Breeders’ Cup madness

Can’t help but venting a bit after watching the Breeders’ Cup races last night (or what little of the Breeders’ Cup races Equidia chose to show us). I have to say this year more than ever has left me with the impression that horse racing in the United States has absolutely nothing in common with horse racing anywhere else on the planet. First off, the Americans have shown they have absolutely checked their horse sense at the door with the handling of Announce in the Filly & Mare Turf.

Maxime Guyon was hacking the filly down to the start when she spooked at something and managed to touch a trailer of some sort parked on the track. The contact was all of a split second, and about two seconds later the outrider was over telling Guyon to dismount and unsaddle, because track veterinarians had decided to scratch the horse. One wonders what the hell was a large piece of equipment doing parked on the side of the track? But no matter – Guyon handled the situation very well, and as soon as the filly touched whatever it was behind her, she settled down and moved forward, like a sensible horse will. Apparently there was a tiny cut. There were rumors that it later needed stitches (I’ve seen no confirmation of this).  Clearly the horse was sound, and if a vet had bothered to take a look at the horse, this would have been evident.  And clearly, connections of Announce were paying the price of the ineptitude shown in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when Life at Ten was allowed to race despite every indication that there was a problem.

Earlier, another filly in the sprint, Shotgun Gulch, also was scratched at the gate because a vet apparently saw a sign of lameness when the horse was warming up. How this could happen is beyond me, since the American horses “warm up” with their head twisted toward a lead pony, so they all trot sideways. No news yet on whether anything was actually wrong with the horse.

Obviously, an unsound horse should not be allowed to race. But if the vets stationed around the gates at the Breeders’ Cup are able to make that sort of diagnosis in less than 10 seconds without getting within spitting distance of the horse in question, they are a talented bunch of doctors indeed.

Another thing that always jars me when watching American racing is the loading process at the gate. It seems the gate crew try to outdo each other in proving their testosterone levels by slamming the back of the gate as hard as possible behind the horse, and the more flourish the better. Are they looking for high marks for artistic impression? I do appreciate the speed with which they work, but is it really necessary to do it all with that much yelling, slamming and gesticulating? And don’t get me started on the insanity of crawling up into the gate with the horse and holding his head.

All that mayhem at the gate means they jump out fast and terrified. The first fractions are usually faster than the finish – sort of like watching Arabian racing here. And gunning into those tight turns makes me hold my breath and hope for the best. Then there’s the added unease of knowing nearly all of the horses out there are racing on Lasix and probably Lasix adjunct and anything else permitted by the rules. With all this, I found myself watching the races by peaking through my fingers like a kid at a horror movie.

So what will I be doing tonight? Watching anyway, because I can’t help myself. I have to cheer on Goldikova and see how So You Think adjusts to both dirt and blinkers. Come home in one piece, guys.