Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Horseplayers Could Use A Little More Information

By Cangamble (also posted on Cangamble's Blog)

Renee Kierans deals with an interesting yet obvious question on her latest post on the Woodbine blog site, "Is First Time Gelding Information That Important?"
I wondered about this question over 25 years ago. And it still hasn't been dealt with.

To me, it is a gimme. Outfits geld horses for two main reasons: so that the horse might just run faster and/or so that the horse might keep his mind on his business (which makes the horse easier to train, and therefore the horse may run faster in races).

I'm assuming that gelding horses does achieve the goals above in at least many instances, or it wouldn't be a common practice. That being said, it has to be pertinent information that needs to be published. Why publish gelding information at all if it wasn't important?

New gelding information should be reported to Equibase within a couple of days of the operation. Equibase could put the info and date under the last running line or on top of the last running line.

Gelding information isn't the only thing that shouldn't be hid from horseplayers either. I know there is a practice that is pretty widespread (or used to be) that had to do with the throat on horses who had breathing problems. From what I understand (and I'm far from being a vet), some sort of hole is made in the throat.
Anyway, this is something else that should be reported to the betting public and also potential new owners who are looking to claim horses.

And why stop there? I think any vet procedure that costs over $200-$250 should be reported. We know when a baseball player has any type of procedure. Why should horse racing get off so light, especially when every horse is one bad step away from becoming worthless as a runner.

Wind Speed During Races
Why is wind speed not recorded and placed in the Form? How hard would that be? The chart caller just needs to check on one more thing before he or she submit the chart.
It wouldn't even take up much room. A backstretch wind of 20 mph could be reduced to b20, while a homestretch wind of 20 mph can be reduced to h20.

Wind speed once it gets over 15 mph is significant when dealing with pace breakdowns and final times. It should have been implemented into the Racing Form a half a century ago.

UPDATE: Update: Greg Blanchard likes the wind idea too. Check out his column at the WEG Blog Site.

I also want to add why wind speed is important. When horses face a strong wind in their face in the homestretch, it makes it tougher to close ground. The opposite is true when the wind is behind the horse in the homestretch, the advantage then shifts to closers.


Anonymous said...

Cangamble has a couple good points on the lack of info that would be a help to 'cappers. Here are a couple more:

The use of tongue straps is quite common nowadays. At one time the addition or removal of tongue straps was noted on track programs, a pratice that has been discontinued. It should be included in the same manner as 'binks' are noted.

In the standardbred programs all scratches are noted and the reason given. You do not have to wallow through the Form for this info.

Alex Sidorl

Unknown said...

Very nice CG. Information is power in our game. The more info we have the more reasons we find to play a race.

Twindouble said...

Here' an article along with my comment on a racing forum. Something I've been complaining about for years.

Get a load of this, remember I mentioned as handicappers we are left out when it comes to drugs and knowing anything about horses injuries or the extent of them. I also said operations are performed every day we know nothing about. Now the tracks are keeping track but at the same time they are saying the heck with the horse players by keeping that infomation confidential.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Just over a year after Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro shattered his leg in the Preakness, 30 racetracks across the country are set to launch a program to record on-track injuries to horses.

Under the new system, veterinarians at each track will fill out a standardized form to compile detailed reports of the injuries. The pilot program begins Friday at tracks from California to Florida, including three in Kentucky: Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Turfway Park.

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where Barbaro suffered his ultimately fatal injury last May, hasn't yet signed on.

The monitoring system, one of the suggestions generated last October at an industry summit on horse welfare and safety in Lexington, will give tracks better information about not just how many injuries there are but also what causes them.

While most tracks have been keeping records of injuries -- particularly catastrophic ones -- the data was almost useless when comparing one to another because of different definitions used by the onsite veterinarians. For example, one track might consider racetrack fatalities only to be horses euthanized that day, whereas others could include horses such as Barbaro that died several months later.

"It is not going to be an absolute panacea to eliminate injuries," said Mary Scollay, association veterinarian at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, who developed the system. "It is going to be a tool racetracks can use."

Scollay is compiling a computerized database, which will determine not just what percentage of horses are injured on a given race course but also the types of injuries, the location on the track where they happened and details about the horse -- including breeding history and any medications they may have been using.

The results will be kept confidential, released only to the reporting veterinarians, who will share them with the tracks.

"It is not my intention to allow this database to be used to point fingers and say, 'Your track is bad, your track is good, your track is worse than someone else,'" Scollay said. "That's not constructive."

Although the horse community was examining racetrack safety well before Barbaro's ill-fated run, officials acknowledged the public outcry over that incident expedited things.

"When that happened, the industry was at a loss to be able to answer the question, 'How frequent are injuries?'" said Ed Bowen, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "A lot of people took it as kind of an embarrassment that this industry can't answer that simple question."

There are many proposed solutions to making tracks safer -- from synthetic surfaces to improved guard rails -- but track officials are hoping to use this information to determine which would be most helpful.

Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, said the new reporting form is similar to the one that has been used in her state. But, she said there are huge advantages to centralizing the information.

"We were compiling the data, but we didn't have the manpower to then go forward and do the studies," Underwood said.