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NY Times: Big Purses, Sore Horses, Death

As he trained for his first race, at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, the 3-year-old thoroughbred Wes Vegas galloped on the track most mornings and had two timed workouts. But his handlers also prepared him in another way: In the month before the race, records show, he received 10 intravenous injections of potent drugs for pain, one the day before he ran; two injections of a drug for joint disease; corticosteroid injections in his two front ankles; a sedative; and an ulcer drug.

 

For all the preparation, that first race, on March 3, turned out to be his last.

 

As he approached the first turn, Wes Vegas broke a leg and had to be euthanized.

 

A week earlier, another horse, the 4-year-old Coronado Heights, who records show had “early degenerative joint disease,” suffered a fatal breakdown at Aqueduct after receiving 13 injections for pain and cartilage damage in the month before his race. 

 

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Older Comments about NY Times: Big Purses, Sore Horses, Death...

I couldn't agree more with the sentiments expressed here. The larger problem is the running of unsound horses. Horses should be cleared for racing by track veternarians paid by the track and not by trainers. After being cleared prior to race, they could then have a quick-lookover at the gate to catch any injuries incurred during warm-up. A racing commissioner with clout and the mandate to look out for the horses first would also help. If the NFL and MLB can have a commissioner with clout, horse racing should be able to do the same. There are at least as many egomaniacs in the former as there are in the latter. This is the part of racing that the public reacts to most vicerally and if it doesn't change there will come a day when there is no racing at all.
If racing does not address these problems then it will face stiff control. Fans do not like to see horse deaths, nor do they like seeing horses whipped when they will not go into the gate. What might be palatable to some is abhorent to others. There needs to be an industry wide clean up.
shadowno, if one ever reads my comments, the article touches on things I take very seriously. I also take the manner in which it is addressed very seriously.
horsedynasty, if your point is that YOU did not like the article then point taken. If it that you think the article does not represent a large scale industry problem, then you are wrong. If we want the government sticking their noses in another aspect of our lives we should, by all means continue down our current course.
Buckpasser is correct, over due the meds and you get ulcers. Then you have to use the gastrogard to treat the ulcer as well as getting the horse back in the feed tub. It can be a vicious circle. It is more common with the filly and mares.
Horsedynasty. I understand what you are saying about skewed data. But there is a real problem of horses breaking down who over supported with medication and other artificial aids. I think what the article is saying is that this IS widespread in the industry, but it is seen more commonly in the claiming ranks and that the money offered by racinos to enhance purses is making the issue worse. The problem with Aqueduct this winter was that the purses were so inflated that horses who should not have run we're being run to try and get a piece of the action. 17 horses died at Aqueduct in one meeting. It was so bad that commentators for the Post and Daily News would start their handicap column with "another horse dies etc. at Aqueduct." by the end of the meet, these columnists were calling for an investigation. As Shadowmo states Santa Anita fatalities were very high. In my opinion, Santa Anita's issues had more to do with track surface. But I am sure a combination of track surface issues and over medicating did not help. As to Aqueduct, the track surface I don't think was an issue as much as the large purses encouraged horses to run that should not have and also encouraged greater drug use to get horses to the track. A word about bite. In my experience in the horse showing world, but helped relieve inflammation, but overuse caused stomach ulcers.
Horse Dynasty, Just that it's primary use on the backside is as a pain med, although it does also relieve swelling in the joints there are better drugs to use as well as tapping the joints.
ruffed grouse, I'm confused, what are you saying about bute? Sorry.
Travel Vic, Bute is the first drug given when you have any soundness problem, it is a painkiller just like advil would be. It does also reduce filling in joints but steroids are given for that, such as azium.
shadowno, I think you are missing my point.
Buckpasser that payout BS was just ridiculous. But with regard to horse welfare since reconversion of Santa Anita from 1/1/12 thru the end of the meeting there were 45 equine fatalities at Santa Anita per information availible through vet reports at CHRB Stewards report (Cause of death ie. due to trauma or illness was not noted) . Staggering numbers not requiring any level of sensationalizing IMO and not requiring any in depth probe, just a simple review of information availible in public records. Wonder what the true Aqueduct death toll was?.
I agree shadowno the NYRA wants to forget about 17 horses dying at one meet at the Big A. Add to the problems of horses breaking down with the scandal of the heads of the NYRA not paint bettors the proper amount on exotics and you have a real public relations nightmare, particularly with all the slots money
Shadowno, First of, I don't think anyone is saying he is a "crackpot." Second, he is not the only one that worked on/credited in the article. However, some might have legitimate concern over the way they are trying to present this information to the public. In small pieces they make statements about the series being about the economics of racing and about the racinos. Are they saying this is a racino problem? What about the tracks without racinos? They are also using a certain level of races as their examples, are they saying it only really happens at that level? Yet, at times it seems they try to pass it off as a problem at every level of the industry. Their main point(s) get muddled, and the article(s) skewed. There is no question that the first article data could be questioned (the one mentioning New Mexico tracks). Again, they use a few small examples to try and represent a large industry/problem? Again, what is the point of including a charge of a deadly car crash and a check fraud? They are journalist, and their job in sorts is to sensationalize a story, but it seems that has cost them clarity, and in my opinion some credibility.
Joe Drape respected journalist. Not a crackpot just putting some inconvienent truth out for public viewing. The same public that does not deserve to know what kind of vet records these animals are amassing. Aqueduct was a PR disaster of epic porportions and Santa Anita wasn't much better. Everyone in this business knows that the vast majority of fatal breakdowns occur in animals with pre-exsisting injuries. One might be able to sweep this crap under the rug at Mountaineer or Arapaho , but when it happens at an A level track questions are going to come up and if they don't then shame on us as owners, trainers, gamblers and fans.
many a horse are drugged prophylactically without any need for them.
phenylbutazone is an anti-inflammatory listed in any pharmacological text out there. Anagesics are another class of drugs altogether
There is no question that there are things that need to be changed, it is again the manner in which these authors present information. I know better than to expect a scientific study, but a statement like "Mr. Norman was also incarcerated for killing a driver in a head-on collision while under the influence of prescription painkillers" is not representative of the topic at hand and serves to inflame the reader and in essence create a bias as if that is perhaps the norm. Using a couple of examples to create a whole story representing a large industry gets tricky. That's my opinion on it, and I guess I expected more from the NYT.
This is the part of racing few ever hear about or believe. Pre-race treating of horses has been going on for as long as I have been on the racetrack. Injecting ankles is done all the time as well as hocks ,stifles and knee's . Bute a painkiller can be given race day at some tracks and many horses train on it. Some of our most famous horses have run with some pretty serious problems and have been treated accordingly. It used to be you would walk into the receiving barn at Belmont or most tracks for that matter and half the horses are standing in ice. I say all this and I have done all of the above myself but racing needs to clean up it's act and have started to do so.
I now read the NYT with a giant grain of salt. The must not have liked the fact that some called out their writing in the last article (it was the NYRA was it not...?) Sadly, many can not see or think for themselves beyond what the article tells them on the surface, and the industry suffers because of it.

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