Planting the Seed for Racing’s Rescue

Ok, so here’s the blog I intended to write to launch this blog, last week.

Currently, there is a lot of talk about what can be done to rescue horse racing in North America, particularly the United States.  Recent stories of breakdowns, drug cartels laundering money through racing, problems with pari-mutuel takeouts, trainers overshooting accepted chemical levels, and some using flat-out illegal substances, have done nothing to help our image.  There is a growing fear that these seemingly chronic events are killing our sport by irrevocably driving participants away and preventing the cultivation of new generations of race goers.

Lately, the call to instigate a central governing body, like football, baseball, and NASCAR use, is becoming louder.  Most in favor of this say it is because they would rather we control our sport, rather than let the Federal Government do it, seeing as they don’t understand our sport and they have a dismal record of running anything well.  Regardless, this starts a whole new discussion.  Who should run this governing body?  The answers vary.

Two weeks ago, Ahmed Zayat, owner of Triple Crown runners-up, Bodemeister and Paynter, asked his Twitter followers if they thought the time was now for a “Racing Czar.”  The response was overwhelmingly “YES!”  That was the last consensus on the subject.

Most respondents believed a national drug policy would be a big step in the right direction for the sport.  Others wanted better “takeout” at tracks to promote more betting.  Some people thought there should be some high-powered owner or breeder running things.  Others believed this naturally fell to the Jockey Club, or some other group/agency.  Many feared that wrestling control of setting drug limits from state racing agencies/commissions would be virtually impossible.  Some voiced concern that certain racetracks would not cooperate on the matter of pari-mutuel takeout.  Still others feared political motivations at the state level would make it impossible for a central controlling body to be established.  Pretty disheartening.

The desire is there, obviously.  Now, how to channel it effectively?  It was this question that led to the instigation of this blog.  We all have a vested interest in the game.  Some of us are powerful, corporate moguls with political and monetary clout.  Some of us are backyard breeders, owners and trainers with little to no obvious influence.  Many of us are struggling to survive in the game, but have nowhere else to go if “it doesn’t work out.”  Some of us will never own even a fraction of a racehorse, but we will always be fans.  Many are saying that without owners, there would be no racing.  True.  But if the race-going fans don’t show up or put money down to show their support of the game, then we’re still in a world of hurt.

So what does all this tell us?  It tells us we have to work together.  It states that our egos need to be left at the door.  It means we have to examine and consider what the needs of each participant are and how we can craft as many “Win-Win” scenarios as possible.

Or we’ll eventually have nothing.

Racing needs heroes and stars.  You may not know it yet, but you may be one of those quiet heroes who make a difference by planting the seed of an idea that takes root and leads us to a solution still unrealized.  Time for a brainstorming session, Race Fans! Let’s see your ideas, concerns, et cetera.  I invite you to post your ideas here.

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Not the “Here’s My First Blog Post!” I Intended to Write

My intention for my first blog post was to discuss the importance of fan participation in helping to drive changes in our sport.   Then I checked Twitter and saw the saddest abbreviation in the English language, RIP, followed by the sadly expected name of Giant Ryan.  Esteemed Turf writer, Steve Haskin, posted on his Facebook page this update: “So sad about Giant Ryan. We have to find a way to combat laminitis. It has claimed way too many lives.”  Yes we do.

To understand how Giant Ryan’s laminitis came to be, you have to understand the unique construction and biology of the horse.  A horse is dependent on motion to complete healthy blood circulation through its legs.  Unlike Cheetahs, or Greyhounds, horses do not have a fully automatic circulatory system.  When blood enters a horse’s legs, it doesn’t automatically get squeezed back up through the leg muscles and such, as it does in the aforementioned animals, or humans.  Horses don’t have any muscle below their forearms and hocks.

More information at

It’s all amazingly tough tendons, bone, and not that many blood vessels.  To move blood back to the heart, the horse must shift his weight on his feet, or walk, or otherwise put appropriate weight on his hooves to pump its blood back up to the heart.  A horse unable to do this is a prime candidate for laminitis or “Founder.”  Dr. James Rooney DVM, described laminitis brought on by poor blood circulation as “a lack of sufficient movement, alone or in combination with other factors, which can cause stagnant anoxia which in turn can cause laminitis.”  This is what brought down Barbaro, as well.  Horses with critical leg injuries just don’t have the set-up to recover well.  When the Paulick Report described Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton, as saying “the procedure to fuse the fetlock joint has been delayed because of concerns about the blood supply to the damaged area,” the pit in my stomach sunk deeper and I knew we would be saying goodbye to another talented and game racehorse.

After Barbaro lost his battle with laminits in 2007, focus on this insidious ailment narrowed and various causes were specifically established to help find a treatment.  The Barbaro Fund for Equine Health and Safety Research was established for the purpose of researching and combating it.   While progress is being made, today’s sad news just drives home the importance of finding a way to either end most forms of laminits, or find effective ways to treat it.

This blog is about we fans – all of us – wherever and however we participate, and how we can help our sport grow and flourish.  We love this sport and we love our horses, whether we own them, train them, ride them, care for them, or just follow them, like so many cheered and loved Giant Ryan.  The outpouring of love and sadness over the loss of this horse is not trivial, nor is it relegated to soft-hearted women and young girls.  Plenty of men have shed tears, also. Everyone who loves Racing or horses feels the sting when we lose any horse, but no one is feeling it more, today, than the Parbhoo family.   In David Grening’s reporting in the Daily Racing Form, this afternoon, he wrote:

Shivananda Parbhoo said Giant Ryan’s death was a big blow to him and his family.

‘I don’t know if I could watch another race without worrying what could happen,’ he said. ‘We look at racing in a different way now.

‘Ryan was unbelievable to us,’ he added. ‘This hit us really, really hard. We loved this horse more than anything. This is a sentimental loss for the whole family. It’s very, very sad.’”

He closed, “Parbhoo said he and his family received tons of messages from horsemen and fans.

‘We want to thank everybody for their support,’ Parbhoo said.”

(see full story here)

I initiated this blog with the idea that I would post about Racing’s fans, at every level, and how we can work together to better Racing and maybe bring it back to more than a shadow of itself.  Fittingly, paying respects to Giant Ryan and Parbhoo family is a start down just one path in that direction.

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