Just a minute here…

I thank everyone for their comments of support on my previous posts; I feel very strongly about these issues and if there’s a crusade to change American racing, sign me up for the front lines. I do want to take a minute, though to defend Patrick of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, a tremendous organization without which many of you would never know I existed. Yes, Patrick made the decision to hold back the post, but if he hadn’t done that, someone at the NTRA would have. He knows the score over there, and I think he is just as disappointed as many of the rest of us bloggers about how the whole thing is going. Patrick is one of the good guys, and he told me he agrees with most (not all, but most) of the things in my post. But he also knows how thick the wall is and what does or doesn’t pass through the cracks. While I am someone who prefers to smash through the wall and damn the consequences, Patrick knows that won’t work and has the finesse to try a gentler way (and finesse is something I have never been attributed with having).  We’ll all keep fighting the battle in our own way, but I just want to thank Patrick for working tirelessly to try to put together something he thought would be good for all of us.

0 Replies to “Just a minute here…”

  1. If (supposed) censorship from the side of the NTRA is so strong as to effect in TBA self-censorship, doesn’t that beg a couple of questions, among them…

    … why you (the TBA) contribute to the website of an organization that is widely known to be a lobby for interests most or all TBA bloggers despise?

    … who is turning whom here? Are TBA articles on the NTRA site the steady drop forming the stone, or does the attempt to write agreeable posts effect in the taming of TBA thoroughbred bloggers?

    … are finesse and cooperation effective ways to achieve the desired results, or is breaking through the wall really the only way?

  2. And they keep blaming the all-weather track. I guess the trainer stuffed the horse full of Cortizone and who knows what else to keep him going.
    Keep up the good work.

    Dr. Rick Arthur, the CHRB’s equine medical director, told the board — which met in the ballroom of chairman John Harris’ inn and restaurant off Interstate 5 in Coalinga, Calif. — that the rule would “take the incentive away” for trainers to drop unsound horses to far below their claiming level ability in order to rid themselves of an unsound animal.

    He cited one instance of a trainer and owner at Hollywood Park last fall “high-fiving” in front of the horse ambulance after a horse that had been claimed from them broke down in a race.

    Current rule transfers title to a horse that has been claimed to the new owner from the time the field is dispatched from the starting gate, regardless of the horse’s condition. After receiving comments, the board should be able to take action on the amendment at its December meeting, around the same time ARCI is expected to consider the change when it meets in Tucson, Ariz.

    Under the current claiming rule, Arthur told the board, “the horse is the loser in the end.”

    Charles Dougherty, representing the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said his organization supports the rule change.

  3. You can’t say things you don’t know to be true. I don’t know if the NTRA would have withheld the post. I don’t know the score over there. I chose not to pass it on because it’s not about possible BC contenders coming over for the BC, but a post on drugs & whipping. I brought these concerns to you and thought you’d write another post about the decision a trainer who comes to the BC might go through.

    I also had the following editorial concerns.

    I couldn’t agree more w/ the person (do you have a link?)
    I think it’s confusing when you say you’re happy he’s not coming, you assume that had he come he would be put on drugs, but can you be sure?

    Are there stats that there are more breakdowns per runner in America vs Europe, has any study been done pointing to the training environment or is it just your assumption (a knowledgeable one i agree)

    Another difference Paragraph… I have to disagree for every Borel there are horses eased at the wire, and in BC events i can point to some horses being eased at teh wire.

    I wonder if you’d like to write somewhat of a same post but talking about the trainers decision to use or not use medication when coming to america, there most be some quotes from barry on the subject.

  4. Patrick – I will write them (and you) a post that you should like better. I’ve already had several conversations on medication with trainers who send horses to the BC, and I’ll do it again. As to breakdown numbers, I’ve done them before, but this just never gets old, so here, again, is a paragraph I wrote for the NY Times Rail blog two years ago. I’m sure the figures have changed a bit since then, but probably not for the better:

    The average horse in the U.K. started 6.3 times in 2006, according to the most recent statistics available from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. That is exactly the same average start for horses in the United States. Horses in France raced slightly less, with an average of 5.8 starts. In Hong Kong, the average number of starts was 7.8. The big difference is when it comes to fatal accidents. In the United States, there are 1.5 fatal accidents for every 1,000 starts, according to an estimate from the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. In Britain, the rate is 0.65 per 1,000 starts, according to the Animal Health Trust, and in Hong Kong, where horses face the heaviest schedule, the rate is 0.35, according to Hong Kong Jockey Club figures.

  5. You don’t need to write a book on this subject; performance enhancing drugs in any sport should be banned, it’s as simple as that.
    If as in horseracing, it pushes horses beyond their limits, by allowing them to not feel normal pain, then logically you are asking for trouble of breakdown etc;
    If ever I bought a racehorse, I would certainly give American breds a wide birth, when a large number are souped up during their racing career.
    While a number of European trainers in the past, have run their horses in the Breeders Cup series on medication, simply not to be put at a disadvantage. Clearly they are equally as guilty as their American counterparts who regularily use the stuff.
    While anyone with a degree of inrelligence would know ; racing on sharp bend dirt tracks, is hardly conducive to keeping a racehorse sound.

  6. according to a joe drape article from NYT from this year, the figures are:

    1.47 per 1000 for synthetics
    2.03 for dirt

    average=1.75 for US

    0.8 to 0.9 for GB

    there’s no question that dirt racing — a harder surface — contributes to much of this, as does the racing program here versus europe, where most of our bread and butter races are sprints. horses are asked to run harder, faster, and on a tougher surface. it’s not all drugs.

  7. Comparing gross figures are unlikely to yield actionable results. Apples to apples comparisons are needed. For instance, It would be useful to compare euro & asia turf races w/ US turf races at similar distances and track conditions. The more complete the data, the better chance the industry will have in identifying cause and effect.

    I recall the US racing industry created an equine injury database. It was supposed to be completed by track vets after breakdowns and include very detailed information such as distance of the race, surface, surface condition, type of injury, etc., etc.

    I’m as big a racing fan as anyone (“I’m so not a hater”), but for racing to be viable in the future, the industry must take concrete actions to reduce equine fatalities. We all know fatalities will never be completely eliminated, but that’s no reason not to do whatever possible to reduce the probability of an injury. It’s both a moral obligation and a sound business practice.

  8. the 7.8 starts in Hong Kong versus US is misleading; they have only 10 2-year-old races (none for NH-bred juveniles). Their program is based around proven older horses, who are handpicked for importation based on many factors, including race records and soundness. Trying to compare those breakdown figures to the US is apples and oranges, as the poster above noted.

  9. I disagree that synthetics are a better surface. That being said, the final numbers won’t matter on which surface is better if the pre-race vets don’t step up and do their jobs. To have 4 breakdowns in two stakes at Santa Anita is unacceptable. Santa Anita has been tinkering too long on that track. When will they get it right.

    Where I will agree with Sid is that most U.S. races are sprints on dirt, and maybe they shouldn’t be.

  10. Comparing apples to apples is almost impossible with the differences in racing around the world – just like it’s impossible to have a single “world champion” horse. So I think the smartest thing is to look at whatever fruit, as it were, has the lowest mortality rates. It’s true that the Hong Kong program is exactly as Sid said: built around sound older horses. And what’s wrong with that? They have the highest betting handle and the lowest breakdown rate in the world. What does sprinting two-year-olds around a turn and breaking them prove, exactly, in a sporting or gambling sense? I agree that it’s not all about medication. It’s the deadly combination of short races, hard surfaces, tight turns AND drugs that is killing U.S. racing. This seems painfully obvious to anyone looking in from any other country. And frankly, it doesn’t seem impossible to make some changes.

  11. ok i no this has no relevence but Gina, this and the previous post is possibley THE most commented entry EVER!!! even if it is causing WW3^^

  12. Patrick; What you fail to realise and no doubt the NTRA; is not whether See The Star’s would have run on drugs or not, if he had not been withdrawn; but that taking drugs amounts to cheating. It’s as simple as that and shouldn’t be an issue at all.
    I bet Ben Johnson and Marian Jones, would have liked to be racehorses.

  13. Agreed that it a combination of factors that figure into the fatality rate. And as one poster correctly pointed out, wasn’t this freaking data suppose to be a part of some type of safety and integrity reform in the States? I realize the devil is in the details; for example, horses that are vanned off and euthanized or sold to the meatman at a later date may or may not be included in the fatality rates. I don’t think that is included in this database initiative. Plus, last I heard…the freaking program participation is VOLUNTARY! Sorry, but that shows two things: (1) the database is incomplete, and (2) the “head in the sand” gang REALLY doesn’t want to know the numbers.

  14. I love reading TBA blogs because of their candid, insightful viewpoints. I pretty much stopped reading NTRA and Bloodhorse online content after The Paulick Report arrived.

    I’m interested in uncensored, let’s talk about the elephants in the room, writing. Self-censorship is taking steps backward.

  15. “Self-censorship is taking steps backward.”

    Hear, hear.

    This little NTRA-TBA deal that you so unfortunately bend over backwards to thank PP for arranging does nothing but devalue the work and undermine the independence of all racing bloggers associated with the group. The NTRA wants bland commentary from happy shills and PP seems quite eager to sell you all out (for what, exactly?) in delivering just that to their site. Too bad, too bad. I know I’ll read every member of the TBA a bit differently and more doubtfully from now on.

  16. With all due respect, the various members of the TBA are independant thinkers and your statement about happy shrills I believe is not an accurate representation of what work is being done. I disagree with the decision to not submit Gina’s opinion piece, it should have been, and if the NTRA wanted to censor it I’d feel better about the whole situation because I expect the NTRA to act like, well, the NTRA, which is no different then any big organization that is concerned deeply about image.

    Criticize the censorship, absolutely. Criticize the various members of a loosely gathered group of bloggers with a broadstroke, I would hope not. As for my blog, bland commentary is on the menu most days already.

  17. Sorry, Turk, and I do sincerely mean that, because I enjoy your writing and handicapping. But the fact of the matter is this — for traffic, small ad dollars, and a smidge of credibility, every blogger that remains part of the TBA in light of this (and other) incidents condones censorship, bullying, and restrictions on their independence. Considering that most blog for little more than the pleasure of being part of the racing conversation, that seems a high price.

  18. No sorries required. Thanks for reading. Horse racing needs all of us working together to make it relevant again.
    Gina, great writing. You got more comments in two posts then I get all year! Bravo.

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