Vets Standing Up For Horses, Not as Easy as it Seems & Other Racing Notes

I remember many years ago now we had a horse in to go, and when visiting him in the paddock an hour or two before race time, the trainer was a little concerned about his right front. There was no pain, he walked and jogged fine, but he thought he felt a little bit of heat. He called over a couple of old time horsemen and the track vet. Nobody thought anything was amiss and nothing was. The horse raced well, coming a bang up third, and won his next start. I looked up the horse recently and noticed he is happily racing at age 12.

When the trainer did mention he thought something might be amiss I said the words "well, if he is off in any way, just scratch him". But I remember how hard it was to say them. People were out to the track to see him go, he had a shot to win, he had been racing well. He had trucked a couple of hours and been prepped. It's easy to do the proper thing from afar, but up close it's different.

This race was a $15,000 non winners of two. I can only imagine it with a Derby or Breeders Cup starter. You've gone through preps, lived breathed and ate Derby. Your friends are all here, you spent thousands on travel. You've been thinking about this day and winning the Derby for months, or years. The lean is to race and hope for the best, and I am sure throughout history that's exactly what has happened dozens or more times.

After 2008 with Eight Belles, post-Life At Ten, and probably with a little bit of PETA reports mixed in, the Kentucky Racing Commission (and presumably Churchill Downs) changed protocols. There is a lean for track vets to wield more power, in Kentucky and elsewhere. We'll never know if the Derby scratches the last few years were because of track vets, the connections themselves, or whatever, but there seems to be a change in the way horses are inspected and vetted out in this day and age. A track vet is now expected to say "no you cannot race" more than ever before in these cases.

That's an incredibly hard thing to do, and the pressure on them must be enormous.

In the NFL, a player can be sat by the NFL doctors because of concussions. Players generally don't like it, get upset, but that's the way it is. These doctors have that mandate, but it is different with a human being. Horse's can't speak and tell you when they're not well, the owners might want to run, it's a free country and free business; the old "it's my horse how dare you tell me what to do" comes into play. That they, the business and track ownership have been more vigilant than ever in this regard is not a small thing, in my view. It's pretty big.

On twitter or facebook or on Paulick Report comments, "they should scratch him if he appears off" sounds like something as easy to do as tying ones shoes in the morning, but for a track vet, it's not as easy at it sounds. I think they deserve a lot of respect from us as fans, and bettors. The business, I think, has moved in the right direction on this topic.


Speaking of whose right to know what, when in horse racing, the Dortmund bout of supposed colic before leaving for Louisville is a hot topic in some quarters. Was trainer Bob Baffert supposed to telephone the press after the episode so everyone knows? Some think that should be the case. I think most episodes like this before races can be fixed with releasing vet records, as was done in the past, but not in large part this year. If the horse was treated with anything for the colic, it would be released in the vet records, and when asked on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the connections would likely respond why.  Problem solved.

TimeformUS's site has really sped up. I was speaking to a fellow who works on the website and he told me something was coming down the pipe and it has. Timeform is doing good things that cater to modern bettors. No, I still am not jaded enough to think that's an oxymoron.

Handle was up 5.9% in April. A few tracks did better than expected, and Gulfstream ran more dates with better horses. I would suspect that $10 million or so of the handle bump was due to the Rainbow Six mandatory, which did not happen last April. Horse racing, for some time now, has been running more races at better signal tracks, and fewer at low handle ones. We really have not seen what would be expected with that, however, i.e. more gross handle. That's likely to have occurred because bankrolls are not rising.

In harness racing update, social media and the openness of racing in that regard was looked at. We got a neat reminder this week about how other sports handle it differently. A PGA reporter was banished for showing some practice round shots via periscope, the twitter streaming app.

Monmouth has a new pick 5 at 15% boat for the new meet (there are two now, Monmouth created the 50 cent pick 5). Polarcritter says it's right up against Woodbine's pick 5, and he doesn't think it bodes well for the Bine.

Supposedly exchange wagering is coming to Monmouth in Jersey sometime this summer. This has been a topic discussed for years. Hopefully Betfair is the one with the keys to the bus. They have a big interest in making this work, know how to, and we'll likely see it work well, in my view, if they're left alone.

Enjoy your Wednesday everyone.

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