Power Cap

Power cap- existential handicapping

08 May 2008

Realistic Change Is Quite Simple For Racing

In the wake of the Eight Belles tragedy, there has been a tremendous amount of talk about the safety of racing. Some of the talk has been moronic, uninformed while some has been on-point. It is important that some changes are made at this time while the spotlight is on racing and the game has tremendous public opinion leverage. The changes must be realistic and directly effect the results while not causing any undue economic harm to people that are struggling to make ends meet within the industry. Over at Paul Moran's blog Mr. Moran posted a letter from a fan that was completely on-point and I would like to echo that fans sentiments here. Ross A. Fowler really got it right and I hope his letter becomes the axis of change in the industry. The focus in the wake of the Eight Belles death should be on banning all raceday medications and a focus on safer dirt tracks. These are workable areas where the industry can affect real change.

Safe dirt surfaces exist. This wheel does not need to be re-invented. At Saratoga the cushion is deep and it is rare to see a scene like the one we witnessed in the Kentucky Derby 134. If dirt tracks are maintained like Saratoga with a deep cushion and not compressed hard as a rock every time it rained, a safer surface would be a result. We all know it rained hard the day before the Derby and the morning of. The track maintenance crew was out there sealing Churchill's dirt track down to a hard super-highway to make it impervious to the rains. When horses run over this hard super-highway we get Eight Belles type incidents. If Churchill had the most modern drainage system there would be no need to seal the surface every time it rained. The focus should be on, optimum drainage and a deep cushion. A sound surface is well engineered from top to bottom. We do not need slow synthetic surfaces with drugged up unsound horses toiling from wire to wire, in a unformful poly-procession. Dirt form has been established as the form of American racing and safe dirt surfaces are available if tracks have the knowledge and ability to install and maintain them. Poorly maintained surfaces like the old dirt at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Arlington should have been engineered with Saratoga as a model. They did not need to be scrapped for the poly-track band-aid cure with its empty promises of no maintenance and fewer injuries. Adding safer, deep dirt surfaces to existing tracks will protect the integrity of the horses legs while protecting the interest in the game.

The second change that needs to be made is on raceday medication. The USA should adopt European medication standards and ban all raceday medication. Now is the time while the public sentiment is huge, the leverage is there to change the game. This is a realistic change that can happen soon. Most of the world races clean of drugs, with American horses racing on a mix of lalix, bute and who know what else we are the cesspool of equine substance abuse. The time is now to stop taking shortcuts and get back to fundamental horsemanship. The long term repercussions of drug abuse in the thoroughbred are beginning to dominate American bred thoroughbreds as generation after generation of drug aided inferior stock enter the gene pool. Stop the legal drugs and everything else will fall into place.

Realistic change should focus on these two areas of concern. There is a wide range of nonsense out there concerning use of the whip, moving the triple crown to four year olds, synthetic surfaces and increasing the minimum age of racing to three year olds. These are all band-aid approach measures that ignore the core reasons of the problem. It is impossible to legislate the type of horses that people buy and mandate a market that focuses on sound stamina horses. However the NTRA and the tracks can legislate that horses run over a safe dirt surface and do so without any drugs in their system. This is real attainable change for the greatest game and it should be done now while the leverage is there.


Anonymous said...

You are wrong to support this letter. Raising takeout to correct all the problems in racing will hurt it more than help it. 1% for this, 1% for that, 1% for everything else that is a problem. We'll be at 50% takeout by the end of the year then racing will be dead. In this letter, the industry will just see that they can pay for their shortcomings by raising takeout. Support for this letter is a joke!

Ross said...

Dear Anonymous. Did you read the letter? The takeout issue is a minor point. Just as important as what I did say, is what I did not say.

I did NOT say that the takeout should be raised to address every problem in racing. I DID say that it should be raised to address general issues of equine health/safety and drug testing ONLY.

Tracks wouldn't be able to run a business as a going concern at a 50% takeout and it will NEVER happen. They are competitive and takeouts will stay low b/c that is a key way for them to compete over gambling dollars.

Calling my letter a joke because of disagreement with one minor point is asinine in the extreme. People like yourself who cannot except that things need to change for the better in racing have been part of the problem for the last 30 years.