Santa Anita 2019

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Catalina
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:40 am

Dusty wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 11:18 pm
When they seal that track - the problems start - and for them to continue to say NO PROBLEM ==IS A PROBLEM
That.
stark
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 2:56 pm

I hope not.

Jeremy Balan
‏@BH_JBalan

There is a noticeably increased security presence at Santa Anita today, as there may be a protest ahead of the races.
I've found it easier to tear up tickets at 8/1 instead of 8/5.
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Sparrow Castle
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 3:26 pm

Catalina wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:39 am
Sparrow Castle wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 12:30 am
Maybe speaking the obvious, my guess is this track wasn't made to take the huge amounts of rain they've been having. That area is used to a much drier environment. Yes, sealing the track and opening it up over and over again very well could cause inconsistencies in a surface not designed for that. When a horse is running along on a hard track and all of a sudden steps on a softer or uneven spot, bad things can happen. That's especially true if the horse has some often undetected issue in a leg. It doesn't have to be severe enough to make them overtly lame either.

Necropsy programs are continuing to report about 80% of fatalities show preexisting injury at the breakdown site. I wish we had better, cheaper, portable scanning devices that could detect such issues or blood tests with bio-markers to detect developing issues known to be precursors to a breakdown. I was hoping that's what all this research is about. Otherwise, the data will just continue to be used in a negative way. I and I'm pretty sure every owner I've ever partnered with would certainly pay a little more for these diagnostics to be sure our horses were safe in training and racing for their relatively short racing careers. It's our biggest fear. I have a hard time believing any owner or trainer at Santa Anita would send a horse out if there were known issues, at least not at Santa Anita...now right now.
On the other hand, once you have a horse entered in a race, how much pressure is there from the track not to have that horse scratched? Maybe not on the first scratch, but if the trainer has a history of scratching more than what the powers that be deem reasonable?
There's pressure to fill races and pressure to not scratch them. The tracks are also under pressure to fill races. From my experience, good established trainers build up good will with the racing office by responding to requests to enter horses in specific races whenever they can, even if it might not be an ideal race. When they feel they must scratch a horse for safety reasons, they're a little more credible. I think it might be a little different for new trainers or those who haven't built those relationships (maybe the situation with Ms. Ruiz).
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Curtis
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:12 pm

The Shelbe Ruis situation is very likely based on family history. Mick scattershot his mouth off pretty good last year about his not being able to get enough stalls, etc. I’m not implying that Team Stronach is out to get them but it’ll be awhile before she gets the benefit of the doubt.

It sure has been a tough week. I, nor do I imagine anyone, wants to see horses catastrophically injured. I really liked Battle of Midway, he was my Derby horse two years ago. I was at DMR when he blasted Klimt and Gormley in the Shared Belief. I had him when he won the BCDM. I was there when he started his comeback last August. For whatever strange reason, over the last year, Eskenforadrink had become one of my favorites. I’m a teetotaler, so it wasn’t for any obvious reason. I’m not a huge fan of the connections that had her when she broke her maiden. She just tried hard and did what she could with her limited ability. I’ve heard through the grapevine she looked off on her right front during the warm-up, still she was even money jumping in class from $8k- $16k. I do think there was something pre-existing that was exacerbated by a track not in ideal condition due to a pattern of sealing, opening, sealing, opening, sealing, etc. I want them all to come back safe but these two really hurt.
Catalina
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:40 pm

There's an interesting comment I read on, I think BH, regards virgin track seemingly providing the horses with different quality footing than track segments that other horses had just run on. Which, if true, might account for some if the current problems. I think the terms bandied about were something like mini-liquefaction or such.

Ah, found it! https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing ... anita-meet There are several comments on this.

The poster is "TheHomie007" and there are several comments on this.

An excerpt:
" TheHomie007 dinosmademoremethane • 3 hours ago

In this case, I really cant answer why the training track does not have this issue. It would appear that the main track is of different composition, and likely has a different bed or bed depth. The deepness isnt my point, I am thinking it is the stability of the bed. With the rain that has water soaked the track, it would appear that the bed is stable for the first to step in an area, and is broken up more than normal and not packed down the way it normally would when a horse steps there and ruins the integrity of the bed. This is just speculation on my part, but it would make sense when morning workouts are conducted over chewed up surfaces and that supports my observation of horses inability to close on marked up track
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Sparrow Castle
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:56 pm

I'll have to respond to this later...company coming. But wanted to post these tweets before they disappear on my timeline.

Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
7m7 minutes ago
Santa Anita just announced Thursday's card cancelled due to anticipated poor weather. Entries were being taken today for that card.

Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
4m4 minutes ago
Correction, it was Friday for which entries were being taken today. Thursday cancellation still accurate #batting500
stark
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 5:43 pm

ARCADIA, Calif. (March 3, 2019)–With heavy rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, Santa Anita Park has announced that live racing will return with an 11-race card on Friday, with first post time at 12 noon.

Although racing had been scheduled to resume on Thursday, track management is acting proactively in order to try to avoid most of the heavy rain and present an outstanding program Friday and through the weekend, which will be highlighted by the 82nd running of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.

https://www.santaanita.com/press-releas ... HxJ9YhKjIV
I've found it easier to tear up tickets at 8/1 instead of 8/5.
Catalina
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 5:55 pm

Glad to hear they canceled Thursday.
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Dusty
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Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:30 pm

Curtis wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 4:12 pm
The Shelbe Ruis situation is very likely based on family history. Mick scattershot his mouth off pretty good last year about his not being able to get enough stalls, etc. I’m not implying that Team Stronach is out to get them but it’ll be awhile before she gets the benefit of the doubt.

It sure has been a tough week. I, nor do I imagine anyone, wants to see horses catastrophically injured. I really liked Battle of Midway, he was my Derby horse two years ago. I was at DMR when he blasted Klimt and Gormley in the Shared Belief. I had him when he won the BCDM. I was there when he started his comeback last August. For whatever strange reason, over the last year, Eskenforadrink had become one of my favorites. I’m a teetotaler, so it wasn’t for any obvious reason. I’m not a huge fan of the connections that had her when she broke her maiden. She just tried hard and did what she could with her limited ability. I’ve heard through the grapevine she looked off on her right front during the warm-up, still she was even money jumping in class from $8k- $16k. I do think there was something pre-existing that was exacerbated by a track not in ideal condition due to a pattern of sealing, opening, sealing, opening, sealing, etc. I want them all to come back safe but these two really hurt.
Well said = I too was now following Eskenforadrink - a real shame if she showed an issue and vet did nothing - as for Battle of Midway = my heart hurts
May they run with the WIND
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Sparrow Castle
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:04 am

I can speak only from my experience in ownership and having a trainer who is extremely cautious and careful with our horses, always trying to error on the side of safety. She always explains her decisions to us. Below are my thoughts and recollections. What I was trying to say in my post last night is twofold.

Re the track is at fault: When Dennis Moore came in and renovated the entire surface in 2014, they had done some research and decided that the safest tracks used materials that were from a single source local to the area. They made a big deal about that, removed the original sand and clay mix, and brought in dirt from around the LA airport I think and mixed it with native El Segundo sand. That was all well and good because those materials were from the same arid climate as at the track. Those native materials are meant to retain water in that climate, rather than shed it, and it works great in the normal weather for that area.

The weather this season has been anything but normal, twice the amount of usual rain...you know the story. Because the surface is holding water by it's nature, I think the analogy to mini-liquefaction is a good one. Liquefaction is an interesting phenomenon that I experienced first hand after the Nisqually earthquake. At the extreme, it sank major roadways and can bring down buildings. It explains how the track becomes inconsistent under the pressure of horses running over the surface. Below is the definition from Wikipedia:

Soil liquefaction occurs when a saturated or partially saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to an applied stress such as shaking during an earthquake or other sudden change in stress condition, in which material that is ordinarily a solid behaves like a liquid.

If that's what's happening, I think cancelling racing when the track is saturated is the only safe alternative. Bravo to them for realizing that!!!

Re the trainers and owners are at fault: Most if not all racehorses have niggling issues at any given time, same with human athletes. Even the best horsepeople are not able to detect all of them all of the time, as hard as they try.

The equine injury database that was established by The Jockey Club in 2008 contains tons of excellent data. The data is uncovering specific pre-existing injuries and risk factors that lead to specific kinds of breakdown fatalities. It irks me no end that the Jockey Club has not opened up that data for researchers everywhere to use to develop specific interventions to prevent those breakdowns. Yeah, they put out occasional papers and have conferences to discuss what they are finding...and it doesn't seem to get beyond the discussion. After 11 years of this, they have given us trainers and owners absolutely NOTHING that we can do to prevent breakdowns in our horses that appear to be perfectly sound.

The finger pointing assigning blame for running unsound horses after breakdowns is downright painful and oh so frustrating. And please don't listen to rumors saying the Eskenforadrink was unsound. If they say that with no direct knowledge of the horse it is only part of the normal blame shaming in these circumstances, and adds to the already significant pain of losing a horse. I have no knowledge of that one way or the other and will not assume that to be the case. A horse running on a track in the state of mini-liquefaction likely does not need to be unsound to break a bone.

The trainers and owners I know are willing to do what we need to do on our end to keep our horses alive and healthy and retire them before they've had "one race too many." Paying for some additional scans or blood tests performed at the barn should not add that much to the normal vet costs. As I said last night, losing a horse on the racetrack is our biggest fear. My stomach is in knots until they come back from the gallop out. Whether they win or lose, there is overwhelming relief that they are walking back to the barn. Every owner I know desperately wants to increase the odds of that happening after every race.
Somnambulist

Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:11 am

There isn't a single person I know that is active, self included, that isn't routinely battling some ache or pain. But I do wonder how the conditioning plays into this. The horse stands in a stall for 20+ hours a day. That isn't good, and then they run sparingly and drill 4f workouts to prepare them to run longer. Lord knows how medication effects it since racing has no research on it.
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Sparrow Castle
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:52 am

Somnambulist wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:11 am
There isn't a single person I know that is active, self included, that isn't routinely battling some ache or pain. But I do wonder how the conditioning plays into this. The horse stands in a stall for 20+ hours a day. That isn't good, and then they run sparingly and drill 4f workouts to prepare them to run longer. Lord knows how medication effects it since racing has no research on it.
Yeah, I don't at all like that they are in stalls 20+ hours a day and I agree it's not good for them. We don't have much choice though, there aren't training facilities like Fair Hill here in the PNW. We try to mitigate the impact of that on our horses by giving them the winter off to refresh and be a horse running around the paddocks at our trainer's farm. Our racing season is mid-Apr to mid-Sep, about 5 months at the farm from the end of one racing season until track training opens up again the following February.

Our trainer is flexible in how often they run versus training; it's individualized. Some of them thrive on racing and run more often than others. Our horses also get what we call "long gallops" on the track as well as workouts. "Gallops" are not timed and won't show up in PPs or Equibase so I don't know if a lot of other trainers do this too. I guess I kind of assume all trainers do this. I know many horses have timed works much longer than 4f because I see workouts for those in my VS. This might be my own bias, but I tend to think a horse that isn't conditioned properly to race just races poorly, rather than is subject to breakdown. Some may stretch beyond their capacity and try too hard though.

Medication is a huge issue in horseracing. I don't think anybody can deny that. All owners can do is choose their trainers wisely. Our trainer makes sure we know every medication and supplement that our horses receive and why. I've known her for many many years and she has a great reputation for honesty. It becomes a major issue in the claiming game though. There are some trainers that you just don't claim from. And then there's the highly likely possibility we are running our horses against drugged horses and our horses are at a disadvantage. Until the sport as a whole cleans this up, "c'est la vie."

To me, a great trainer is irreplaceable, and the only reason I've convinced myself to stay in this sport despite all the crap. I like many though have taken long breaks after something really egregious happens.
Tessablue
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:18 am

Bones don't break without reason. They just don't. As terrible as it sounds, I think it's a good thing that most (or, in all likelihood, all) breakdowns occur because of pre-existing injuries. It means that every single one of them is preventable, the sport just has to stop kicking the can down the road and actually talk about this stuff.

I think the biggest issue that absolutely needs to be addressed is bone development. The misconception that galloping and racing young horses is damaging- something I've seen espoused by both fans and owners- needs to stop. Starts as a 2yo negatively correlate with breakdown rate, and it is absolutely crucial that developing bones and joints are loaded and exercised. Loading strengthens bone, especially young bone, and growth plates will change their shape to adapt to exercise. A horse who starts galloping regularly at age 4 does not have a musculoskeletal system that is ideal for racing. I'm really troubled by the rapid decline of 2yo starts in this country, and I hope someone talks about it soon. It's likely that the clockwise/counterclockwise distinction also plays into this, but that's another story.

Also, stop giving young horses bisphosphonates at the sales. You can work a 2yo all you want, but it won't matter at all if you give them a drug that blocks bone adaptation. Drugs aren't necessarily bad, but some of the current practices are just insane.

This isn't to say that Santa Anita bears no fault- they are in a tough situation, and I think they could stand to improve their communication about it- but there are treatable problems right in front of us. Don't just fund research; fund people who know how to talk about research and get that information out there as clearly as possible to as many people as possible.
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Curtis
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:25 am

Sparrow,
I saw Eskenforadrink run twice while at the track. The first time was in August, she warmed up okay, not great but okay, and ran second. The next time I saw her was again at DMR, 10 weeks later. I had her singled in the second leg of a live P4 so I paid close attention and she looked a little ouchy in front while warming up. She broke her maiden that day wire to wire trying to get out pretty noticeably and got late but still won. By the next month she was parachuted to the bottom where she won and was claimed. She was claimed from a barn that one doesn’t usually claim from if they’ve had the horse for awhile because their usually isn’t much left. I have no trouble believing she wasn’t too sound. That’s not to say it’s evil connections, corrupt management or a damaged track. It is what it is but I do think it was more than niggling issues.
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Sparrow Castle
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:30 am

Tessablue wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:18 am
Bones don't break without reason. They just don't. As terrible as it sounds, I think it's a good thing that most (or, in all likelihood, all) breakdowns occur because of pre-existing injuries. It means that every single one of them is preventable, the sport just has to stop kicking the can down the road and actually talk about this stuff.

I think the biggest issue that absolutely needs to be addressed is bone development. The misconception that galloping and racing young horses is damaging- something I've seen espoused by both fans and owners- needs to stop. Starts as a 2yo negatively correlate with breakdown rate, and it is absolutely crucial that developing bones and joints are loaded and exercised. Loading strengthens bone, especially young bone, and growth plates will change their shape to adapt to exercise. A horse who starts galloping regularly at age 4 does not have a musculoskeletal system that is ideal for racing. I'm really troubled by the rapid decline of 2yo starts in this country, and I hope someone talks about it soon. It's likely that the clockwise/counterclockwise distinction also plays into this, but that's another story.

Also, stop giving young horses bisphosphonates at the sales. You can work a 2yo all you want, but it won't matter at all if you give them a drug that blocks bone adaptation. Drugs aren't necessarily bad, but some of the current practices are just insane.

This isn't to say that Santa Anita bears no fault- they are in a tough situation, and I think they could stand to improve their communication about it- but there are treatable problems right in front of us. Don't just fund research; fund people who know how to talk about research and get that information out there as clearly as possible to as many people as possible.
Yeah, bones don't break without reason. But a 1,000 lb horse can break a bone by the way s/he falls. I'm citing the data here that it's an 80% and in some studies it's up to 90% correlation. It's a huge problem. But we need better diagnostic tools to find those with pre-existing injuries. It's not always as easy as heat or lameness or even an x-ray. The advanced diagnostic tools are usually located off track and are expensive. Realistically, this is not an option for the entire horse population. There have been developments in portable CT scanners and bio-markers of some substance that indicates bone breaking down like in stress fractures, or something like that. I don't remember the specifics and would have to look it up again. None of these have made it into general use. I think identifying those at-risk horses would go a long way towards preventing so many breakdowns.

I didn't realize there was a decline in 2 year old starts in this country. Did that come out of the Grayson/Jockey Club Equine Injury Database too? In my experience most horses go into training as two-year olds, with plenty of pasture running around time before that. And I agree the research is clear about the need for that.

The impact of running clockwise/counterclockwise without balance is a good thing to discuss. At European-type training centers, the gallops offer that in their design. And I saw recently that at Kenny McPeak's Magdalena Farm they train both left and right-handed on their track. I wish this would become more of a thing.

Yeah, there are a lot of things we can do to improve horse safety. I'd like to see us start acting on them rather than arguing about blame and lamenting our losses. That was the aspiration of the Jockey Club's Safety Initiatives 11 years ago.
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Gemini
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:46 am

I'm chiming in randomly here, and if anything I say is incorrect I don't mind people setting me straight.

I keep hearing/reading that the "bad step" is just a myth. BUT if one applies common sense to equine exercise physiology, a lack of conditioning (which is a result of shorter workouts, fewer races, no turn-out time) leads to fatigue which then leads to reduced muscle coordination/agility... so then the "bad step" actually becomes a reality when thousand pound animals have to negotiate turns and move quickly between or around their opponents.

So muscle fatigue in addition to insufficient bone development mentioned above may be compounding these problems with the track.

Then there's the other theory that "inbreeding depression" is accelerating within the Thoroughbred, but that may be a topic for another day.
Tessablue
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:09 pm

Gemini wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:46 am
I'm chiming in randomly here, and if anything I say is incorrect I don't mind people setting me straight.

I keep hearing/reading that the "bad step" is just a myth. BUT if one applies common sense to equine exercise physiology, a lack of conditioning (which is a result of shorter workouts, fewer races, no turn-out time) leads to fatigue which then leads to reduced muscle coordination/agility... so then the "bad step" actually becomes a reality when thousand pound animals have to negotiate turns and move quickly between or around their opponents.

So muscle fatigue in addition to insufficient bone development mentioned above may be compounding these problems with the track.

Then there's the other theory that "inbreeding depression" is accelerating within the Thoroughbred, but that may be a topic for another day.
I don't want to sound dismissive because it's a good thought and nobody truly knows, but I suspect that if it was fatigue, we'd see most injuries in routes or in the stretch. Neither is true to my knowledge, and although I believe routes are slightly more dangerous (if anyone has this data I'd love to see it, can't find it for some reason), the difference isn't enough to conclusively point us in that direction. Considering how lack of detection and recovery from injury is one of the main issues here, it's possible that today's more cautious training methods- in older horses, at least- actually have a protective effect. Certainly it would be worthwhile to look at the training methods of trainers with more or fewer injuries. Someone find Dutrow and ask him?

I also think it's important to keep in mind that despite anomalies like present-day Santa Anita, we are in all likelihood living in the safest era of thoroughbred racing in this country. Things are trending in the right direction, but the "bad step" idea is one of our biggest impediments towards improvement because it essentially states that the injury was unpreventable. We know that although this is comforting from a psychological perspective, it is almost never true, so we need to move past the "bad step" crutch and ask ourselves what went wrong with every single injury. We also need to talk about issues like bone development that maybe aren't at the forefront now, but will continue to impede improvement unless addressed.

As far as the decline of 2yo racing, it's cultural at the very least. 2yo races are essentially worthless in the new Derby points system, top 2yos are making fewer starts (I haven't finished running the numbers, but here's how many starts American horses are averaging in the Juvenile: In 2006 it was 4.21, 2008 was 3.92, 2017 was 3.00, 2018 was 3.14 starts), and there seems to be an increasing shift towards the ideology that 2yo starts are unnecessary or dangerous. I suspect that Justify hastened this movement, and Instagrand added more fuel to the fire. I've trawled around the comments sections of this Santa Anita controversy, and a truly distressing percentage of posts blame the issue on 2yo racing. I'm worried that it's going to end up as the antivax movement of horse racing if we aren't careful.

Here's a good article on injury causes and preventative measures for those interested: https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing ... -step-myth

Note this one example:
In one case, a Thoroughbred was 4 1/2 years old before it was broken to ride. The horse made its first start as a 5-year-old and won, but returned a month later and suffered a catastrophic injury, she said.

The necropsy revealed the horse had dorsal metacarpal disease, commonly referred to as bucked shins.

"His bones were just not able to adapt," Kennedy said. "The trainer was very appreciative of the (mortality review). As sad as this was, it will not happen to another horse in her care. That's why I say we're not too late."
Somnambulist

Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:50 pm

A bad step can happen, though, and I don't think this can be truly discounted. Whether that bad step is the culmination of mechanical problems and conditioning is really the interesting part. Horses are prey animals and showing injury is not always immediate. Mechanical problems are notoriously very difficult to diagnose.

What we have in racing is basically asking a horse to do a very unnatural thing for a horse (limited grazing, standing in a 4x4 forever) and often running in one direction while the other side isn't as developed. Different muscle sets are used entirely. Body mechanics is really pretty fascinating.

The lack of science is sad, but what sport actively researches it without lawsuits? The NFL now cares about CTE but ignored it for years. Maybe a class action suit against the CHRB would get the ball rolling.

Looking at breakdown rates of horses sold at sale vs. not would actually be super interesting. I don't think drilling at sales is really exactly healthy for development.
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Sparrow Castle
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:59 pm

Curtis wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:25 am
Sparrow,
I saw Eskenforadrink run twice while at the track. The first time was in August, she warmed up okay, not great but okay, and ran second. The next time I saw her was again at DMR, 10 weeks later. I had her singled in the second leg of a live P4 so I paid close attention and she looked a little ouchy in front while warming up. She broke her maiden that day wire to wire trying to get out pretty noticeably and got late but still won. By the next month she was parachuted to the bottom where she won and was claimed. She was claimed from a barn that one doesn’t usually claim from if they’ve had the horse for awhile because their usually isn’t much left. I have no trouble believing she wasn’t too sound. That’s not to say it’s evil connections, corrupt management or a damaged track. It is what it is but I do think it was more than niggling issues.
Sorry, Curtis. I didn't see this late last night. Thanks for the info, it's all so very sad and such a shame. I doubt that the pre-race vet check can catch every horse in these situations if the vet can't see or feel anything obviously amiss with the horse. One would think appearing ouchy while warming up would get some attention. I wonder if the state vet noted anything in the health and racing soundness record. Ugh, I guess that would come out in the necropsy examination report, which we'll probably never see.
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Sparrow Castle
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Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:36 pm

I didn't read all the BH comments, there's too many of them. But, maybe because I rarely read comments on articles, I didn't realize there were a lot of people who believe you should not train or race 2 year olds because it's bad for them. I thought the only reasons to wait were maturity level (eg,, knees not closed, can't mentally handle it) or minor injury needing time to heal, which I can agree with. That "bad for them" belief is completely opposite of what research shows about bone density and strength. Perhaps data-driven decision making is a thing of the past. If that's so, we're in trouble.
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