HEY RACING INDUSTRY, WAY TO MISS THE POINT.

I have a lot to do. I mean, a loooot to do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the time to stick my head back into Bad Blogger territory and spit and snarl in the direction of the people who are COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

Okay, so for those who haven’t been following this, North American horse racing rules allow the use of a race-day medication called furosemide, or, commerically, Lasix or Salix, in any racehorse in any state on any track, 24 hours before the race. This is theoretically meant to prevent and/or reduce bleeding in the respiratory tract caused by high-intensity exercise coupled with a genetic weakness of the respiratory tract wall. Unfortunately, it has come to be used almost universally, by every trainer, on every horse, which has drawn persistent criticism from international racing bodies, which do just fine without the drug (it’s banned, in fact, almost everywhere else in the world). Recently, the Breeders’ Cup has threatened to ban it from the Championships, sparking industry-wide debate and a series of conferences and forums to try and figure this shit out. In theory, it’s a great idea, and a really great move from the BC.

Iiiin practice, everyone is a dumbass. More to the point, no one seems to be willing to talk about the actual problem with the drug–or else they just don’t know, but there are enough vets and doctors on these panels to make me think that if someone hasn’t worked it out, they’re an asshole for not mentioning it.

The problem as I see it is that furosemide is a diuretic. It thins the blood, which reduces friction on artery walls and prevents internal bleeding from the rupture of blood vessels. Yay, right? Yay, except that diuretics have other effects than thinning blood; in fact, their most severe effect is on the kidneys. Biology lesson: kidneys filter the blood, removing toxins and excess water and converting it into urine. Diuretics thin the blood by taking water from the tissues and putting it in the bloodstream–and then, when it gets to the kidneys, the water is drawn out of the blood and excreted as urine. As a result, too much water is removed from the system, and you end up with dehydration. Gives a whole new meaning to “pissing like a racehorse,” doesn’t it?

Furthermore, as anyone who has ever exercised knows, physical exertion demands a great deal of water input to the system. Mammals sweat like crazy when we run, and the water in the sweat is taken from–you guessed it–tissues inside our bodies. Now, imagine a perfectly adapted running machine, only imagine it losing water in every direction. Every function in a horse’s metabolism requires water. Like, all of them. At this point, because water is so scarce, clinical dehydration sets in, and metabolic functions begin to falter and shut down. The first to go is the one that is needed the least: higher muscle function. Top performance, which would have been difficult to achieve in the first place because thinner blood means a lower concentration of red blood cells and oxygen-carrying iron. Get it?

And it doesn’t end there. Dehydration coupled with kidney stress is one of the most difficult conditions to recover from. The body needs weeks to get back to peak condition, and in the mean time muscle tone is necessarily lost–sound familiar? Is it any wonder that our last Triple Crown winner came before the advent of furosemide?

ARGH

Anyway. That’s me. I’m annoyed. Grr.


Remember how I said I needed it like breathing?

 

OH GADS


Bad Blogger is very busy and tired and should be reading or studying or working or something, but I just thought I would say:

Winter Memories vs. Summer Soiree. I need it like breathing.


I finally had the chance to really watch the Del Mar Futurity this morning which, if you’re a regular reader, you will know caused me to spaz out like a spaz on the first watch-through. Well, normally when a race intrigues me I watch it about a squillion times and pick it apart–like a spaz–until I’ve memorized the flight path of most of the horses that ran. Often when I do this, the lustre of the first go-round fades a little because I come to understand the luck of the trip, or the little mistakes the jockeys made, or whatever.

Not this time.

This wild and wacky Futurity only gets better with age. New things I noticed? First, how many runs Drill made. Bob Baffert said that Martin Garcia was supposed to teach the promising youngster how to rate in the Futurity, and boy howdy did he: tracking beautifully in the third flight, Drill shot up on the rail on the backstretch, actually lost some ground on the turn only to swing out and kick like he meant it in the stretch. A very promising aspect of this run was how well he kicked despite a) not being bred or really looking like a horse who would like the polytrack and b) the unforgiving-to-kickers nature of Del Mar in particular. You’re not supposed to get away with losing ground on the turn at this racetrack. This is the second time Drill has done so.

And of course: the incident in deep stretch. Shying from a left-handed whip, Majestic City (who had the lead in mid-stretch as five horses lined up imposingly across the racetrack) bolted to the outside. He crashed first into favoured Creative Cause, who checked hard but could not avoid collision with Drill. So it was that Creative Cause’s shoulder slammed full-force into Drill’s haunch, which twisted wildly out for a single stride before the son of Lawyer Ron called upon his evidently boundless athleticism and not only righted himself but won the photo finish with Majestic City. Majestic City was then disqualified to third behind Creative Cause.

In the usual side-view replay you can’t really see the full extent of the incident except inasmuch as it affected Creative Cause. To really appreciate it, you gotta see the front view, which plays after the race in the video I linked above. And then have a look at this spectacular photograph by Benoit Photo.

Baffert has announced that Drill’s road to the Breeders’ Cup will pass through the GI Norfolk Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. But despite having just won a Win And You’re In BC Challenge race, the son of Lawyer Ron is not Breeders’ Cup nominated; his owners will have to fork out a hundred thousand dollars to make him so. I don’t imagine they’ll want to do that until after the Norfolk, which will be Drill’s first race on natural dirt. I don’t think they’ll have much to worry about; the horse runs like a dirt horse, comes from many lines of dirt horses (Lawyer Ron, Storm Cat, Fappiano, Lord Avie) and lives under the tutelage of a trainer who has made the transition from poly to dirt both a work of art and a casual habit.

But the best part of all this? I get to fall in love with a two-year-old. I really do. In an age dominated by one-hit wonders and babies made of porcelain, Bob Baffert is one of the few trainers left who can keep a horse sturdy, fast and dollar-sound for years. Lookin at Lucky won the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk, then ran second in the Juvenile and won the CashCall Futurity before being crowned two-year-old Champion, only to come back and win the Eclipse as a three-year-old as well; it’s not as though this is the road less traveled for Baffert’s horses. I don’t have to worry about Drill breaking, as a horse in the care of Todd Pletcher or Steve Asmussen would be almost guaranteed to do. If Drill is the real deal, and boy does he run like it, he could be the Derby favourite in December and remain so until May. He could set early light to the Derby fires, ignite the spark that is so quick to douse itself these days. He could really be special, and tough enough to prove it.

And in a day and age like this, that’s goddamn exciting as hell.

For the record, my favourite babies of the season are:

Colt: Drill
Filly: Miss Netta
Though if I employ my logic gland, I’m stuck between My Miss Aurelia, Millionreasonswhy, Stopshoppingmaria and Weemissfrankie as well as Miss Netta, who’s only a debut winner for now. But Miss Netta made me some monies when I pegged her at 7-1 and beat her field with surprising authority, so maybe the racing gods will smile on me with her as they did with Munnings (Munniiiiiings).


Okay, so on Haskell day Bob Baffert was all depressed and sadface because this two-year-old whose debut he’d been all giddy and excited over did not go well. In fact, it went godawful. The horse ran like a claimer and finished eighth. Of course, Coil then won the Haskell looking like Point Given, and so the two-year-old was more or less forgotten.

Fast forward to August 13th, and Drill quietly wins his second start, shooting clear at the three-sixteenths and just holding on for the win. Baffert must have seen something he liked in the performance, despite the quickly-vanishing nature of Drill’s winning margin, because he entered him in the grade one Del Mar Futurity this evening.

With baby Thoroughbreds weaving wildly across the track, slamming into each other with the full force of their massive and still-growing bodies, here was Drill. Carrying the now extremely familiar red and gold silks borne by Lookin at Lucky and Coil, he sat off the pace this time and swung out wide into the stretch for Martin Garcia. And then, with five two-year-olds stretched across the track, it was only a matter of who could kick hardest. In the end, while favourites Creative Cause and Majestic City wrestled just to his inside, the son of Lawyer Ron and a member of his only crop made the lunge that counted.

And stopped the clock in track record time.

That’s right. Faster than The Factor.


AAAAAAH.

Omg. Fillies. Enough with the heart attacks you’re giving me. And stop making me cry, geez.

So, now, Jerry Hollendorfer: your move.


If I still had the patience to put tags on posts like a regular person, I would have created one for “bad blogger” by now. Instead, I will use the fact that I haven’t as extra proof of how bad a blogger I truly am.

In any case, a ton has happened since the last time I posted, which was approximately forever ago. Stay Thirsty has become the frontrunner to win the Eclipse Award for three-year-old champion; depending especially on what happens at Saratoga this weekend, his most formidable competition for Horse of the Year will almost certainly come from Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. That was probably the case anyway, but with Grace running in the Woodward and by proxy Blind Luck’s record against her, this is the perfect opportunity for the star fillies to cement their position as the most talented older horses in the country. Anyone who has been watching Bad Blogger for any length of time will already know that I’m head over heels in love with little Lucky and will slobber and cry like a little girl whenever she does anything. If she does enough to get the big one, you may never hear from my puddle-shaped remains again.

I’m with Steve Haskin on Uncle Mo: go for the gold. Run in the Penn Derby and the Classic. What this horse did, coming back from an excruciatingly painful condition to run like the devil in a prestigious Saratoga GI in his first race back, is nothing short of heroic. He made my mother cry. And since all sorts of sounds are coming from the Repole Camp that Mo will probably not run as a four-year-old (which causes me great pangs of grief), there is absolutely no reason not to try and gun it to the finish line. Haskin says it better than I could; his column is here. There is, of course, the argument that the Dirt Mile may attract Shackleford, Sidney’s Candy, Twirling Candy and The Factor–which would make it a stellar contest even without Mo–but… can you imagine?

No Overdriven in the Hopeful this weekend, which means that this “GI” will host a field essentially of maiden winners. J C’s Pride set a track record in his score, but as a son of lights-out sprinter Henny Hughes he doesn’t appear to have much of a future as a sophomore Classic contender and, should he win the Hopeful, will provide more of a preview of next year’s sprint division. You know, assuming he doesn’t break before then. Is it obvious I’m a little bitter about modern baby training methods?

And while I’m talking about things that make me bitter, JOCKEYS: stop being morons. What is with all the domestic violence, anger management problems and DUIs? Coa, Albarado, Smith, Borel, Desormeaux, Baze… When I have zillions of monies and train all the racehorses, I will instantly fire any jock that behaves like an idiot who is allergic to common sense. Bravado and testosterone: two reasons my sentimental-favourite jockeys are Rosie Napravnik and Kayla Stra (and Chantal don’t feel left out I love you too my main Canadian lady). Oh, and also I have a problem with the weight system that pushes these people to abuse themselves and probably doesn’t help the psychological situation, but that’s a subject for a whole other blog or six.

UM. LESS DEPRESSING STUFF WITH WHICH TO END THIS BLOG POST.

The Factor is a massive, certified badass? Yeah. That’ll do. Dear Factor: I’m sorry about the name but I love you anyway. One day I will own a son of yours and I will call him Faux News. And maybe Tide Goes In or Can’t Explain That.

I’m so bad.

With any luck, Bad Blogger won’t be so Bad in the coming weeks and will actually pay attention to the things which are happening. In the meantime, a bombardment of pictures!


The fillies have completely taken over horse racing. There’s no other way to put it. Blind Luck and Havre de Grace. Goldikova. Stacelita. Winter Memories. Turbulent Descent. Inglorious. Zazu. Young Ann of the Dance, a daughter of English Channel, taking Arlington’s boys by storm.

And now, fresh from Saratoga, a trio of spectacular juveniles with futures so bright it hurts to look at them. Millionreasonswhy, daughter of Grand Slam. My Miss Aurelia, by Smart Strike. And Stopshoppingmaria, the powerful daughter of Halo’s line through More Than Ready. I should mention that these are pedigrees that fascinate me, in the context of the fillies in question being so young. Grand Slam isn’t a name one usually associates with powerful two-year-olds. Smart Strike has had very few foals, with the notable exception of Lookin at Lucky, perform at the highest level so soon. And though More Than Ready has had his share of top juveniles (Ready’s Image and More Than Real spring to mind), how often do you see a filly this good, this young bred on the cross of Halo and Buckpasser? It boggles the mind.

A hopeful part of me wants to celebrate and declare that the old blood is returning. The great lines of Hail to Reason, Prince John, Turn-To, Damascus and Graustark, the ones who ran forever. That maybe through all this mess of synthetic surfaces, medication and soft horses, the gems are finding their way to the top. A second part of me is fascinated by the sexual dimorphism on display of late. Why is it that the fillies flourish so, while the male divisions, save for a few diamonds, wilt and wither? Why do Blind Luck and Goldikova roar across the track time and time again, regardless of the distance each must travel in order to do so, while Animal Kingdom and Tapizar (remember him?) drop like flies?

Uncle Mo I must exclude from this. He exists still on a plane of his own, where colts show in grade ones while their livers burst with infection, and must not be lumped together with the mortals, not unless he completely falls apart in his return in the King’s Bishop, which I believe may put on display a spark of the extraordinary. But meanwhile, it is the fairer sex which dominates the sport while the colts and geldings and stallions fall short.

You go, girls.


As a biology student with a horse racing blog, I feel the need to have a go at this whole Lasix controversy that the Breeders’ Cup started by announcing it would be fading out the use of the drug during the championship, with a ban in place by 2013.

If you’d like the short version: go, BC, go. Furosemide (Lasix’s actual chemical name) has well-documented dangers associated with it, and even used properly in the best-case scenario, it masks deeper-running problems that will be a detriment to the breed if cycled in the gene pool. Furthermore, there are better, non-chemical ways to improve respiration and soundness of respiratory soft tissues.

Long version, ho.

To find the most common side effects of furosemide, one need look no further than Wikipedia. Listed amongst possible risks associated with overdose are┬ádehydration, change in drinking patterns and urination, seizures, gasto-intestinal disturbances (colic), kidney damage, lethargy, collapse, and coma. Now, it should be fairly obvious to a person with an ounce of critical thinking that these are risks associated with overdose, and not responsible use, right? Well… yes, and no. Even on its best day, furosemide is a difficult compound for the kidneys to process and dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are extremely common. This can and does result in post-race weight loss, which is probably responsible for the “bounce” phenomenon by which racehorses are noted to run poorly one race after a particularly good performance.

An observation of this kind I can easily dig up is from the career of Super Saver, who was raced sparingly before the Arkansas Derby. After running quite well in that final prep, he won the Kentucky Derby with considerable ease. Unfortunately, he then lost what looked like half of his body condition, finished up the track in the Preakness and never ran well again. Consider what this means in the context of medication: his body was used to light work, and a dose of furosemide every five to six weeks or so. Then, he gets three doses in five weeks, from Oaklawn to Churchill to Pimlico. Is it any wonder that he lost so much weight?

For the record, I’m not the first person to make the connection between the dehydration side-effect of furosemide and the long interval in the modern racing schedule, but I mention it here because it’s an important angle to consider. A horse administered furosemide on race day will, as a result of the systemic stress exerted by the drug, take longer to recover physically after a race. Because of this, his training will be lighter immediately following an outing. On average, a horse who races on furosemide will train less than one who races drug-free. See where I’m going with this? As usual, it all links back to my usual rants about soundness and tissue loading. The positive effects of frequent, fast sprints at a young age on bones and on the soft tissue of the respiratory tract have been well documented, and I’ve expounded on them in the past, so I’m not going to do it again. All I will say is that the use of Lasix robs a horse of developing anywhere near the soundness and endurance he otherwise might achieve.

Another angle to consider is the masking effect of furosemide. Yes, it might prevent bleeding in a horse susceptible to bleeding. But on the other hand, if every horse races with Lasix, how are we to know which ones are the bleeders? In many cases I imagine one cannot know. These horses are then cycled right back into the gene pool, where they pass on their weak soft tissues to offspring. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad thing.

Finally, there are better ways to help a bleeder, or any other horse for that matter, breathe easier. One method which is gaining popularity and which I personally think will be a boon to trainers who consider it is the use of nasal strips, as developed by FLAIR. In theory (and as demonstrated by several studies), nasal strips tents the skin above the nasal valve, increase the diameter of the nasal passages, decrease air resistance and increase the volume of air taken in with each breath. Glowing testimonials come from champions in every equine performance field, from polo to trick riding to international eventing. One recent high-class wearer is Mighty Caroline, winner of the GIII Sorrento Stakes (for two-year-old fillies) at Del Mar. Another way to improve the structural integrity of the respiratory tissues, as I said, is to mildly stress them out once in a while. Bodies are good at compensating for and adapting to things like that.

So basically I am of the opinion that Mike Repole and everyone else who’s whining about the BC’s move should shut up and read Wikipedia. And maybe do a class in drug action, ’cause this one’s a doozy.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner, raced before the advent of Lasix.

Just so you know.


Number one: who let Sheikh Mo get away with buying all the sale-toppers? Where are my local filthy rich people!? Two 1.2 million dollar yearlings for the Sheikh: half-brothers to Super Saver and Havre de Grace by the hottest sires around.

Number two: having watched the sale, one of the most exciting horses I saw go through the ring was the Indian Charlie colt out of Kokadrie. He sold to Mark Casse (agent) for $550,000 and I will be watching him like a stalker. Another one in this category was the Sky Mesa half-sister to Funny Moon, who sold for $300,000.

Number three: Curlin’s most expensive offering, the colt out of Private Status, looked like fresh meat for pinhookers who might take advantage of his late birthday and slightly less developed frame to turn a huge profit at the two-year-old sales, but it looks like buyer Centennial Farms is going to send him straight to trainer Jimmy Jerkens and try their luck with him themselves. All the best to them; he looked great.

Number four: My hunch pick, the Hard Spun colt out of Campionessa, brought $290,000, which is more than I thought he would bring but less than I think he’s worth. This is a very charismatic animal with a great head on his plentiful shoulders, as evidenced by how little equipment he wears on his head even in such stressful environments as the auction ring. Another stalkable. Unfortunately, the buyer was a bloodstock agent based in the UK. If they export him, I will be sad face.

Number five: One of the huge steals of the sale was hip 158. Third-last in the ring, the son of Midnight Lute from the family of Too Much Bling sold for only $100,000. Another bargain: Bobby Flay got a beautiful (if jittery) daughter of Tapit and the Irish mare Jig for $110,000.

Number six: Horses who didn’t bring nearly enough money (and consequently did not sell–one is tempted to say, “DUH”) include a Dixie Union half sister to Plum Pretty ($95,000–I mean, really), a Speightstown colt out of Inny River ($215,000), a son of Hard Spun out of the full sister to Barbaro’s dam, La Ville Rouge ($220,000), a glorious full sister to Careless Jewel ($345,000) and…

Number seven: Curlin’s masterpiece, hip 98, who RNA’d at $380,000. I was shocked at the lack of interest, and I congratulate the owner on the high reserve because, if they want to eventually sell her, she could easily be a million-dollar two-year-old. And if they don’t, I have no doubt that she’ll make a runner.

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