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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

WEEKEND WRAP: SANTA ANITA EXONERATED, G3 MR. PROSPECTOR, AND MEDIA GIANTS HONORED

HALLANDALE BEACH– It wasn’t long after X Y Jet found the third time a charm in his quest for Golden Shaheen glory on the 2019 Dubai World Cup undercard when trainer Jorge Navarro said that his uber-fast gray would be pointing for a repeat in 2020.

Navarro reiterated that point in the lead-up to Saturday’s Mr. Prospector. He’s fit enough to run, Navarro promised, but acknowledged it was a deep field for a Grade 3 race and that they were not going to beat him up to win it.

The crowd believed him and the gelded seven-year-old was chilly on the tote throughout the wagering. His matchup with Imperial Hint was starting to look like a one-horse affair.

The cruel thing about this game is that Imperial Hint, string of bullet works and all, also needed his season’s debut. He had no answer when Diamond Oops came alongside in midstretch. Julien Leparoux put his mount in the perfect spot and the gelded four-year-old did the rest.

Both favorites broke crisply from the gate, X Y Jet assuming his customary place up top. Imperial Hint had it tougher, Javier Castellano having to extricate him from a backstretch sandwich then go on a hard chase in a sub-44 half-mile. He had a right to get tired, and did.

The trip and a seventh furlong was too much for Imperial Hint to overcome. Then maybe Diamond Oops doesn’t get the respect he deserves since he announced himself at Gulfstream’s last championship meet. Not many horses can get seven-eighths in 1:21.37.

Patrick Biancone has been telling fans and media that this is a very good horse. Many believed him, betting him down to 7-2 against more celebrated rivals. The versatile and consistent speedster made them all look like geniuses.

Santa Anita Task Force Investigative Report: Findings and Takeaways

There was a little of everything in a 17-page type written report distributed this week by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office that investigated the tragic breakdowns of winter 2019 at Santa Anita Park.

The Santa Anita Task Force independent oversight of racing and California’s Horse Racing Board is organic and will remain ongoing for an indefinite period.

While the period in which 23 horses suffered catastrophic injury was the point of emphasis, the Task Force reviewed the entire fiscal year 2018-2019 and determined there was insufficient evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct.

Perhaps of greater significance, the investigation found that enhanced safety protocols have reduced the incident of racing and training fatalities. For the final 19 days after instituting new protocols, there were 7,000 timed workouts and 800 races without a fatality.

After the track closed June 23rd through July 11 Santa Anita remained open for training. Over 2,500 timed workout and numerous gallops were conducted during that period, also resulting in zero fatalities.

What was at once enlightening and thought provoking at most and interesting at least were the following statistics. The Task Force took a look back for historical reference and found that since 2009, breakdowns have been reduced by 20%.

The report reiterated statistics from the previous year, namely that the national mortality rate was 1.68 deaths per thousand starts; the Santa Anita average was 2.04 per thousand ,with Churchill Downs at 2.73 per thousand.

In California, historically from the 2008-2009 season forward, there have been 671 recorded fatalities at Los Alamitos, 551 at Santa Anita, 479 at Golden Gate Fields and 140 at Del Mar, for averages of 61, 50, 43.5 and *12.7, respectively. [*majority of Del Mar stats reflects summer meets only].

Necropsy results offered a window into possible causes. To wit:

  • Of 39 fatalities with respect to medication, nine were associated with Lasix use, 30 showed presence of non-steroidal anti-inflamatory use, a.k.a NSAIDs.
  • There were 13 right foreleg fractures and 10 left foreleg fractures but four right and left hind leg fatalities each.
  • In terms of activity-related catastrophic injury, 24 were suffered in training as opposed to 22 in racing. Six maiden-claimers and five stakes runners, led all other class levels.
  • By surface, 34 fatalities came on the main track and eight on turf, half of those in downhill turf course events.
  • Arguments that wet surfaces were the root cause are not borne out by statistics. There was one fatality on a sealed fast track, three on sealed sloppy tracks and two tracks rated “good.” On fast dirt: 29.
  • Three-year-old (21) and four-year-old (13) horses suffered the most fatalities, twice that of all other age groups combined.

And, so, the uncommon rainfall, sealed wet tracks, which many believe is the most unforgiving of all surfaces on the limbs, pale when compared to two other overwhelming factors:

Racing as fast as possible on a dry dirt tracks, and horses which had joints injected with NSAIDs, paid the ultimate price at a much higher rate than horses which raced over “less forgiving” sealed tracks.

And the other significant takeaway? Enhanced safety protocols work.

Two Media Giants “Honored” for Their Outstanding Work

Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Billy Reed and Television Analyst Charlsie Cantey are the newest and extremely worthy inductees to be welcomed into the National Racing Hall of Fame next August in Saratoga.

From covering Little League at 16 for the Lexington Herald Leader, to celebrated Louisville Courier-Journal columnist and Sports Editor, to senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where his stories appeared on its celebrated cover a dozen times, the Hall is getting a certified legendary journalist.

Reed is no stranger to celebrity though that was never the goal, it was to be the best newspaper man he could be, to “get the story,” to nail a Kentucky Derby storyline found nowhere else.

Billy Reed has three Eclipse Awards to prove it and two Hall of Fame honors from the Commonwealth; the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.

And there never was a time when the admiration he earned went to his head. His good friend, a young prize fighter from Louisville, kept him in grounded. Mohammed Ali did enough bragging for both of them.

There are many talented women working in television media today, Donna Brothers and Britney Eurton to name two at the network level, who owe a debt of gratitude to Charlsie Cantey, the woman that showed everyone how its done, creating a template for all talented distaff broadcasters to follow.

Interviews on horseback? Cantey invented the genre. Handicapping based on paddock and post parade appearance? You bet.

Whether as analyst or co-host, from WOR-TV in New York to every national Thoroughbred broadcasting platform, she brought backstretch knowledge learned in the employ of the legendary Frank Whiteley Jr. to every telecast, doing so with class and intelligence.

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4 Responses

  1. John: Before there was Harvey and his cable show, there was the Channel 9 show with Charlsie and Frank Wright. I don’t think that its an understatement to say that the Channel 9 show brought a whole generations of fans, at least in the New York Metro area, to horse racing. As a child of the 70s, who loved the show, please let me also congratulate Charlsie on her long overdue enshrinement to the great Hall on Union Ave.
    As an aside, when the NYC OTB cut the show’s funding in December ’78, Frank and Charlsie selected the two greatest races in the show’s history ( it would return about 6 months later)-i.e., Forego’s ’76 Marlboro win and that years’ Belmont between Affirmed and Alydar. More than four decades later, you would be hard pressed to find any race to match those two.

  2. And don’t forget Spencer Ross and Stan Bergstein covering the big wheels on WOR. Exceller narrowly beating Seattle Slew, also 1978, in Jockey Club GC also memorable. I kinda liked Afleet Alex’s Preakness for thrills and chills (2005). Jeremy Rose almost falls off on turn. Worth a watch on YouTube.

  3. That show with Charlsie and Frank was an absolute must watch for me and my dad.
    I learned much from that show in my earliest years as a horseplayer.
    Loved it.

    Congratulations to Charlsie – and if Frank isn’t in the Hall he should be too!

  4. Think actually the first person to bring racing to television was the late journeyman jockey Sammy Renick who had a show in Florida. But Charlsie and Frank Wright? That was the first time I ever heard of and saw Kelso; that did it for me.

    Loved Frank Wright, a gentleman; I would always tease him later on that if it weren’t for blinkers, there was nothing else I ever learned from him! Happier, simpler times indeed.

    Marshall Cassidy at times would be a part of that telecast.

    And thanks C; completely forgot about Stan Bergstein and Spencer Ross, an excellent team that made harness racing come alive. My first racetrack visit ever was to Roosevelt Raceway…

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