Del Mar Online Racing Community
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http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/ ... ers003943/
INJURIES AND FATALITIES:
As a public clocker on the Southern California horse racing circuit for 25 years, I would like to speak for the horses, jockeys and exercise riders concerning the catastrophic breakdowns at the recent Del Mar meeting. In my years of watching workouts and races I have observed over 400 thoroughbred fatalities.
In prior years, a horse would break down in a leg joint but then be aware of his injury and hobble to a stop like Ruffian in her final race. The jockey would be able to jump off unharmed. Today, in the “glamour” vet drug era, during a workout or race, a horse will collapse suddenly and the jockey is slammed to the ground, harmed. In Hank Wesch's Del Mar review article he didn't mention the human cost – injuries to jockeys and exercise riders.
Hall of Fame trainer Charles Whittingham never had a horse break down in the morning. The U-T article on horse fatalities in the morning workouts and afternoon races failed to pinpoint which veterinarians and trainers had the highest number and/or percentage of horse fatalities under their care.
How many thoroughbred racers sustained (non-fatal) career-ending injuries in the recently concluded Del Mar race meeting?
I don't even remember Whittingham having a horse break down in the afternoon. I remember a horse he sold to Evan Jackson--Dr. Kerlan--broke down and had to be euthanized during a race at Hollywood Park in 1975 but Jackson had taken the horse over the previous September. I remember Riot in Paris going wrong in the late '70's--most likely in the morning--I do think he pulled through though. I know Whittingham did everything possible to save him. Whittingham was truly one of a kind.
What racing NEEDS is more conditioners like the old school Mr. Charles Whittingham!!!!!!
Nureyev . . . . my Twinkle Toes
Sire of Miesque
While I too, think the old ways might have been better as far as training horses, there were surely many, many breakdowns. Just fewer people knew (we didn't have the instant media) or maybe cared (horses were still looked on as livestock to most people) and it certainly wasn't published in every magazine and newspaper.
That said, it was a different place back then. The tracks were rough, the jockey's were rougher and the medications that are routinely used today were just being developed towards use in horses or maybe not even thought of. Horses ran more often but there were less days of racing and horses routinely got time off as almost everyone had a place to rest one or knew someone that did and it didn't cost you a small fortune to turn one out.
Most everything has gotten better and we can save horses that had no chance many years ago but I think when trainers have giant barns, they can't spend as much (or any) time underneath a horse. The vet is way too handy and many a horse is trained with his help instead of working through the problem. Time is an issue as races are mapped out far in advance. It's not a bad thing necessarily, just different.
I can't name the horse but Charles Whittingham had a horse go wrong on the turf in a race.
I remember this because he walked the turf course the next morning and nobody went near
him all morning...
Accidents can happen but think trainers/vets need to be held more accountable. At least to where they feel pressure leading a injected horse to the track. Rarely see horses by Mandella, McAnally, Drysdale go wrong. It is the usual suspects more often then not. Think after a horse breaks down would like to see the vet records to be made public. Think in high % of fatalities you would see the problem has been there for a LONG time. The standard line that the "horse was sound" is BS..
We could probably learn something about sound, healthy horses, with less tendency to break down, from other countries, who to my understanding, have a significantly lower equine mortality rate than we do. Continents like Europe also run predominately, or exclusively, on grass, which is probably much kinder to horses than dirt. As far as our horses from yesteryear and the distant past breaking down, that's probably true, but we also run predominately on dirt over here and the bulk of our racing consists of lower level claiming races where we grind these poor horses out day after day. I don't know what kind of levels are run in other countries, but I suspect the claiming ranks are not as dominant outside of the U.S., and the racing schedules are mapped out differently, although I don't know the specifics of these. There were super horses in the old days who would race a lot, but I also suspect they trained less or trained differently (just a guess, I really don't know). But the majority of horses were not super horses, and I even suspect (I'm speculating) that many of the big stars who raced so much or with high imposts, saw a toll taken on their bodies, depending on the circumstances. These horses didn't break down, but too much racing, or too much weight, can take a toll on any horse, and if the horse is fatigued or his soundness is in any way compromised, he is more predisposed to injury. When Man o'War carried 138 pounds, as a three-year-old, in the Potomac Handicap, he set a new track record; and he also compromised himself with a bruised tendon. There is no horse, from the lowest level claimer to the greatest horse who ever lived, who is not vulnerable. These are fragile creatures made of flesh, blood, and bone. Man o'War wasn't a machine. Citation, who was overraced, IMO, wasn't a machine, and nor are any of these horses running today, none of whom are even in the same racing universe as these two.
I know that the synthetic tracks are attempting to address safety issues in the U.S., and are welcome despite the grumbling from certain people. While the synthetic tracks have been shown to reduce fatal injuries, there seems to be an assortment of different kinds of injuries on them. At any rate, perhaps the ideal would be well maintained turf tracks, but to be fair toward the synthetics, these surfaces are still very recent and only a more protracted period will determine if the synthetics are indeed the best. As we go along, the tracks and the studies gleamed from them, should result in "fine tuning" of these surfaces, constantly improving the product, so perhaps the synthetic track of tomorrow will be different in terms of its quality, safety, and durability than the ones of today. The ongoing injury reporting system that was launched within the past few years has been long, long overdue. With regard to the synthetics again, the Europeans, who race on grass, seem to really take to them, and this is an extremely good endorsement.
The link below is to a good article by Heather Smith Thomas in the September issue of "California Thoroughbred". It doesn't discuss breakdowns in general but rather on one specific topic, as it relates to different kinds of surfaces: shoeing. It is very good reading.
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