Tuesday, June 03, 2014

GUEST EDITIORIAL: Nasal Strips OK Is 15 Years Late

By Susan Kayne

The use of nasal strips for Thoroughbreds in New York State is a controversy that seems a distant memory as California Chrome prepares to chase immortality on Saturday at Belmont Park.

Thing is that the strip flap should have been settled in 1999. Apparently, justice is not the only issue that grinds very slowly.

Prior to reversing his course on nasal strips, Dr. Ted Hill, former New York Racing Association examining veterinarian and now current Jockey Club steward, cited studies showing that equine nasal strips can be performance-enhancing by reducing fatigue and possibly prevent bleeding.

Admittedly, Hill had no plans to become a steward: “It was totally different from my former job,” Hill said in the New York Times three years ago. As a veterinarian you’re familiar with the rules, but your primary responsibility is the welfare and safety of the horses.”

As for the use of nasal strips, former NYRA steward Carmine Donofrio, Hill’s colleague for 14 years, had this take on the subject: “We don’t need ‘em, we have Lasix”.

Philosophically, however, that opinion is at odds with Hill’s thoughts on the diuretic. “Lasix is greatly overused,” said Hill in Bill Heller’s “Run, Baby, Run: What Every Owner, Breeder & Handicapper Should Know About Lasix in Racehorses.”

“The research on Lasix raises more questions than answers,” Hill said, adding later that “Lasix is not totally innocuous even though it’s used in such enormous quantities. Some horses react severely to it.

“Some horses become very quiet, too quiet. Horses can get colic or a spastic gut. It’s not hard for our horses in extensive training and stall environments to get uncomfortable. Some horses run very poorly on Lasix. I’d like to see it not in blanket usage in New York.”

Meanwhile, the nasal strip issue could have been avoided long before California Chrome was a gleam in Lucky Pulpit’s eye. NYRA always classified nasal strips as “equipment,” no different than blinkers, shadow rolls or tongue ties. But those items were allowed long before their “performance enhancing” effects were studied.

A ‘nasal strip’ is a self-adhesive appliance placed over a horse’s nose to stabilize underlying soft tissue. It does not require a diagnosis, prescription, injection, or the services of a veterinarian, yet NYRA invoked a house rule against them even though they were approved by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in 1999, begging the question: Why?

Prior to the controversy, nasal strips were legal for Thoroughbreds in every racing jurisdiction in the country. Notwithstanding the New York ban, trainers could ask for permission but solely at the discretion of NYRA’s stewards under a state regulation that ”only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.”

The most celebrated case was in 2012 when trainer Doug O’Neill requested permission to use the strips on his Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another. He was denied permission by stewards Hill, Donofrio and Braulio Baeza Jr. I'll Have Another subsequently was declared from the race due to injury.

At that time, Hill told Daily Racing Form that “part of the issue had to do with a nasal strip coming off a horse in the paddock or at the gate, citing the possibility of wet weather… To be fair and consistent, we have to regulate its use… that’s always been the issue.”

As most fans know, nasal strips have been permitted in New York harness racing since 1999, which begs another question: Why didn’t Dr. Hill query his colleagues to learn how harness racing officials and standardbred trainers have successfully regulated the use of nasal strips for the past 15 years?

When California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman indicated that his Derby and Preakness winner might not race in the $1,500,000 Belmont Stakes if the strips were not permitted; an epic media storm arose. During that 72-hour period neither the stewards nor the media put in a call to Dr. James Chiapetta, co-inventor of the Fair Nasal Strips.

“I’ve been dealing with New York since we launched the product in 1999 – I still have the document that says NYSRWB approved nasal strips – that meant thoroughbreds and standardbreds,” he said by phone this week.

Chiapetta called the New York stewards repeatedly over the years but got no response. He received letters from former NYRA President Charlie Hayward promising to look into the matter but nothing happened.

“When the I’ll Have Another issue arose in 2012, we never really got the straight story. I met with [NYSRWB Chairman] John Sabini and with his general counsel and [a second] attorney but they didn’t seem to understand or articulate what the issue was. The matter was referred back to the stewards so we got on the phone with [them].”

Hill told Chiapetta: “I believe in the product, I believe in the data, I don’t see why this should be a problem -- but, given this has gone on for so long we really have to go back to NYRA because they are the ones who implemented the ban.”

In one subsequent conversation, Chiapetta was asked to explain how other jurisdictions regulated nasal strips. “We went through every jurisdiction in America, my people on the ground identified that everybody manages them like a tongue tie.”

Chiapetta was told he needed to leave nasal strips in the paddock “so if a horse comes [in the paddock} without it we could put it on because ‘we can’t scratch horses because fields are too small’.”

Chiapetta sent the Flair nasal strips to Hill but “then the world went silent – we would call, and call, and never heard anything back.”

Chiapetta then reached Donofrio on the phone, “I proposed the opportunity to sit and talk and explain to him the science behind the product. Donofrio said he [didn’t need the science]. [Neither was he interested in its role] in reducing EIPH.”

“Well maybe I’ll talk to you when Lasix is banned,” Chiapetta was told.

In eight peer-reviewed studies nasal strips are scientifically proven to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging [bleeding] by reducing the collapse of the soft nasal tissue during exercise.

Unlike humans, horses breathe only through their nostrils; all horses have a large area of tissue on their nose that gets sucked in when they’re running hard.

The use of nasal strips can reduce bleeding as much as Lasix by increasing the ease of air intake, in turn reducing the negative pressure in the alveoli which, when less stressed, are less likely to break and cause bleeding. http://www.hrtv.com/videos/dr-jim-chiapetta-on-flair-nasal-strips-/ VIDEO: Benefits of Flair Strips http://www.hrtv.com/videos/benefits-of-flair-nasal-strip/?VideoCategoryId=0

“The strips make no more difference in the outcome of a race than do horseshoes, tongue ties, figure eight bridles, or other equipment horsemen are permitted to use," concluded Chiapetta in a statement.

Despite overwhelming evidence of its debilitating effect on horses, Lasix continues to be the drug of choice for thoroughbred trainers for treating EIPH. “The strips, however, are designed to protect horses’ lungs so they can stay healthier,” added Chiapetta.

So NYRA has had this information for 15 years, yet chose to deny Thoroughbreds at their tracks the benefits of a humane, prophylactic measure that would possibly stop horses from choking on their own blood.

And we believe that this industry can police itself?

Equestrian Susan Kayne is a New York-based owner-breeder and host of the television magazine series "Unbridled"

Written by John Pricci

Comments (16)


Sunday, June 01, 2014

GUEST EDITORIAL: The Party’s Over for Raceday Medication

While the sports world is awaiting the possible crowning of California Chrome as thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown champion, the state of the game remains dire. Never before in the sport’s rich and storied history has it been attacked so vociferously by critics on many fronts.

Its fan base is eroding and business trends have continued their protracted slide downward in metrics that measure the sport’s health and popularity.

Resultantly, racing’s future hangs in the balance. It is sincerely hoped that the sport’s critics, those who would happily watch the sport fall by the wayside, don't make their case better than the industry makes its own.

By Bill Casner

Horse racing has been hit hard over the past few months with the undercover PETA video, sports writer Joe Drape’s New York Times articles and, perhaps most damning of all, the “Real Sports” investigative magazine currently cablecast on the influential HBO network.

The harsh reality of the “Real Sports” broadcast is that the entire presentation rings true. As an industry, we have created this with our plethora of "legal medications" with little regulation and oversight.

Viewers had to wonder how can a trainer be allowed to medicate everything in his barn with Thyro-L (thyroxine), a more powerful endocrine hormone than anabolic steroids, one that is the master regulator of metabolism?

Thyro-L is not an illegal medication yet when supplemented on a daily basis over months it causes bone loss and thyroid gland atrophication, which eventually will cause a horse to crash.

It is not administered with any type of diagnostics and its sole purpose is to make young horses more precocious and elevate metabolism, “hyper” is the way Scott Blasi described it in the PETA video.

Multiple joint injections are rampant and standard procedure. “Changing' the oil" is legal, having no limits on how often a horse can be injected and or for what condition.

Butazolidin, a drug no longer used in human medicine because of its association with leukemia, is documented to cause stomach ulceration with as little as two treatments. It is an NSAID that interferes with blood clotting.

And we wonder why we have problems with bleeders.

Omeprazole, aka Gastro Guard, is used to treat stomach ulcers but also contributes to osteoporosis.

Lasix, the holy grail of them all, has a list of side effects longer than the average arm, including weight loss, calcium flushing, bone loss, increase chance of fracture, etc., etc.

There are volumes of science in the human field documenting the detrimental effects of these meds, but proponents, especially veterinarians, will always say that it "hasn't been documented in the equine model."

Primarily, it’s because few valid studies have been done with the horse as subject.

Drugs are stacked on top of each other with a magnification of side effects, including a cumulative derogatory effect on bone.

And we wonder why our horses have soundness issues? Of greater concern is its relationship with sudden equine death syndrome.

We can continue our perpetual state of denial and hope that it all goes away, like we always have. But the writing is clearly on the wall.

Assuredly, the troubling HBO segment will be aired over and over and will live “On Demand” in perpetuity.

Every time that happens, more and more viewers will become repulsed by horse racing. PETA will be emboldened by HBO's influence, and its attacks will continue.

An industry friend told me he watched the program with his 11-year-old daughter and she was horrified.

We lose our relevance one well-meaning person at a time.

Either we recognize that the world has changed and create meaningful oversight and punishment, or we will continue the slide into irrelevance.

We are delusional if we think that we can fix this broken model with 38 autonomous, dysfunctional state jurisdictions.

Our only hope for meaningful reform is through Federal legislation that gives central governance for drug oversight and tough enforcement.

Worried about the Feds getting into our business? How can they screw it up any worse?

We can only hope that it’s not already too late. Very sad, indeed.

Bill Casner is a successful owner-breeder and member of WHOA, the Water, Hay and Oats Alliance

Written by John Pricci

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lives the Wisest Wise Guy of Them All

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 26, 2014—I can forget about reloading my Xpressbet account today, or worry about those pesky higher base-wagers suggestions, or consulting my Rainbow 6 Player Advantage Chart.

As the late, great John Lennon once put it: The dream is over, what can I say?

That thud you heard crashing down late Sunday was not the Boston Red Sox losing their 10th straight, or the Montreal Canadiens falling to the New York Rangers again--in overtime yet. Rather, it was the sound of handicapping computer programs crashing all over America.

It was the handicapping score heard round the racing world to the chagrin of every horseplayer not named Daniel Borislow.

The chance for the little guy to make that potential life-changing score is gone, as is Gulfstream Park’s dream of a $10 million handle day without costing them a dime—pardon the expression—from their stakes-race purse account.

But no one should feel sorry for Gulfstream today; their Rainbow 6 jackpot has gotten them at least $6,678,939.12 worth of free publicity.

No sooner had the news broken late Sunday afternoon that the wager was hit one day before the entire jackpot pool was to be dispersed that cyber-players began to react:

Rumors of the “Gulfstream conspiracy,” whereby the track itself would have/should have invested about $30,000 of their own to insure that no one would be the lone winner before today by buying the rack, twice.

There was praise for great handicapping on the part of Borislow, but those people were corrected by several others who called him a “skilled player,” not a “skilled handicapper.”

Does it matter? Either way, it’s over, and everyone who had a few dollars and a dream can now return to their drawing boards or go back to buying their billion-to-one lottery tickets, the worst bet ever conceived in the history of gambling mankind.

Horseplayers have been talking intently about today for a week, and probably will continue to do so for another seven days about what might have been.

There will be much chagrining and gnashing of teeth because other deep-pocketed players, and big, small syndicates and individuals alike, will not get a chance to hatch their secret plan to take down as much of a seven-figure pool as possible.

Quoted in a press release, Gulfstream Park president Tim Ritvo congratulated the winner, admitted disappointment in not having a chance to see how high the pool could have gone under the mandatory provision, and how “the Rainbow 6 was designed to be a life-changing wager.”

I guess Borislow now can afford to enjoy that new restaurant that was just opened in his home town of Palm Beach, maybe with a nice Chianti.

I have never met the man, only know him from his name on a track program as the owner of the talented, brilliantly fast, stakes-winning Toccet, so I can’t be happy for him on a personal level.

But I’ll give him this: In a game where everyone who has been around longer than five minutes considers himself a “wise guy,” myself included, Borislow turned out to be the wisest wise guy of them all, jumping the gun while the competition was burning the midnight oil. That part of making a score he figured correctly one-thousand percent.

But as for the part where “I’ve been one of the larger bettors for a period of years…I guess, probably, I’ve gotten good at it…I really liked [the sixth race]…I keyed that race, and it worked out well?”

It surely did. He used two horses in that race--no need for a single in that spot—pressed the ALL button in the other five races and, of the 19 live ducats going into the Gulfstream finale, six were unique tickets, all belonging to the winner since the eighth race was one of Borislow’s five ALL races.

So, in the life-changing, dream-realizing department, the Rainbow 6 failed, as most big-payoff sequential wagers invariably will. This type of bet will be won by the handicappers who can most afford to throw money at a solution.

And the tracks and ADWs love them for their marketing sizzle and bottom-line potential. Welcome to the Thoroughbred commodities market.

For his part, Borislow, who reportedly retired at 38 and subsequently founded the successful magicJack discount phone service, is likely praying right now that his life never changes. By any measure, life is good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a drawing board to get back to.

Written by John Pricci

Comments (5)


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