When The Cheaters Get It Wrong: Cobalt Latest In A List Of Misestimations

by | 06.02.2015 | 11:07am
Eight bottles of concentrated cobalt mistakenly delivered to the wrong clinic helped uncover a widespread drug issue in Australian racing

The horse is a complex creature; so complex that even to those looking to give him a chemical boost, he can remain a mystery.

Last week's meeting of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council focused on the most appropriate way to regulate the use of cobalt in racehorses, but most experts there agreed that science has determined excessive amounts of the mineral don't necessarily make horses run faster.

Cobalt has been in the news over the past year or so as regulators learned some horsemen were giving their charges massive doses of the mineral in hopes of replicating the blood-doping effects cobalt has in humans. The equine body doesn't always process things the same way ours do, though, and a study published in late 2014 by scientists at the University of California-Davis concluded that a single dose of injected cobalt chloride or cobalt gluconate had no impact on the red blood cells or EPO concentrations.

Dr. Rick Sams, a co-author of the study, said it's still unknown why the mineral behaves differently in horses, but based on initial fact-finding numbers, there's little doubt it's being supplemented to an extreme degree, even though it may not work.

It isn't, of course, the first time people have tried to adapt a human drug for nefarious use in horses without success.

“One of the peculiarities of the backside is that people don't stay quiet,” said Sams. “They talk about being able to get by with something and what produces an effect. There are not controlled studies, so sometimes they're incorrect, but the fad spreads.”

When regulators first became aware of dermorphin, they detected two different versions that were being used in horses: a copy of the substance extracted from the South American tree frog (hence the “frog juice” moniker), and a synthetically-modified version.

It turned out the version that hops around on tree frogs has a bonding structure that makes it dissolve almost immediately in biological fluids; a change is needed to hold it together long enough to have any impact on the horse's body. Hence, the synthetic version.

The trainers found guilty of using the identical frog juice copy received sanctions for the violation likely without the benefit of any change in their horses' performance.

In pre-frog juice days, Sams recalled that trainers were thought to be giving horses amphetamine for the purposes of enhancing performance. A study was eventually conducted by researchers early in Sams' career — the drug was administered to harness horses. Drivers reported that the horses behaved erratically and were so difficult to control, they couldn't have made it around a racetrack—not exactly the result a trainer might want in a race where maintaining a trot or pace is crucial.

Before blood testing became the standard means of catching rule-breakers, saliva testing was the go-to method. The most common substances detected in the 1930s when the tests were first introduced were morphine, heroin, and strychnine, though we now know cocaine was given to horses frequently.

Sams said there's never been any research to support the notion that heroin or cocaine make a horse run better. One 1993 study on cocaine remained fuzzy on the issue; it concluded that cocaine produces a small increase (7 percent) in maximum equine heart rate, but no change in work intensity. There was an uptick in time worked until exhaustion, but a decrease in the amount of work needed to reach a given level of lactic acid in blood (lactic acid is responsible for the feeling of muscle fatigue).

Although strychnine is known for having a mild stimulant effect at small doses in humans, it doesn't take much to accidentally kill a horse with it instead and it's unclear if it does indeed make a horse run faster.

For those waging the war against substance abuse in racehorse, the question is ultimately moot.

“In recent weeks I have heard a number of persons argue that a substance shouldn't be regulated unless there is proof that it affects performance,” Sams said. “However, those studies cannot be done in racing horses because the rules of racing do not permit it or alternatively they cannot be done in simulated races because the costs are prohibitively high to obtain enough measurements to detect the small differences that are the difference between winning and losing. Therefore, I believe that those questions regarding performance enhancement or performance altering are largely irrelevant.”

There's no way to know what prompts people to try a new substance, but it seems they do respect a good testing program: once regulators announce they're testing for something, they see the levels drop.

Last year's study on cobalt indicated that the average horse's baseline level of the mineral in blood serum is extremely low—1 part per billion. A survey of horses at the spring Keeneland meet saw numbers between .37 ppb and 14.25 ppb, but numbers as high as 800 to 1,200 ppb were detected at the Red Mile before Kentucky officials announced that they were testing for the substance. After the announcement, the levels dropped. The same thing happened in Indiana.

If it seems like drug testing is a chemical game of whack-a-mole, that's because it is. It's also a game that's as much about the mentality of rule breakers as it is the substances they use. The only way Sams sees that changing is if the veterinary business model shifted away from a reliance on dispensing medication and toward compensation for education and diagnosis.

“It does feel like a philosophical battle at times but is ultimately one that should be solved with education, transparency, and some changes in the business models,” he said. “Trainers, owners, regulators, veterinarians, and laboratory personnel all need a better understanding of the effects of drugs on horses in racing. If these goals were realized, we could still have horse racing with pari-mutuel wagering and we would still experience the excitement of the Triple Crown races. We might even have more racing fans if they believed that the horses were being treated more humanely.

“Am I being naïve? Probably, but I will keep at it.”

  • Ben van den Brink

    You would have to do a lot of necropsys in order to see them changes to the horses bodies, so the rule should be any treshold above the natural is forbidden.

    • PG

      What do you mean by natural. Racing isn’t natural so in order for a horse to train and stay sound they will need levels of all natural substances that would be higher than if they were just grazing in a field. A full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and proteins at very high levels are needed by all athletes in training so that they are readily available to the body at all times. Just because most trainers don’t do this doesn’t make it unnatural.

      • Bill O’Gorman

        Nonsense. Take the trouble to read what Hiram Woodruffe fed Dexter [ Dexter is the trotting horse pattern of weathervane] when he was trotting 2 mile heats – about 8 lbs of oats p.d. and that was likely it and all about it. I’m not saying that’s truly representative of requirements, but I do know that there is more absolute bollix [sorry for using an industry term] talked about looking after racehorses than about almost anything else [apart from hair care and slimming].

        • PG

          First let me say that I’m not exactly sure what you are calling nonsense. Nutrient density is the key to all life. It’s what determines everything that lives vitality. so that might be the reason most humans are walking around barely alive and healthcare cost are skyrocketing each year.

          I find it odd that you would mention what a horse from the 1800’s ate for his diet as if you had first hand knowledge. As if it weren’t a free for all back then with anything they wanted to use or as if every horse would respond the way one horse that could have been a genetic freak would respond to the same training and feed. Your thinking is the way most people in the sport of horses think and it’s the main problem with the business. By the way this horse most likely didn’t sit in a stall and was turned out on grass for most of the day. Just by doing that his vitality would be better than horses today that are in training.

          I could give you so many examples of why horses need to be nutrient dense but I’ll have you look this one up for yourself. We all agree that bleeding is a problem with horses so I would challenge you to research the nutrients needed for “blood clotting cascade” I know that you will come back with “well horses get enough nutrients from their feed and hay” like everyone else thinks but I would challenge you to research that for yourself too. Also look up the meaning of nutrient density and how it relates to athletic training. By the way this isn’t my opinion. These are facts and scientifically proven even though I don’t put all of my trust in science but most people on these blogs want scientific evidence.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            To base an argument on the fact that racing isn’t natural seemed nonsensical to me; Ben constantly advocates a more European approach, and I agree with him. I don’t by any means think that horses get all they require from hay – hence my remark that I don’t think Dexter’s diet [it may have been Rarus!] was necessarily representative of what is right: I have been trying to make a point that the fact that the nutrition/medication industry is out of control is a big part of American racing’s general resistance to any tightening up on medication. As far as looking anything up goes – I suppose that I’m as qualified as anyone to give an opinion on what racehorses need to maintain them in good order over a strenuous campaign.

          • PG

            I’m not basing an argument on the fact that racing is an unnatural event for horses (which it is) but if I were it would be a perfectly fine argument to make given the context of our discussion. In fact I don’t wish to argue about anything. I only wish to bring light upon a particular subject. There isn’t anything good that comes from calling people out of their names or saying derogatory things about anyone on this blog which is often the case. I believe most people that post on this blog about wanting to rid drugs in horseracing are genuine but they go about it in a way that does very little to solve the problem. So I say this to you. Racing does have a drug problem and also a nutrient problem. Horses get to many drugs and not nearly enough nutrients. That starts from the horses on farms til they are on the track. None of them have what they need in the proper amounts they need to build solid racehorses.

            One of the problems is that people in this industry lump drugs and nutrients the horse needs into the same category and they are very different. Most people don’t educate themselves at all so when something like cobalt comes up they all say “zero tolerance” for that substance while not understanding that zero tolerance would be detrimental to the horse. Because of their disdain for drugs in the sport they don’t think about anything else which is always the case in America.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            Do you think that the mania for cobalt treatment was generated by a desire to keep horses healthy or because of a perceived advantage to be had? The cobalt discussion is a perfect example of woolly thinking and a grey area.

          • PG

            Of course it was generated by a perceived advantage. I’m not saying that high amounts of cobalt doesn’t build blood but when I read comments like “zero tolerance for cobalt” or why don’t they stop putting it in feed or supplements” I start to understand that people have no clue about cobalt. They don’t understand that cobalt is required to make synthetic b-12 that most people use or is required for some supplements to work because for any nutrient to work you need the full spectrum of nutrients. People just lose their minds every time they hear or think a certain substance is performance enhancing. Take l-alanine for example. When it’s used in high amounts it will turn a horse into a freak and just like anything else if given to much it will be detrimental but do you punish the trainer that does his homework and knows how to use a substance that God has made essential for us to even live. Where do you draw the line on natural substances. This is a very slippery slope. Soon they will see my horses out on the track with heart rate monitors and doing interval miles and training very differently that any other trainer. Are they gonna call for an end to heart rate monitors because they definitely give a person an advantage when it comes to training.

          • Bill O’Gorman

            The only study I have seen that even approximated to a serious one was in the 1950s [by Windfields] I think. They thought after 18 months or so that 2,000iu of vitamin E p.d. helped. My father trained perennial SA Champion sire Drumbeat for J.S. Gerber in 1958 and on the basis of that experiment was provided by him with Alphatocopherol supplement at £25 for quite a small tin – training fees were likely under £10 p.w. at the time. Anyway I thought that the number of horses involved and the length of Windfields trial looked sound and so we used to feed 2,000 iu of Vitamin E p.d and it seemed to work.

          • Guest

            I for one am not holding my breath.

      • Ben van den Brink

        Yeah, they do need to stay sound, that,s way the breakdown rate in the US is about three or four times the breakdown rate IN GB. ( taking the hurdles out), oh yaeh that is why the lifetime starts has been declining from well over thirty towards 18.

        Over training will hurt even more horses than under training.

        Must be awfully good stuff.

    • Ben van den Brink

      Let,s getting the real point, while other countries have decided for real action, the US is still pampering, pampering and much more pampering.

  • Tinky

    This article is really not a helpful contribution to the either the discussion of PEDs in racehorses, or, more specially, Cobalt. In fact, it is arguably misleading.

    As I pointed out previous when Dr. Clara Fenger, PhD, DVM, ESPN, RN, etc. trotted out the very same study in defense of Cobalt, take a closer look (emphasis mine):

    “…a study published in late 2014 by scientists at the University of California-Davis concluded that a single dose of injected cobalt chloride or cobalt gluconate had no impact on the red blood cells or EPO concentrations.”

    It is absolutely ludicrous to argue that such a study sheds any light on the actual question of whether Cobalt is performance enhancing in racehorses, given that the trainers and vets who used it were dosing far more heavily. Furthermore, as admitted in the article, there is no way to explain how or why it might have a different effect on horses than other animals.

    Frankly, the study is propaganda, and Natalie (whom I’ve praised recently) should have picked up on this point.

    It is also the height of naïvety to believe that a drug that has been used to such a widespread degree (e.g. harness racing; different continents, etc.) doesn’t have performance enhancing effects, and contrary to the implications of this article, there is absolutely no compelling evidence supporting such a claim.

    Look, I’m the first to admit that many trainers aren’t rocket scientists, but they can sure as heck tell when a horse runs better after having been ‘treated’ with something.

    • Racing Fan

      You forgot VMD, PRN for Clara

    • Richard Holmes

      I agree with everything you said 100%.

  • gregrobertson

    I truly believe we can never be ahead of the doping game, the experiments will always be ahead of the testing. The only way to cut doping of at the pass is to federally prosecute trainers doping horses, drugging a horse to gain an artificial result ( win) is race fixing, a federal conviction, prison sentences will end it immediately, especially is the big name trainers who routinely dope horses as a matter of risk they are willing take end up behind bars..

    • You hit the nail on the head, pal.

      There are always going to be squares and there are always going to be sharps. Neither camp is likely to change. So until the sharps are eliminated or persuaded by example of clamping down on their peers by ruling them off the Turf, NOTHING is going to change.

      USADA is our best hope to get this done. The current system rewards cheaters because it allows them to continue to let the sharps beat the squares.

      • gregrobertson

        Allowing these cheaters to prosper in the short term, will completely kill the game in the long term. It is almost dead now. Barry, why don’t you contact the regulators in Ky. and ask for records of positive tests for Asmussen, Pletcher and Baffert? See if they give them to you…

        • Gaye Goodwin

          It is amazing how many people don’t care to get the cheaters out. It is obvious who they are…

      • Bill O’Gorman

        But we still need general acceptance of the fact that horses which need Constant Therapy should not be running. There is a great reluctance to face up to that reality – from subjective [rather than objective] owners, from lazy/incompetent/overstretched/browbeaten [you choose] trainers and from the veterinary industry.

      • Tonto

        USDA has been ‘regulating” Tennessee Walking Horses for years – abuse is worse than ever.

    • Tonto

      “performance enhancement” is popular because trainers are no longer the OWNERS of the horses and the backside vets all have a special for good customers- when an owner tell you he gets a $500. vet bill with every start – something interesting is going on.

  • One_Jackal

    Why not change the rules so trainers do not have to cheat. Instead of tightening the rules and increasing penalties allow vets to use medications to keep the horse pain free, treat free bleeding and albuterol 3 days before the race. If you think racing is hay, oats and water anywhere in the world you are sadly misinformed. People will always find a way to bend the rules, no matter what you do. By cracking down on trainers and tightening the rules horsemen are shooting themselves in the foot. If Ogden Phipps wants to run on hay, oats and water he can afford to buy his own horses and build his own track. We need full races to bring the game back to life. Betting on bottom of the barrel tracks because they have full fields gets old. Most people who are new to the game want to bet on the premiere tracks. How do we draw them back to the track when they see 5 horse races I hit a trifecta at CD recently. The winner paid almost $15. The trifecta paid $60. New players are not coming back to the track for tiny payoffs. Every month when I see my Brisnet bill I wonder why I keep betting the races.

    • Gaye Goodwin

      Whatever it takes, right, Jackal? Heck – shoot those horses up with battery acid, if it fills races. THAT’s the spirit! Encourage more cheating, so that Jackal can make some money.

    • Twix

      This may be the dumbest response ever. I’m a runner. If my knee hurts and I run thru it and the pain gets worse and I block the pain thru medication and go out and run further and faster I will most likely take what was soft tissue irritation and turn it into a tear. Humans and horses, same treatment same result. If you treat the symptom and not the problem, the problem gets worse. As to lasix, horses run less per yer because lasix dehydrates. Pre lasix, horses ran back in 14-21 days now it’s 28-35 days.Lasix
      created “The Bounce”. Thats why it is harder to fill races.

      • Quinnbt

        The reason races don’t fill has to do with the number of tracks that conduct racing in relation to the number of foals per crop, not enough to go around.

  • This is a sloppy article Natalie (and Ray) and I am baffled why, other than for helping justify Rick Sam’s position on setting such a silly cobalt threshold in North America, that you published this.

    You start by saying “that science has determined excessive amounts of the mineral (cobalt) don’t necessarily make horses run faster”

    The ‘science’ hasn’t determined that at all…a couple of paragraphs later Rick Sams explains why science hasn’t proven this in that “the rules of racing do not permit it or alternatively they cannot be done in simulated races because the costs are prohibitively high to obtain enough measurements to detect the small differences that are the difference between winning and losing.”

    In the paper that Dr Sams refers, 18 horses were administered a single dose of 100mg of cobalt chloride and their blood and urine samples were measured. They solely looked at the effect of that administration (which is well under what apparently is being administered on the racetrack) on EPO concentration and red blood cell parameters.

    Its a complete falsehood and bad journalism to suggest that the study undertaken by Sams, et al had any reference to performance. They didn’t have a control group and get the horses up on a treadmill and test VO2max, or any other metric of athletic performance at all.

    The racetrack/trainers have determined that it does work. Over 50% of the horses administered cobalt by Darren Smith in Australia won that start where a positive to excessive cobalt use was found.

    As a follow up, questions to Dr Sams could you ask:

    1) Why was the thresholds of 25ppb of Plasma and 50ppb of plasma set so high to contravene the IFHA standard of a 1/10,000 false positive? A blood threshold of 25ppb has a risk analysis of 1/33,000 and a Slng/ml risk analysis of 1/3,487,966. These are thresholds that are way above what is required to adequately protect the horse from chemical abuse.

    2) Given that there does not appear to be a documented instance of cobalt deficiency in the horse, cobalt supplementation is unnecessary and cobalt salt administration is unjustified. Why are thresholds being set that allow for ‘routine’ supplementation of Vita-15, VAM, Hemo-15, etc which are supplements that by design include cobalt in their makeup? Should we not be setting a threshold that makes the elimination of this substance in routine supplements a necessity? Trainers should do the right thing by their horse in re-hydrating it after work, etc but by setting such a high threshold are allowing these supplements to continue to include cobalt.

    3) Why are the penalties for administering cobalt to break the threshold so low in North America when compared to other countries? A 50ppb of blood/plasma is roughly equivalent to 200ppb of urine. The fine for breaking this threshold in the US is a 15 day suspension and a $500 fine. Two trainers in Australia who have broken the threshold have had their license suspended for 18 months and 24 months respectively. Is the penalty in the basically inviting trainers and vets to micro dose cobalt and claim that Vita-15 caused any overage?

    4) Given the toxicity of cobalt, by setting such high thresholds is the CHRB, RMTC and or other state based boards more interested in not being subject to legal challenges or are they interested in looking after the welfare of the horse?

    • Gaye Goodwin

      How about zero tolerance?

      • PG

        Zero tolerance of what may I ask?

        • Gaye Goodwin

          Drugs, and performance enhancements, dear – you know, the topic of the article.

          • PG

            Cobalt is not a drug is why I asked the question.

          • Gaye Goodwin

            Can you read?! I mentioned ” performance enhancements” specifically because of that fact. Duh.

          • PG

            so you think there should be zero tolerance for cobalt?

          • Gaye Goodwin

            Set a reasonable natural threadhold and yes, get the damn cheaters out of the game

          • PG

            So your reasonable threshold might not be reasonable for my horses. Maybe my horse is genetically different than yours or maybe my horse requires more because I train harder on a a daily basis than yours. Then what do you do. Who knows what reasonable is for each individual horse. Are you gonna set reasonable thresholds for every other mineral, vitamin, protein or every other naturally occurring substance the body needs. What if I want to take high amounts of the three proteins that build muscle. Are you gonna set thresholds on that too cause my horses have bigger muscles and because of that are able to perform better than someone who doesn’t. Until you can answer all of these questions then your answers are just as foggy as this article and I don’t say that to be demeaning I say it to prove a point

          • Gaye Goodwin

            What are you afraid of , PG? Don’t overload your horse with cobalt & you won’t have an overage. And you won’t have to give them thyroid meds because the cobalt loading affects the thyroid. Simple, isn’t it? Except for the cheaters. Guess we know that the people whining the loudest at zero tolerance just might be them!

          • PG

            Afraid isn’t an emotion I normally have. That’s an emotion that normally brings things into your life that you should be afraid of. Let me explain this to you. What you call overdose I call nutrient dense. I don’t need or give thyroid meds because I give a full spectrum of minerals vitamins and proteins in their right amounts to be balanced so therefore my horses thyroid work fine. Also I don’t force feed any supplements. They get the full spectrum of what they need free choice. I feed redmonds alt, redmonds conditioner, kelp along with a humid and fulvic acid. All of this is given free choice. When they first come into training they might eat five lbs of minerals in three days as they become nutrient dense they will eat less and less. On the days they train hard they eat more at the times that’s best for them being as they eat to live not live to eat. So what you think of me is completely wrong. So am I to tell the horse that he can only eat a certain amount of nutrients and is he gonna listen or is he gonna tell me what he needs by eating what he needs. By the way cobalt is found naturally in all of those natural supplements the horse eats free choice.

          • PG

            By the way, all the products that I mentioned are mined from the land or the sea. And all of them have cobalt in them.

          • Gaye Goodwin

            And…? That is irrelevant. You obviously don’t have enough in trace amount to cause the kind of overage where you have to give thyroid meds to counter the cobalt overage. So, AGAIN, since you don’t abuse the mineral, WHY wouldn’t you want the cheaters out of the game? You are either on one side, or the other.

          • PG

            I think you’re very confused. Let me state this from the start. I am coming from an athletic training point of view. I aim to have a horse reach its full potential without cheating. My point is that you have to watch what you call cheating. Cobalt is a natural substance. It is an essential gift from God. We can not survive without it. Do you know what very high levels of vitamin C will do. Are you goons want to have a threshold for that. Research it.

            When training an animal or human the object is to train and recover. Recovery is the most important part of training. Training doesn’t get you fit, recovery gets you fit. It is essential to recover as soon as possible after training in order to get a supercompensation effect from the training you just completed. If it takes you to long to recover then your training was pointless. In order to recover you need rest and nutrients (minerals,vitamins and proteins etc.). Without them you won’t recover fully and will soon have an injury as a result of nutrient deficiency. If I gave my horse each individual nutrient free choice after he trains (which would be the absolute best way to do it) and he ate enough cobalt to give him an overage then is it his fault for eating the amount of cobalt that he needed to reach homestasis as quickly as possible or is it the persons fault who set the threshold without knowing and understanding what the threshold should be. My point is this, when it comes to setting thresholds for natural substances that we need for survival you have to be sure to fully understand the consequences of setting those thresholds. You want a threshold set for cobalt and would call anyone who has an overage for that threshold a cheater when it is very obvious you don’t fully understand you only go by what you hear and read. So let’s throw the cheater out but only the real cheaters not people who you think are cheating and aren’t

          • Gaye Goodwin

            No, dear, I have been a life long athlete and life long horse owner and I have read a stack of sports medicine books. There is no reason to overload on ONE mineral. Period. Thresholds CAN be established, so that the morons who use cobalt to stimulate red blood cell production can be caught and prosecuted. Again, if you are giving so much supplementation that you match THEIR levels, YOU ARE OVER SUPPLEMENTING! More is not more. And yes, Virginia, cobalt is why Baffert and Asmussen were giving thyroid meds. Looks like ole Bob, after almost 20 years, and several attempts, finally got the proper timing for the blood cell count for early June. That horse had not run like that in route races before. So please – get on the side that wants fairness and stop being so obtuse. I get that you know some things – good for you. A threshold wouldn’t preclude you from having your precious program of supplementation. (Unless you are one of the cheaters)

    • Tinky

      Good detail.

    • Keyne

      PG-Very good points.This article and many others that Ive read on Cobalt seem to coming from people who want to ‘get ahead of the story” when it comes out that several high profile trainers have been using it for years.When they get caught(and they will),because of these propaganda pieces it will be ambiguous whether cobalt is a PED or not(see,so and so trainer isn’t THAT guilty,becuase we don’t know how much,if at all,it helps….etc).
      If it didn’t help,I doubt anybody would ever use it.And add the fact that you have to give thyroid medication to counterbalance the horses inner ecology from cobalt, makes me believe that some think it is worth the risk.

    • PG

      Let me preface my reply by saying that I do not agree with any horse being poisoned by anything whether it’s natural or unnatural. Then let me say this, every mineral, vitamin and protein and all other natural substances a horse or human need to live is performance enhancing. All of them can also be given in fatal amounts. If we are walking around and just going about our everyday life we still ned more than we get to stay healthy and to keep from getting sick. The reason so many horses in this country break down is because they don’t have adequate nutrients in their system.

      The reason other countries have higher thresholds for these substances that the U.S. Does is because more trainers in places like Australia use radionics. In America radionics is considered as some kinda crazy witchcraft but I have used it and when I go back to training I will use it exclusively to feed and train my horses. I stopped training so that I could take time to perfect and learn how to master radionics. I had a guy use it on some horses I trained for other trainers and won seven races in a row. So you can imagine how impressed I was with it. You can do a lot with it but I will explain to you why and how it applies to what we are discussing. With radionics you can supplement your horses with exactly the supplements you need and precisely the right amounts and at the exact times they need it to build a stronger horse. An example of what I did would be to take a vitality reading on each horse before they went out to train and then take one right after they came back. Then I would have each mineral, protein and vitamin tested to to each individual horse to see what they needed. If at any point you tested an individual substance to a horse and his vitality was lowered then you knew he was saturated at that moment and didn’t need that at that time. I would have horses go out to train with a vitality number of 1100 and come back at a number of 200. That shows how much that training took out of that horse. That is a significant drop from what the guy who did the testing on the horses and who was an expert in the use of radionics told me. He had worked with athletes around the world and said he had never seen a drop like that. This was his first time working with horses.

      So the reason I bring this up is to try and help people understand that horses need a lot more nutrients in there system than anyone would imagine and they also use more than anyone could imagine when they train. I train harder than most people and that’s one of the reasons I looked for alternative ways to make sure I was feeding the right stuff in the right amounts. I failed to mention that if a substance isn’t good for a horse or has been processed in a way the horse can’t use it you will see it when you test it cause the vitality would go down so you wouldn’t feed that substance. Also you can test all feeds and supplements before giving them so you don’t waste your money. For example, people told me that red cell wasn’t worth the money and by testing it I found out it was a very good product for iron.

      So I say that when you limit the amount of a natural substance that can be in a horses system you limit how hard a trainer can train. You can’t just put these Limits on natural substances without truly knowing all consequences.

      • Bill O’Gorman

        I’m losing the will to live.

        • PG

          We can turn that into the will to win. I promise. LOL

        • PG

          Glad to see you’re still with us!!!!!!

  • bangem andleavem

    We don’t need anyone telling us what does and doesn’t work. We have eyes. We see how certain trainers with less skill than a shoe shine boy, get horses to move up many lengths in short order.

    If the article is making any point , it’s that what REALLY works is NEVER known , except by the users.

  • ForLoveOfTheGame

    I concur with the author’s frustration. I say test often and test for everything. Obviously to reasonable people, unlike race cars, race horses do not need additives to better their time. The record shows drugged animals are compromised animals and often enough succumb to the drug as a result of racing while drugged. America (like other civilized countries) needs to step up to the plate and stop drugging race horses. I pray for all race horses to survive the race because of the drugs. And I believe no horse stepping on the track should EVER have the impediment of having drugs in its system. Racing is strenuous enough all by itself.

  • Gallop

    I’d put a line through this article on the Voss PPs. She threw in a cobalt click bait clunker today. Should get a good price on the next article though. I’m betting her next time out.
    Is there a more ridiculous body of knowledge than equine performance studies? Bad statistics, complete disengagement from practical usefulness, duplication, I don’t get it.
    It almost seems like the world is filled with academics wanting to do studies for studies sake. What a waste of time and money. Bet it through the windows, it’ll do more good.

  • Judith Van Doren

    Am not so sure this is a sloppy article as it is sloppy because of the apparent mind set of trainers, owners, veterinarians who administer these drugs to horses because of their ideology instead of what is best for the horse. If there is no known benefit for a drug, it should not be given, period. Banning drugs only if they enhance the racing ability falls short of controlling what is happening. Humans stupid enough to take drugs themselves, then use same mindset to race a horse should be banned from the track.

  • Racing Fan

    Natalie voss normally hits the mark. On this article, not so much. Every journalist is allowed to have a bad story every once in a while. I will give her a pass on this one.

  • David Hager

    Whether you view this article as sloppy or not, the one paragraph absolutely hits the nail on the head. The best way to change the mentality of rule breakers and substances being used is “IF the veterinary business model shifted away from a reliance on dispensing medication and toward compensation for education and diagnosis.” That is what the vets should be best used for, and use their knowledge of physical horsemanship instead of chemicals. Treat a problem, not a symptom.

  • If I get the gist of the above article, there is little scientific proof that cobalt or much of anything else can effectively “hop” a horse. I totally agree from my own experience. In my younger days, I used about everything known to man and vet while racing and never felt it helped any of my horses out. I am not saying NOT to regulate against drugs, only that they are way over-hyped on what they can do for equine performance. Many myths are hard to combat and I know I will be condemned for this view, but I speak from years of training and racing.

    • Bill O’Gorman

      The late Ray Rowley always felt that most elicit stimulants [as opposed to painkillers] probably had little effect upon the horse but gave the trainer confidence! That’s not to say that there are not things out there that would make a difference, or to saythat most trainers are prepared to rely upon training.

    • Gaye Goodwin

      Who gives a CRAP if it enhances as much as expected? The cheaters give it to gain an unfair advantage. Get them out of the game.

  • This article does little to advance the discussion of illegal drug use. Must be a slow news day. I don’t blame Natalie. Even Secretariat tossed in a bad race now and then. It is good for her to get this out of her system. BTW Natalie, if you really want to find out something about illegal drug use, you must speak with a cheater not a guy like Sams. The Sams of this world are always the LAST guys to know what works, how it works and why it works.

  • Bill O’Gorman

    The crux of the matter is the confusion between therapeutic medication and PEDs. Until everyone in the American system faces up to the fact that horses which are reliant upon medication in order to run ought not to be running the grey areas that the present ethos produces will always make for difficulties in policing. In fact the greatest attraction of Lasix may well be that it renders the effective tracking of other drugs impossible. The British system works fairly well – although I am not naïve enough to suppose that liberties have never been taken by some, the overall atmosphere is pretty pollution free.

  • david stevenson

    in the year 1254, the two successful brothers Izza Khan and Yuza Khan compared notes in the sand and established that “bullshit baffles brains” and its been that way ever since!

  • 870 express

    I do not care what the labs, vets, or anybody else says…cobalt WILL make a horse run just like on EPO…for about 3 races….I love how they say it doesn’t and it is scientifically impossible . I also love how they claim clenbuterol is not a performance enhancer either…. Don’t believe all their “scientific claims”, I can counter and dispell ALL of their arguments and claim with Empirical Evidence.

  • 870 express

    They should have given 8 times the amount they “tested” with for 4 days with a day in between doses….then ran the horse….anybody that has any experience would swear the horse was running on EPO (which hilariously they say doesn’t work on horses either)….I just love these morons….

  • 870 express

    One last point…It doesn’t make them run faster….it keeps them from getting tired as fast….meaning if you have a horse that run good fractions on the front but can’t hold it up when it its the lane…well Cobalt can cure that for about three races…the horse will will run the good fractions up front and then just hold that pace when it hits the lane and finish like it was only running the first half of the race….speed is not the only thing that wins races…endurance will too !!!

  • ray

    This article gets one thing right it’s about the mentality of the people involved .from the trainers to the vets and the owners. Right now it’s a game not about if drugs are used but rather withdrawal times. The most asked question in racing is how long before the race do I have to stop giving the horse drugs so it does not show up on tests and he still gets a benefit. Of course the holy grail is the drug that works and is not yet detected by testing. So the mentality is always to get around the rules. That will only change when the government gets involved and people actually get prison sentences for cheating. The industry is completely unable to or unwilling police itself.there are just too many opposing interests just look at the the trainers refusing to enter their horse in 2 yo breeders cup lasix free races and all the fuss they create around detention barns .some owners too. Vets make up all kinds of excuses as to why they have to administer medications on race day as opposed to a track vet..this issue will eventually kill racing when the public no longer tolerates betting or watching junkie horses run around tracks .horses that probably would have difficulty getting into a gallop with out painkillers.

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