Learning From Horse Racing Research

Scientific Study on Horses & Injuries in Progress

Preventing injuries is important not only for racehorse health but also jockey safety and public perception, says David Horohov, PhD, chair of the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Department of Veterinary Science and director of the Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington. He and his colleagues have been working on a series of studies investigating injury prevention.

An assembled group including James MacLeod, VMD, PhD, and Jennifer Janes, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVP, of the Gluck Center; Laura Kennedy, DVM, Dipl. ACVP, of the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory; and Mary Scollay, DVM, of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, are evaluating injury risks and possible precursors.

Horohov says their research thus far suggests that orthopedic injuries in racehorses are related to long-term effects rather than acute events. “It’s a chronic injury pattern that eventually leads to an acute failure,” he says.

In addition, Horohov and colleagues, including UK’s Allen Page, DVM, PhD, are looking at whether inflammatory changes that occur in racehorses and sport horses indicate a pathologic (causing disease or damage) condition is brewing.

As bones and muscles experience stress during exercise, they undergo microdamage as part of their normal adaptive process. Ideally, this process helps strengthen both bone and muscle. However, if the horse is overtrained or does not adapt well to training, the result is inflammation and potential injury. Horohov and Page have hypothesized that bloodwork should reveal certain inflammatory marker patterns that indicate systemic inflammation caused by early microlesions.

“Some microlesion formation is likely part of the normal remodeling effort,” Horohov says. “It is when the …

Winter Horse Racing Tests Your Patience

winter horse racingBy Art Parker

Now is the time of year that will test your patience as a horse player. It’s winter and the next few months are not the best for thoroughbred racing. For those of you that enjoy turf racing, the choices are pretty much limited to Southern California, New Orleans and Florida. For those of you that require a dry track (me included) those days will be less due to the frequent wintry mix that we see on the east coast. The number of stakes races, especially graded events, is less and that makes for fewer days to look forward to for many players. And of course, we have mountains of maiden races for two year olds, which I detest, and that will carry over for a couple of months when those runners turn three in January. I always say that a three year old maiden in January or February is an extended two year old maiden.

Yes, the choices for thoroughbred racing are limited for a while because of many factors. It is truly a time to be patient. Simulcasting has provided us with a luxury for about nine months of the year where you can throw out one track because you don’t like the card and pick several others that are more appealing. That’s not the case in the winter and besides, you still are faced with tons of baby races.

So what do you do? My first suggestion is to require yourself to play only certain types of races where you have historically experienced the most success and the highest comfort level. This is the same advice I give to anyone in summer, except I think it is even more important in the winter months. In the winter, you will have a lower number of races to play that fit your comfort level and it will really test your patience because you will not have as much available action.

What if the day looks bad everywhere in terms of races? Don’t go. Don’t play. Instead you should use that valuable time to study, learn more about the game, etc.  Information on Thoroughbred racing is so widespread now that anyone can access just about anything to read on the subject. If you are like me there are several editions of the Blood Horse (or other publications) sitting around that I did not fully read. I don’t care if a magazine has aged several months, I read it because I know I can still learn something new about this game every day if I try.

Every winter my wife does the same thing. She comes into my office at home and asks me what I am going to do with all of that stuff. There are stacks of past performances, results charts, pace charts, breeding diagrams, magazines, and articles that I printed from the Internet and the list goes on and on. She usually says, “I guess you are going to do another one of your studies with all of this stuff, huh?” I always responded affirmatively. She shakes her head and then asks if it is time for her to make the annual run of the vacuum cleaner in my office. I simply say “don’t disturb anything even my dirt.”

The moral of the story is to use any down time from the track to make your next visit a more successful one. I know many of you need the action all of the time but failing to take time to learn more about racing is a costly error. It takes study and patience to win at this game. And that’s because it is not a game of luck, it is a game of skill.