JC / Railbird



From Glenye Cain Oakford’s interview with owner George Strawbridge:

“Then, you have the PETA video … maybe that was a turning point. I’m not saying it is, but it could be, because it takes the question out of the realm of just cheating. Maybe the majority of people don’t care about the cheating because maybe they just see it as racing insiders cheating each other, but when PETA shows up with this video, that expands the equation to cruelty to animals, which I think most people do care about. If you love horses, you don’t call them rats and treat them like commodities.”

And you don’t “feed” them unnecessary drugs. More on that point, and the HBO Real Sports segment that aired earlier this week, from Tom Noonan:

The more disturbing reality, however, is that horses are given too many drugs, even if they are “legal.” They are often given, as HBO stated, to make a horse run faster or to mask a painful condition, and not because it is necessary to treat a diagnosed medical issue. One segment of the PETA video that was replayed by HBO was of a vet describing Lasix as a performance-enhancing drug. Almost every horse racing in this country is racing with Lasix. Thyroxine is being “fed” to horses not because it is necessary, but because it is viewed as a performance enhancer.

Odds and Ends

Tim Layden tries to ask trainer Steve Asmussen about the PETA allegations: “I just don’t think this is the time or the place to address it. I think the preparation of these horses for a once in a lifetime opportunity is the focus. And that’s what I’m going to concentrate on right now.” Lots of questions, but unless I’ve missed it, I don’t think anyone’s asked this — are Oaks and Derby contenders Untapable and Taptiture getting thyroxine (a drug mentioned as a widely used supplement in Asmussen’s barn in the PETA video) and if so, why?

Steve Davidowitz writes that the Kentucky Derby isn’t just the fastest or the greatest two minutes in sports: “it also is the most dangerous.” Cover your eyes when they break from the gate!

Gary Stevens will ride Will Take Charge in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on Friday. “We’re looking at the big picture,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Dave Grening. “The Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita and Gary knows every grain of sand there. Nothing against Luis, but I thought Gary would be a natural fit.” Stevens and Mucho Macho Man beat Luis Saez and Will Take Charge by a nose in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sounds like the jockey switch means the “Man” will need a new rider for this year.

The Indefensible

Andrew Beyer:

It is wrong to characterize Asmussen as a bad apple. It is unfair to single him out for stigmatization. And it was thoroughly disingenuous for Phipps to say, “His presence and participation [in the Kentucky Oaks and Derby] would indicate that it’s just ‘business as usual’ in the thoroughbred industry.”

Through the industry, the indiscriminate use of drugs is business as usual.

Yes. And so long as it is, racing will be a target for groups like PETA.

Or Congress.

The Target

Trainer Rusty Arnold defends Steve Asmussen:

The two medications alluded to in the video (Lasix and thyroid powder) are both legal to have and legal to use. So, what crime has Steve committed?

None, but that’s the issue, isn’t it? The indiscriminate dosing of horses with unnecessary drugs has become routine. Maybe it shouldn’t be.