Lasix, Brand Ambassadors & Betting

Lasix use or non-use is one of the more interesting debates in horse racing. Bacon yesterday interviewed a vet who took the pro-lasix side and did a fairly good job explaining it. It was weird reading it though, because as a dude who doesn't much like the drug on horses, I got the feeling he was telling me I was a horse abuser for having that view. 
  •  Studies have demonstrated that approximately 60% of the sudden deaths during racing have been attributed to pulmonary hemorrhage, EIPH grades of 2 or more have been shown to adversely affect racing performance, and EIPH is believed to adversely affect the overall health of racehorses.  We know that EIPH is pathology, an injury to the lung of the horse, and that this injury causes further lung pathology.  
Since he lumps in standardbreds with thoroughbreds, one might think the thousands upon thousands of harness horses with 300 or more lifetime starts and thousands more training miles without using lasix were thrown to the wolves and put at great risk.  It's tough to buy that argument. It just doesn't seem to wash.

I guess the use of old time horsemen treatments, adjunct meds and the like have helped good trainers not use lasix and especially for harness horses that does make sense. Racing once per week, having the crap kicked out of your horse every seven days by dehydrating him or her, having him lose weight, put it on and then do it all over again is problematic. Maybe that's why thoroughbreds race so sparingly, I do not know. But it is a path that good harness trainers take with their stock - whether it be a 5 claimer or a $5 million dollar racehorse. I hardly think they are putting their horses "at great risk".

The way I have always looked at the lasix debate is how I look at any other. Plenty of pedestrians are killed in big cities each year. If we mandate they wear a suit of armor it will save lives. If you are against such a thing someone might call you a pedestrian death supporter. But the loss of rights, freedoms and common sense would trump that policy, and it would not happen. I have little doubt that lasix stops bleeding in racehorses, but treating a horse for it, using some adjunct meds and herbs and everything they use overseas lessens that risk just fine, it seems. On the flipside, the gains from not having the drug in a racing program each day, or not having a Drapian "needle plunging into a neck" 4 hours before every race has some benefit as well.

No matter where you are on the lasix debate, sky is falling truisms are rarely the most accurate way to approach understanding the debate.  A little pro and con common sense can go a long way.

There is plenty of chatter on the interwebs about the Brand Ambassador program started by the NTRA/Jockey Club/America's Best Racing. A bunch of dudes and dudettes are going on a bus tour promoting racing. Teresa wrote about it in Forbes this week. 

The current meme (not surprising, because people have watched many racing marketing ideas fail) is that "it's a stupid idea" but I don't know enough about it either way to say so or not. Maybe it will work, who knows. What I do think is that i) results will be hard to measure and ii) We're selling branding, and the way racing is set up revenue-wise, that's a whole can of worms.

Across the pond in the UK there is a similar program going on.
  • The aim of Great British Racing will be to broaden the appeal of British horse racing at every level, with the objective of increasing participation and revenues, and protecting and growing the thousands of jobs that exist within the sport.
This makes a little more sense over there, not because of the program, but where revenue comes from in the UK. About 30% of racings revenues are sponsorship there, and that is measurable. Here in North America a few tracks have embraced sponsorship like Woodbine and Charles Town, but as a rule, revenue is betting revenue. 

Racing is in a very tough spot with marketing in North America. We need to sell correctly and right, but we also need something to sell, along with a measurable sales channel to see what's working or not working.

Last up, betting sure is frustrating, but when things get that way, more often than not you can blame yourself and yourself only. Not only do you need the right horses, you need the right preparation.

Yesterday I liked two $40 horses at Oaklawn that were in the pick 4 sequence. A $50 and a $25 winner at the Meadowlands that was in that pick 4 sequence. A 24-1 shot at Fairgrounds that was in the super high 5 carryover, with a 4-5 shot who always hits the board in the same race.

By simply messing up my ticket planning, I ended up with very little off those plays.

If you are going to the track to play win and win only, life is easy. See a horse, see his odds, look at him on the track and bet or don't bet. With exotics you really need to spend time with your plays. If not, you end up frustrated.

The people who think we can get slots players over to play horse racing I don't think have ever played horse racing. A more intricate and interesting gambling game you will not find.

Have a great Friday everyone!

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