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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time For Action

So the conference on race day medication ended yesterday and what was the decided out of that meeting?  Punt.  Instead of coming to an agreement that race day medication, primarily Lasix, but also Bute in some states is going to be phased out, or even a decision that they were not going to change the policy, California, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York officials are going to gather in July for further discussion.  Are they going to come to any decision there, or are they trying to run out the clock on the public's attention of the issue or hope to outlast any momentum that the Whitfield-Udall legislation banning race day medication may have?  To often, when an industry is threatened with federal regulation, they cry is "We will regulate ourselves" in hopes of staving of any federal action.  Typically, the industry comes up with the most minimal standard that the legislators will accept and set up a 'committee' to enforce the voluntary standard.  Usually little changes.

Well the time for action is now and we need to get serious.  Bill Finley, in an article for ESPN calls for racing to 'just do it'.   At first blush, I agree with Bill Finley, but then I realize such a ban being implemented immediately, would be disastrous for standardbred racing due to our breeding practices.  Before we can implement such a ban, we need to get our breeding house back in order.   

Let me offer my proposal for banning race day medication.

1. Ban Bute Some racing jurisdictions allow horses to race with bute. Among those states are California, Indiana, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. Bute is a therapeutic medication which has its place as therapeutic medication, but has no place in racing. If a horse needs to race on bute, it belongs in the barn or retired. One of the biggest problems with the medication is it allows a horse to race through the pain, to the point it he horse breaks down, it will continue to race, causing a hazard to horse and driver a like. It is also abused. Last year I saw an East Coast stakes horse ship to Indiana for a race and it added bute for the start there and after that race, it returned to the East Coast and did not race with bute. Clearly, the horse raced on bute because it could and was likely added to level the playing field. Starting January 1, 2012, no state should allow a horse to race on bute.

2. Phase in Ban of Lasix (Salix) and other Bleeding Medications These medications are being used to treat EIPH, a problem which most foreign countries do not have. This problem is related to the fact breeders did not consider bleeding a serious defect. Due to our breeding problems, an outright ban of lasix day one would be disastrous. I talk later about gradually implementing a ban on these medications.

3. Breed for stamina, not speed (again). Pre-Meadowlands, the standardbred was bred for stamina instead of speed. As a result, there were less horses with bleeding difficulties. Even now, with the number of racing accidents we are seeing, it is apparent that we are pushing our horses past their natural ability forcing them to race blistering miles. Whether that is just the breeding, the equipment being used, medication, or combination of these things, we are contributing to the problem of exercise-induced bleeding.

I have said it before and I say it again, the average horseplayer could care less how fast a horse races; they are concerned with winning wagers. If they win a Trifecta in a race that goes 2:00 minutes or a race that goes in 1:48, they don't care. Most horse owners don't care how fast their horse goes; they are primarily concerned with making money in the forms of purses. Now of course, to make money, your horse needs to race faster than the other, but as with the horseplayer, do they care how fast the horse has to go to pick up a check? They need ultra-fast horses because that is what is needed to make money. The only group which is obsessed with speed are the breeders. Breeders need to be responsible to realize we need to slow down the breed as breeding for speed brings out undesirable traits.

4. Phase Out Race Day Medication To be fair to those who have purchased yearlings this year (realizing most yearlings are not purchased until the fall), starting with the foals of 2011, pre-race medication will not be allowed. This means in the year 2013, 2yos will not be allowed race day medication; in 2014, two and three year olds will not be allowed race day medication; in 2015, two, three and four year olds will not be allowed race day medication. Starting in 2016, all horses will not be permitted race day medication.

5. Ban bleeders from breeding
Now this is not something we can do overnight. We need to give breeders the opportunity to slow down the breed. I would propose starting in the year 2020, any stallion or mare which suffers from a severe bleed based on the four levels of scoring a bleed, will not be allowed to be used for breeding purposes once their racing career ends; the USTA will not register any foals from a certified bleeder. Any horse which enters stallion or broodmare service prior to 2020 would be exempt from this restriction.. While this would be the drop dead date for eliminating bleeders from the breeding ranks, realistically, they will begin to be removed from breeding as the demand for off-spring of known bleeders will not be in demand.

Sadly, we need the specter of federal regulation to keep our house in order. The two sponsors of the bill need to be educated their ban for the reasons outlined above can't be implemented overnight. However, the provisions of the law make sense over a graduated implementation to allow the industry to make the changes necessary to make the law more sensible yet add teeth to the enforcement of medication bans.

A New Page Added to VFTRG.  Starting this week, there is another page to my blog called Cal Expo Pick 4 Selections. I will be putting my Thursday and Saturday Pick 4 (when guarantees are offered) Cal Expo Selections on this page, so look for my selections there.  At times, other featured wagers will be listed there as well.  So check it out.


The_Knight_Sky said...

I think standardbred racing should have their own separate plan. They should not be guided by the medical practices (and proposed solutions) that were discussed at the NY Summit.

BTW...How many representatives from the Harness Racing industry (US and foreign) were at the Summit on Tuesday and Wednesday?

Pacingguy said...

Actually, I understand about five people were there. Some USTA directors from NY and people from the Hambletonian Society.

Each breed can go their own way with reagdsto specifics, but i suspect when the end comes all racing will follow the same general guidelines.

Bonnie said...

NJTHA board will vote tomorrow on the Bailey deal.

Jim H. said...

The 12th race at PcD last night has me scratching my head—a c3 moving up in class in his first race of the year (last race was 19Nov…he ran in QUA’s on 5/12, 5/19, and 6/14) won the race establishing a new personal best by over a second. The colt’s name is Mystic Desire and he ran a terrific race…

This colt clearly has ability.

But this one has me wondering (you can see a replay on the Mohegan Sun Pocono website); I really don’t know if I am correct in my puzzlement.

I guess what gets me the most is that there is enough conversation out there to make me to make me wonder about the performance rather than to marvel at what I had just seen.

Pacingguy said...

IMO, this horse had the credentials to come up with this type of performance.

For those who don't know, this hors was 9 for 12 last year winning over $329,000 and had a mark of 1:51.4 at Lexington as a two year old, so the drop of 1.4 seconds as three year old is nothing.

The horse won the Bluegrass at Lexington last year and the Am-National at Balmoral and finished with a win in the Abe Lincoln which is a race for state breds.

The fact the horse had three good qualifiers to start this year off is a give away that he would be expected to give a good account of himself. That being said, with all the nonsense going on, even legitimate performances are questioned.

Jim H. said...

FWIW I had him on the bottom half of my exacta; I expected a good performance but not this.

You are on point with the statement, "with all the nonsense going on, even legitimate performances are questioned."

Has it reached a point where the questions of performance are the default instead of the applause?

Come to think of it, in all other sports, the default is the questioning so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the same holds true in harness racing.

Thanks for taking the time for responding/interpreting...I now feel much better about what I saw.