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This year's KY Derby finally caused me to change my perspective a lot. (more than it already had).
Ever notice the stayers in hunt races and marathons across the pond aren't bleeders? Properly prepared, dead fit.....can race just fine w/out lasix.
Because: NOT being asked to perform as quarterhorses. They are brought to a high fitness level, and also run over hills and large expanses to train.......they are fit as all get out. And allowed to run more naturally and get warmed up while racing a long distance.
Years ago we had a QH trainer infiltrate U.S. racing and his apprentice Baffert is now finishing off the deal and making sure it sticks, and the race tracks themselves further enhancing this trend by the way they prepare the tracks for the big race days. And the breeders breeding for it.
This idea of no lasix, while conducting racing in the usual American way, asking horses to perform like Quarterhorses, break from gates and rush up.......after spending 22 hours a day standing in a barn.........a true recipe for disaster.
Now I understand why so many U.S horsemen are against racing w/out lasix.
There ARE no regulations that are going to fix this. To just institute "no doping" laws when you have not changed anything else about your racing is pie-in-the-sky....not only not changed anything else but made it even more likely for a horse to bleed under the current training regimens.
Because it's not just about cheating.....it's about the need for speed the way we train in the U.S------taking horses standing around in barns for 22 hours of their day and being asked to perform like quarterhorses, breaking fast from gates, rushing up, horses with 9F-12F breeding, but who are being asked to perform as quarterhorses ..............that is what causes bleeding. And early retirement to the breeding shed.
the Baffert style is not going away. On that you can count.
I also started thiinking about the many truly great trainers who are often "mostly absent" from races like the KY Derby, the ones who have horses who are still racing at 5+ years old and kept fit and in good condition. Ever wonder why Roger Attfield doesn't have derby horses every year, for instance. It's not because he doesn't have the horse. Many other names I could bring up. As well as the ones who enter and lose.
A year or 2 ago, I was trying to figure out how Baffert does it and why other truly capable HOF trainers were not winning these races. But now, I realize something more profound: Perhaps they are unwilling to train "Baffert style". Perhaps they feel it is harmful to the horses.
That was, a voila moment for me. It doesn't matter what magic he has. The point isn't that other HOF trainers can't do what he does. It's that they are unwilling to do it. I say Bravo to them. Each and every one who has made that decision.
For me, it's not about "cashing". We are all gamblers to an extent, but I've little interest watching a sport I love die a slow death, and horses be injured and/or retired early so I can say "I cashed". (I won't be saying that anymore anyway, unless it's an overseas race. Because that is all I will be opening my wallet for from now on. )
It will take 10-20 years of breeding, training and track maintenance philosophy, to change anything here. And meanwhile, only the horses will suffer for it. I am not sure I can even now support the anti-Lasix movement. This aint Europe. This ain't Hong Kong. Their horses don't need lasix there........ In Hong Kong high level bleeders are taken out of the racing sport altogether. And the trainers over at WaterHayOats Alliance aren't training the way Baffert does......maybe or a reason? It's not like they are not highly capable trainers.
SO it's not "just" about cheaters. It's a whole trend about winning. Churchill souping up their track, etc. to go along with that program. Which will stake 2 decades to undo because there are so many other things that have gone along with this style of racing.
Instilling anti doping regs, with horses who by the very nature of the way they're being conditioned and trained in a way that makes them bleed, is a form of putting the cart before the horse.
Not to mention true Classic Distance racehorses have careeers lasting longer than 1 year.......precisely because of the way they are conditioned.
I understand where you are coming from. We have fact based information we all use to the best of our abilities. Then there are variables that I guess I am gonna have to pay more attention to such as is the track more jazzed up than typical on this day, etc.
As much as I wish it was, there is no quick and easy solution to the problem you present. U.S. racing was set on its current path when the Union Course on Long Island became the first "skinned" track back in 1821, meant to be an all-weather surface vs the traditional turf. So this became the standard surface in America. Then to add insult to injury, our Triple Crown does not match the traditional system used elsewhere.
In most places the series starts with a "2000 Guineas" that is usually 1 mile on a straightaway. Then a month or more later, the "Derby" is a 1 1/2 mile test, preferably with an uphill component. Then after a few months break (when other preps can be run) the "St. Leger" is a 1 3/4 mile marathon. Instead, our series is compressed both in time (2 weeks rest then 3) and distances (between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 miles). I put the names of the races in quotes since they go by different names in different countries, but those are what they're called in the UK and Ireland.
Recall the famous quote by Federico Tesio: The Thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians, or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby. If you base your criteria on anything else, you will get something else, not the Thoroughbred.
On these shores, replace the Epsom Derby (1 1/2 miles turf in early June) not with the Kentucky Derby (1 1/4 miles dirt in early May), but maybe some combination of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (1 1/16 miles dirt in November at 2) and the Arkansas Derby (1 1/8 miles in April at 3). You breed and train a horse for that and you might have a Kentucky Derby/Breeders' Cup Classic winner too, but even if not, you'll make a lot of money in purses AND in the breeding shed after (meaning, let's breed more of these horses that can't get a distance). I might even revise that and say we're trying to breed Met Mile/BC Dirt Mile winners. Great at 1 turn sprints, not much else.
One thing the Union Course had that we don't anymore was FOUR MILE races. We just never continued with that tradition, and instead we have become the 5-7f sprint sport, as you said, quarterhorse racing stretched out. Thank goodness the Triple Crown people didn't listen to DWLukas back in the day and run the Derby at 1 mile, the Preakness at 7f, and the Belmont at 9f... he almost got his wish last year with that joke 9f Belmont.
There's zero incentive to breed for stamina since we do not have a profitable stakes program for older stayers (unlike the UK with the Ascot Gold Cup, Australia with the Melbourne Cup, etc) nor a rich National Hunt program to give older stayers not fast enough for the flat, a place to go (we don't have anything like Cheltenham). Instead we incentivize juvenile racing (a big mistake - and sadly the Breeders' Cup decides to turn a bug into a feature...), dirt racing, and sprinting.
It's easy to blame Bob Baffert (and before him, D. Wayne Lukas) for this, for their "worktab riddled with bullets" training methods. But really, he's just playing the hand that was dealt him. These are the races he has to win, and these are the horses he's given, bred to win those races. If he was training in the UK and expected to win 1 1/2 mile races regularly, he'd have to change his methods in a hurry. I purposely ignored the drugs angle, because even if we were able to catch and banish 100% of cheaters, the above would all still apply.
Wanted to add: here's where you really see American TB racing turning into the AQHA -- what's the biggest/richest event in the AQHA calendar... the $2 million All-American Futurity for TWO YEAR OLDS in the fall.
Not much different from rewarding our speedy juveniles with their $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, right? (and as I pointed out, running five stakes for juveniles on the Friday... no wonder it's called the Breeders' Cup.. the inmates run the asylum).
Baffert isn't afraid to dump one of his jocks for someone better. Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza declined, Cedeno was a part-time jockey so he in brought in Saez, Rosario and Johnny Velazquez.
I know Charleton is active but has Maximum Security been retired. I'm curious how Baffert will juggle his all star line up for the rest of the year.
TexSquared said...There's zero incentive to breed for stamina since we do not have a profitable stakes program for older stayers (unlike the UK with the Ascot Gold Cup, Australia with the Melbourne Cup, etc) nor a rich National Hunt program to give older stayers not fast enough for the flat, a place to go (we don't have anything like Cheltenham). Instead we incentivize juvenile racing (a big mistake - and sadly the Breeders' Cup decides to turn a bug into a feature...), dirt racing, and sprinting.
Your entire post was excellent Tex.
There was a time when many were saying "let's bring some of the stamina bloodlines back over here" .....and at the time I agreed, but now I see it would be a total waste. It would be like trying to pour an entire craffe of wine into a single wine glass. It just overflows and is wasted.
It is what it is. And you're correct, Lukas wanted to turn TB racing into a form of QH racing, and he didn't get his wish, but he got the spirit of it instead.
I'm perfectly content to wait til the Ascot, Epsom Derby, Melbourne Cup etc. and open my wallet as well as study up for those races and skip our TC races which have become a disappointment to me, in terms of the kind of racing I enjoy.
SA surface is souped up like a cement speedway, why not have Churchill, Pimlico, etc. do the same for raceday, to approximate it. SA has benefitted Baffert for many years in this way. I would not want to take food out of his mouth by making it any different or more difficult for him at any other racetrack ROTFL
And they wonder why so many horses break down there and eveyrone keeps playing dumb.
Since I like Rock Your World, one of my concerns is that he will be ruined over there, before his time.
My point still stands and to an extent, goes unanswered: if the Baffert method works so well then why aren't the other trainers just using it? Why isn't Shirreffs, Attfieid, Motion, Mandella, etc. doing it and why don't they just cave and train this way? Inquiring minds want to know.
Maybe I am over simplifying, but the answer seems obvious to me: they actually care about the horse(s).
GioPonti said...Maybe I am over simplifying, but the answer seems obvious to me: they actually care about the horse(s).
That's exactly what I'm saying. You think Mandella or Motion know LESS about training horses than Baffert does? Of course not.
THey are probably just unwilliing to have the entire sport turned into quarterhorse-central, plus they probably want to see their horses last more than a year on the track.
Oh well, we already know we can't do anything about those special human beings who are enabled by others, every step of the way. over and over again, with nary a handslap. We watch and shake our heads but as long as there are synchophants available for that job, (thinking maybe they can stuff their pockets a little in the process, too), it will continue.
"The Times They Are A Changin' "
This is only one aspect of the racing paradigm.
Reality Checks have long been the "Saving Grace" of Thoroughbred Racing In North America.
Remember the introduction of the "Starting Gate?"
"Photo Finish" Photography replaced "Placing Judges."
We must have open ears and eyes to truth and wisdom.