I went to my hairdresser today.
Many of you, perhaps Alan or Andy in particular, are thinking, Now, what could that possibly have to do with me?
Well, a number of years ago during a moment of questionable lucidity, my girlfriend and I decided that I should dye my hair red. Using a home hair coloring treatment that I conveniently purchased at the local Wal-Mart, I was confidently convinced that my hair would look as a beautiful and as striking as the auburn hair that was displayed on the box. But that was not the case. Yes, after the home color treatment, my hair was red. Not auburn. Not strawberry blond. Not even Curlin's handsome chestnut. It was fire engine red. It was Bozo the Clown red. I stared into the mirror, too stunned to string more than three words together to form a coherent communication, "help ... fix ... ack ... gasp". My girlfriend bolted to the nearest drugstore and purchased a smorgasbord of hair color shades in the hopes that we could either lighten my hair or darken it or cover it up. In case of catastrophic failure, I was prepared to convert to Buddhism and shave my head and become a monk.
By 1:30 in the morning, success was marginal and I decided that I would have to live with the strawberry-watermelon-peach-blond color that we finally obtained. So I lived with it. I lived with it for 2 days and then went to a professional hairstylist who colored and highlighted and improved my hair color, all the while making small talk about other home hair coloring disasters that she has had to "clean up" during her career. And her "clean up" with my hair did not come cheap.
The point of this story is the old adage, "You get what you pay for."
Which leads me to the veterinarian practices in horse racing.
Since the Great Patrick Biancone Cobra Venom Raid at Keeneland occurred a few weeks ago, there has been numerous articles and commentary generated about drugs in horse racing, some of it sound and factual, and other opinions spouting nonsense. Some horse racing enthusiasts even feel that Monsieur Biancone’s talented filly, Lady of Venice, CashCall Mile win is tainted because he’s a "cheater" and if you watch the race very closely, you can clearly see a trail of pixie dust as Lady of Venice crosses the wire. But seriously, one commonality remains amidst all the blitz and accusations and suspicions: Successful trainers are being labeled as cheaters.
But let me share with you some of my thoughts ...
Veterinarian practices make a huge difference. The trainers with the Stables of the Rich and Wealthy, like Todd Pletcher, can afford brilliant equine vets that ensure horses get optimum treatments, nutrients, supplements, Bose sound systems in their barns that play Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", etc. Smaller operations – trainers with only a few horses and limited budgets – do not have that luxury. Obviously, the horse that is receiving top-notch vet care has the advantage.
And trainers are generally not known for being pharmacologists, nor veterinarians for that matter. So the scenario exists that an unprincipled or uninformed vet, or a vet who’s just a plain ol’ buffoon, can propose a treatment for the horse that, unbeknownst to the trainer, could be harmful or even unethical. And the trainer would defer to the vet because, afterall, he's supposed to know what's good for the animal. And then there's all that "other stuff" to consider as provided by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, remembering that allowable levels are different from state to state.
Yes, there are cheaters and unscrupulous individuals associated with horse racing. But realistically, horsemen love their animals and put the horse’s health and well-being above all. Their intentions are to never jeopardize the horse.