Another One Bites The Dust

Today California Chrome had a chance to take home The Triple Crown, if he could just cross the wire first.  Instead he finished in a deadheat for fourth.  From where I was sitting, he just didn’t have the distance in him, but quickly after the race we had a desk jockey (sports commentator) blaming the jockey for a bad ride (I disagree – thought the jockey did a great job) and a really upset owner claiming it was ‘the coward’s way out’ referencing how fresh horses showed up for the race (having not raced in either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness or both) and then having the other jockeys gang-up on his horse in the race.  No matter what side you’re on, horse racing gets people emotional.

I have a real issue with how Thoroughbreds are generally trained and prepared for racing (in North America).   It confounds me how almost every year we sit and ask the same question:  Will so and so be able to make the distance of The Belmont Stakes?  Heck, sometimes we’re asking that question at The Kentucky Derby.  While there are clearly horses of sprinting bloodlines, none of those are ever being aimed at The Triple Crown, why are the horses aimed at mile+ races not being trained and conditioned for the longest distance possible?  That just makes sense to me.  Even if the horse only ever races once in its life at that distance, it only makes sense to prepare for it.  It doesn’t hurt the horse to have more stamina then is used in most races.  I never trained my Standardbreds just a mile; that would have been stupid.  And it never was good if a horse staggered across the mile marker in a training session, even if that training session was at race speed.  Nope, I’ll never understand the thinking of these TB trainers.

Steve Coburn thinks that only the twenty horses that start The Kentucky Derby should be eligible to race in the The Preakness, and only those that race in both the first two legs should be eligible to race in The Belmont Stakes.  On one hand, he’s got a point.  On the other hand, how about you tell your trainer to condition your horse better and train for the distance, then you won’t feel cheated when your horse loses – Mr. ‘I got the NY Racing Commission to change their rules and allow my horse to wear a breathing strip’.

I’m disappointed another year has gone by without a Triple Crown winner.  Rest assured the day it happens, that horse and his team of humans will have deserved it…at least until someone claims it was a bad crop of three-year olds.

26 thoughts on “Another One Bites The Dust

  1. The owner came off sounding like a poor loser. You know damn well if Chrome had won there wouldn’t be a peep out of him about it. But on the other hand I agree with the fact you should run all or none. They are put together as a package race so why not ?

    • There are ‘Triple Crowns’ in other disciplines. For instance there is a Triple Crown in Harness Racing, I think there is one in Show Jumping, certainly one in Eventing…

      No prior TB Triple Crown (or in other disciplines that I’m aware of) has ever placed the restriction that Mr. Coburn is calling for and yet there are a number of winners. Remember that winning is suppose to crown a ‘great’ horse, not just a ‘good’ or even a ‘very good’ one.

      He has a point and then he doesn’t have point, especially since he had the NYRC give him a rule exemption, which basically says to me – ‘I want you to change the rules when it’s to my benefit, otherwise nvm.’

      If he didn’t like the format of The Triple Crown then he takes his stance by not competing in it and perhaps starting a campaign outside of the event to have the rules changed. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

      It’s quite possible that the NA TB has been so devastated by breeding practices that Mr. Coburn is right in saying there’ll never be another winner of The Triple Crown. Look at his own horse, who will undoubtedly go to stud with crooked front legs that only a mother could love.

      • I was wondering if the legs would come up as they undoubtably should. We’re not talking about a minor deviation – within minutes of the walk to the post, IM’s and comments flooded FB. Coburn ought to be happy that his horse stayed sound for all 3 legs of the TC and that his horse won 2/3 of the races. That’s still better than any other horse did. As his wife as jabbing him in the ribs to shut his trap, he came off as a spoiled brat IMO. Maybe these races are too much to have in 5 weeks. But extended it to 8 weeks or more changes history. All the greats who won the TC had to do it in 5 weeks, against jocks trying to take them down and against horses that were rested. CC came up short. I still think his heel injury could have played a part in the loss though regardless of adrenaline overload.

    • no, they aren’t a package race or series at all. 3 totally separate races through different race organizations.

  2. The sore loser owner needs to shut his mouth. The jock did a lousy job. I hope Junior heals up ok. I find it hard to believe they don’t train these horses to go that measly 1 1/2 mile distance.

  3. Well, I for one have not watched a TB race since Eight Belles. I guess I’m too tender-hearted for this sport.

  4. what a load of crap. we write in here all the time about the immaturity of the horse’s bodies, not pushing youngsters, then complain that some three year old horse isn’t pushed into the ground hard enough to stand up to the race. Standeredbreds aren’t an apt comparison, they are bred of bigger bone, don’t carry weight and trot or pace without the same risks as a running horse which must carry weight and balance on one leg much more often in the course of the race. This was a freak injury rather than a breakdown.

    If racing returned to older horses bred and run at later ages for longer distances then we could talk about training rationally. Not with the baby horses. That is what they are, babies. And should be treated as such.

    • I’m on the fence about racing these youngsters. I would prefer that 2 yr olds never raced, period. But I think the biggest downfall of NA RB racing is the breeding of substandard horses. Many lines have a history of fallling apart at a young age, their books are still full because they’re fast. Trainers like Steve Asmussen don’t give a shit about their horses, he’s paid to win and will sacrifice anything to satisfy clients. He is the norm where Sherman obviously cares about CC and his humility about the sport and the horses is admirable.

      • they are bred to fall apart at a young age because they only have to last two or three years. They are finished before they mature. And they are bred and raced that way so people can maximize the chance of profits without investing what we ordinary horse owners who like to raise young horses invest. Years of nothing but care and expense in the hopes of having a sound and useful horse as a companion for a portion of its lifetime. That is not to say people shouldn’t raise horses for sale or train horses for resale to owners who can’t or don’t want to train, that there can’t be a horse business, but these aren’t cars or motorcycles and they should not be treated as one does inanimate inventory. We lessen ourselves and do a disservice to the animals we claim to love when we do that. I refuse to help support the current US racing industry. And I refuse to be silent and ignore the elephant in the room.

        • “…without investing what we ordinary horse owners who like to raise young horses invest. Years of nothing but care and expense in the hopes of having a sound and useful horse as a companion for a portion of its lifetime…”

          You, my dear, are neither an ‘ordinary horse owner’ nor are you part of some preexisting large population with altruistic values. You are part of the minority.

          • doesn’t mean I am not right, nor that my values should be the majoritarian values. I remember my first visit here in the middle of the controversy over the poor ignorant woman with the twin foals and mare in poor condition. The vitriol aimed at that woman. Where is it for the racing industry? That woman did much less harm. Research proves the shoes used on race horses and the farrier practices put the horses are risk, and don’t contribute to greater speed. But no change occurs. Research proves that fatigue and imbalance caused by fatigue result in most catastrophic (career ending if not death) because the horses can no longer land on a single foot in balance. And yet the horses aren’t properly fitted and they are given drugs to disguise the proof they aren’t fit. Their diets are a disaster and at worst, life threatening.

            There is no justification for the dual standards.

          • Nope, doesn’t mean you aren’t right etc… That’s not the point and you know it.

            There is vitriol for the racing industry, I just don’t happen to have control over which people are posting on the blog on a given day or how they are feeling.

            Perhaps the difference here is the actual picture in front of people’s faces. California Chrome isn’t in poor condition and he’s sound, unlike the emaciated broodmare with twins (that could have and should have been avoided in the first place).

            There’s never any justification for dual standards, but I contend that there aren’t in this case. No one here is supporting bad shoeing, bad training, drugging etc…

        • You make valid points and I don’t disagree with your position on racing. Nor do I disagree with Merc stating that more appropriate training could improve the likeliness of more horses staying sounder, longer. I don’t feel that getting on a long yearling is at all necessary to teach it the basics of racing. A lot of strengthening and conditioning could be achieved by ponying the youngster and encouraging toughening of bone without bearing the weight of a rider. A horse can and should be held out of 2 yr old races but few are. Zenyatta wasn’t raced at 2 but allowed to develop until her 3 yr old year. She then ran 20 races and walked away sound from it. She may have never been the success she was if she’d been run too young. Horses like her, with the crew she had behind her, are what allow me to have any hope for the industry.

    • I knew that would get you going. 🙂 But you misunderstand. I’m not suggesting the horse be pushed into the ground in training. I’m saying, less speed work, and a lot more slow and steady stamina/endurance work, which actually protects the body and makes it stronger. I still contend they don’t train TB’s (in America) right, partly limited by breeding practices, but that’s a whole other discussion.

      ADDING: There are things they can do to counter the effects of having a rider on their backs so early in life…that they don’t do. Indeed, there are ways to train these horses WITHOUT always having a rider on their backs…that they don’t do. If I can train a horse for Endurance by riding no more than twice a week, and have that horse fit and competitive, then rest assured there is a way to add endurance to a TB without riding it into the ground.

      I think a lot of people want to support restructuring of races, such that the money is diverted to races for older horses, but doing so upsets the whole economy of the industry. It means another entire year of expenses before any chance of recuperating the investment. Who, of significance power and influence, is going to step off that cliff first? I predict nobody and as a result I believe the industry will continue to implode on itself until nothing is left to salvage.

      I’ve been keeping track of the result of Mr. Coburn’s rant and so far it appears that support is about 50% in his favor. The other 50% think he’s an a-hole.

      • Both are crimes, horses shouldn’t be raced fit by entering them in races to condition them, nor should they be improperly trained, nor should they be raced as babies. The whole economy of the industry is based on destroying thousands of horses annually. You’re always down on an OTTB being turned to other uses, because it is hard and beyond most people’s skill.

        So why justify the unjustifiable because of money. Which is more important to us, animal welfare, treating sentient creatures with the care they deserve, or money? And if fewer tb’s existed, maybe more would be bred with care as they wouldn’t be so disposable. I love to see horses run, I will no longer watch races.

        We decry the ignorance of a backyard owner that does a tiny fraction of the damage of the racing industry, but we support the industry and its money making structure? What kind of hypocrits are we?

        • I didn’t say both weren’t crimes, and I’m not justifying either. The fact remains this is what people are doing and are going to do.

          Since we can’t stop them (any more than we can stop Rolkur, soring, indiscriminate breeding et al…); don’t have the resources, the political power, or the will of the people to restructure the entire industry and sub-industries, we try to educate. (I feel our roles have reversed here after all these years.)

          Nope, they shouldn’t be getting on the backs of long yearlings, then galloping around the track, then entering them in races as two-year olds, then entering them in a mile and a half race as a still immature three-year old for which they haven’t been prepared, and simply hoping for the best. Nobody ‘here’ disagrees with that.

          Since they are going to do this, I’m suggesting they rethink (for starters) one aspect of this specific situation in an attempt to get them thinking about the horse without immediately getting their hackles up that I’m trying to take the food from their children’s mouths.

          Secondarily, I’m hoping others see themselves as doing the exact same thing with their horses in other disciplines. The weekend rider who shows up only on Saturday or Sunday and rides out all day. The person who thinks the way to teach a horse to jump is to run it a few. So many of us never properly prepare our horses for the tasks at hand, either by skipping steps or simply not conditioning the horse correctly. Is it on the same scale, sometimes no, sometimes yes….not the point.

          I could ask you the same question: why justify the unjustifiable – the backyard owner that does a tiny fraction of the damage of the racing industry.

          First, comparing a single backyard owner to the entire racing industry is an unfair comparison. The entire backyard owner industry to the entire racing industry is more apt, and when viewed in that regard let’s be real, that (backyard) industry does more than its fair share of destroying the horse and sometimes it is in the name of money. What kind of hypocrites, indeed!

          I understand your points very well. I don’t disagree. I also understand you (and others) unwillingness or inability to watch horse racing. I get it.

          I watch for a lot of reasons, some being that by watching I can remain up-to-date on what’s happening and by who. By watching I can see the changes for good or bad. By watching I can know that California Chrome has some seriously crooked front legs, and then I can rightly voice criticism for putting this horse to stud to pass on those horrid legs. And I’d do that regardless if he was a racing horse or a jumper or a halter horse…

          I’m not the enemy here.

          • I need to believe that educating people to not support this endeavor, as well as spending the time to educate backyard owners, is worthwhile.

            I can do better for my horse on my own.

            I can do better for all horses if I speak out, and encourage others to speak out just as vehemently. I have spent 20 years doing this.

            You and I agree about most things, and don’t really disagree about this. But we both know we are the ‘choir’ and neither of us needs to preach to the choir. But there are many who just haven’t though about it, all the pretty horses, all the excitement and glamour. We need to pull the curtain back. Or as RFK said:

            ‘There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?’

          • I don’t actually know, and not sure I believe, it is worthwhile. My faith in man is rather limited and I struggle regularly between trying for the sake of others (in this case the horse) and just saying ‘fuck it’.

        • Skeletal horses ought not be passed by judges as fit to complete for endurance competition in France either. I find that situation even more disturbing than TB racing. We have a long way to go to change the mindset of others on the value of a horse and I don’t expect to see much progress in my lifetime. As many TB owners are the elite wanting the prestige of owning and running horses who know nothing about them other than quantity of legs, we’re already hiding behind the 8. And when those people name horses with all the crass of a frat party drunkfest…it makes me sick. One example is the horse Your In Nation. Say it fast. This is the mentality we’re up against. But they have the $$ and $$ talks.

  5. I agree with JRGA. There was an excuse for racing 3 year olds back when there were no bone scans showing the knees still not fully formed. I would like to see the limit age being 4 year old. They can create a new triple crown and put the old TC in the history books, just like the old saddle seat contests where the horses would gait for hours on the rail until only one could still rack on despite exhaustion.
    I like the idea of horses having to announce that they are going for the TC and limit the field to only them. Will it choose the best in the breed? Probably not, but racing insiders know who the best horse is anyway and it isn’t usually a TC winner. The Wood Memorial is probably a better indicator over time.

  6. Long ago, when the thoroughbred was first being developed as a breed, I understand that the horses ran in 3 or 4 heats. I don’t know the distances or the speeds involved, but those horses probably were conditioned for that stress. I agree fully that the horses need to be properly conditioned for the distance.

    • Yes, the same was true of Standardbreds and they heat raced a distance of 1 mile mostly. They used to have ‘sprints’ for Stbds of 1/2 mile, but those horses also raced the full mile distance and were thusly trained for the longer distance.

      In fact, Stbds sometimes raced longer than 1 mile and I still remember seeing races of 1 1/16, 1 1/8, 1 mile and 235 yards etc… in the early 90’s at some of the western located tracks.

    • That is true, and they weren’t run as three year olds, that was a later development, the futurities, see the up and coming youngsters run. Now there are few races where older horses regularly participate past actual skeletal maturity. The famous Eclipse, one of the most celebrated, and undefeated, early thoroughbreds started racing at age five. He did retire early as no one would race against him.

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