. Just my opinion.

  • Mike

    I also worry about a related issue: breeding.

    I have really begun to question US catalog pages. For example, I look really hard at a running record if I think it may have been from “help” rather than just training and good genetics.

    This is even the larger risk. Trainers move on (change happening one death or retirement at a time) but if we are standing too many stallions that ran with PED’s or weaknesses covered by PED’s, that could be troubling. We are stuck with the breed (of course, we could rely more on European stallions, but different, slower, longer turf racing emphasis)…

    Same goes for bottom of pedigree, but enough unraced or lightly raced mares, some are going to get through without being tampered with (also a more and more narrow range of stallions).

    As Keeneland nears, do you believe all the back type… or should some have footnotes if the trainer from that race was frequently caught or sanctioned….

    • canyougetwithit

      The problem we should worry about with breeding is certain breeders give foals steroids as soon as they hit the ground. That animal will forever be a better racehorse than his genetics alone would allow him to have been. He will never pass on the ability you see on the track because that’s not who he truly is. That’s a big part of the entire drug argument that you don’t hear people talking about

      • Really?

        ????? Please out these people giving foals steroids as soon as they hit the ground. This is news to me.

        • canyougetwithit

          It’s been done for years and years

        • This is why allowing anonymous people to post is bad. Would “canyougetwithit” canyougetawaywithit allege something this outrageous if he/she used their own name?

          • canyougetwithit

            Go test fifty foals at random. Go to various farms. We don’t need to know the results. Just test them. Keep the results to yourself if you want.

          • canyougetwithit

            Why is that statement so outrageous. You have people giving horses everything from A to Z and that statement is so outrageous??

    • Gaye Goodwin

      You certainly are not alone – that is a consideration for other owners going to the sales, too.

    • Europe seems to cope with American stallions.

  • 810fSxLVZ3

    As the owner of 2 yearlings I have decided to see if it is possible to raise and race a US Thoroughbred without drugs. It has been difficult to find a trainer who will agree to my conditions. No medications of ant kind (except in an emergency) without my express permission. I have gotten responses like “you mean I need your permission to give a horse something if he is sore after working ?” when I say yep they are mostly not interested. I believe that the drug issue could be solved by having the owners vote on it not the trainers or the vets.or the Racing Commissions. Just have them vote and make the results public. Do you want all drugs banned on race day Yes or No sign your name below. I believe the answer would surprise a lot of folks. After all they are YOUR animals.

    • Don’t ask for a vote unless it’s going to be public! Owners are hiding behind trainers and vets , and are not likely to willingly compromise [what they see as] their own interests.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      It is really hard to find a trainer who will listen to owners. Especially if the owner is not rich and doesn’t have a lot of horses. People say owners should step up and do the right thing – but most have no power at all. Where can they go? I am lucky I am my own trainer and can do what I want. I have a yearling by Bullet Train who will never get any drugs other than as necessary for injuries or illness, and certainly he will not be racing while injured or sick. He also lives out 24/7 with a herd of 11 other horses. He will not live alone in a stall. He will not race at 2.

      • artistinwax

        I’ve read a lot of your comments and am admiring your opinions. I’m learning so much from these commentaries that I couldn’t have gotten from books. Thanks everyone, especially Bill, Tinky, Mike and LTHWoman. I live for this excitement every day following the horses and the horse people.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          Thanks. There is a lot to know about horses, and surprisingly a lot is not in books. Even things that everyone should know. A great example is horses who rub their tails. Even in books and magazines we are told they have worms. the truth is much simpler. They itch! Mares, especially, rub their tails because dirt and crud gets in between their teats and it itches. Surely they must have known this back in the day. Scratch between the teats and it becomes very clear that is why they were rubbing. Mares who get scratched love it and will ask for it by presenting their butts.

          • artistinwax

            I love these little tidbits!

  • Joel Schiff

    I agree with Barry more than 100%.

  • youcantmakeitup

    Barry, a good article for sure . I think anyone who knows this business and truly loves horses and has common sense knows what is wrong with this game. A lot and too much to mention. A very simple question for all horse lovers. Is it OK that when a horse goes to a racetrack , is put in a 10 x 10 stall possibly for the rest of his ” useful” life and the lover of horses thinks there is nothing wrong with it is truly a horse lover and a real horseman? Forget the drugs, corruption etc. That’s too complicated.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      You make a great point. And to put it into something anyone can understand, what athlete spends 23 hours per day in their bathroom? Life at the racetrack is not good for horses.

  • Canarse

    It is now the American way to question anyone’s success no matter the endevor. Any business that makes money is assumed to cheat. Lawyers and the media will go to great lengths to find any impropriety. I agree with getting rid of the drugs, but I don’t think opinions will change that much. We are a very cynical society.

  • 4Bellwether666

    How many more times is this no race day drug issue going to be hashed out before a damn thing is done about it???…The one thing I did notice about this piece was it did not EVER mention ‘The Gambler’s’ and without them there is NO GAME plain and simple…

    • Gamblers definition of cheating: “something I’m not in on”.

      • 4Bellwether666

        Better ask one then u think???…I see pie face got his 2 cent in it…

        • Just ask them “would you be appalled to learn of a PED trainer before anyone else had cottoned on? Too appalled to bet on his horses?” I don’t think so.

          • 4Bellwether666

            For sure…Do believe most Horseplayers/Gamblers I have been around over the years would like to see ‘The Game’ cleaned up once and for all…Integrity goes a long way for ALL concerned…

          • I must meet all the wrong people.

          • 4Bellwether666

            That’s called the 50/50 split…50% Hero’s 50%——– U can fill in that blank Bill…

  • NJDerek

    This writer sure used a lot of words to make one point. I’m not sure what that point is. Most of the gladiators of old were human and not even tested for bute.

    Racing doesn’t need another opinion on the need for common sense rating universal and ban drugs that mask pain. Until there’s action, stuff like this is only bad writing.

    • Attention Readers: I gave this guy a lousy review on something he wrote and I guess it is now payback time. Sorry I didn’t like your snarky piece Derek. Better luck next time pal.

      • G. Rarick

        The irony is he seems to agree with you!

        • Ha ha ha. Prior to this the guy hardly posted on Paulick Report. Pathetic.

    • Kevin Callinan

      Oxymoronic, ‘stuff like this’, Shakespearean

  • Sort of – there is also the mindset that “everyone else is doing it , so to be competitive …”. I’m just amazed that there is such resistance to even discussing the minimum med. method with anyone who has proven that it can be done. Water, hay and oats + 2000i.u. vit. E + iodine, DMSO, and perhaps hylartil [into the neck not into the knee] can keep you clear of the European rules without too many wrecks. Oh, and you do need to have your hands on them every day.

    • Jack Frazier

      The resistance is one of necessity for many of these guys. Should they actually have to show horsemanship skills they would be sorely lacking. From my days training in southern California, I can attest to the fact that certain trainers have vets in their barns from early till late every day. In my opinion this cabal is what is wrong. Theoretically vets have to turn in a list of the meds used on each horse but there is no one to check what they carry onto the grounds in their trucks. In my opinion, enhanced searches of their medicine chests might stop some of this but again I doubt it. There are some very good vets who will not give a horse something they don’t need so to paint them all with a broad brush is wrong to do. Things won’t change until the betting public says no more.

  • youcantmakeitup

    Mr Irwin, you write about perception and some trainers getting a bad rap when cheaters are the ones that are the cause of it. I have noticed that a horse who ran yesterday at Timonium ( 2nd race) Banner Elk Lady trained by Silvio Martin but owned by King Star Stable ( Juan Vazquez) and workouts at MTC, Vazquez`s training site and two more in today at Timonium with the same info,previously trained by Juan Vazquez but still owned by King Star Racing are allowed to run. I have read the rulings and thought he was banished from Maryland racing.. My perception is that these are horses with at least a owner connection to Vazquez are violating the Maryland Racing Commission rulings in place.So if its about perception, then this is as bad as it gets. It looks like another Hector Garcia deal to me, a program trainer saddling for an unlicensed trainer.

    • RayPaulick

      Timonium is not a Maryland Jockey Club racetrack. Mr. Vazquez has been excluded by MJC, not by the Maryland Racing Commission.

      • youcantmakeitup

        OK Ray, you have sorted that out but my question is who is really training the horse? Are we to ” assume that Mr Martin is training the horses? It goes to perception again.

      • Guest

        Aren’t the MJC people running the fair meet?

  • GarlandTex

    I tend to agree with this story as a whole; however I am not sure I agree that recent Triple Crown winners have been accused of cheating and I don’t see any specific times mentioned in the story.

  • carate

    Yes please, call out the trainer, name the name, this is 2015, there was only one trainer this year who won a triple crown race

  • Jack Frazier

    Overlooked in the rush to accuse trainers of misconduct, and I know it is happening, is the fact that breeding a good horse is key to the equation. There are lots of horses racing and a racing card highlights the fact that there are different classes of horses and that is something drugs cannot change. Drugs merely let a horse run to the ability they can if they were healthy. There is a vast difference between a $2500 horse and a stakes horse and that is the basis of Tesio’s program of breeding the best to the best to get the best still prevails. He proved it worked and it still does sometimes. We can compare two great mares, both HOY horses, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra as examples. Both had foals by Bernardini. One shows little ability the other just won the Spinaway and her sibling won at first asking. To date Zenyatta has not produced a winner. I have always believed that good horses beget good horses and some stallions could be bred to a billy goat and still get a good race horse. Storm Cat and Tapit come to mind.

    I was shown this when last year I had a Tapit mare named Bound For Eden in my barn. In the short time I had her she won three times in spite of old injuries that had to be taken care of and I did not use any PED’s on her; just good horsemanship. The difference in class between her and the other horses I had was night and day and that is the reason that the top trainers win the big races; they get the best of the class horses .Also there are certain mares that produce good and even great horses that we refer to as Blue Hen mares and if one buys a well bred colt out of one of these mares the chances are incrementally higher that the horse will be a good one. It isn’t all drugs and they could probably do just as well without PED’s except for the built in culture in racing the permeates the sport. .

    I am not naive and know the PED’s do improve performance but on the other hand, you cannot make a horse run faster than it has the ability to run. PED’s are used to shortcut good training methods because they achieve the desired results with less work and those trainers who cannot or will change their programs are only interested in the short term results and don’t worry about the long term. This is just my opinion but if you take a look at past years and the horses that were HOY horses or G-I, it will prove out my logic. It is a fact that Kentucky bred horses are a step above horses bred in other states which highlights the knock of California Crown by many that he is a Cal-Bred and not a Kentucky bred in spite of his connections to bloodlines coming from Kentucky, whereas American Pharoah is a Kentucky bred. If my logic is convoluted, it is just an observation and my opinion.The vast majority of trainers do not cheat but statistically, and it has always been this way, ten percent of trainers, jockeys and owners dominate the sport. There is a lot to say and this can be analyzed to death but it is worth thinking about.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      A very good post! So true. The thing about drugs, legal or otherwise, is not just the cheating but the use of drugs to hide existing problems so the horse doesn’t feel them. Necropsies of horses who breakdown and are euthanized have shown that all had pre-existing conditions. There is no such thing as the “bad step”. Many of those breakdowns would not occur if the horses had to race drug-free. as the horses would not pass the vet check.

      • Jack Frazier

        Dr. Rick Arthur did a study on catastrophic break downs in California and found that 90% had been injected in the joints that caused them. In spite of this it is standard operating procedures for the injection of cortisone or hyloronic acid into joints and some trainers, when they claim a horse automatically do a six pack of injections on those horses: knees, ankles, hocks, stifles and any other joint they want. Drugs mask problems and the breakdowns are inevitable. Case in point, I have a very nice filly who had chronic shins problems. I was told by a vet she could be injected and would race fine. I didn’t believe him and had her X-rayed and discovered she had stress fractures in both shins. Had I injected and raced her she would have broken one or the other legs off. She is currently turned out until nature heals them, not drugs.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          Exactly!! And we are forced to wonder if Ruffian and Eight Belles had the same exact problem. It has been proven that horses who buck shins DO have stress fractures which will cause catastrophic failure if the horse is raced. And it has been proven that joint injections, destroy joints. All the talk of “helping the horse” is just flat out lies – it is all about $$. I am so happy to hear you are resting your filly. But it is a shame that vets don’t care about the horse’s health – only about getting the horse to the races.

          • Jack Frazier

            I really didn’t have to think twice about it. She is a daughter of Square Eddie out of a Hennessy mare. He just sired the winner of the Hopeful. I have three Square Eddie’s.A yearling out an unraced mare whose dam was California Horse of the year.It was best to turn her out until she is well and I am one who believes time and mother nature are the best medicine and because I love racing and my horses I do not ever want to put one in danger of death because of greed. Fortunately I have a small farm where I can do this at minimal cost. She will tell me when she is ready to go back into training and if is next year, so be it.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            You are doing the right thing. If only more people would do the same,

    • artistinwax

      So you believe that Zenyatta will of course produce at least one superior offspring, though some superior race mares, just like stallions, don’t produce anything close to their quality? Rachel out-producing Zenyatta initially puts lots of interest in future Zenyatta foals. If Rachel never carries another foal because of health and her two now turn out to be outstanding, her job as a broodmare is done! If her colt breeds on could she be called a Blue Hen mare? Fillies have such a limited chance to pass on quality while stallions can breed a hundred times a season or more. I don’t completely understand the term Blue Hen. Does someone have a history of this term?

      • Jack Frazier

        As far as Zenyatta the jury is still out. Her first foal doesn’t seem interested in running. A Blue Hen mare is one that produces good race horses no matter what stallion she has been bred to. Rachel will continue to produce good ones. I hope Zenyatta does as well. I know that superior race mares have not produced themselves. Mares like Lady’s Secret, Winning Colors and others never produced anything comparable. Sure stallions have a better chance because they can breed upwards of 100 mares per year and so the odds are that one of them will be a good one. You can google Blue Hen and get an explanation but the bottom line is that a Blue Hen mare has tremendous impact on the sport and not only do her foals have an impact but there get also continue to impact the breed. Check out Personal Ensign. There are lots of articles on google and in the Bloodhorse magazine covering this subject..

        • artistinwax

          I’ve been reading on it for years but I thought there was more to it than what I already knew. When I read pedigrees I’ve seen how breeders have been using much the same techniques for centuries, as Pocahontas, for example, appears many multiples of times in bloodlines in the 1800’s and is a strong base for many stallion lines much deeper than 5 generations. Diluting her generationally didn’t seem to make her less prepotent. When you look 10 generations back the names that are good appear so often in all the great horses. It is exciting to read the pedigrees of an individual winning today and look at the wealth of superior blood going back generation after generation. I die a thousand deaths when a great stallion dies prematurely. And I’m glad Rachel wasn’t lost after her difficult foaling. Is it safe to breed her again in a few years?

          • Jack Frazier

            Rachel should be able to have more foals. I agree on the early loss of a good stallion, Thorne Song comes to mind. In reality, depending on the stallions the mares are bred to as well as the stallions her daughters are bred to doesn’t necessarily equate to a dilution in productivity. Even today one can look back four or five generations and see the importance of certain stallions impact as Federico Tesio opined. An example would be A P Indy. Seattle Slew, from the Bold Ruler (Nasrullah) line out of Weekend Surprise, a daughter of Secretariat, also a Bold Ruler horse. Hyperion is also a good example as is Northern Dancer, Native Dancer Ribot who produced Roberto who in turn produced Dynaformer.

          • artistinwax

            I started looking at Tesio’s breedings and found that Cavaliere d’Arpino, for instance, has 11 lines back to Pocahontas, and I even stopped looking at that point. He was a genius who accentuated a good thing to the max. I happen to love any blood going back to Equipoise through Tom Fool and Buckpasser. I wonder what would happen if anyone loaded up 11 times or more on that bloodline and spread it out over 9 or 10 generations. Could be they would become a genius and breed something wonderful.

          • Jack Frazier

            They would be and a reciprocal effect would be horses with larger bones, durability and longevity. When American breeders moved from breeding stamina and endurance to get faster horses, they moved away from the Tesio model with the result being big, stout horses with fine bones. In addition breeders want instant gratification by just winning at any cost which is also a reason too many Thoroughbred horses only race ten to twenty times before retiring or breaking down. Speed to speed gets speed but speed to endurance gets stamina. In the breeding for speed, the average distance American TB’s run is six furlongs. We have bred staying power out by emphasizing speed instead of durability and longevity.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            Yes, breeding to race has been overridden by breeding to sell, and we see the result today. Hopefully some breeders have gone back to breeding to race.

          • Jack Frazier

            I am in total agreement. The use of steroids on babies and yearlings in sales has to stop. I know it makes them look good but the downside is that their muscle mass out paces their bone development and then they go to trainers who continue to administer steroids or muscle mass supplements. I personally doubt if breeders will revert to breeding to race and not sell because with the pin-hooking and what not, there is just way too much money to be made selling them, if they have the bloodlines. I am not being cynical just realistic about this.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            No you are not being cynical at all, just realistic, If you look at photos of young horses back in the 40’s and 50’s they looked like baby horses. Now they don’t. And giving steroids to babies is worse than giving them to adults. There are natural hormones in horses (and humans) that control and regulate growth, we really don’t know how much is being affected by the use of steroids in young horses. It is foolish and it is hurting the breed. it will take true horsemen to breed and raise horses drug free. So I agree it most likely will not happen.

          • Someone [I think his partner the Incisa della Rochetta] observed that Tesio put as much thought into breeding very many bad horses as he did into Nearco. Joe Estes puts all the dosage theories into perspective in his “F0rmula for breeding stakes winners”.

          • artistinwax

            Like Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt said, and I am paraphrasing, “… Breed the best mare to the best stallion, as I have done so many times before and gotten so many horses that couldn’t get out of their own way. And then there was Native Dancer!” I guess with people and horses it’s just about the same. Odds are, you have to wait for the good ones. I would love to see however, a horse inbred to Buckpasser and his ancestors a dozen and a half times to see how long you would have to wait for a bunch of good ones.

          • artistinwax

            Is that reading for people like me who don’t know much about breeding? Sometimes its difficult to parse through the abbreviations when there is no dictionary for them when reading stallion records for instance. The alphabet soup is really confounding. I would love to read it though.

        • longtimehorsewoman

          Rachel Alexandra is not going to be bred again. She almost died with each foal. Wisely, her owner has decided not to try again.

        • Larry Ensor

          There are LOTS of mares that were very talented on the racecourse and didn’t come close to throwing a foal that came close to their ability. Conversely their are lots of mares, winner ,non-winners, unraced with what the pedigree Guru’s would consider moderate to no pedigree that have gone on to be supper stars in the breeding shed.

          It’s a game of “numbers” and the odds have proven that a mare with pedigree and stakes ability has a higher percentage of throwing a “runner”.

          “Sure stallions have a better chance because they can breed upwards of 100 mares per year”

          Apples and oranges when discussing the two when it comes to breeding and comparisons.

          Which is why no two TBs by the same stallion is considered a sibling, half brother or sister. I have to point this out all the time in other TB forums I take the time to comment on.

          The above is just to clarify to those who are reading the various comments on the subject who are not well versed on the subject.

          Not saying that you are not.

      • longtimehorsewoman

        Zenyatta didn’t race as a 2-year old her first race was in November of her three year old year. Tp expect her offspring to be good early, is really not logical. Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are very different body types. And it is known that some lines “nick” and some don’t. There are many factors why horses don’t run well, and a lot of it has to do with how they are trained. Not to mention what drugs, if any, are given to them as babies. Federico Tesio was a genius regarding breeding. He once had a mare scheduled to be bred to a particular stallion. I forget exactly how it occurred, but the mare became very interested in another stallion. So much so, that Tesio let her mate with him. The result was one of the best mares he ever raced. Breeding is an art – and some are better at it – or more lucky – than others.

        • artistinwax

          What a great story. I hope Rachel Alexandra is kept safe, bred or not, and if she doesn’t have any more foals, so what? She has produced enough already. I am hoping that Zenyatta’s foals are brought along slowly and do just fine. I’m all for the girls in racing. They work so hard and usually don’t get the attention the stallions get. The Beholders of the world out there running faster than the boys are a real treat. I especially like Treve. She is a real beauty, so elegant and she really flies!

        • artistinwax

          Do you remember the name of the mare that resulted from that breeding? I will try to read about it. I think that Tesio, better or lucky, was just paying attention. And sometimes he lucked out big time.

          • longtimehorsewoman

            No, I don’t. I have the book but I am in the process of moving and it is packed away. I think it is the mare that one 2 stakes races in 2 days. It was quite a story. Tesio was a genius. Yes he made some mistakes, but unless you are willing to experiment and take risks you will not learn much. He also believed grey is a disease, and I believe he is right. Grey horses are prone to tumors and melanoma. He had a lot of great ideas, and I agree with a lot of them,

  • Mike

    And we can also change the system for some real reform from auctions to condition books and stakes…

    The trainers, though not blameless, are actually responding to the existing system and incentives (as odd as they may be)…. the existing format can even rewards the wrong sorts of behavior.

    Let’s change it…

    For example, what if state breeders and owners associations put together a dozen maiden special races with no drugs (just hay and oats) with rigorous testing. Make these these big Del Mar or Saratoga style purses 70-80K plus state bred incentives. Announce them a year or two out, so trainers and owners can comply.

    Then have the same next level allowance races on through stakes.

    Auctions can follow suit with accredited no drug foals (other than immunizations). These can qualify for 2-3 YO stakes.

    Change the condition book–you change the behavior.

    If the profit and the prestige is in strict drug free condition races (some smaller US tracks have tried these–Arapaho, etc), the trainers will respond.

    Then you have a strict anytime testing for any substance a voluntary requisite of the drug free condition. The drug races could slowly fade over time under suspicion (with bettors hanging back, the handle dropping, etc).

    That slow evolution of the conditions, auctions, and stakes regime may be more realistic than the sport having a single one time lance armstrong moment where it suddenly wakes up amidst the scandal….

    That first drug free high purse race series, maiden, allowance and stakes will be the catalyst….Interestingly, many will tune in to see if the same usual suspect win these races or some new faces emerge who perhaps relied more on training, pedigree, etc than something in the vet’s or supplement sales person’s arsenal.

    • Mike, in Britain the condition book absolutely dictates poor behaviour [in the form of non-triers]. However I strongly suspect that America has exactly the same problem as we do – the condition book is heavily influenced by both the betting industry and a small coterie of trainers and owner/breeders. AS long as those that are administrating the game keep drawing big salaries they have no interest whatsoever in sorting things out.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      Yes. Change could be created by doing as you suggest. some races have been written that way. I know Arapahoe did. Don’t know how it worked out.

  • Jane Lutz

    To me, American Pharoah’s Triple Crown win has a huge dark cloud over it, why? Bob “Drug’em up” Baffert. Bob had that whole thyroid medicine get swept away even though horses died, his heroin positive sure got quiet quick, and he has been a well known “needle trainer’ most of his career. So yes, we have a serious problem with drugs in racing, and until we seriously address it, our sport will be a memory.

    Don’t believe me? How many tracks have gone under? How many tracks are getting by by only sucking off the casino teat? Nope, until we have an honest discussion about drugs, lasix, and trainers getting multiple positives with minimal if any penalties, we don’t deserve to have a sport.

    • longtimehorsewoman

      You make a great point. Tracks are closing and yes, if it weren’t for casinos, more tracks would have closed. The public is speaking. Just as with any “product” the public decides what thrives. The racing commissions, the HBPA, those in positions of power in racing, are in denial. Then one day they will be shocked to find they are out of a job, and will wonder what happened. What happened was that no one did anything because they wouldn’t allow change.

  • Gary S. Broad

    Barry, very well written and thought out. I hope a lot of trainers and owners read this article.

  • MLS

    Barry Irwin, of Team Valor International? The owners of Hay Oats and Water? The same horse that runs with Lasix??? Hmmmm I smell a hypocrite…..

  • Pete Scalcione

    The best way to understand horse racing and the medications it uses is to educate yourself before writing articles or making statements that end up creating a false perception of the truth.

    Lets start with lasix, this drug is used to prevent Exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), also known as “bleeding”, it is merely a diuretic which lowers blood pressure and in turn helps keep the lungs from bleeding. Some experts will tell you over 50% of all horses will bleed without it. So, would you rather run your horse and watch him pull up with blood coming from his mouth and nostrils while choking and gasping for air, which could kill him. Or would you use common sense and give him a medication that will help prevent this? And I will add that the use of lasix does not harm the horse in any way, it only helps prevent EIPH. With respect to buffering the blood and or alkalizing, it does do that which probably helps performance, but it does not alter the outcome for anyone as all can use it.

    Moving on to phenylbutazone or “bute”. As discussed in your article, bute is nothing more than a anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, just like aspirin. Bute does not numb or stop the animal from feeling its shoulder’s, leg’s ankle’s or feet. It simply reduces inflammation which in turn reduces pain. Catastrophic breakdowns usually occur due to structural abnormalities or previous injury.

    All of these medications are controlled and have test limits which we must abide by, otherwise we are ousted from the industry, we cannot give what we choose in order for a horse to be pain free as you suggest.

    These medications are not horse killer’s as some of you would like to suggest, in actuality they are saving them, keeping them sound, allowing trainers to manage or sometimes cure and prevent problems these animals have. There are too many self-proclaimed do-gooders out there such as PETA who think they know what they are talking about, but in reality they haven’t got a clue. They are only there to promote themselves at the cost of others.

    I will leave you with this thought, we as owners and trainers care for these horses as if they were our children, in most cases their health comes even before ours, we treat them like kids and care for them like parents. We use legal medications in order to help them feel better, just like you give your children their medicine when they are sick. There are bad apples in every bushel, this includes trainers and those who write about them. It will never be a perfect world nor will racing be perfect, but the vast majority of us do the right things for our animals.

  • Sam Sheppard

    Owners pay training fees. Are they,as a group,too unsure of their part in this crazy situation to demand that their horses run free of any “help” from vets working under instructions of trainers?

    • longtimehorsewoman

      Owners are normally not horse experts. They pay the trainer not only to care for and train the horse, but his or her “expertise”. When the trainer explains, number one, that everyone does it, number two, it’s for the horse’s own good, the owner has no way of realizing that is not true. As a rule trainers do not want to hear owners’ advice or opinions. Unless said owner is very wealthy, the owner is not likely to have any control over what the trainer does, and/or will be given regular snow jobs.

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