JC / Railbird


Deputed Testamony, RIP

The 1983 Preakness winner died today at age 32.

In a 2011 Kentucky Confidential video, Jeff Krulik and John Scheinman visited the then-oldest living Classic winner at Bonita Farm.

Deputed Testamony won his Classic without racing on Lasix, a point interesting then because patchwork raceday drug regulations were just one of the reasons the 1983 Preakness was dubbed the “Prescription Preakness,” and now, as the Lasix debate reaches another peak.

“The Statistics Are Somewhat Hopeful”

Jeff Scott checks the stats on Saratoga’s Lasix-free juvenile starters:

The 141 Lasix-free 2-year-olds were distributed over 71 races; only nine were post-time favorites. As a group, they accounted for 10 wins, 13 seconds and 14 thirds. With all the variables involved, it is difficult to assess the significance of these results. The sample is also a very small one. It can be said, though, that many 2-year-olds performed well without Lasix this summer at Saratoga. And that is good news for anyone who doesn’t like to think American horses can’t compete without this medication on race day.

Noted: “Bled” isn’t a chart comment on any of those races.


Alicia Wincze talks with breeders and buyers about corrective surgery:

“I think if they’re talking about weakening the gene pool with medication, then they’re also weakening the gene pool by doing (corrective surgery),” said trainer Charlie Lopresti. “They’re taking mares that produce crooked foals, cosmetically fixing them and selling them for a lot of money at the sale. It used to be back in the old days, only the strong survived, and if they were crooked and they could run through it, they were good horses.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I think we all need to get on the same page. And if they’re going to try and clean up the racing act, they need to clean up their act too.”

Looking Outward

Santa Anita’s willingness to guarantee a Lasix-free Breeders’ Cup in 2013 was a major factor in the decision to return to Arcadia:

“It is very important to us,” said Christian, speaking in Baden-Baden before Sunday’s Grosser Preis von Baden, which is now part of the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge series.

“We consider ourselves [an] international event, not an American event — and when you’re an international event you have to adhere to international standards.”

The Must-Reads, 2011

As each year comes to its end, I go through all the racing stories I’ve bookmarked or shared over the past 12 months and pluck together a short list of pieces that stand out, whether for great reporting or great storytelling. If you haven’t read the stories linked below yet, take a few minutes to enjoy some of the best turf journalism from 2011 before 2012 begins:

As 10-year ban hangs over Rick Dutrow, opinions vary about controversial horse trainer.” The definitive profile of the New York trainer, handed a record suspension this year, by Jerry Bossert for the New York Daily News.

For Pletcher, managing a training empire is all in a day’s work” Joe Drape on how he does it, for the New York Times.

Pletcher was an assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, dubbed “The most interesting man in racing,” by Gary West this spring, in one of the last posts published on his Star-Telegram blog. That the formidable turf writer with the superb flapdoodle detector was let go by the newspaper was a loss for Texas racing. Fortunately for readers, West now appears on ESPN.

Claire Novak won her first Eclipse award this year with “Pressure off Durkin at Belmont,” about the announcer’s decision to step down from calling the Triple Crown races on NBC, but I’m biased toward her terrific Kentucky Derby week story, “The Inside Scoop: Why Calvin Borel owns the rail,” which appeared on Kentucky Confidential. For fun, and a touch of Gay Talese, Novak’s recounting of a New Orleans cabbie’s racetrack story can’t be beat.

At Suffolk Downs, a rider reached a significant milestone: “Piermarini gets win 2000 on Sugar Trade.” Susan Salk of Offtrack Thoroughbreds talked to Tammi Piermarini about becoming only the fifth female jockey in racing to crack 2K.

Ryan Goldberg added context and depth to this year’s intense (and ongoing) Lasix debate with his well-researched and matter-of-fact story for the Daily Racing Form, “Lasix: Demystifying the drug, methods of training without it.”

DRF photographer Barbara Livingston shared some marvelous historic racing photos from her private collection this year, as in this post: “Man o’ War’s funeral: Remarkable final tribute for majestic champion.” The great horse was laid out in a casket for viewing; thousands filed past to pay their respects.

In search of the Kelco.” Bill Christine, at HRI, on the handicapping gizmos of yesteryear (which gave me an excuse to post about the Race-o-meter).

Gray Thoroughbreds, a precious relic of the breed’s earliest days, became a rarity on the racecourse for a good part of the 19th century.” I had no idea. Kellie Reilly on the revival of grays in the 20th century, on BRISnet.

How Inhumane

Dick Powell on the Lasix debate:

But rather than ban it, I think we should mandate it.

Nearly all Thoroughbred race horses bleed. If you think we can breed our way out of this by separating the horses that bleed from those that don’t and breed a new racehorse that doesn’t bleed and doesn’t need Lasix, you would have to ban it in training as well which nobody wants to do.

And, how do you explain banning it to the animal rights activists that view our sport as being cruel and inhumane? …

Or, as trainer Rick Violette has said:

“Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without it is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

Arguing that a Lasix ban is abusive raises the question — if it’s inhumane to race horses without a drug, then isn’t it inhumane to race horses at all? If horses need a drug to mask the conditions in which they’re bred, trained, and raced, then shouldn’t the focus be on changing those conditions?

I don’t have answers; I merely ask.

A Worthy Experiment

Select 2YOs from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn are running Lasix-free:

“There’s so much talk of no Lasix, we decided not to run them on it until they need it,” McLaughlin said Monday at [Saratoga]. “No one told me I had to do this, I decided it.”

Good for him.

9/15/11 Addendum: Jeff Scott looks closer: “Lest anyone get the impression that McLaughlin’s four juveniles were the only 2-year-old starters not running on Lasix at the Spa, Equibase charts show there were 60 altogether, and they came from the barns of 25 different trainers.”

About a Lasix Ban …

Steve Zorn:

It would undoubtedly require major changes in training patterns and, ultimately, in breeding patterns as well. Is it possible?

Bill Finley:

It’s not that complicated and doesn’t require a whole new series of summits or meeting. In fact, it’s a no-brainer. Do it.

Ban or die.

The Cornerstone

Bill Finley on who should follow RCI’s call for a medication ban:

… the Breeders’ Cup is exactly the organization that should lead the way. Just announce that starting next year no horse will be allowed to race in the Breeders’ Cup on any medications. A grandfather clause is fine. You can allow any horse that raced on Lasix in 2011 to continue to run on the drug, but no one else. The Breeders’ Cup has nothing to lose. There’s not a trainer in America who would decline a spot in the Breeders’ Cup because they’d have to run drug free. And if they do, too bad.

Such a move by the Breeders’ Cup would not only help clean up American racing, it would be a significant signal to the international scene.

Maybe Europe would call off the boycott? (Note the posted date.)

After →