Bloodhorse reports (10/17/13) that 6-year-old Take Control was euthanized at Santa Anita after, in the words of trainer Bob Baffert, “he took a bad step” while breezing. With only four career starts (and at least two surgeries), his death, I suppose, is newsworthy because of lineage (AP Indy, Azeri) and past value (“a $7.7 million RNA at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale”).

photo: Bloodhorse
photo credit: Bloodhorse

As this was a public passing (in contrast to the vast majority of racing kills), trainer Baffert was duty-bound to offer lament: “It’s really tough…he’s a nice horse, and he’s been with us a long time. It was a really sad day at the barn. It’s a part of the business that makes you not want to be in it, but things happen, and it’s just bad luck. One bad step and that’s what happens.” And the beat goes on…

Furosemide, or Lasix, is used, ostensibly, to control pulmonary bleeding in rapidly moving racehorses. But it is also a powerful diuretic that causes the horse to shed water weight (and helps flush the system) prior to the race. To the rest of the world (excepting Canada), U.S. horseracing is derelict in allowing raceday Lasix (in practically all starters). But according to American trainers, the rest of the world is wrong.

Prominent trainer Dale Romans starts with this premise (Paulick Report, 9/13/12): “Racing causes EXERCISE INDUCED pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH, respiratory bleeding) in 100% of horses.” So, for the good of the horse, it must be controlled. Enter Lasix, which, Roman says, decreases the incidence and severity of this “natural” condition and “has no harmful effects.” See, the drug is therapeutic, indeed humane. And, notes Romans, since all trainers have access to it, none are afforded a competitive advantage.

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Prohibiting Lasix, in Romans’ estimation, would lead to methods antithetical to equine welfare – like withholding water prior to a race: “It is my firm belief that one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.” Adds his colleague Rick Violette (DRF, 8/11/11), “Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without it is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

What Romans and Violette conveniently ignore, however, is that the level of natural bleeding that adversely affects the Thoroughbred, a 3 or 4 on a 1-4 scale, is rare and bleeding through the nostrils even rarer (perhaps 1%). So to say it’s more therapeutic than performance-enhancing is dubious.

But what if Romans is right about EIPH being innate (and painful) to the racing horse? If so, then the animal abuse that Violette speaks of is at racing’s very core: Horsemen are ever eager to proclaim racing as innocuous – horses are born to run, love to run; the ubiquitous whip is but a painless “guide.” But here, according to Romans et al., the fundamental act (racing) causes equine suffering (through bleeding). Is there another sport on the planet whose primary physical motion is inherently painful? Absurd.

Formulaforsuccess, six, died during yesterday’s 3rd race at Belmont Park. The Gaming Commission simply says he “went over inside rail and died.” But Equibase offers a bit more detail: “[Formulaforsuccess] was eased at the quarter pole and in the midst of being brought to a stop a furlong out [collapsed] of an apparent cardiac arrest.”

The replay (Race Replays, Friday, Race 3) reveals little. All we get from the announcer, presumably right before the horse died, is “Formulaforsuccess is plummeting to the back of the pack.” This is Belmont’s 29th death of the year.

Unless otherwise noted, the following horses were “vanned off” American tracks this week.

Monday:
6-year-old Vamoose, Albuquerque, race 8
3-year-old Drama Magnet, Indiana Downs, race 1
3-year-old Crown Her First, Mountaineer, race 7

Tuesday:
3-year-old Ramrod Key, Parx, race 2 (broke through the fence)
4-year-old Steve’s Adventures, Parx, race 7
2-year-old Toyon Bay (first ever race), Turf Paradise, race 4
2-year-old Phantom Favorite, Zia Park, race 4

Wednesday:
3-year-old Sun Beauty, Charles Town, race 9
2-year-old My Hip Hop Honey, Delta Downs, race 5
3-year-old Pulp, Indiana Downs, race 6
5-year-old Sunday Groom, Indiana Downs, race 8
4-year-old Notoriously Noble, Indiana Downs, race 11
7-year-old De Romance, Penn National, race 2 (not vanned off but a “bleeding from both nostrils” DNF)

Thursday:
5-year-old Turbo Tweaked, Laurel Park, race 2
4-year-old Time for Wine, Penn National, race 5
6-year-old Triple A Rating, Penn National, race 5
3-year-old Si the Ocean, Santa Anita, race 8

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