To “distract,” says the American Heritage Dictionary, is “to attract (the attention) away from its original focus; divert.” The original focus regarding Santa Anita was (is) 22 on-track kills since Christmas, 26 dead racehorses overall. The distraction is Lasix, and the ban thereof (The Stronach Group, Santa Anita’s owner, has announced that it and California trainers and owners have reached agreement on a phased-in ban, the particulars of which are wholly irrelevant). Don’t believe me? Fine. Here is how the California Horse Racing Board’s chief vet, Rick Arthur, explained it to the LA Times:

…there “is virtually no relationship whatsoever” between Lasix and catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries, the almost universal cause of breakdowns on the track.

And Stronach COO Tim Ritvo: “Everyone has advised [Belinda Stronach] that that’s not the case. Lasix has not contributed to breakdowns. Lasix does not mask pain. I think we all know that.”

This is so grossly transparent that even a 10-year-old should be able to see through it. They distract, deflect, deceive, and dissemble because when your product is intrinsically cruel and deadly, what other choice do you have?

In a February 27 Arizona Department of Racing ruling (below), owner/trainer Alex J. Torres-Casas was punished after four of his horses tested positive for caffeine. Caffeine. But it’s worse: three of the four also tested positive for strychnine – yes, strychnine, of rat poison fame. (Apparently, strychnine was once considered a performance-enhancer – acting as a stimulant – for humans.) The four horses – Windi’s Moment, Straightcash Homie, Giro Candito, and S S Taylor – all raced for Torres-Casas at Turf Paradise in January/February.

At this point you’re probably wondering what exactly was that punishment? A lifetime ban? Perhaps some jail time, to boot? Please. This is horseracing. For shooting his horses up with caffeine and strychnine, Torres-Casas was fined $2625 and suspended for 180 days. Yes, that’s right, this scumbag will be back at it again in just six months’ time. Imagine that.

But wait, there’s a complicating (though certainly not mitigating) circumstance, for you see this is not Torres-Casas’ first foray into heavy-duty doping. According to the Thoroughbred Daily News, Torres-Casas has a 2017 cocaine positive on his resume. Cocaine, caffeine, strychnine – slap the wrist and move on. And that, folks, is what this industry really thinks of its horses.

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Some odds and ends…

Australian jockey is suspended two weeks for this:

Two weeks.

BloodHorse reports that veterinarian Kyle James Hebert was found guilty this week for providing dermorphin to multiple trainers in Louisiana in 2012. Dermorphin, also known as “frog juice,” is roughly 40 times more potent than morphine (my original “Frog Juice” post). According to BloodHorse, Hebert “advised trainers that [the drug] would make the horses focus and run faster” and “that the substances [sic] was untraceable.” This, from a doctor. Ugly. Horseracing.

Raceday Lasix is one of the more controversial issues in American horseracing. The critics say that the drug is but a performance-enhancer: A diuretic, Lasix helps shed water weight prior to a race – lighter equals faster – and as a system flush may also aid in concealing some of the illegal stuff. Supporters, on the other hand, call Lasix “humane”: Rapidly moving racehorses, they say, naturally bleed – from their lungs – “exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.” Prominent trainer Dale Romans (Paulick Report, 9/13/12): “Racing causes [EIPH] in 100% of horses. …one of the worst abuses that can be done to the racing horse is to ban Lasix.” Adds colleague Rick Violette (DRF, 8/11/11): “Horses bleed. That is a fact. To force an animal to race without [Lasix] is premeditated, borderline animal abuse.”

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That raceday Lasix – by the way, a uniquely North American thing – is primarily used to make horses faster is a pretty good bet. (While not all trainers particularly like it, practically all, so as not to cede any competitive ground, use it.) But what if the Romans/Violette crowd is also correct – that pulmonary bleeding is inherent in a racing-horse? Translated, this would mean that the “sport’s” fundamental physical action universally causes some level of pain or suffering. Of what other basic sporting motion can this be said? Throwing a baseball? Swinging a golf club? Kicking a soccer ball? If not for the deadly seriousness of it all, these people would be laughable.

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A few odds and ends:

In a weku article (4/29/15) on Lasix, longtime (45 years) equine vet Mark Chaney offers his reason for supporting the raceday medication: “If you and I were in one of those stalls 22 hours a day, we’d have COPD so bad and emphysema. You know, you probably couldn’t even breathe.” How’s that for a (probably) unwitting condemnation of his entire industry?

In a Wall Street Journal article (5/25/15) on Victor Espinoza’s merciless whipping of American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, former Vice Chair of the CHRB Bo Derek is referred to as an “animal-rights activist.” Sorry, racing director and animal rights activist are wholly incompatible terms.

From the Santa Anita “Stewards Minutes” for May 21: “Jockey JOSEPH TALAMO was in the office this morning to review the stretch run of the fourth race from May 17, during which he hit his mount over the left ear with his whip several times. After viewing the race, the rider said he did not realize that it was improper to hit a horse on the ear as he had seen old videos of Hall of Famer CHRIS MCCARRON doing the same thing.” The next day, a ruling was issued: $300 fine and a “warning” – because, you know, “a warning [is] sufficient for a first time offense.”

This is horseracing.

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