Track Medicine - by Dan Liebman

Imagine that you are a patient in a hospital, a prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder said. The doctor enters the room, takes a vial out of his black bag, and gives you a shot. He then produces a couple of pills, which you take orally.

Of course, it doesn’t happen that way anymore. Patients wear identification bracelets that are scanned any time a test is run or a medication is dispensed. More importantly, doctors do not carry medications with them. Rather, every medication is dispensed by the hospital pharmacy, with a precise record kept. At any time, a nurse can retrieve the patient information and see every drug prescribed and administered, the dosage, and the doctor’s instructions.

If it can work for hospitals, it can work for racetracks.

Each racetrack would have a pharmacy where medications are kept and dispensed. It would be owned and operated by the racetrack, with minimal mark-up to cover the cost of operating and staffing the facility.

No one, including veterinarians, would be allowed to possess medications on racetrack grounds that were not obtained at the racetrack pharmacy. Routine, random inspections of vehicles, tack rooms, etc., would be mandatory, the terms having been spelled out in stall applications and licensing requirements.

Doctors with privileges at hospitals all play by these rules, obviously understanding that for everyone’s benefit, it is important to record accurately every test, procedure, and medication a patient receives.

Obviously, a person may be in and out of a hospital in a day or two while a horse may be treated by the same veterinarian, or for that matter several different vets, as he travels from track to track.

Veterinarians and trainers would still keep their medical records, which would travel with the horse, but prescribed medicines would be easy to track because the pharmacy would have a detailed history available at any time. If every racetrack pharmacy used the same computer software, the records could electronically be sent to another track when a meet ended or when a horse was purchased, claimed, or moved to another circuit.

Think of how much it would help an owner before he privately purchased a horse if he could request to see a list of medications taken by the horse he was considering buying.

Many owners are up in arms over the number of medications being administered and the associated costs. Racetrack pharmacies would help control those costs while ensuring any illegal medication found in a horse’s system would have been obtained elsewhere.

There is the issue of what to do about horses that ship in from a farm or training center. Pre-race testing may easily alleviate those concerns.

Honest trainers and honest veterinarians should embrace such an idea as racetrack pharmacies as another safeguard to help a struggling industry ensure safety and integrity.

Legendary Manager

I had several conversations with Marion Gross over the years, but in the summer of 2005 I helped him write a Final Turn for this magazine following the death of Lyphard. Those hours were very special.

The stallion manager at Gainesway Farm since 1968, Gross, who died Feb. 23 (an obituary will appear in the March 7 issue of The Blood-Horse), worked with Green Dancer, Riverman, Vaguely Noble (his favorite), Arts and Letters, Explodent, Key to the Mint, Stage Door Johnny, Cozzene, Broad Brush, Lear Fan, and many others.

He recalled how in 1982 the farm stood 50 stallions that collectively covered 4,500 mares. Gainesway was the first farm to go to more than one breeding session a day.

Gross believed the Gainesway secret to stallions living long lives was twofold: time to romp in their paddocks and regular 30-day weight checks with changes in feed regimen if necessary.

“A stallion doesn’t get to know the personalities of his handlers; the handlers get to know the stallion’s personality,” he said.

That philosophy served Marion Gross, and the horses he cared for, quite well.

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