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Monday, June 9, 2008

A Big Brown Stain on the Underpants of Racing

Watching the live feed from Australia early Monday morning, just before the running of the Phil Sullivan Handicap at Eagle Farm, I overheard the announcers joking amongst themselves about Big Brown’s big loss. “Yeah,” one of the guys said, “he didn’t get his steroids this month.” They all chuckled, and then you could hear them discuss in apparent disbelief how legal drugs varied from state to state here.

Their attitude was not all that surprising to me, as I acknowledge countries like Australia that race drug-free think we are a joke. Take a look at this columnist from The Australian, who begins his Belmont wrap-up with this juicy line: "Big Brown's flop when chasing the Triple Crown in yesterday's Belmont Stakes spared what could only be described as a big brown stain on the underpants of thoroughbred racing in the United States."

Now, that's funny. His article ends on a more serious note: "US racing will remain on the skids until it outlaws the use, or should that be abuse, of substances prohibited elsewhere in the world."

And, after watching as much Australian racing as I have thus far this spring, I’m beginning to believe it myself. Whether it’s the lack of drugs, their training methods, or running mostly (but not entirely) on turf, Australian racing has become far more exciting to me. First, there’s a noticeable lack of interest on mere speed—what I mean is, the announcer NEVER breaks down the race timing. American announcers always have to interject how fast this quarter or half was. They don’t in Australia. It’s all about getting the perfect ride for your horse and riding against the field. Secondly, they don’t post workouts—they have barrier trials or actually run their horses in races (shocking!) to keep them fit. They run more often, even the top horses. And, needless to say if you’ve read my blog before you know I love the mixed gender racing.

Unfortunately, my fillies Tan Tat De Lago and Maunatrice couldn’t handle the heavy going, and lost the G2 Queensland Guineas to Anthony Cummings’ Turffontein and Gai Waterhouse’s Royal Discretion. They did, however, finish fourth and fifth respectively, in the 13-horse field, so not a bad day for the girls. In the G2 Brisbane Cup, one of the very first horses that I “discovered” when betting Australian racing—Viewed—demolished the field to win, while another personal favorite Fulmonti got up for second.

Oh, and just to point out the aforementioned Phil Sullivan Handicap was won by G1 victor Rags to Riches…a 7-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding who is currently on a hot-streak. Apparently, he’s also a good breeding story, the result of the owners’ winning a free stallion service and mating a son of Sadlers WellsEntrepreneur—to a $350 mare.


Patricia said...

I cannot figure out why the federal government allows drugging to go on. Someone needs to go to jail. I'm not for more laws, nor do I look to the feds to take even more rights away - but this is unbelievable. Just so a few can make money on the back of the industry. Sorry for the rant.

I'm curious how do you handicap these races?

Read you blog whenever I have the chance - thanks for the good work.

Patricia Punt

Sharon Crute said...

I couldn't agree with you more regarding drug use in racing. And I also agree with Jerry Bailey who stated that, while he'd probably get a lot of trainers mad at him, he was all for hay, oats and water. However, I think lots of trainers would be relieved to get the drug monkey off their backs. And please realize, this is a tremendously complex issue involving all the connections across the board.

Imagine - the best "trained", rather than "promoted" horses winning races in the U.S. What a concept.

Anonymous said...

I see that the holier than tho' attitude of the European press extends to Australia as well. Those that are so adamant against the use of drugs/medication in American racing shouldn't be so quick to judge when so many European/Australian shippers are given Lasix when first competing in the U.S.

rather rapid said...

from comments such as Patricia's you see the sort of opinions that such (slanted) posts create amoung racing fans. You might consider posting the "times" they get in Australia. If it's anything like Europe they let their horses gallop along and finally start to race them the last 2 or 3 furlongs resuling in times about 1 second/f slower than in USA. If your horses race below a certain speed on a grass surface the need for lasix is lessoned.

the question, instead of banning all drugs, is which drugs do horses need for safety. just because they ban lasix in Australia is other than to say that Australian horses never bleed. Of course they do, and for those horses lasix will be of help for them to race comfortably. I'd encourage a more balanced approach without constantly jumping to invalid conclusions.