Derby Dizzy - by Evan Hammonds

 (Originally published in the April 23, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Evan Hammonds  

By Evan Hammonds Based on the results of this season’s prep races, it doesn’t look good for Derby 137. Is this year’s crop of 3-year-olds—seemingly ill-prepared, not completely fit, and not particularly ambitious—falling into what is now considered American mediocrity?
United States high school students rank near the bottom in math and science compared to students in 30 industrial countries. More than half of our eighth graders can’t read at their grade level. Our Thoroughbreds are making fewer starts. When reality appears in the form of a rough start or—gasp—another horse eyeballing a champion, they seem to wither.

Our expectations weren’t high that the picture for the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) would be clearer following the running of Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and Oaklawn’s Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 16. Those results added two more layers of inconsistent form to this year’s 3-year-old crop.
In the last six weeks only two favorites have won graded preps: Stay Thirsty won the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 5 at Aqueduct and The Factor took the March 19 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn. Stay Thirsty followed his big win with a 16 3⁄4-length drubbing in the Florida Derby (gr. I), and The Factor flopped, beaten 8 3⁄4 lengths in the Arkansas Derby.

April 9 gave us 13-1 Midnight Interlude, taking Southern California’s main prep, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), off a maiden win, and Uncle Mo’s stomach-churning third-place finish in the Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) to Toby’s Corner. Is Uncle Mo’s defeat, blamed on a gastrointestinal virus, another sign our Thoroughbreds, like water, are seeking their own level?

Recent history was against favorite Santiva in the Blue Grass. The colt clearly had the best dirt form, but the race was contested on Polytrack. Since the Poly was installed at Keeneland for the 2007 spring meet, there have been 27 grade I races run over the synthetic surface with only one favorite emerging victorious. In the synthetic era the Blue Grass has been won by Dominican (8-1), Monba (8-1), General Quarters (14-1), and Stately Victor (40-1). None offered realistic threats three weeks later under the Twin Spires.

Add Brilliant Speed (19-1) to the list of high-priced Blue Grass heroes. We wish him, trainer Tom Albertrani, and breeder-owner Charlotte Weber the best of luck in the Derby, and he’ll need it. His dirt form is subpar. He has been beaten a combined 401⁄4 lengths in a pair of main track efforts. The Blue Grass runner-up, Twinspired, has now made one of eight starts on dirt, that being an 113⁄4-length defeat at Remington Park in December.

Despite The Factor’s fade in Hot Springs, we liked Archarcharch’s off-the–pace win. His 70-year-old trainer, “Jinks” Fires, will bring a colt to Churchill Downs with four starts as a 3-year-old under his belt, which bucks recent training trends. In today’s world, Archarcharch can almost be considered a “throwback.” Arkansas Derby runner-up Nehro also will ship to Louisville with four sophomore starts on his ledger.

If there has been one consistent sophomore this year, it’s Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I). His trainer, Nick Zito, excites Derby handicappers, as does the colt’s come-from-the-clouds running style. However, it’s a tougher route to the wire in the Derby, and he’ll probably have 19 inconsistent players to contend with.

Due Process...Prevails

The convoluted legal drama that allowed horses trained by racing bad boy Richard Dutrow Jr. to run in Keeneland stakes races April 14-15 demonstrated that due process still prevails—and lawyers sometimes are the only real winners.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied Dutrow a license April 13, for “consistent disregard of racing rules,” among other things. That meant he would have to scratch Amen Hallelujah and Court Vision from their respective stakes. On April 14, attorneys for the horses’ owners sprinted to state court, where a judge ruled the owners would suffer “irreparable injury” if the horses were scratched.

Then, after more legal huddling and just minutes before the start of the April 14 Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. I), racing regulators allowed Amen Hallelujah to start for substitute trainer Justin Sallusto. She finished second. The fact Amen Hallelujah ran at all could be construed as a victory of sorts, but owners of the third- and fourth-place finishers might disagree. Court Vision, also running with Sallusto listed as trainer, finished fourth in the following day’s Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT).

It might have been simpler to rule Dutrow off or to have held the licensing hearing in advance of the Keeneland meet. But an emboldened Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has taken a stance, and it will be interesting to see how New York regulators deal with Dutrow when he goes before them in May for a license review.

In the meantime, as Dutrow appeals the Kentucky ruling and contests suspensions in New York, the legal meter continues to run.


Leave a Comment:



Thank you for your column, I have always enjoyed them!  I couldn't agree with you more on the content displayed here today.  The horses and racing reflect the general condition of this country - it is now a third world country on all levels from horse racing to education to government.  The elite few have what their power and egos desire and @#%&@ the rest of us and the horses.  

As for Duttrow - his license should be revoked in every state of the union and he should not be permitted to step on a track ever again.  There are others who should suffer the same fate!

In the last few days I have been considering making this year's Belmont my last attendance at a race, as well as lapsing my subscription to the Blood Horse when it expires - the disappointment as to what is happening to the horses and racing is more than I can stomach.

19 Apr 2011 1:59 PM

Milk toast horses, sorry trainers, drugs, cheating, is there any wonder racing is on the last page if at all?  A dying sport for sure, but more like being murdered by the participants.

19 Apr 2011 2:09 PM

As a relative newcomer to this sport, I must agree that it seems to be in great decline; I would attribute it primarily to the greed of horse owners only concerned with getting in a few races and then off to cash in on stud fees.

19 Apr 2011 2:59 PM

DanC is one of many that come to the sport for 5 minutes and is gone because of the problems in racing and the big one is that the sport has no heros to root for.  Owners, tracks, trainers, no one, will call a local tv station or paper and get a buzz going about their horse or rivalry going (we were excited about a possible Flashpoint/The Factor dual but it fizzled).  No one will shell out money to get people to the tracks.  Santa Anita and Hollywood Park run woefully unexciting ads on tv a few times a year.  None court the press.  Horseracing is dying due to a lack of interest in the horsemen themselves.

19 Apr 2011 4:47 PM

I really miss the good old days of horse running 3-4 time before Derby day. And also the time were those 3-4 races including some good sprint, not trainers either send horses couple of really hard and lonngg races to start their 3YO campain, which end in the horse getting hurt or totally exhausted in the Derby

And now it's starting to get around the 2 races before the Derby, horses are getting weaker and weaker. before if was 1-2-3 weeks between it's like over a wonder no one is winning the Triple Crown since 1978

19 Apr 2011 4:49 PM
Bill in Atlanta

Nancy, Cher and Evan

Talk about being  a pessimist!  And the glass is half empty!  Ya'll need to go home and have a glass of wine or something. Here we are in the middle of a great Derby Trail and a hunt for the best race horses in the world, and all you can do is complain?!  I'm sure if Uncle Mo had won the Wood by 5 lengths and he was the consensus favorite, y'all would be the ones screaming that this year is a bad year because we have only one horse worth watching!  The fact of the matter is that this is a GREAT YEAR, and we not only have one or two good horses, but we have a slew of horses that have proven that they can be good on any weekend, but that any one of the twenty could win the Derby! Try thinking a little positive and your day will be a lot better.


19 Apr 2011 5:02 PM

I have been attending races since I was 18 years old the year was 1991. From the first time I went to the track all I have heard is this is a dying game. Horseracing is in a slump no doubt there are several reasons for this I am sure. All I know its 2011 now 20 years later and people are still saying the same thing about horseracing, its dead. Horseracing in general is an "old mans" sport its been called that way before 1991 when I first started coming to the track. The only young people that attend the races for a first time are going to be the ones such as me. The ones that fall in love with it. The ones that enjoy getting a racing form the night before and staying up handicapping the races. We live in a world of instant everything and Horseracing can't give what a slot machine can to the younger generation today. Young people want it and want it "now" they do not want to have to work to pick a winner. They would rather pull a handle and hope for the best. Go out to any track and unless there is $1 beer take a look at the avg age of the crowd... HORSERACING is in fact a older man's sport I wish I could help fix it but there is nothing we can do. Without superstar horses RACING not breeding, it just shows how it has taken a slow toll on horseracing in general. When you focus horses on breeding and not racing its not a problem that shows up overnight it takes a while to really show the effects and what we are seeing is the effects of what started in the late 1990's early 2000's breeding is where the interest is in this sport and until that changes and we get superstars back in this sport we will never get that 18 year old kid to learn to love this sport. But horseracing will always be around in some sort. Why becuase to most people its just another way to "gamble" and thats the real sad part in this... What I fear is when things turn around and racing once again becomes most important there will be no older people out there to help the youth and help them understand how wonderful the sport really is and how wonderful it feels to handicap a winner. That is a feeling NO slot machine can give.

19 Apr 2011 6:41 PM

Seems that the conventional wisdom shifts really quickly. Let's watch the training, watch the results, and then the next race.

Is it a weak field? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Is it a weak crop? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Seems undefeated or nearly so is the only standard to measure by lately.

19 Apr 2011 6:48 PM

I have been following horse racing since 1972 and my conclusion is that this crop of 3yr  olds is a very mediocre one.In addition it is unusual these days to see a high class 3yr old that that also shows a tough constitution. This is not suprizing when you consider that amoung the most sort after stallions, most of them did not make enough starts to establish that they were tough or sound.Twelve or fewer career starts over two yrs do not establish toughness or soundness.

19 Apr 2011 7:13 PM
Zen's Auntie

Racing makes race horses, Arch cubed should not be underestimated.  I hope like heck for Jinx John and Mr Yagos and the whole family and crew that AX3 is in the money May 7th,  

Maybe just maybe folks will come back to understanding that it is RACES that make racehorses.  

Go Dialed In,  MuchoMachoMan and Arch3x

19 Apr 2011 7:15 PM
anita b

I believe training thoroughbreds today is weird;i.e. a horse making first start in 3 months had ONLY 2 published workouts. How can a horse

be fit with only 2 workouts? Its

unreal and a tragedy.

19 Apr 2011 7:32 PM

Every single year, some turf writer decries the 3YO crop. I so, so, so disagree with the assessments here.  Look at the blazing times! Look at the Arkansas Derby -- rough and rowdy, big field, fast, every horse walked away sound. So what's the beef, y'all? This year's 3YOs are as nice as any I've ever seen. I'm an owner, I'm on the ground, I've seen many of these horse, so phooey on you nay-sayers.

19 Apr 2011 7:33 PM

For years all I've heard is that sports like horse racing and boxing are in such rapid decline they will soon be "broke down, vanned off".  Well guess what?  I saw not only an incredible boxing match on Saturday (Berto vs. Ortiz) but I saw some absolutely amazing horse races in the derby preps that went to the wire.  Every red blooded American loves a knockdown or a horse getting up in the shadow of the wire.  It is the fault of these industries to conform and adapt to the culture of today that is mainly to blame.  The treatment of the animals is one of the biggest issues hindering the growth of racing back into the mainstream, people still love to gamble, look at the success of every other form of gambling in this counry!  The main factor that has changed is the American attitude towards ALL animals in the last 40 years, our grandparents would have laughed at large chain pet stores like Petsmart and Petco, the dog ate dog food, slept outside, had a tennis ball and a stick for entertainment, and mysteriously disappeared when sick only to be immediately replaced by a new version of "the dog".  Horse racing still operates under these antequated "animal morals" from the 40's and 50's.  These animals are like our pets, our family, and we want them to be taken care of during and after there racing careers.  When a trainer drops a 50K claimer in for 5K at another smaller track under the radar and the horse breaks down, I want answers.  When horses are left in stalls hurt waiting for the miracle of a animal lover to take them home instead of the slaughter truck, I want answers.  When I see animals absolutely miserable running in 10 degree weather with blowing snow on a cement hard track, I want answers.  How hard is that to understand?  Japan and Europe have got it way more right than we do.  Stop breeding unsound horses, abolish slaughter, clean up the sport, hire some fresh faces with new ideas, and maybe we can be proud of ourselves again someday.    

19 Apr 2011 7:36 PM

Dutrow's horses should not have been permitted to run.  Their owner's know what kind of trainer they have hired and if they are o.k. with the drug abuse they should expect their horses to be not allowed to run.  No sympathy from me.  Run, don't walk, to another trainer.  

19 Apr 2011 7:38 PM

One more quick point Evan, how are we supposed to feel as bettors when we read today that a trainer was fined $500 for a horse failing a drug test?  How many people lost more than that on the race or in multi-race wagers?  AC Avila wins we lose.  Its basically like playing through a deck of cards in blackjack or poker, then the dealer saying "oops only 3 aces in this deck".  As long as situations like this or the Life at Ten ordeal keep happening, how are we supposed to feel we are getting a fair shake?

19 Apr 2011 7:52 PM

I doubt racing will die, but it will suffer miserably.  So many things have been touched upon in the above comments that if the direction was changed it could begin to prosper. Two year old racing is not heart warming to the public. Hell I own and train and honestly only about 2 out of 100 horses ever make me feel like they should be racing at 2. The 2 to 3 year is huge developmentally physically and mentally on all horses. Skip this I wanna make a quick buck mentality for fast return on investment and train them to be awesome 3 year olds that do come out in January and rock and roll until April. Stop sending the sports best representatives to the breeding shed. Or worse the young horse who gets sidelined from racing due to injury immediately put in the breeding population. But again precocious speed make fast bucks.

Get on the rest of the worlds drug free bandwagon. Tracks need to open up some area for turnout, and it might be amazing to see how much better a horse feels and runs without having to worry about withdrawal times. And for god's sake stop slapping people on the hand. Maybe racing needs to institute a 3 strikes your out initiative. Dutrow's sixty infractions plus are a joke. And any track that charges admission is out of their mind. Open the doors and let the flow come in for free. Even some who know nothing about handicapping will slowly get caught up in the thrill of the potential to nail a 50-1 shot.

19 Apr 2011 9:37 PM

Amen, LB! - the attitude towards horses is different. Some in racing just do not understand that, because they see the horses as only a means to their financial gain. Kudos to Kentucky for drawing a line in the sand with a repeat offender like Dutrow, and Biancone before him. Now, if we could just get one set of rules, nationwide...

19 Apr 2011 10:18 PM
Alfred H. Nuckols, jr.

Congratulations to Jenks Fires, Bob Yagos and Jon Court. That Arkansas Derby win could not have happened to an overall better group of people. Archarcharch is the kind of horse we need in the Derby: trained by a veteran trainer who knows his way around a race track, ridden by a jockey (son-in-law) that has paid his dues and is an outstanding journeyman rider, and owned by a gentleman that has been a participant in racing for a long time and has never been one to complain or gripe when he loses. Not to mention the horse, whose sire has shown he can get a classic contender and is also the sire of the only horse to ever beat Zenyata. This group deserves a big round of applause for getting a nice colt to the first Saturday in May!I would sure love to see them get the roses!

19 Apr 2011 10:30 PM
needler in Virginia

catts, I agree 100%. Who REALLY believe the owners did NOT know about Dutrow's MANY & MULTIPLE violations? Who's kidding who? Does anyone really believe that an owner is going to pay a small fortune to a trainer without knowing that trainer's credentials? NAH, they knew and chose to look the other way as long as their horses were winning, but when Dutrow is finally brought before the bar, the KHRC is being unfair? Nope, the owners should have been denied permission to run their horses. And who can forget that classic pre-Preakness moment of truth from Dutrow when he said "sure, ALL my horses get steroids once a month", then we find out he did NOT give Big Brown his June dose and we got that Belmont from hell. ENOUGH, already. I used to laugh when my grandmother said "where there's smoke, there's fire"; now I'm almost blinded by the smoke from the the forest fire surrounding Dutrow and his methods, and I can see EXACTLY what that classic old broad meant! Now I get to be the Old Broad and I'm REALLY, REALLY angry. Take all of racing's problems and put 'em in a soup pot; this sort of behavior makes HUGE headlines and gives racing a black eye the size of Montana. Sadly, I think Dutrow is just the tip of the iceberg.....that makes me the most pessimistic of pessimists, doesn't it?

I've been sorting and sifting and cleaning out our house and have found (and re-read) ancient copies of BloodHorse containing articles on........... wait for it....... whether or not racing on meds is acceptable. Those were written years ago and the SAME fight rages on. How about this? NO RACE DAY MEDS, EVEN IN TRACE AMOUNTS. I know, everyone is gonna jump on this and say "that's fine, BUT........." Fair enough; but if a horse needs ANY race day meds, it should not be running. PERIOD. If a horse is a bleeder, it should not be running. And if you don't want a bleeder don't breed one bleeder to another. The rest of the planet manages to run drug free, what's wrong with American horses? NOTHING! THEY ARE ALL THE SAME BREED AND THE GENE POOL HAS BEEN CLOSED FOR AGES. If you use drugs too casually, you can very well  exacerbate a problem, thus creating the need for more drugs. If a horse is ouchy, it should go home to the farm and rest up. It has no business at the track. I've said this before and I'm gonna repeat myself one more time before I pack it in tonight: if racing doesn't get its' act together about drugs (specifically, but there are other issues that need addressing), someone else WILL step in, and I guarantee racing will not be happy with the results. But that's just the pessimist talking, you you can't tell how I feel about all this, can you?

You ALL should be very proud of me: I didn't curse even once!!!

Cheers and safe trips to almost everyone.

19 Apr 2011 10:54 PM

Taking the family to the racetrack is still one of the best "entertainment bargains" around.  Promoting a day at the races as a family event like Cantebury Park in Minnesota does with their Sunday afternoon events will bring a new young generation of racing fans to the track.  Almost every owner got involved in the sport because of being introduced to it as a young person, usually through interaction with a parent or grandparent at the track.  Compared to the prices of tickets, concessions, etc. at major league baseball, NFL or college football or NBA or men's college basketball, horse racing is by far the most affordable sporting event for a family to attend. At Oaklawn Park you often see three or even four generations of a family attending the races together. To say that races moves too slowly for today's generation who demand "instant gratifacation" is an overstatment.  Compare it to watching a major league baseball game which to me is one of the slowest moving sports there is and it compares favorably.  If you attend a televised NFL or college football game the TV timeouts greatly slow the "on field action" but they are part of what makes those sports economically feasible.  I agree that horse racing needs heros such as Zenyata, Smarty Jones, Funny Cide, etc. But also promoting interaction between race fans and jockeys and trainers on the apron would help tremendously, if promoted on race days, so that the fans will feel a personal connection to jockeys or trainers. Also promoting sponsorship of low level races by local businesses so that their employees get to the track and can get their picture taken "in the winner's circle" is a winning strategy. I think race tracks are doing an atrocious job of marketing the sport but there is no reason for the sport to be dying.  We need new blood in the marketing departments to promote the sport in a manner that will appeal to younger fans.  Use of a little imagination would help tremendously.

20 Apr 2011 7:47 AM
anne at ETC

anita b - I think the answer is in the "published" part - not all works are published.

20 Apr 2011 8:45 AM

We on this forum are aware of all of the horses and which ones to watch closely.  The general public is not.  Not even remotely.  They will not have even heard of most, if any at all, of the horses come Derby day.  Period.  NBC, which will be televising the Triple Crown races, has not shown even one prep race.  Instead, that network scours the world for some golf game to televise instead; week in and week out.  When the Kentucky Derby rolls around and the (low) ratings come in, NBC will be wondering why they're down. The Washington Post has no coverage of horse racing anymore and doesn't even bother naming winners of major races, even in its Miscellaneous Section of the sports pages.  It's frustrating. One would have thought that based on Uncle Mo's two-year-old season, he would have been featured; the Wood Memorial would have been on TV as it always used to be.  And the Florida Derby.  And the Arkansas Derby.  And the Santa Anita Derby.  And the Blue Grass Stakes.  But nada.  No coverage of any of those races. None whatsoever. It's just sad.

20 Apr 2011 9:13 AM
Pedigree Ann

Back when I was a newby (1970) Thoroughbreds were for racing. That was where they could earn the most. A stud career was a nice bonus, but it was what a horse did after he had finished racing. And he didn't finish until he was an older horse (at least 5, often 6 or 7) unless injury intervened.

Today is entirely different. The yearling and other markets are the place to make money. Then if your high-priced yearling wins a couple of over-graded races (usually sprints or miles) you can retire him to rake in even better money as a stallion. I pointed out to my friends last year a stallion ad where the high points for the animal in question were his sales price, his siblings' sales prices and his sires' sales averages. Barely a word about actual racing ability.

I also have a few words to say about the influence of the 'sheets' guys, which has been devastating to our stakes programs in the US. Using mathematical formulae full of unproven assumptions, they have convinced trainers to space races for top horses months apart, in the face of decades of practical experience and the science of exercise physiology.

Some of our terminology should change, too. A jockey's bat is not a whip; it doesn't have long, thin lashes that define a whip and is far kinder to the horse. Then why do we keep calling it a whip? The word has such negative connotations to the public at large. I rode horses for decades and know that a properly delivered whack (with a bat) on the rear end can achieve the communication required without injuring the very tough hide and thick muscles that reside there. But the average person in the street doesn't know that. They picture slaves being whipped, open wounds, blood, all that negative baggage from one word.

I could ad more, but haven't time.

20 Apr 2011 9:28 AM

I am pretty sure it's only been five months since a super horse, a mare, captured the hearts and minds of the general public. I think her name was Zenyatta. People ought to quit projecting their general malaise onto racing. True, no standouts have emerged this year yet.  I wonder if the Andy Beyer never existed, if these horses weren't tied to some mystery figure that disappoints more often than not, has anything to do with the mood. It's only a 91. Wah. Grow up, dudes.

20 Apr 2011 9:44 AM
Anna B.

Every year I see people say, "This crop is so mediocre!" All *I* see is that there are several 3 yr olds that have thrown in one bad race, and suddenly they're all mediocre? The Factor, Dialed In, Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, and the list goes on.

Is it just me, or are we looking WAY too hard for perfection? As a fan, I'm excited every weekend by the racing I watch. Races like the Arkansas Derby didn't turn out the way I imagined, but I was thrilled to see Archarcharch standout and to see Nehro run a big one. Are either of them perfect? No, but they're talented and exciting. I'm excited about this year's Triple Crown trail BECAUSE it seems so up-in-the-air!

Please, let's just enjoy these colts as much as possible. And how about all of these fillies! I've been a fan for 35 years and am going to my FIRST Derby this year. Not everyone out there is a pessimist!

20 Apr 2011 9:51 AM

Nancy P, I'm sorry you are feeling so bad about racing & the world in general. I have those days. It would be a dream come true for me to attend the Belmont or any major race. There are many things that can be focused on in a negative way: drugs, trainers, using quarter horse methods too much with thoroughbreds, etc. The breed is still good! Look how well American bred horses do overseas.

But there is always griping about the current crop of 3 yr olds. I was shocked that all race day drugs WILL BE ELIMINATED within 5 years. What a great decision for the sport & the overall health of the horses!

I look forward to seeing Master Of The Hounds come to the Derby. He is American bred and Aidan O'Brian trains his horses for more stamina (more preps, longer races & the help of science re: heat rates, oxygen, etc.) AND NO DRUGS. It is the way of the future but everyone has not caught on here. Then there is Frankel, a supremely bred, unbeaten 3 yr old in Europe who if he continues as he is will be at the BC.

Look how well the fillies have done the last few years! That is an improvement and it continues this year.

Changes in track surfaces was an attempt to improve breakdowns & injuries, even though the results have been argued; it is still an attempt to move forward in the industry for the welfare of the horses.

I don't care if Pegasus in Maryland for the Preakness is totally tasteless. Bring the young any way they want to come, they are coming just not in the traditional way as in the past.

Look at the gripers who complained about those "new Zenyatta fans" . Fans come in different ways & all don't look alike. But they are coming. I have heard reliable reports that there are young people at the tracks. Maybe not all of them, all of the time but it is improving.

If it is one thing I can say about the TB fans & "experts" is that they like to complain, argue and seldom agree on anything! You can paint a totally negative picture but you can say there are really some improvements going on also.

I follow the BloodHorse too but it is not my only source of information about the TB racing world. Look around on the internet. There are good, new things happening. Just don't listen to the same old track sour people!

20 Apr 2011 10:50 AM

I agree that a lot of times the press is to blame for being hypocritical.  They decry the failing of racing yet never write any good articles about it.  I also agree we need to have a younger fan base, but I also beleive some of this has to come from the fans themselves.  When Zenyatta ran all the people at the track said she had made them fans of racing.  Well...if this holds true, then all those people SHOULD BE OUT AT THE TRACK ON THE BIG DAYS!!!  They said the same thing about Smarty Jones and eventually no one held their interest in racing anymore.  I want to see these 30 thousand people that showed up at Santa Anita to see Zenyatta run to be there again this year when those races are run.  If you are professing to be made a fan of the it by going to the track.  Yes I wish that more big name horses would run more often, and the trainers and owners are to blame there, but there is not going to be a superstar running at the track every weekend.  Doesn't mean you still can't go out and support the sport by being there.  

20 Apr 2011 10:51 AM

I hate to say it, but I have also been thinking I should swear off the horse racing.  I have been a fanatic about it all my life---I have never seen anything more beautiful, courageous and inspiring as the Thoroughbred.  However, during my 59 years, more than once, since Pine Island died, I have thought I was going to have to get away from it.  And the fact of the doping (which I believe has contributed a great deal to the decline of our racehorses) and that horses rarely run anymore is contributing to my dismay.  So are trainers like R. Dutrow.  If the Thoroughbred world doesn't police itself, I think the Gov't would step (perish the thought!), or it will die.  I believe it's the latter.  And dying might be better than a lot of Gov't regs.  And bureaucrats.  It's breaking my heart!

20 Apr 2011 11:11 AM

The fact that people are talking about the problems in racing, tells me that it is being worked on but change takes a lot of time, look at our government and racing is a lot like it.  Change will is coming, everyday. People want it. Great steps have been made and more will come.....

20 Apr 2011 11:16 AM

Fatalist or Pollyanna?  For me it cannot be understated – this year’s Derby situation is a microcosm of the past 15 years.  A race that was once properly heralded as the genesis of iconic runners that attracted most of us to game is fast-becoming a shadow of itself.  Worse, no one seems to care.  We listen to earthwhile trainers speak of required methodology that fits a selfish agenda, not sound judgment.  Take a close look at the past 15 Derby winners’ post-Derby records.  It’s pretty evident the Derby is the only objective and, as such, has served to relegate the sports greatest asset.  Negative?  Just realistic I fear.

20 Apr 2011 11:34 AM
James Jarrell

I offer two items to change the direction horse racing is headed in.  #1 Close half the travks in the country, then we can have full fields every place. 2nd Ban all evidence of all drugs in the blood stream on race day. No one can handicap races with the conditions we run under today.  Dont blame Dutrow for what he does, He is only doing what the law alowes.

20 Apr 2011 1:21 PM
John C.

Who is making these quixotic comments about this year's crop? Mr. Rogers?

This year and last year's crops were two of the worst in memory! Generally, these horses are sent to the floor of their stalls for a week after each race, and can barely be resuscitated to eke out a workout every two to four weeks.

Trainers operate under the assumption that racing is the highest form of abuse to a "good" quality horse, and do everything in their power to keep these horses off of the racetrack, causing the self-fulfilling prophecy that the horses cannot take the rigors of racing. Even the great Rachel Alexandra lost her peak fitness due to atrophy (though she never lost heart).

We have seen the end of great horses or, at the very least, horses who will show their great potential. This has been going on for a decade or more- get lucky in a few graded stakes on heavy Lasix, cover up any reports of injury (if the horse dares continue to run), and then rush into the breeding shed to produce more infirm flashes in the pan.

It's too bad that Uncle Mo is in Pletcher's radically conservative hands; he could have been one of the good ones.

Wait till you see this year's Triple Crown race-times: The Derby in 2:04, Preakness in 1:56 (will be won by a harness racing horse), and the Belmont in 2:30 (still beating Drosselmeyer!). People keep talking about the end of racing. It DID end! We are just going through rigor mortis.

20 Apr 2011 3:53 PM

The reason horseracing is the best,is you don't bet against the house. It's because i get to get against you people! I make a great living doing so..Common Sense, is probably the main people say things like"the breed has weakened drasticly!" or "horses don't run enough,thats why they get hurt" or "dutrow is a crook!"  and all this other stuff...First of all, horses are prehistoric..if you knew anything about science, you would know it takes wayyyyyyy longer to weaken the all believe this because you heard people who don't know talk....2nd...horses don't race enough...understand, that racing hurts horses...they literally strain tendons, soft tissues, and break bones when they run.....yes break bones.....sore shin is broken bone...everytime they run, thousands of microfractures occur. Now , if a horse runs slow, he can run every day...horses that are slow dont put as much stress on the bone etc...the horses that are the fastest, are the ones that don't run as often....get it?  common sense......about dutrow? next post

20 Apr 2011 8:28 PM

Dutrow is a crook! CHEATER! Come on...say it! jump on the bandwagon!! Those horses should'nt be able to run!  Why and what exactly the reason you people say this? because eveyone else is huh? Because you love horseracing, and he is exactly whats wrong with the game! RIGHT?  well...they let the horses run because they waited til after the owners shipped the horses there....the court made correct decision....2nd..Dutrow is a crook why? He gave his horses some kinda stimulant? Something to make them run better? For what reason? To cash a bet?  To win a small purse? must think this! why else call him a crook? This guy is the scapegoat for the sport...yes he is responsible for his horses. yes he has made hundreds of other trainers have....bute is to horses what asprin or tylenol is.....its not that big of you take asprin? the other was painkiller.....there are many painkillers...he's the only trainer that gave a horse a painkiller?  most positive tests are mistakes....happens every day....but you people are presenting him to be this crook who is trying to cheat to cash a bet or win a small purse...people are against lasix, but if it was outlawed you just dont give horse water for a day...if not lasix,then that. if not this pain killer than this other about outlawing the use of ice! to reduce swelling?  or vitamins?  I don't care either way about dutrow. maybe he is just stupid or something...but a crook?  be smarter people.....we aren't talking elephant juice here!

20 Apr 2011 8:54 PM
John C.

KY Vet, clearly you do not understand the science of Evolutionary Theory via artificial selection. You state that horses are prehistoric creatures - not anymore!

About two hundred years ago, the thoroughbred was created via "selective breeding" (something that never occurs in nature, as in "natural selection"),and has ever since been under the extreme selection pressure of human breeders. In other words, almost no thoroughbred has mated randomly or naturally for 200 years! Breeders select for specific traits and do not permit horses that do not meet those criteria to breed i.e. these horses are gelded or just not allowed to hook up with the mares.

Evolution via this type of artificial selection can occur very quickly, on the order of 50 years or fewer! Just look at what artificial selection has done to certain breeds of dog: golden retrievers are notorious for hip arthritis, lung cancer (which quickly took my own Golden), and myriad allergies. The golden retriever breeders have, within 10 or 20 years also produced goldens that have mostly shorter hind legs (they look terrible and freakish, by the way).

So, when mistakenly looked at in terms of evolution via natural selection, the horse cannot change in the evolutionary nanosecond of 200 years. But, when viewed in the proper and realistic context of artificial selection i.e. the only way that 99.999% of all thoroughbreds come into existence, certain traits are amplified in the gene pool very quickly.

For example, it is highly probable that most studs and mares that are bred today are non-Lasix bleeders. How did this come about so quickly?


Lasix has masked the bleeders and the other ailments that they are treated for (the diuretic more readily rids their blood of other drugs, illicit or otherwise) so they seem perfectly fine to breed after their 8 to 10 race "careers".

Breeders/blind-greeders have destroyed the American thoroughbred, and done so in a way and with the blinding speed that nature never could have.

They must keep the drugs flowing to cover up their distastrous mistakes.

21 Apr 2011 2:55 AM
Early Speed

Due to the fact that the "march" to the Derby itself is loaded with attrition from past years when so often strong candidates were sidelined or sidelined at the last minute from injuries, trainers today take no chances. They would much rather enter the Derby with an underconditioned colt than one that cannot run at all because of even the normal amount of wear on the colts' young bones.  What does this say about breeding practices? We want the fastest maturing horse to do with Uncle Mo did in his two-year old career and still expect the horse to be as good a three-year old as they were when they first came on the track and won right away with fast times. To get that early maturing horse, we are breeding tanks on toothpicks.

21 Apr 2011 7:27 AM

I think it's hilarious that people think drugs have just recently been introduced to racing.  You have no idea the things that have been done and the cocktails and concoctions used on horses, just to get them to the gate, through the ages.  What has changed is testing, publicity and animal rights nazis.  KY vet is right.  What's  I too don't give a tinkers damn about Dutrow but please, know that of which you speak.    

21 Apr 2011 7:43 AM
So Amused

I agree with Angela, at least the first few lines about the drugs.  We have owned show horses for decades and finding the next undetectable drug was a favorite past time for trainers on the circuit. Is that okay or good? No, of course not but owners have a lot invested in these animals and want results.  Most owners are not horse people and if the trainer says it is okay and the animal can perform then that is the bottom line. Sorry but after 40 years of showing or standing on the rail I am certain that is the reality the majority of the time in all horse sports.

21 Apr 2011 9:53 PM

Re Mr. Dutrow - perhaps if owners realized that their horses might be barred from running if their trainers' licences were suspended, owners might be reluctant to place their horses with trainers who have racked up an impressive string of violations! I doubt if anyone could argue that he had no idea this might happen to Rick Dutrow. I mean 74 violations? And it was a surprise that eventually the axe fell? I know even the most upstanding trainer might pop the odd contamination suspension - but not THAT many times! I'm sorry the man might have to find some other line of work but he knew the rules as well as anyone and he sloughed them off as unimportant. If racing is to save what's left of its integrity, we can't keep people with that kind of mentality. The fans, the owners and the horses deserve better.

As for the Derby - get 20 card, write a name on each one and then pick any card! I don't remember a year in which so many horses beat each other with this much regularity. This Derby could belong to just about anyone and I truly won't be surprised whoever wins it. I think Uncle Mo might well be the best but hey - who knows? This year it's anyone's game!

21 Apr 2011 10:05 PM
needler in Virginia

KY VET and AngelaFromAbilene, sadly I DO know whereof  I speak. I've spent hours and days and weeks and months and years at a bush track in the Texas Panhandle, so I DO know what I'm talking about.

No one has said drugs are a new thing. In fact, the use of all sorts of artificial performance enhancers has been around since Aristotle said to Socrates "my horse can beat your horse and I've got two drachmas to back that up, smarty pants!" Everything imaginable has been used to "light up a horse" and there are loads of people out there who know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

John C is spot on with his discussion of bleeding; Lasix (or Salix or whatever they call it this Thursday) masks an issue, but NOT ALL HORSES ARE BLEEDERS, and therefore should NOT require Lasix. Then there's butazolidine (sp?). Bute is a "mask" for all sorts of discomfort, and a horse requiring a cover up of discomfort should NOT be racing. Ask any athlete in ANY sport and you'll be told of the issues that arise from masking an injury. The truth is a "mask" covers pain and if a horse feels no pain in his bowed tendon or his hairline fractured cannon or his slab fractured knee, he will continue to run as normally as possible until he has injured himself significantly ...........sometimes tragically. If a horse requires bute or Lasix or any other damn thing that covers, or masks, or "lessens" a problem, that horse is a danger to himself, his jockey and every other living thing on the race track. Pain is a symptom and a warning bell; it should be addressed and managed for EVERYONE'S sake. It should never be covered up to get one more race out of the old plater, or to get that whacko two year old into the maiden special weight next weekend.

And while we're at it, Angela, what on earth could make you have a problem with testing and publicity? The only way to prove that racing is an honest sport is by testing horses and publicizing failures. Fer Pete's sake let the bettors know who's a crook. And you don't "give a tinkers damn about Dutrow"? Good for you, and have a happy life. If you don't care how he behaves then I wonder what IS important to you about racing. Clearly, it's not the safety of the horses or the jocks. Maybe you just like a nice day in the sun, and that's great. For racing to allow a Dutrow to continue unchallenged, unimpeded and unpunished makes losers of us all. But that's just my opinion............

This is what I care about: I believe that racing has a history that should not be cast aside, that racing can be honest, that these horses are born and bred to run and do it pretty well, thanks very much. I believe that racing has some truly difficult problems, that racing has to change the public's perception of it by setting and adhering to strict drug policies, that racing must grow with the times and embrace the 21st century. That does NOT mean learning how to use a computer so you can bet means being aware that the public perception and the private realities need to be the same. There is simply so much information out there and it moves so fast that your left-handed, knock-kneed 16th cousin seven times removed..... you know the one I mean: the hermit on Mount Everest....... will know about a breakdown at Turfway before the ambulance has left the track. I also believe that racing must recognize that negative public perception can do it great harm, and that blowing smoke isn't the best idea these days.

So, enough. I won't change your mind, but I can try to clarify several points I think you may have missed. If not, then I apologize for trying, I do NOT apologize for thinking that what you wrote in  your 7:43 AM post may be EXACTLY what's wrong with racing today.

Cheers and safe trips to almost everyone.

21 Apr 2011 11:39 PM


I just thought I would let you know that I am that 18 year old kid who just loves the sport for everything about it. I am going to the Kentucky Derby for the first time this year and I am sick of people being so down about the whole. I don't care, it's one of the biggest races of the year! I was lucky enough to see the great Zenyatta race in the Apple Blossom last year standing directly across from the finish line. All my friends at school I am sure get annoyed with me because I all I talk about is horse racing. I try and get as many people as I can to watch the sport, and everytime I bring up a big race I can get at least 6 people to watch that race on tv that day. I love the sport for the horses.

22 Apr 2011 10:24 AM
Pedigree Ann

Those of us who have been around a while have seen similar fields  for the Derby; it isn't new. Want to know why Arazi was the odds-on favorite for the 1992 Derby? Not just because of his BC Juvie win at CD; there didn't seem to be much for him to beat. Every prep seemed to have a different winner; nobody dominated at any of the prep venues - Florida, Louisiana, Oaklawn, California, New York. Those of us who followed racing closely thought Arazi's preparation was insufficient, but it was hard to make a good case for anybody else. I was rooting for Shelley Riley's horse Casual Lies so she could be the first woman trainer to win a Derby. [So close!]

22 Apr 2011 11:25 AM
joe c.

I went to the Belmont many years in a row, flying some distance, hotel fees, but all worth the excitement...Alysheba & Easy Goer, Silver Charm & Real Quiet, Funny Cide & Smarty.  The last time was 08 and Big Brown, a beautiful horse but boy!  The attitude in the stands among fans of all ages.  The air was out of the balloon before the race.  I felt badly for the horse even before the pathetic, shocking finish.  The aging fan base is sick of drugs, and probably tied to that fewer and fewer starts.  Add to that owners and trainers who are not sportspersons, and track and racing officials who are not horsemen (few women in those ranks).Sports pages and the general media don't locate stars standing in the stall six weeks to three months at a time.  Once great races like the Suburban run allowance fields at best.  And why are the stands empty?  I'll watch the tc races, but not with the fervor or excitement I felt in the 70's, though the last decade.

22 Apr 2011 5:21 PM

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