Saturday, December 6, 2014

Club is On A Roll; Ellie Abscesses

What a month!  The ups and downs of this business are crazy and, frequently, happen at the same time.

The Canterbury Racing Club, which is managed by GRS, is on quite the streak.  Maryjean got to the Hawthorne and ripped off three consecutive wins before being claimed away from us in her last race.  Between her second and third win, Terice picked up a win of her own.  Both horses were well prepared by Clay Brinson and ridden superbly by Emmanuel Esquivel. 

The girls have been on fire and Terice goes at it again later this afternoon at Hawthorne.  If she can win she will extend the Club winning streak to five in a row and notch her own second consecutive win. 

The girls have helped the Club achieve several milestones this season: most wins in a season (5 and counting...I hope); first allowance effort (Maryjean, finished 3rd); and most consecutive wins (4 and counting).  It's been a lot of fun and I think the Club members have had a great time with it.

At the same time, our 3YO Minnesota bred filly, Elusive Edition, came up lame one day during her turnout.  It was heartbreaking.  She was way off on the front end and, because she has such an expression-full face, she just looked miserable.

Initially her feet looked good and we put front shoes on her which seemed to help some along with a short course of bute.  Once she was off the bute, however, she went totally sideways again and we hauled her up to Clearly Lake for Doctor Kathy Ott to take at her.

Step one was to use the hoof tester and see what she had going on in the feet.  As she moved around Ellie's right front hoof Dr. Ott exclaimed, "Whoa...look at that puss!!"  She had inadvertently squeezed and abscess with the off tester and drained it.  You could almost hear Ellie sigh audibly!  Her demeanor changed and she was obviously experiencing relief already.

To be on the safe side we went ahead and took x-rays and they revealed the abscess as well as a moderately low hoof angle in both feet - not unusual in Thoroughbreds.  The ankle shots also showed no wear and tear on her joints at all.  They actually looked great so there was some good news!

After days of cleaning, soaking and wrapping after a long day of work, Heather had Ellie in good shape (hey, I held her...).  Each day she was feeling better and better, playing and bucking and generally enjoying the outdoors.  The abscess cleared and dried up and her farrier has put special pads on under the hoof to give her some additional protection and compensate for her low hoof angle.  She still has nearly two months before she heads south to get ready for the season and it looks like she'll be healed up nicely and ready to get back to work when the time comes.

Ellie's hoof wrapped for treatment.  The blue wraps were just for transportation protection.
Her interim trainers, Roy Bland and Michelle Allen who will get her ready in Oklahoma for the Canterbury season, were wonderful in providing experience-based information, advice and checking in on her to see how she was responding to treatment. And hats off to the staff at Cleary Lake who were excellent with our girl, the folks over at Turn Crest where she is turned out and her farrier, Steve.

Heather deserves special mention.  She did virtually all the hard work in getting her back to health, spending nearly a week completely exhausted with an achy back to get the hoof treatments done.  That doesn't happen and Ellie doesn't get better.

I have no idea how her hoof angle impacted her racing ability at all but even if it did a little bit, discovering it and fixing it is going to help.  We learned that she has to go long and that sprinting is not her gig, so that should help as well.  Maybe putting together all the little pieces will get her on the right road to success on the track?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Farewell, Ms. Lane

Tabby and I right after her retirement in 2012

Tabby has officially left us.  We certainly wish her new owner the best of luck, especially with her foal to be since we will be the breeders' of record. I hope she has a long and prosperous life full of love.  There is little doubt that we will keep an eye on her going forward.  She was a special horse for us and will continue to be so.

Of the many things I learn about this game, the most recent lesson is: unless you're independently wealthy, you cannot do everything.  I enjoy racing.  Raising babies is fun and watching George grow and develop into a Minnesota Derby winner will be a hoot - okay, just a winner would be great - but to keep a broodmare and then 2 foals was just going to be too expensive.  Now we can focus on raising George and claiming horses to race.  And lesson #2 could come into play there, too.

If you recall, lesson #1 is never fall in love with a horse.  Lesson #2 is: take the money when you can get it - it may not come around again.  Someone shows up and takes a shine to our weanling/yearling and offers us money we can't refuse...we won't.

In any case, Tabby provided us 6 of her 10 lifetime wins but her sweet demeanor will missed more than anything.  She took everything in stride and, as you can see above, she loved her people nearly as much as we loved her.  We're fortunate that she's staying right where she is in terms of boarding and foaling out, so we'll be able to see her from time to time, but the dynamic has necessarily changed.

Now we'll focus on developing George, getting Ellie ready for a much better season 2, getting Canterbury Racing Club 2015 going and one, perhaps two, more claiming groups. No matter how far we get in this game, though, Tabby will always be the one that stole my heart.

Good luck, girl.  Love you always.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Racing Put on the Defensive - Again

I’d love to just recap my picks yesterday (not bad but not great), throw in Maryjean’s win Friday night (just great!) and add in the wonderful hospitality of just about everyone at Hawthorne Race Course where we spent the Breeders’ Cup on Saturday. 

I’m no Chromie, but California Chrome ran big.  Main Sequence and Untapable were tremendous.  The upsets and payoffs throughout the BC were amazing!

However, the cloud hanging over the Classic unfortunately needs some discussion.

Fortunately for me (we have a 7 hour plus drive ahead of us to western Iowa today!), Bill Finley summarized very well the reasoning why Bayern should have come down.  You can read that here. I do disagree with his assessment of the Horse of the Year voting, but otherwise I’m right there with him. 

I would add a couple of points of my own to the discussion as well:

There are those who argue that the race was long and there was time to make up the setback at the start and the others just couldn’t do it.  I would come back with not only Finley’s argument that the entire complexion of the race changed but would also add then that you’ve opened up the start of a horse race to all kinds of antics.

Picture this conversation in some paddock in the future: “Our main competition is on your inside.  When you break, dive in hard – don’t topple him or anything, just knock him off stride.  The race is a mile and a sixteenth so the stews won’t bother you and we get clear sailing from there on out.”

Is that just “race riding”?  Or is it setting a very dangerous precedent for horse and rider?  Is that just “playing the game”?  Is it cheating?  Rubbin’ may be racing in NASCAR, but it’s not in horse racing.  Jostling happens but taking out your rivals…that needed to be called.  Bayern probably just got away from Garcia, but that doesn't make it okay either.  And I would ask those defending it, just exactly where is the dividing line between where it matters and where it doesn’t?  A mile?  Five furlongs?  Just Quarter Horse racing so Thoroughbred racing should be an anything goes slugfest?

I’ve watched the head on too many times now and there are two things I DON’T see that everyone defending the non-decision says happened: I did not see where Garcia tried to correct immediately and I certainly didn’t see where an alleged “slow break” by Shared Belief cost him.  In watching the replay, Beyern never took a straight step.  He angled left right away.  How Mike Smith was supposed to be at fault for not getting him out of the gate is simply contradictory to the video evidence.

Additionally, the stewards can NOT wait 90+ minutes to issue a statement.  You made the call now explain it to everyone right away.  On the video monitors.  Clearly and concisely.  Go all John Madden and use a telestrator to illustrate your points.  Don’t run away and then leave it some PR guy to spin the decision for you.  You should be able to explain that decision right away.  Folks may not agree with you but it certainly alleviates any allegations of fraud, favoritism or collusion.

Which leads me to my final point.  Several folks who are casual fans at best connected with me after the race and wanted to know if that was REALLY legal in horse racing.  Can you really just take out part of the field and then pocket $2.75 million dollars? I didn’t really know how to respond.  It’s legal because the judges there said it was.

“What was their reasoning?”

“No idea.  They don’t have to tell us.”

“Really?  That doesn’t seem right.”

On our biggest stage we can’t help but shoot ourselves in the foot.  It simply never, ever fails.  We follow up a 2013 BC Classic that was for the ages with this debacle.  The game keeps making itself harder and harder to defend.  Yesterday for the first time after 30 years as a fan, nearly a decade as an owner and going on four years as a turf writer, I was embarrassed to be part of the industry.  Nobody really won that race yesterday and, in some ways, we all lost.