Alert!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

An open letter from Patrick Cummings of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation

The following open letter was penned by Pactick Cummings of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation and was published at the following link on October 17, 2019:
https://racingthinktank.com/blog/letter-west-virginia-and-racings-failure-properly-administer-itself

The following is an open letter from Patrick Cummings, Executive Director of the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation:

West Virginia’s problems are the entire industry’s problems.

A horrific photograph emerged from West Virginia on October 16 in which it appears a horse, presumably euthanized previously, was dumped in a landfill, still with leg bandages in place. A police investigation is underway at the behest of various anti-racing lobbies, with some reporting the horse may have come from nearby Mountaineer Park. Details are still unconfirmed.
Regardless of the authenticity of the photograph, this is not an isolated example of the mind-bending operation of racing in the state.

That same night at Mountaineer, nine year-old mare Sophie Got Even made her first start since June 2014 in a $4,000 claiming event.

She was purchased as a broodmare, in-foal to Hold Me Back, for $1,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale in February 2015. She was then bred to Colonial Colony, dropping Printer Jam, a gelding who has earned more than $70,000 and won a race on October 9 at Indiana Grand for owner, trainer and breeder Denis Cluley – the same person who bought Sophie Got Even in 2015, and raced her on Wednesday evening off a five-year layoff.

Sophie Got Even ran fifth, beaten more than seven lengths, and earned $134.

On Monday, October 14 at Mountaineer, nine-year-old mare Little Red Diamond made her fourth start of 2019. Prior to her first race of this year, on August 21, she had not been seen at the races since October 22, 2014. It does not appear as though this Kentucky-bred by Red Giant produced any foals, but that should not matter. She has been beaten more than 84 lengths in her four 2019 appearances, earning $340.

Runnin’toluvya, the 1-2 favorite in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic at Charles Town on Saturday was allegedly bleeding from a gash to a hind leg following a pre-race gate incident, but allowed to race, and was eased to last.

West Virginia is not alone, nor is the thoroughbred industry. An Ohio standardbred track ran the last two races on a March card after a horse drowned in its infield lake after getting loose during a race and could not be retrieved. Yes, they kept racing. The Ohio Racing Commission did not comment when asked about the matter by local media.

Horse racing, no matter the breed, is judged by its worst behavior, not its best.

For all of the great horsepeople – owners, breeders, trainers, assistants, grooms, foremen, veterinarians, jockeys, exercise riders, farriers, officials and all other personnel responsible for the well-being of horses – there are, undoubtedly, rogue actors amongst them who do, or have done, unspeakable things.

The beauty of the great farms for breeding and raising new generations of horses in Kentucky, New York, Florida, California and other states pales in comparison to the troubles which are now regularly presented and exploited by those seeking to destroy the industry and its history.

Casino companies which own and operate racetracks lack incentives to grow the sport. Logic suggests they would generally prefer a future without having to share revenue with horse racing.

There are some horsepeople, racing officials, administrators and regulators in some states who have allowed outrageous behavior to fester, leaving a trail of terrifying examples for the world to point to as reasons why our industry, which accounts domestically for more than 240,000 direct jobs and $15 billion in direct economic impact, should be shuttered.

Individual racing commissions and their staffs are in place to execute the rules and regulations governing the sport in their jurisdictions, but at the most fundamental level, they must ensure the safety and integrity of all participants. They license, and therefore allow, the personnel who own, train, ride and assist in the preparation and racing of horses. Many are failing to accurately police the sport, and it is jeopardizing its future.

This letter could suggest that the West Virginia Racing Commissioners – Jack Rossi, Ken Lowe and Tony Figaretti – are all responsible, in some capacity, for enabling such lax administration. But this would be underselling the entire situation.

A horrific situation in West Virginia is an industry-wide nightmare. There should be no delineation about the nature of these and other incidents and the larger sport – these things cannot happen.
Long-time industry participants point to the decades of threats which have faced racing, and still, we are here, breeding and racing.

American horse racing is proving incapable of policing itself – dramatic reforms are necessary to prove that we can exist in a modern society with far different standards than in the past. Racing needs to be administered in a much more responsible fashion. State racing commissions must step up and take legitimate control; the rest of us must demand it ourselves.

Many commissions are stocked with political appointees with little industry experience. In those jurisdictions with commissioners who do have the experience, many are viewed skeptically as protecting long-term interests as opposed to embracing the radical change the sport needs.

The love and passion of horses and racing is shared by so many of the sport’s participants – to an almost irrational degree. Participants young and old absorb a steady stream of attacks with each and every new incident and ponder why they have committed themselves to a business that seems incapable of policing itself.

When change is floated in the horse business, responses are often negative and tinged with reasons why our business could not accept such change.

Get over it. Change or fade into oblivion.

If you care about racing, it’s time to petition your state’s racing commissioners and demand they take their roles and the administration of racing far more seriously. It is in everyone’s best interest, and that includes our horses, to do so.

Just so you know - I decided to post Patrick's open letter here on the HANA Blog because I agree with every single word.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

Friday, April 19, 2019

20 of the leading tracks announce plans to phase out race-day meds

Bloodhorse.com | by Frank Angst | 04-18-2019 6:33 PM
Tracks Plan to Phase Out Lasix, Horsemen Share Concerns:
https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/233156/tracks-plan-to-phase-out-lasix-horsemen-share-concerns

-- quote:
"In what would be a significant change in how 2-year-old races and stakes races are conducted in the United States, 20 of the leading tracks announced plans April 18 to phase out the use of race-day medication beginning with juvenile races next year and then adding listed and graded stakes beginning in 2021.

The proposal to end the use of furosemide (Salix, commonly called Lasix) has support from some leading industry groups but also saw opposition and concerns raised by horsemen's groups and regulators.

Lasix is administered to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, but its use is out of line with other major international racing jurisdictions. On Thursday, a coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing organizations announced plans to move closer to that standard.

Coalition racetracks that signed on to the initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Inc., the New York Racing Association, and The Stronach Group, as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred meets), Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together, the tracks represent 86% of graded or listed stakes races in the U.S. in 2018."
-- end quote.


If I pull back and look at thoroughbred racing from (say) 30,000 feet --

It seems a bit unreal to me that fear of what PETA can do, and not vision from within, might turn out to be the catalyst for change.

That said --

Imo, if you're going to do away with race-day meds, a phase out, as opposed to a one time outright ban, is the way to go.

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Santa Anita Implements Lasix Ban, Increased Restrictions On Therapeutic Drugs Following 22nd Fatal Breakdown

by Belinda Stronach | 03.14.2019 | 4:26pm
Santa Anita Implements Lasix Ban, Increased Restrictions On Therapeutic Drugs Following 22nd Fatal Breakdown:
https://www.paulickreport.com/news/the-biz/santa-anita-implements-lasix-ban-increased-restrictions-on-therapeutic-drugs-following-22nd-fatal-breakdown/


The following statement was distributed to media Thursday afternoon as an “open letter” from Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach following the track's 22nd fatal breakdown during morning training at Santa Anita.

What has happened at Santa Anita over the last few weeks is beyond heartbreaking.  It is unacceptable to the public and, as people who deeply love horses, to everyone at The Stronach Group and Santa Anita.

The sport of horse racing is the last great sporting legacy platform to be modernized.  If we expect our sport to grow for future generations, we must raise our standards.

Today, I'm announcing The Stronach Group will take the unprecedented step of declaring a zero tolerance for race day medication at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.  These Thoroughbred racetracks will be the first in North America to follow the strict International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) standards.

We have arrived at a watershed moment.  The Stronach Group has long been a strong advocate for the abolishment of race-day medication, but we will wait no longer for the industry to come together as one to institute these changes. Nor will we wait for the legislation required to undertake this paradigm shift.  We are taking a stand and fully recognize just how disruptive this might be.

This mandate encompasses a complete revision of the current medication policy to improve the safety of our equine and human athletes and to raise the integrity of our sport.

These revisions comprise best practices currently employed at racetracks around the world:
  • Banning the use of Lasix.
  • Increasing the ban on legal therapeutic NSAIDS, joint injections, shockwave therapy, and anabolic steroids.
  • Complete transparency of all veterinary records.
  • Significantly increasing out-of-competition testing.
  • Increasing the time required for horses to be on-site prior to a race.
  • A substantial investment by The Stronach Group in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.
  • Horses in training are only allowed therapeutic medication with a qualified veterinary diagnosis.

Additionally, it is time to address the growing concern about use of the riding crop.  A cushion crop should only be used as a corrective safety measure.  While we firmly believe our jockeys have not purposely been mistreating their mounts, it is time to make this change.

These modernizations are in addition to the previously announced commitment to the continued engagement of outside experts to regularly review our dirt, turf and synthetic courses for consistency, composition and compaction to create the safest racing surfaces in the world.

We will be continuing our daily conversations with industry stakeholders to further define these transformative guidelines.  But make no mistake: these changes will be implemented. The time to discuss “why” these advancements must take place is over.  The only thing left to discuss is “how.”



Wow. (It's been a busy day.)

--Jeff Platt, HANA President

.

Where have all of the so called racing journalists gone?

There was another fatal breakdown at Santa Anita this morning. (The 22nd fatality at Santa Anita since opening day Dec 26, 2018.)

Last week, when The Associated Press picked up the story about the situation at Santa Anita, their reporters wrote about microfractures.

APNews.com | By PAUL NEWBERRY | Friday March 8, 2019
Column: Horse racing needs to clean up its act _ or go away:
https://apnews.com/ecd8fa29fdfd4da68d8fa52359fe1f23?utm_medium=AP_Sports&utm_source=Twitter&utm_campaign=SocialFlow

"These are orthopedic failures, not single-step failures. The horse didn’t step in a hole. The horse didn’t take a bad step," she said. "If you bend a paper clip back and forth 200 times, then put it back in shape so it looks brand new and hand to me, the next time I bend it, it might come apart in two pieces even though I insist I did not bend it hard. That’s how these fractures occur."

It starts with a microfracture. Then a small, partial fracture. Finally, in the heat of a big race or perhaps just a light training session, the bone shatters.

It seems sudden, a fluke.

Most likely, it’s not.

"This is really just the normal physiological consequence of an increasing workload," Lyons said. "Take a human runner. Most runners know that when they increase their distances and then say, ‘Boy, my shins were killing me last night after a run,’ that they need to back off for the next week. They need to let it heal. What they do with horses is give them anti-inflammatories without a diagnosis, then keep training and racing."

Lyons said new technology is being developed that would allow a CT scan to be performed in a matter of minutes on a horse’s front and rear legs, which could be a revolutionary step forward in equine medical care. But the industry must be willing to pay for the machines, which are expected to cost about $300,000 apiece. Also, there must be enforcement in place to ensure that when a potential problem is discovered, the horse is kept off the track until fully healed."



I find it interesting -- alarming -- that none of the so called racing journalists writing about the situation at Santa Anita have even mentioned the word microfracture.

Why do you think that is?

Six of the 21 horses suffering fatal breakdowns at Santa Anita between Dec 26, 2018 and Mar 11, 2019 raced on a sealed surface within a few weeks of their fatal breakdown. (See the chart posted by Psychotic Parakeet at Paceadvantage.com here:

http://www.paceadvantage.com/forum/showpost.php?p=2439923&postcount=164



In my opinion:

  • It's not the track surface. (At least not track surface the way they want us to think about track surface.)
  • The time has come for actual transparency. (As opposed to the smokescreen they've been giving us these past several weeks about it being the track surface.)

Fact:
  • The CHRB has been compiling data on fatal breakdowns and microfractures for years.

Is there not one racing journalist out there who's willing to write a hard hitting story connecting the dots?


--Jeff Platt, HANA President