Monday, May 14, 2012


Three Belmont Trainers, Horses, Don’t Need No Stinking Lasix


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 13, 2012—In the wake of Saturday’s Peter Pan Stakes, it’s like that comparisons will be made between the tactics of Right To Vote in the local prep for the Belmont and Bodemeister’s attempted heist of the Kentucky Derby.

Each set an excruciating, enervating pace, and each hung on tenaciously for a game second-place finish. But there was one stark difference however. Right To Vote, even though he had a Right To Lasix, didn’t race on furosemide in the Peter Pan.

Right To Vote’s owner, Bill Casner, is making a statement: Check that, Casner already has made his statements on the subject of raceday medication. What Casner is doing now is practicing what he believes.

Casner, his personal views notwithstanding, must also know that Lasix does not extend racing careers. In fact, the opposite is true. Otherwise explain why the number of starts a horse makes per year is half of what it was 30 years ago, when Lasix use became a raceday standard.

Interestingly, the Eoin Harty-trained Right To Vote was not the only runner on Saturday’s Belmont program to race Lasix free. Actually there were three others, as “Trackfacts” co-host Nick Kling pointed out on his Sunday morning cablecast.

In the fifth race, trainer Dominic Schettino sent out Post Pattern, a 10-1 chance on the early line, going a mile and the sixteenth on the turf. The special-weights maiden came from far back to finish a fast-closing second.

In the seventh, the “Chief’ sent out turf sprinter Renzo Bertoni, 6-1 on the early line, that also came from far back after getting shuffled back at headstretch. But the Allen Jerkens trainee got up in the last strides to win the 7-furlong turfer going away.

In the Peter Pan, sprint-bred Right To Vote, outrunning the very quick Jerome Mile winner The Lumber Guy for the lead, set fractions of :22.71, :45.35, 1:09.52 and a mile in 1:34.92, forcing heavily favored Mark Valeski to reach down to beat him, the winner eventually going away at the end for a 1-1/4 length win in 1:48.31.

In the finale, Say Lancelot finished last after battling for the lead down the backstretch. His odds were 66-1.

Horses can race effectively without Lasix, of course, and that’s the way it was done in New York until the Kenny Noe Jr. administration came to town.

It matters not whether these trainers were experimenting or tipping their cap to what seems inevitable; might as well learn to deal with the variable sooner rather than later. Besides, as long as Lasix remains legal, the diuretic is readily available to any trainer with access to an endoscope.

But it does make one wonder why all those two-year-olds that never have been subjected to the stress of racing need to debut with an “L” printed next to their names in the official track program, doesn’t it? Need a quick answer?

Because they can.

Does this make sense, or should it be considered more negativism from one of racing’s “detractors” who agrees with those with skin in the game who prefer to see all horses compete without the aid of raceday medication?

Calling someone with an honest disagreement sounds to me a lot like the “love it or leave it” game played in the 60s and early 70s, and again in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Personally, I never considered Hall of Famer Gary Stevens to be a detractor. Does anyone?

It’s people like Stevens and Casner and George Strawbridge, anyone you could name on the side of banning raceday medication, who deserve to be supported and not those advocates of the status quo.

Standing still has brought the sport to this precise moment in time. Isn’t it safe to say, without raising ire, that things haven’t worked out very well using that approach?

By now, everyone knows the problems on both sides of this issue, most of them centered on economics, money that makes the mare, and all the other horses, go.

Initiating a raceday ban is not that hard, really. Start with the juveniles of 2013, or the following year, and move forward. All other horses are grand-fathered in, providing that rules and punishment are made uniform.

Those who believe public perception doesn’t matter either are fooling themselves or being disingenuous. The fact that the Kentucky Derby set records for attendance and handle only proves that America still loves to party and gamble on a Super Bowl played with horses one day a year.

Anyone who underestimates the American public, especially those not attracted to racing, or sports of any kind, for that matter, are playing with fire, one that might not be extinguishable once the conflagration starts.

Written by John Pricci

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