Curtis wrote: ↑
Mon Oct 28, 2019 12:58 pm
Anyone wanting and trying to prevent these occurrences should be lauded not derided. I will however say that one should be careful blanketing all inactivity at two. Marjorie E, the favorite in the final race on Saturday, didn’t run at two, nor did just about anyone on the bottom side of her pedigree. The Thompson’s, who bred and race her don’t believe in running a horse at two, and this philosophy is on it’s second generation. I’ve never been aware of any soundness problems with their horses. It’s a small operation with usually no more than two active broodmares at a time and they breed runners. I’ve known the Thompson family since I was a kid as they used to race QH’s with my uncle before switching to TB’s. Now to the best of my knowledge, Marjorie E is fine. She just didn’t get any pace to run at. If though, heaven forbid, she were to take a bad step in a subsequent start, the narrative could easily be, “See, she didn’t run at two.” The Thompson’s would tell you this is why their horses retire sound.
Interesting, thank you for sharing it! Do you know if they work at 2, or do they generally get started later than others? I think this is a great example of why we need to know more about the histories of these horses. Did the fatally injured horses debut late because they were unsound and unable to debut earlier (suggesting that there may have been pre-existing injuries present which could have led to a fatal injury), or did they debut later because 2yo racing is increasingly unpopular and devalued in this country (suggesting that the lack of early bone strengthening and remodeling contributed to the eventual injury)? It's the sort of question that only racing jurisdictions with the ability to deep-dive into a horse's veterinary history can answer, and I hope it's on their radar as they investigate these issues.
I certainly don't think it's a miracle cure for what ails the sport, but it's a conversation we'll have to have eventually- similar to how those articles about bisphosphonate usage from a year or two ago presaged this year's reckoning towards them. "Evil baby racing" is an emotional issue that seems to resonate with the general public, and I'm worried that the sport will undergo a good-faith overcorrection because of it (and because the Derby points system devalues 2yo racing, but that's another conversation). I'll try to find a link, but I read an interview by a Santa Anita official recently in which he admitted that they know Lasix isn't causing problems, but they are focusing on it anyways because the publics thinks drugs are bad. It would be tragic if, in an effort to address the hazards of the sport and the public's perception of them, we inadvertently endanger more horses. And I think there's a link between bone development and later bone healthiness that is waiting to be discovered. What I wouldn't give for a big observational study on training techniques/timing and soundness... should we be working young horses predominantly counterclockwise so they can adapt their skeletal systems accordingly, or should we focus on more balanced development? I have no idea, but it's probably important to know.
Somnambulist wrote: ↑
Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:04 pm
Research is the real world. It just can't be the real world in horse racing because there is literally so little of it we don't know we're looking at.
I think she gets that it needs to be narrowed down and that any understanding is in an infantile stage. She isn't advocating any one solution but a starting point. Once you know enough the process is more or less self correcting.
Yep, this is exactly it. Horses aren't particularly good at staying alive, and we will probably never be able to fully account for freak accidents or illness. But when it comes to on-track fatalities, hypothetically
we should be able to come up with a screening process that minimizes or eliminates them. I didn't appreciate it before working in a bone mechanics lab, but even in high-stress situations like a race, healthy bones really should not
be breaking the way they break in these incidents. I think the sport has made great strides towards getting past the "bad step" mindset this year, and Santa Anita's screening policies are a major step in the right direction. The fact that SA's fatalities dropped after their reforms, even if they haven't reached zero, should act as a refutation towards anyone who believes this is all out of our hands. But there's just so
much we don't know, an what we do know is almost too decentralized to work with. Even just a big meta-analysis of our current state of knowledge would probably be a gamechanger.
To make an analogy to another sport, last year I went to a biomechanics conference and made a point to attend all the NFL brain injury talks, just to see what's going on in that field. I was shocked to learn that there is research out there showing we can track sports-related brain injuries in real time, and we already have results showing that increased rest can help protect and heal the brain from the damage that likely causes CTE. However, the researchers were pessimistic that this research would be used to improve the sport, because it would involve fewer games, less practicing, and far more rest between games. The NFL is a sport with fairly abundant research (despite financial meddling by the league) but little genuine desire for reform. Horse racing, on the other hand, seems to genuinely want to improve (at least in some jurisdictions) but doesn't have the research to inform these changes. In some respects, that puts us in a better position... if we can just come together enough to fund and support ongoing research efforts.