Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bob Baffert. M.D.


I was a horse trainer a few years ago. I did it for about 10 years. I may do it again in the future if I see the industry clean up its act. So far, I have seen none of that. If anything it got worse. Hard to believe I could say that, considering the level of cheating that was going on when I got out. Cheating that was mostly undetected.


I stopped mostly because I realized that you had to cheat--on some level--to win. Most do. Of course, there are grades to that. It is sort of understood by everyone. And unless you are flagrant about it, like Seldon Ledford and some others are, they leave you alone and nobody says anything to anybody unless you are caught redhanded or someone complains and they are forced to do something about it. 
It is made very clear to you that if you speak up, you might as well leave the business because you will have no hope when they gang up on you and get you somehow. That is understood. 
At a minimum though, that almost always means not acting in the best interest and welfare of the horse. That much I know. I will touch on that later when I get to the main topic of this blog.
Back to my brief training career. I didn't ask for it. I was an owner and my trainer couldn't train the horses anymore. I couldn't find anyone else I could trust, so, reluctantly I did it myself, while I continued to do my day job. 
I did well at first. Very well. Won more than my share. And I can guarantee you that I gave nothing to my horses. I didn't even really know what was out there or how to get it. Even if I had, I likely wouldn't have bothered with it. 
Then I started to lose. The same horses that I was beating handily started to beat me. The only difference was that they had access to performance enhancers. One guy even claimed a horse off of me and turned him from a grinder who made a cheque every week and won the odd race into a bearcat who won 5 straight and moved sharply up the class ladder while doing it.
And then, that horse dissappeared off the map only to show up a year later racing for less than gas money each week--and not even winning his share of that. This horse was fairly healthy most of the time. Three years later he resurfaced around my area and I claimed him back, at a much lower level than even he had raced for me. I did okay with him again, but he wasn't the same horse. Whatever they had given him right after they had claimed him off of me had eaten away at his insides, more specifically his stomach, and he basically was living on borrowed time. I did the best I could, and he still raced good when the pain wasn't there, but within a few months he was dead. Died a horrible painful death right in front of me.
After doing well for a while, I started to lose to people I knew were not anywhere near as good as me, so I decided to just get out. So far, I have stayed out. On my way in and out, I saw a lot of horses die very painful, horrible deaths. If you have never seen a horse or dog die like this, I hope you don't. It stays with you for a lifetime.
What I also saw when I was training is that there are a lot of factors that go into winning races and keeping winning races.
But the number 1 factor in winning races is the drugs you give and the quality of your vet and his/her willingness to prescribe whatever you tell them to, find the best illegal drugs that you don't ever see on a training bill and his/her willingness to do things that are not in the best interest of the horse., Most times this benefits the owner, and it helps the trainer to build his reputation and image to gain more clients that he can earn his 5 or 10% on. But, it never benefits the horse and many times costs the owner money in the long run.
Enter Bob Baffert. I don't know Bob Baffert. I have never met him and I likely never will. But I have met many like him. Like him in the sense that they admit they do exactly what he admitted to.
What did he admit to?


"Baffert told the investigators that he thought the medication would help “build up” his horses. This came as a surprise because the drug is generally associated with weight loss.
Baffert said he quit using the drug last March after the seventh horse died. At least one study indicated that the drug can cause “cardiac alterations” in horses, the report said."

Notice Baffert's language. He quit using the drug. In other words, he decided the horses needed it, and then decided they didn't when they began dropping dead for no apparent reason.
I thought it was the vets job to decide what meds a horse needed and a trainers job to get him fit and ready to run. I guess that isn't how it works.
No, let me say that again. I know that is not how it works.
Below is another quote from the article link above. This is how it actually works.

"The 26-page report said that Baffert acknowledged directing his veterinarians to use thyroxine on all his horses. Baffert, however, was the one who asked his veterinarians to prescribe it, which is in conflict with the policy of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the industry’s most influential veterinary group, which says treatments “should be based upon a specific diagnosis and administered in the context of a valid and transparent owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship.” 

Again, note the language. Should be based on a valid transparent owner-trainer-veterinarian relationship. If you have ever been on the ground level, that isn't how it works. 

In reality, trainers control vets and the vets will do whatever the trainer asks. If you don't believe me, listen to what the vet said when he got caught injecting a joint on race day at Tampa Bay with one of Jane Cibelli's horses.


"Association veterinarian Kristen Pastir and veterinary assistant Joelyn Rigione walked by Stall 46 in that same barn around 9:10 a.m. Jan. 27, 2013, just as Paraliticci and his assistant, Marcos Ortiz, were treating Raven Train, who was entered in the afternoon’s second race, a $16,000 claiming event. Paraliticci had Raven Train’s right front leg flexed and was injecting the area near a large nerve by the accessory carpal bone with 3 milliliters of P Bloc – an anti-inflammatory and pain blocker whose principal agent was Sarapin, a natural substance produced by Sarraceniaceae, a pitcher plant.
Jorge Garibay, who worked as a groom for Cibelli, was holding Raven Train by the lead shank while Ortiz had a nose twitch on the horse. Paraliticci, who saw Pastir and Rigione come onto the scene, finished injecting the leg. Then, switching to a larger syringe (30-to-50 cc’s, Pastir estimated), Paraliticci injected what he would later say was a mixture of the anti-bleeder medication furosemide and Solu-Delta-Cortef (a corticosteroid that is permitted on race-day in Florida) into the horse’s shoulder.

Cibelli was not in the barn when Paraliticci was treating Raven Train. After he explained to the trainer what had occurred, the native of England lit into Paraliticci, the veterinarian would later say to investigators with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
“You stupid mother——,” he quoted Cibelli as telling him. “Don’t you involve me. Don’t tell them I had anything to do with it. Keep me out of it. You better hope this stays in house.”

 Why would a vet risk his license like that? In reality, his license is worthless to him as a means to make a living if Cibelli has him cut off. She calls the shots. If he injected that horse, it is because he was told to. 
There will always be a Jane Cibelli or Bob Baffert. They aren't the problem. They are the symptoms of the underlying problem.
The problem is not the trainers. The problem is the vets who don't follow the rules and get no punishment for that. Vets are scared of trainers like them. Listen to what Paraliticci said when he was interviewed.

"A report by the state investigator said Paraliticci later told him that he is “terrified of Cibelli.” When asked why, he responded that Cibelli and Tampa Bay Downs vice president of marketing Margo Flynn – the trainer’s partner – “have threatened many people with being thrown off the track and being excluded from TBD. They threatened to ruin his business…they have a lot of power.”

Why aren't they revoking the vets license for life? He isn't following the rules. Nobody answers that. He took an oath as a doctor and he has violated that. So has Baffert's vet. I don't see any sanctions against him either.
What would happen if Paraliticci just decided to say no to Cibelli? Or Baffert's vet to him? Or any race track vet to any high powered trainer like them?
Simple. They will lose huge business because of the clout trainers  have that those trainers know they have.
If a trainer is asked why he doesn't use this vet anymore, and uses that vet now, and he tells them that he wont give you the juice, or inject that horse on race day, or inject a joint that will basically make that horse a sure winner today and dead within a month or two, then he is basically out of business.
Trainers control vets, not the other way around. That has to change.
How? They have to be stung. That is the only way. The fear of losing your training license forever is the only way to root these types out.
Now, lets be clear. I am not talking about the high end vets, that have their own clinics and are mostly the types to determine lameness and do surgeries. I suppose some of those also do some of this, but mostly, they are a niche market and they make piles of money as it is, so they don't have to.
I am talking about the average race track vet, the one who makes the rounds, gives the injections, injects joints, runs jugs, injects veins, gives lasix. that type of vet.
How does it work and who benefits? The trainer pads his bill with vet work that isn't done, or inflated. The vet makes more, and the trainer gets a kickback on part of that. They call it a rebate to the trainer. It is one big shell game. And once that happens, the trainer has the vet by the throat,  and they know it.
Many ask: Why do the trainers do it and how can they sleep at night.
I ask those who ask that question: Do you know anything about these people?
Most do not. If you did, you would know that most of them are very hard working people. Honest. They don't want to cheat. They want to do it on the up and up.
I have an education and money and options. I could easily get out. They cannot. It is all they can do and know how to do. When you realize you either cheat to stay in that game or you will be in for some serious hard times, most panic and cheat.
Back towards the end of my training career, I knew of a guy who was very honest. His family had been in the horse training game for at least two generations. He is and was a good guy. He had a young family and he was making his way. He was successful enough for a while, but then his numbers began to slip. He didn't need a map to figure out why. They had the juice and he didn't. But he knew where to get it.
And where was that?
The top guy who was always cheating and getting away with it was also a master chemist. He had his own lab on his property and he knew exactly what to give and get away with it. He also was willing to sell it to certain people for a fee. He didn't tell you what it was, and you would never be stupid enough to say where you got it. He told you how to use it and when not to use it. It was called "the clear" and you paid him $5,000 at certain intervals to get it. 
This young trainer got caught in a sting and luckily for him, they screwed up and the evidence was inadmissable. But before that, he had admitted to the whole thing.
You either go along or you lose. Those are your choices. But what if you can't afford to lose? If so, then you have nothing to lose by cheating.
Unless you get that horse that is so good that it doesn't matter. But how many get that horse? And if they do, how many get two of them?
Trainers and vets aren't separate entities. They work together in a business relationship. And in most of them, the trainer needs the vet to succeed, but the trainer is the boss. He can pull the plug and fire you, go to another vet, and pretty much put you out of business.
When it comes to medications and injections, trainers are the actual vets.
Vets are pharmacists. Trainers place an order, vets fill it. 
If the vets wont, the trainer will just go to another pharmacy.
Until that changes, nothing will change. Trainers will cheat. Horses will drop dead. Vets will be pharmacists and a few people will get caught every now and then while most get away with it and claim they are clean. 
What are the racing officials doing while all this goes on? They are busy figuring out how to raise the admission price to tracks that less and less people are going to anyway because they can't be bothered figuring out who are the inmates and who are the guards. 
And in the year 2014, a whole lot more horses will just drop dead from the latest drug they don't need prescribed by trainers who never got a degree and supplied by vets who ignore their oath and sanctioned by racing commissions who don't think there is anything wrong with any of that.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Perception is perception, Reality is reality. Handicap Accordingly.


Gritty Honor Code Battles Back to Win Remsen Stakes

That was the headline on the Paulick Report article a few hours after the race. It was the prevailing opinion of most. Not me though. I didn't see it that way at all.
And my bet is that neither did Honor Code's trainer or jockey. They know better. Even if they didn't say so.
Before the Remsen, there were two fan factions that I noticed distinctly. They can be summarized as follows.

1) Honor Code was a lock and possibly the next great horse who is likely to sweep the Triple Crown next year. These people saw him as unbeatable and the race was for second. You see this sort of fan hype all the time. Until the horse bombs out.


2) Cairo Prince was the type of horse who just gets better, was underrated at the moment and he would step up and blow right by Honor Code.
As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between and below both of those expectations. In other words....REALITY.

Here is how I saw the race. The actual race. Not really my perception. Mostly my view of the facts based on 30 years of handicapping and race viewing experience, 25 years of owning horses and 10 years of training and grooming horses every day until I decided I didn't want to do it anymore.

Honor Code got bumped or stumbled a touch coming out. But he was right into the pocket. The rest floated out there and had no intention of contesting the pace. So, a longshot who was not going to be there at the end either way cut the fractions and went pedestrian speed. 
Castellano therefore had no choice but to angle out of the pocket because of that slow pace and get in position to take the lead before he got trapped in. Which is exactly what he did when Honor Code was told to do so. On his back, Cairo Prince was in perfect position, getting the trip, while Wicked Strong stayed in but was well within range and was by no means trapped. He angled out when he wanted to make his bid. He could have moved earlier. His jockey didn't want to.
The top of the stretch came, Honor Code was rolling now. Many have mentioned that the race was a sprint from the half on. It was. So, Honor Code was making his run. There were no tactics at this point. The one that ran the fastest from the half on was going to win. Honor Code started that full out run with the advantage. He had the lead. A clear lead.

“That was a tough beat. The winner is a good horse, but that was a tough one. I thought we had it won.”

-Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Cairo Prince

As they started to make their way down the stretch, it was clear that Cairo Prince had way more left than Honor Code, who was passed easily. Honor Code either couldn't or wouldn't fight him off. Cairo Prince looked to be an easy winner. Honor Code was beat. 
But then as Cairo Prince was going by Honor Code he started to bear in and was straightened up, and for whatever reason, he stopped running. When that happened, he brought Honor Code back to him. If Honor Code had grit, he never would have let Cairo Prince head him. If Cairo Prince had the speed for the distance off a very easy trip and had kept running straight he would have won by two or three lengths under very little urging. That didn't happen. Cairo Prince lost his momentum and stopped running.
Neither horse raced good at all, and in fact, they floated to the wire beside each other. Neither were impressive at all. Unless one or both had an excuse such as a wind or lameness issue, I am not impressed at all. The fact that they went a fast last 1/8th means little when they walked most of the race to the top of the stretch. They both had virtually the same trip and ran the same fractions.
Wicked Strong raced good, but maybe he wants more distance. Maybe. He still ran 3rd when he had a clear shot as well.
That is the race that happened. Perception is perception, reality is reality. That is the reality.

If you read the post race comments it is telling. Sure, trainers, jockeys and owners say lots of things they don't mean, don't believe and are told to say (the things they aren't saying to each other in private or thinking to themselves that they don't share with most) but they also say things that tell you why what happened on the racetrack happened. Those are things that fans and bettors don't like to hear, and sometimes even refuse to accept. But they are what happened. Things like,

“"We just said we were going to let him run his race."

That is what Shug said after the race. I believe that to be true. What you have to understand is that the Remsen isn't the ultimate goal. The Derby and the Triple Crown races are. The Remsen is just another step on that ladder.
So that is what they did. They let him run his race and they wanted to see what they had. Despite what they say otherwise, they could not have been happy with the way he was passed off a very easy trip.
Perception is something that people do when then they don't actually do it or know how to do it. It is an educated guess. or an uneducated guess.
Reality is what people who actually do it know. They know.
Trainers say what they will say. but what they actually know is a completely different thing.
Cam Fella is acknowledged as one of the greatest standardbred horses to ever race. He was super tough to beat, and in fact won his last 28 races in a row. Yes, 28 races in a row against the best horses that were out there, week in, week out. Nobody doubts how gritty and tough he was. But, on the night of one of his most memorable wins, was he tough or just lucky to meet a horse who was fast but not tough at all? 
Watch the race below.

Did Cam Fella come back on and show his grit? Or did It's Fritz stop? You tell me.
But first, watch the driver on Its Fritz. All the time he was sitting second to Cam Fella he kept looking over his shoulder, repeatedly. Why? Because he wanted to make sure he didn't get trapped in. But, he knew that he should save the horse as much as he can. Why? Because he knows the horse needs a trip and can't go all the way to the wire with those types if he moves too early. Which he did. He had no choice. The guy in third was clearly edging out and Its Fritz had no choice but to go early or take his chances of getting trapped. 
So, he went. But even after he opened up two or three lengths in the deep stretch and appeared to have it locked up, the driver was nervous. Cam Fella had been put away, but still the driver kept looking back to see how close it was. 
Then, It's Fritz stopped, kind of like Cairo Prince did. Cam Fella didn't show any grit. Not that night. He did many times in his career but not on this night. He simply passed a horse who was completely spent and moved earlier than he was capable of moving. It is easy to see this, because Its Fritz didn't even hold on for second and the fourth horse almost caught him as well. 
If you want to see what grit and toughness really look like, watch a horse like Private Zone.

"Private Zone comes back. A courageous victor here."

-Tom Durkin.

You're darn right. When Justin Phillip came to him and looked like he was going by, Private Zone never let him get by. He got a head in front, but he kept fighting and fought him off. That is grit.
But it wasn't the first time Private Zone had done that. He did the exact same thing in the Pirates Bounty at Delmar. I couldn't find the video of that race, although I know it is out there because I have seen it posted. Private Zone did the exact same thing when he refused to be passed even though he had a very tough trip. After a poor effort in the Breeders Cup when he didn't get the kind of trip he liked, Private Zone came right back on the same card as the Remsen and raced a super 2nd to Flat Out in the Cigar Mile, holding on gamely to beat all but the winner. That is grit and toughness. 

My point?
Horses who are gritty and tough might get headed, but they never get fully passed. If they get fully passed, they aren't gritty..or ...they are done and can't muster the effort--no matter how much grit--to withstand. Cam Fella was certainly gritty, but on that night he just didn't have it. Lucky for him, It's Fritz was a one trick pony who had one big run in him and once that was done, he was done. Cam Fella kept going the same speed, just as Honor Code did and that was good enough for a win. Not a gritty win though. A win of attrition. 
I watched many of Its Fritz's foals race and the majority of them raced just like him. Go to the front, one big burst and hold on for dear life. They are what they are.

That is much different than letting a horse go earlier in the race and then coming on again tactically to take him when you want to. But--and this is an absolute--when a horse begins his move and takes the lead, is driving and heading for the win--in the stretch--and he gets headed, we find out how much grit he has. Some repel the challenge, like Private Zone did in the Vosburgh......but if your horse gets completely passed while in a full stretch drive to the point he is at least a length behind--like Cam Fella did and Honor Code did-- then the only way he wins is if something happens to the horse that passed him. It isn't about grit anymore. It is about luck or another horse failing.
As for Cairo Prince, he is very young and green. Listen again to what his jockey Luis Saez said about him.
 “[When he made the lead], he tried to wait on the other horse. Last time [in the G2 Nashua], he took the lead and opened up five, then stopped a little bit. Today he was doing the same. The other horse, he beat me on the wire.”

You have now read two comments from the connections of Cairo Prince. While not knocking Honor Code, neither mentioned anything about grit. 
Because he is green, that can be trained out of Cairo Prince. If that is in fact the case. If he just can't run a mile and a quarter at that level, then that is different. We will probably find that out in February or March (if he lasts that long) when he meets others who can.
But either way, in this race (The Remsen) Cairo Prince passed Honor Code fairly easily, then was bearing in and starting to ease up and Honor Code simply kept going the same speed. The fact that Honor Code came back on and beat Cairo Prince says something about Cairo Prince and Honor Code.
Honor Code made his statement when he got an easy trip and made an easy lead only to be passed midstretch without a fight. That is what I saw. Not perceived. Watch the race. That is what happened. No matter what the trainers or jockeys say in public, that is exactly what happened. 
As mentioned, it either means Cairo Prince is green, lacks desire to win or that he can't go the distance. The jury is out on him for now. 
What happened afterwards can be debated, but that doesn't have anything to do with grit. If Honor Code had grit, and enough to beat Cairo Prince (as he ended up doing) then he would have fought him off when he came to him midstretch. He didn't. It is as simple as that. I didn't see any grit. I saw one horse stopping or easing up while the other one just kept going the same speed.
In fact, if they ran another quarter of a mile, the 3rd horse, Wicked Strong would have passed them both. He is the one to watch going forward. At this point, if better horses come along, all 3 would likely be passed easily. 

Anyone who trains, rides and drives horses knows that.

The day before the Remsen and Cigar Mile, a horse named Doubledown Gass raced at Woodbine and got beat. But, he raced the only way he can to be at his best, at this point in his career anyway. 
He went as fast as he could with little rating until he ran out of gas. He had used that tactic a few times with mostly success. He just isn't the type of horse that likes to follow others.
That is the reason that some horses you don't sit a trip. They like to lead and will only try if they are leading.
His owner/trainer/breeder and driver Reg Gassien knows that. He has been around long enough and he would likely get him a trip if he thought the horse would benefit from it.

Long ago, Gassien was known as "The Gas Man" when he was a regular driver on the Woodbine/Mohawk circuit. In those days it was the Greenwood/Mohawk circuit and he was one of the top 5 drivers for many years. He knows better than to try and wire the field and bottom them out every time, unless he knows he has no choice but to do that. 
The start before the one below that I am going to post the horse was rank and hard to handle. So, the next start, he just opened up as much daylight as he could and tried to hang on, which he did. He had repeated that tactic just about every time since. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But he knows there is no alternative.

"He's going as far and as fast as he can on the lead."

-Ken Middleton.

On that lead, he was very gritty and barely got nailed on the wire. If he had saved ground or rated him would he have lasted? Likely not. He tried that tactic later and he was easily passed by weaker horses. 

Cairo Prince and Honor Code both got perfect rides and either of them should have won going away if they were any good. They didn't and they hit the wire together after exchanging leads. It certainly wasn't the jockeys faults. Anyone who says otherwise wasn't watching the race. I heard a lot of that jockey blaming for both of them racing poorly. I can't see how anyone would ride either of those horses differently. They both had easy trips and were in perfect position to win. That is all you can ask of any jockey or driver.
So, what does this all mean to the handicapper? Well, the prevailing opinion is that both of them raced very good. Cairo Prince eased up, but he ran a big race. Honor Code was gritty and came back on to prevail. They will both be overbet the next time or two because of that perception.

Much the same way Orb was after the Kentucky Derby when everyone thought he ran a huge race. Then, after the Preakness they blamed the jockey for a poor ride when he saved him. Same thing he did in the Derby, except it worked that day and it didn't in the Preakness when he lost momentum. The jockey knows he had to. Orb didn't have enough to win on his own, and in fact didn't win a race after the Derby with all sorts of trips.

He was consistently outrun and overbet because of the incorrect perception on what he did on Derby day. He ran basically the same race 3 times. Once it worked, once it didn't, and the third time he was outrun. He continued to do that until everyone figured out he was just a good horse in a so so crop, not a great horse in a good crop.
The only excuse I would give Honor Code was if he had a wind issue, either caused by bleeding or choking or something like that. I didn't hear any mention of that, but that doesn't mean it wasn't happening. That is the kind of information that trainers don't share with the public. They go and get it fixed if it is the case, and then if the horse runs way better the next time, they tell you that was the reason. Afterwards.
Did that happen in this case? I don't know. Maybe. We can never know that unless somebody tells us. 

Until such time, Honor Code (to me) is a nice horse who ran well but didn't show any fight when he was challenged and outstaggered another pretender, both of who look to be horses that won't get the Derby distance at that class level.
If they are both running on Derby day, we shall see if I am right. 


 Orb, who bobbled at the start of the race, was placed three wide in fifth place for the first six furlongs of the 1 ¼-mile race and then faded. He was beaten 22 ¼ lengths by winner Ron the Greek.
 After the Derby, Orb progressively disappointed, culminating in his last race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where his connections said this publicly:

“Orb seemed to come back fine,” Tenney said. “He cooled out fine, and we put him on the van and sent him back to Fair Hill [Md.] last night. Really no excuses we could see.”

No explanation for Orb's poor performance. That is what Shug and his owner said. Publicly. 
Privately, I am sure he told the owners that the horse isn't that good, he got somewhat lucky on Derby Day and there is no point racing him further because he won't be that competitive and will significantly hurt his stallion value. The longer he would have raced, the more he would have taken the lustre off his Derby Crown.


In spite of his terrible performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, they were pointing Orb towards the Cigar Mile, but a few weeks before, they just decided to retire Orb. Because they know in private what they weren't saying in public. He isn't as good as the hype he created and they better cash in before everyone else figures that out. They will never say that in public. They will say that he would have made a great 4 year old. Which is total bullshit. If he was, they would have kept racing him.

“I thought he worked fine,” said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey of the Malibu Moon colt, most recently eighth in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 28.....
“I’ll make up my mind in a couple of weeks,” said McGaughey. “I’ll just fool with him and see where it takes us.”

Translation: He works good. He seems good, but he races and then he isn't good enough. I am at a loss to explain it other than he just isn't good enough or as good as we thought he was or was going to be. 
He would never say that in public. But retiring him said that for him. 
Before the race, people were saying Honor Code would be too far back. Well, he wasn't this time. He was sitting second, and because of the slow pace, he had to pull out of the pocket. What if he didn't? The leader would have accelerated, the outer flow would have come to him, and Honor Code would have been trapped. Certainly, that wasn't going to happen., The Remsen was a race to see what they had in Honor Code. If he gets trapped in and boxed in, they wouldn't know. So, he pulled. As he should. And he didn't work terribly hard to get to the lead by the top of the stretch. If he was the champ they claim he is, and was, he would have pulled away. He didn't. He was challenged and passed very easily. 

What does all this mean to a handicapper? Well, I would suggest that Honor Code is going to be overbet in his next two starts, because he is now perceived as gritty and likely to get the distance, when I contend he is not that gritty and won't get the distance. For me,  unless he shows otherwise, he is a toss out for the Kentucky Derby, and hence, others are an overlay if you can justify them on their own merits.
I will watch Cairo Prince to see how he responds to getting a lead next time and what the jockey does when he gets it. You can be sure there will be no gearing down or easing up until the race is over. He will be ridden out regardless, to teach the horse he is to keep running until he is told to stop. That is what training is all about. 
Trainers need to be real about what they have. So do owners. And even if fans never will be, if you want to be a successful handicapper, it is a must to be realistic about what happens on the track. If you don't do that, you are giving away value when it is just being handed to you on a silver platter.  
Just like Cairo Prince did in the race.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What would you do? Exactly what they did.

With the retirement of Orb, people are knocking the owners of the horse and the industry as a whole. I will grant the industry argument, but as for the owners, if you are knocking the owners of Orb, then it is likely you have never run a business and certainly never actually owned a racehorse, let alone a high caliber one like Orb.
So, I will explain it to you like someone who has. I have run a business and I have owned many racehorses.
Here is the reality. Most racehorses lose money. The ones that don't walk a tightrope where any day they can be worthless to the owner. Many simply keep earning but don't earn much and will eventually lose you more than you put in until they are completely worthless. 
Now, if you were the owners of Orb, what would you do?
Lets look at the numbers. The horse has made $2,612,516..before expenses...to this point. Factor in what it cost to acquire him-in this case breed him as they owned his dam--add in all the training fees, insurance, stakes payments, entry fees and all the rest and they likely cleared about 1.8 million to this point. That's great. Most wont ever do that on any horse. 
And he is still valuable. And his greatest current value--is as a stallion. As a racehorse, he is likely not even worth 700k, and that was being generous. Racehorses are worth what they can be expected to earn, less expenses and depreciation. Simple as that. In all likelihood, Orb as a racehorse (if he was a gelding) is worth about 450k.
And now the owners sit with Orb. What are his future prospects?
Well, he won the Kentucky Derby. Good for him. That makes him pretty valuable as a stallion prospect. Take that away and his stud fee would be at least half as small as the 25k they will get for each foal that stands and nurses. But even so, he did very little after that, and in fact doesn't appear to be a horse that could earn anywhere near 500k (before expenses) next year. And then likely be done and much less valuable as a stallion. 
Most horses that race the Derby trail and most of their 4 year old year don't last past 4 and even if they do, they can't keep up that level. Orb already started to show that right after the Derby and only got worse. At best he is an also ran with his own aged class, and as aged would have to face all the best out there. Again, the more he loses, the lower his stud be would be when he is done. Right now, he is still the Derby winner and that means something. Not the horse who lost the Preakness, Belmont and wasn't dangerous for the rest of the season. And he isn't the 4 year old that got whipped by a whole host of horses. 
And if they race him as a 4yo and he continues to flop and be, at best, one of many in a pretty weak crop of 3 year olds? What then? Then, he is pretty much worth about 10% of what they can get for him today. As a stallion.
So, without the risk of ever racing him again and paying all the bills that come with that, they are going to pull in at least 2 million dollars a year before expenses. That is for 2 or 3 years before we find out if he is a lousy sire..or...one that hits big and then they win the breeding lottery and really cash in. But even if he flops..and they don't win the lottery, they will be ahead 5 or 6 million by then. That is if he only gets 100 mares in foal each year and they produce babies that live and stand. If he gets 150 in foal, then they will be ahead another 3 or 4 million. And if they shuttle him to a place like Austrailia or South America, you can add even more to that.
And yet, you want them to just keep racing him? Why? Because it pleases you and makes you feel better to see him race? Great. Good for you. 
If you want to see him stay racing, then you have two options. 
First, you can offer them 4 million now, and they might take that. And then you can spend 3 years trying to make that back, and realize you have to earn at least 5 million to do that. 
How many thoroughbreds have ever earned 5 million dollars after their 3 year old season? Not effing many. Certainly, Orb doesn't look like one who would even approach that total. But, if you really want to see him race, then go ahead, blow your fortune on that. 
Second, you could not support the racing system until they up the purses for older horses to the point that they don't have to be insane superstars to make the kind of money that stallions can make. Good luck with that. It has not happened in many years and it doesn't appear to be heading in that direction.
So, if you were the owners of Orb What would you do? 
Exactly what they did.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Not betting favorites and making that work for you.

At most tracks, the favorites win around 35 to 40 percent of the time. But what if you could figure out which ones to stay away from and which ones to play against. So, you could predict whether or not the favorite would win or lose correctly 75 percent of the time?
If you could do that, how valuable would this information be and how could you use it to make money, if you could?
You would think it would be worth something in terms of increasing your profit.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Monzante was this months tragedy. He wasn't the only one. He won't be the last one either.

They call it livestock. But many trainers refer to them as 'deadstock'. That is not a term you hear much unless you are on the inside of racing. But when you are on the inside, you hear it a lot. If you don't move them in time, or max them out, your livestock turns into deadstock. And like a game of musical chairs, when the music stops, if you are the one holding the used up stock, then you have deadstock. Whether they die with you, or in front of you, or in some place where you don't have to watch it, you know they are deadstock either way. I have seen it up close and I have just seen them disappear. Either way, you know how the game works once you have been in it for a while. Horses are very disposable, and even more so in these days of a disposable world. 
I'd had incidents and brushes with sad horse stories and images before. I remembered, vaguely, Ruffian dying when I was 9 years old. I had seen a few race accidents and horses dying on the track when I first started going. But it never really registered with me.
Then, one day, I went to a horse sale. One of the horses entered in that sale was a horse named J R Willow. I'd remembered him well. Why wouldn't I? It was only a year earlier that he started his racing career as a 2 year old. He was from the first crop of Willow Wiper, a horse who had broken down many times, only to return and triumph a few more times, before he finally could not race anymore. He had made a good sire at the start of his career. But eventually, he fell out of favor. While a few of his offspring were good, most were too lame to race for very long. They had his limbs, but not his heart and sheer will to overcome.
J R Willow came out with a bang. He was one of the few. A stakes horse. And he started early. By October of his 2 year old year, he had made some decent money and won a few stakes races. He seemed like he had a bright future that summer.  But as summer turned to fall of that rookie season he was tailing off badly. Some do that and come back okay the next year and have decent, long, racing careers. Most however, do not. The majority start a gradual slide to end up where many in this blog end up. Some faster than others.
J R Willow may have raced a few times as a 3 year old. I don't remember. But if he did, he earned nothing and raced sparsely.  By the time I saw him entered in the sale, he certainly had not raced in a while. He was in the sale to be sold, because he was not at all useful anymore to his very rich owner. An owner only really interested in stakes horses. By then, he had been replaced with fresh stock. Whatever they could get for him (and be rid of him) they were going to do that.  
I didn't go to the sale to see him specifically, but I was aware of him, and passed him as I was looking at others. I learned at sales to try and look at every horse. You never know. You might see one worth having and if you didn't look in advance, you were foolish to buy them. I looked at another of that owners rejects, but that horse was racing okay still and not likely in my price range. Then, I caught a glimpse of J R Willow. I say glimpse, because he was hard to see. He couldn't stand up, and had no intention of doing so. Or likely the ability to do so. He was 3 years old, and basically, he was very close to death. Horses that cannot stand and be useful as racehorses or at least riding horses are days away from being put down. He just looked sad. Like a horse that had been wronged. He wasn't mistreated. He looked healthy enough. He wasn't skinny. He didn't have horribly disfigured legs, as you sometimes see at sales. He just was used up. Couldn't walk. Couldn't stand. Couldn't live anymore. He was bred to do one thing and he could not do that one thing anymore.
I didn't ask to see him. I didn't have to. Even if I wanted to see him, I wouldn't have been able to. Nobody was going to be bringing him out of his stall to be viewed. I never went back to look at him. I didn't have to. He was scratched out of the sale and went unsold. I assume he was put down shortly after that. That is tragic. But not even close to as tragic as the ones that do carry on, only to be used and abused and milked for every last cent until they finally break down, or have to be put down, because they can't even be propped up for one last race anymore. 


Or, as in the case of Monzante, a champion who died last  week, they are run one last time, break their legs on the track, and are either put down on the spot or back in the barn. 
It usually isn't a quick process. They degrade in stages, become propped up, degrade some more, get propped up again, only at a lower level, until there are no more levels to go down and they simply can't withstand the training and racing anymore. Many of those don't break down. They simply get shipped away and are put to death, for meat, or just to be killed for no reason other than they are not useful anymore and can't be useful due to the repeated propping up by some trainer to try to squeeze the last bit of money out of their fragile bodies. That is what happened to Monzante. And he is hardly unique in that respect. More about that later.

"Racing can provide wonderful stories, such as last week's tale of Omaha and Morton Porter, and then can come right back and kick you in the head with a story like that of Monzante's tragic demise.

That a horse like this should wind up where he did is disgraceful, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Winner of the grade I Eddie Read, second in the grade I Charlie Whittingham, and third in the grade II Strub Stakes, the son of Maria's Mon has passed through some top-class barns, such as Juddmonte, Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, and Mike Mitchell. In his day he swam with some pretty big fishes before plunging to the depths, where he wound up with the bottom feeders as a 9-year-old."

-Steve Haskin

Jambo Maker was similar to Monzante. He wasn't a world champion, but he was a very good local champion. As a young colt he was just about unbeatable. Early in his 3 year old year, he was near unbeatable. Then came the time when he started to get beat. He was still a very good horse, but he had come down a notch or two. The next year, he was a valuable, good racehorse, but not the horse he was as a younger colt. Then he started to slide more. His value dropped, but as he dropped class levels and the competition got weaker he still won races and made money. Until..he didn't even do that anymore. Then, he seemed to just disappear for a while.

That a horse like this should wind up where he did is disgraceful, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Winner of the grade I Eddie Read, second in the grade I Charlie Whittingham, and third in the grade II Strub Stakes, the son of Maria's Mon has passed through some top-class barns, such as Juddmonte, Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, and Mike Mitchell. In his day he swam with some pretty big fishes before plunging to the depths, where he wound up with the bottom feeders as a 9-year-old. - See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2013/07/23/Monzante_1920_s-Death-a-Disgrace.aspx#sthash.FIrb9dvw.dpufThat is what happened to a horse named Jambo Maker. In June of 1997 Jambo Maker was near the end of the line. He was racing in a 2000 claimer in Woodstock, Ontario. I was there that night. As bad as that was, he wasn't even the tragic story that night. That night, in the last race of the night, a 2000 claimer for horses that never were, or once were but weren't anymore, while Jambo Maker relied on his back class to win the race, a horse called Oil Can didn't even make it to the half mile point of the mile race. Just before the half, he reared up and had a heart attack. He was dead by the time he hit the ground. Jambo Maker passed him on his way to the finish line. It would be close to the last time Jambo Maker would win a race as well. I'm sure his time came shortly afterwards. That wasn't always the way for Jambo Maker. As a young horse, he was a champion. Not a world champion, but a local champion who was unbeatable as a 2yo, nearly unbeatable for most of his 3yo season, and a solid earning racehorse for a couple of years more. But then the decline happened. 
When I next saw Jambo Maker, I was at another horse sale. I hadn't even gone to look at him. I knew who the trainers were that had him before that, and I knew better than to even touch a horse like that. When they are done with them, the horse is done.
So, I got a glimpse of him that day, at the sale, but it wasn't in a stall. It was in the sales ring. As he came out, there was a huge gasp in the crowd. His legs were something to see. In sales, you rarely see a horse with legs that damaged being offered for sale. Nevertheless, someone bought him. There is always a guy who thinks he can fix up a horse like Monzante or Jambo Maker and make something useful out of them. Squeeze more orange juice out of the orange. And someone tried to do that. One of the saddest days I ever had at the racetrack was at Woodstock Raceway in Ontario. I loved that track and it had a long history. My grandmother told me of how they would go to that track every year. She was born and raised there in nearby Ingersoll and I still have some relatives who live in the area. My mother was also born and raised in the area.
I liked the country, folksy feel of Woodstock. It wasn't flashy. It was the old style, country fair type of track.  But it wasn't really a country fairgrounds, although it was used that way part of the time. It was a racetrack. Except for the horses. Most of the horses racing there were never-were's, or weren't-anymores. This was pretty much the last rung on the ladder for them. The last stop before they faced the type of fate that Monzante and J R Willow did.  Some did start out there and move on to better things, but they were few and far between. And even those that did would one day work their way back down the ladder and return to meet their sad fate.
That night, in the last race of the night for 2000 dollar claimers (which at the time was the lowest class of horse racing at any track in Ontario), Jambo Maker, who I had remembered as being a very good horse at the big track was the favorite in that race. He was probably 6 or 7 at the time. He had clearly seen better days and even when he was only a few notches below his top level would never be matched against a bunch like he faced that night. Another horse in that race was called Oil Can. I say was, because he didn't finish the race. Oil Can was 12 years old that night, and had clearly seen better days as well. Even though he was no world beater like Jambo Maker and Monzante were, he was competent and a money earner in his career. But that time had long passed. He likely should not have been racing anymore, but then, I could have said that for more than half the horses racing that day at that track and many others. 
Monzante died at Evangeline Downs. In terms of comparison, Woodstock and Evangeline would be very comparable. When people think of the type of horse they want to own, they don't think of racing them at bottom of the barrel places like those. 
Jambo Maker was always a front runner, to the extreme. When he was young, he would simply go to the lead and go as far and fast as he could. When he was 2, nobody could get near him. When he was 3, they got closer, but he was still too good. Towards the end of his 3 year old year, a few could now catch him. As he aged, he employed the same tactic, and it only worked as long as he was lowered in class. This night, he was as low as he could go. As usual, he went right to the lead and was well in front at the half mile point.  Which was a good thing for him. Because Oil Can was back in 4th or 5th, struggling to keep up. As Jambo Maker passed the half, Oil Can did not. He reared up and came to a stop. Then he went down in a heap. He took all but one horse in addition to Jambo Maker down with him. Oil Can was likely dead before he hit the ground, although he did shake like most do when they have a heart attack and die. It was not a pretty sight.
As Oil Can lay dead on the track, the other horses scattered and were okay. I was with my friend Ian near the finish line and Jambo Maker passed us along with the other horse that completed the race. I can't remember if Jambo Maker won or was second. But I remember I never saw him race again, and he likely didn't, or not for much longer after.
As for Oil Can, well.....
They scooped Oil Can up with a tractor and dumped him out back. Jambo Maker lived to fight a few more battles, until I am sure he met a similar,  yet less public fate. People left the track, the lights went black and Oil Can was now a forgotten horse never to be remembered and discarded like garbage.

That a horse like this should wind up where he did is disgraceful, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Winner of the grade I Eddie Read, second in the grade I Charlie Whittingham, and third in the grade II Strub Stakes, the son of Maria's Mon has passed through some top-class barns, such as Juddmonte, Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, and Mike Mitchell. In his day he swam with some pretty big fishes before plunging to the depths, where he wound up with the bottom feeders as a 9-year-old. - See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2013/07/23/Monzante_1920_s-Death-a-Disgrace.aspx#sthash.FIrb9dvw.dpuf

That a horse like this should wind up where he did is disgraceful, and there is plenty of blame to go around. Winner of the grade I Eddie Read, second in the grade I Charlie Whittingham, and third in the grade II Strub Stakes, the son of Maria's Mon has passed through some top-class barns, such as Juddmonte, Steve Asmussen, Dale Romans, and Mike Mitchell. In his day he swam with some pretty big fishes before plunging to the depths, where he wound up with the bottom feeders as a 9-year-old. - See more at: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2013/07/23/Monzante_1920_s-Death-a-Disgrace.aspx#sthash.FIrb9dvw.dpufThat is what happened to a horse named Jambo Maker. In June of 1997 Jambo Maker was near the end of the line. He was racing in a 2000 claimer in Woodstock, Ontario. I was there that night. As bad as that was, he wasn't even the tragic story that night. That night, in the last race of the night, a 2000 claimer for horses that never were, or once were but weren't anymore, while Jambo Maker relied on his back class to win the race, a horse called Oil Can didn't even make it to the half mile point of the mile race. Just before the half, he reared up and had a heart attack. He was dead by the time he hit the ground. Jambo Maker passed him on his way to the finish line. It would be close to the last time Jambo Maker would win a race as well. I'm sure his time came shortly afterwards. That wasn't always the way for Jambo Maker. As a young horse, he was a champion. Not a world champion, but a local champion who was unbeatable as a 2yo, nearly unbeatable for most of his 3yo season, and a solid earning racehorse for a couple of years more. But then the decline happened. 
Jambo Maker made it through the sale that day, about a year or so before the Woodstock race. Somebody bought him, and found a way to prop him up enough to win some of those very low Woodstock type races. Until that wouldn't work anymore either. He likely didn't die a violent, horrible death like Oil Can, or lying in a stall like J R Willow, unable to get up. He likely was just shipped away and became meat. There are lots of ways that horses like this end up. None of them are good. Rarely do they end up grazing in a field, living out their years happily as a horse should. That is simply not the way the game is played. It should be, in a Utopian world that we would all like to believe it should, but it isn't. 
Racehorses are commodities, first and foremost, to the vast majority of trainers and owners. There are exceptions to that, but the majority view them exactly that way.
A few years before that, I had an experience like that as an owner. And not a happy experience to say the least. 
After a few good experiences owning a few decent racehorses, my friend Ian and I wanted to get a better horse. My partner on previous horses, Vince, suggested a horse. I was against buying this horse, named Summerjin, who was only 4 years old at the time. Something didn't look right to me about him. Nevertheless, the night came to buy him out of the race. I watched him warm up with the assistant trainer. I didn't like what I saw. Neither did the assistant. But it was my call to decide and the partners wanted him,  so being young and stupid, I said okay. I knew better and should have walked away. We had the money ready and we wanted a race horse. Stupid me.
Anyway, he raced good and he seemed to be an okay purchase. The next morning, the head trainer called Vince and told him there was a problem. The horse couldn't walk.
We had claimed (bought out of a race for a specific price) Summerjin and now he was basically not really capable of racing. He was only 4. He might as well been 14. He was already a cripple. He had a chip and crack in his knee, and had likely been racing on pain killers to keep him going. We got him going too, for a very short while. When I say short while, I mean one race. I will never forget what my head trainer said as we stood and watched him race that one time for us. I asked him how he was, and he said he didn't know. We would see. He also said something else, 

"We will race him until he drops."

I can't really blame them. Most professional trainers think way. They are paid to. Just as Jackie Thacker (the last trainer of Monzante) did. And if they own them, they are that much more likely to do that. Because when a trainer also owns the horse, losing that capital means that his ability to earn a living is at stake. All the more reason for the vet to prevent him from doing so. But vets rarely do. Unless they have no choice. 
Summerjin finished 4th that night, and seemed to come back okay. He was lame though. He must have been. Cracks in knees don't just go away, until you give the horse a lot of time off, which also isn't a guarantee that it will work. We were not going to do that. So, likely, he was still very lame, but they didn't work him, just put him in the field and gave him pain killers. And under those conditions, he was probably sound enough to look okay.
The next, and last time we tried to race him, he didn't make it to the race. But he didn't fall to the track, or slide down the class ladder, or lay down in his stall at the sale. Nor did he have shockingly deformed legs. He simply warmed up so lame that the driver pulled him up while warming him up and the vet scratched him. About 2 months later, we sold him at the sale and he disappeared for a year or so. He then turned up and raced on for another 7 or 8 years and made decent money, similar to how Oil Can did before he met his tragic end. 
What ended up happening to Summerjin? I don't know. If he was lucky, someone made him a farm pet.  If he wasn't, he likely met the fate that almost all of them do. He was sent for meat, or just put down before that. 
Why does this happen? There are lots of reasons. But the bottom line answer is always the same. Race horses are commodities. As long as they are useful and have value, someone wants them so they can earn a profit off of them. When that isn't possible anymore, a very small percentage find good homes. The rest, have no home to go to.
The simple reality of how the game is operated is that many more are bred than can be accomodated when they are not capable anymore. 
Until that changes, there will be more Monzante's, and more cries to stop that from happening. As anyone with any knowledge of the game realizes, there are thousands of Monzante's every month. The only difference is that you don't see them or hear of them. They die quiet, behind the scenes deaths and nobody really cares about them. They are the Jambo Maker's and the Oil Can's, the Oil Can's that don't fall onto the track, but make it back to the barn and have their fates determined there. As Monzante did.
I trained racehorses for what seemed a long time. In fact,  it was only about 8 years. Seemed like 80. 
Before that I was an owner. And before that, I was just a fan. And before that, I was an animal lover. 
I don't train, or own, and I'm barely a fan anymore. But I am still an animal lover. Which is why I don't train anymore. The things you see and the things you know, it just deters you from wanting to do it anymore.

When I first started going to the races, the turnover of horses was there, but not like it is today. 
In those days if you took the program from a year previous, you would probably see 80 percent of the horses still racing or capable of racing. Today, that number is closer to 50 percent. And that is being generous. 
Within that number, you also have the horses that are sliding downward. And then you have the ones who have already hit rock bottom. The Monzante's of the world. Really, they are not racehorses anymore. They are not physically capable of competing, and most cannot walk from the stall to the track, let alone race, without the pain meds that possibly make them feel like they should run, when their bodies and brains are telling them they shouldn't. 

Go to any track, you will see tons of Monzante's. Old classy horses being milked for every last cent until they are worthless as commodities. At that point, they are raced until they drop, or until they cost more to keep than to race. Then, they are basically on deaths door, one way or the other. Is that really the spirit of racing? Hardly. It is cold hard business. Except, we are talking about flesh and blood, not stocks and mutual funds.

The problem still remains this. If we breed so many horses each year, where can they go when they are not capable of being racehorses anymore? They can't all be riding or pleasure horses. Or pets. There simply aren't enough spaces for that. Until that check and balance is put back into balance, then there will always be Monzante's, and always be those who will run them until they drop. It is the ugly reality of the game.

Here are a few things I know to be facts. 
There are some people in the game who won't run a damaged or lame horse who is at grave risk to do fatal damage to themselves. Some. But not many.

"Monzante eventually wound up in the barn of Evangeline Downs owner/trainer Jackie Thacker, who had claimed him for $10,000. Thacker moved him up to $20,000 before dropping him back down to $10,000. After winning for $12,500, his form began to deteriorate. Instead of retiring the horse and trying to find a good home for him, especially one with his accomplishments, Thacker brought him back eight months later and put him in a $4,000 claiming race Evangeline without a listed work in almost two months. The comment on Equineline was a brief as it could get: "Stopped, euthanized."

-Steve Haskin

 Most of those need to be monitored by the veteranarians who are paid by the racing commisions to protect the horses, jockeys and public interest. They are there to make sure that to the best of their ability, when trainers try to run horses unfit to compete, they stop them. That would stop a small percentage of the problem. You would see less breakdowns on the track if that were the case.
Of all the things that his current owner and trainer said, I think this was the most offensive. To act like he even cared and was looking out for the welfare of the horse was beyond belief. Those of us who were in the game know better than that. 

Thacker said he decided to have the 9-year-old Monzante euthanized after consulting with a private veterinarian and his wife, Geraldine, after the horse appeared to be “in a lot of pain” when the sedatives administered to the horse immediately following the race wore off.
“Sometimes you got to make that call,” Thacker, 63, said. “I didn’t want to see him suffer anymore, and neither did my wife. Lord knows we loved that horse. He’d been good to me. It was like he was part of the family. It was my call.”

Let's be real here. He ran him because he could get past the vet and had some shot at winning the purse. That he likely was in serious risk in trying that meant nothing to him. What would you expect him to say. The truth. Something like, "he was a piece of meat. What the hell do I care? He would never run again. He is useless to me. I don't give a crap. Who is going to feed him for the rest of his life, you?"
Let's also consider who Jackie Thacker is and the kinds of trainers that race these types of horses.

Thacker has been fined four times for violating medication rules in Louisiana since 2007. In one case that year, a horse he trained tested positive for three different corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used in racing but highly regulated. Thacker said he did not administer any corticosteroids to Monzante in the days preceding the race...
Thacker said Monzante was administered an 8-cubic-centimeter shot of phenylbutazone, a painkiller, approximately 36 hours prior to the Saturday race. In Louisiana, it is legal to administer the drug outside of 24 hours from a race. Monzante also was administered a shot of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide and the adjunct bleeding medication carbazachrome, an anti-hemorrhaging drug also known as “Kentucky Red,” at four hours to post time, in line with state regulations...
Thacker acknowledged in the interview that he was charged with six counts of animal cruelty in 1990. However, he said the charges were withdrawn and he was cleared of all the counts after investigators determined that he was not responsible for the horses in question. He said the horses were owned by another person who shipped them to his farm sight unseen, and that they arrived at the farm in poor condition.

Clearly, the horse was being propped up so he could try to squeeze one or two more races out of him. That is, until he dropped. In Monzante's case, he didn't drop on the track. He had more class than that. Certainly more class than his trainer. Trainers like Don Roberson, of which there are many. As such, much of the blame also shifts to the Racing commission and the veterinarians, both of whom are fully aware of what is going on and do nothing about it.


Veteran trainer Don Roberson has been suspended by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission pending a stewards hearing after a Delaware Park barn search found him to be in possession of “injectable medications, syringes, and needles.”...Roberson has at least seven medication violations from 2005-11, including three overages for Butazolidin and three methocarbomol positives in 2011. A 2012 Bute overage at the Alameda County Fair was dismissed with only a warning from California Horse Racing Board stewards because of no “similar violations during the last 365 days.”

You don't have to go far to find blame for this sort of thing all over the place. But no matter what, the bigger picture still exists and carries the biggest problem. These horses still have to go somewhere. And there is not even close to enough spaces to take them. So, whether they die violent deaths on the track, or slowly edge towards the end of the line, either way,  they have no hope unless the amount of horses bred matches the number of available spaces to look after them when they are no longer useful commodities. If the demand met the supply, then they would have homes to go to, and the only issue would be preventing the owners and trainers from running them when they should give them away.
Secondly, when the purses are so high, as they are at Evangeline Downs due to casino fueled purses, then those horses will continue to be run, and into the ground, because you only have to win one race to get your money back. That also has to change. When a horse is valuable enough as long as they just win one race, the temptation to just run them is overwhelming for those who already live on the edge of poverty and being out of business if they have a couple of bad months. 

"The last thing we want to hear is the usual empty comment in these cases, "He still loved to race." The fact is, Monzante either did not love to race anymore or he was too sore at his age to endure it."

-Steve Haskin

That night that Summerjin was so lame that the vet scratched him off the track. Ian and I were also on a double date. We brought the girls to the track. To say that didn't work out so well was a major understatement. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant for dinner.  As it happens, a couple just the next table overheard our less than happy conversation. The man at that table happened to be a harness driver from Michigan. He said that if you think it is bad here, you should see what they do at his track. They basically beat the crap out of the horses to make them go until they simply won't go anymore. 

Haskin goes on in his article to ask the question, 

Why was this allowed to happen?
Until racing seriously addresses those two issues, for starters, nothing is going to change. The real tragedy is that nobody wants to admit that. That is the real problem. Horse racing is too much business, and not enough sport and humane treating of living beings. Living beings, for which without them, the industry would not exist in the first place.
Breeders need to take some of the responsibility here. So do the owners. And the trainers. And the public. We all either make money off of them, or get entertainment from them. It is only fair that they get something back from us. If that means a percentage of the takeout from the betting,  taken out of the purse money, then so be it. I know that wouldn't go over well with those who race now, and it likely won't happen, but that is a major part of the solution.
And the answer to Haskin's question? It's simple Steve. Racing cares more about money than it does about the animals. They are commodities. When commodities are not worth anything anymore, you ditch them. That is how it happens. And how it will continue to happen. And is happening right now. Today, this very day, thousands of horses will run in races. For many, it will be their last race. For some, they will die on the track. Others will die back in the barn. Still others will be hauled off to sales where still others, like Jackie Thacker and guys like him will buy them and try to squeeze more juice out of the orange. 
If the horses were smart, they would just lie down like J R Willow and get it over with. Then nobody would complain anyway, because they would never see or hear of it, and it would keep happening over and over and over again. Like it will anyway. 
Monzante was this months tragedy. He wasn't the only one. He won't be the last one either.