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Horse Racing Partnerships 101: Race Day Stewards

Posted by LRF Staff on Jun 7, 2016 8:17:45 PM

To the casual observer, a horse’s race day routine appears mundane. However, your horse racing partnerships horse’s journey from barn to paddock to post includes interactions with a variety of individuals who work to ensure the safety of the athletes and the integrity of the race. Below are just some of the people who directly or indirectly interact with a Thoroughbred when it is entered to race:

Regulatory veterinarian: When a horse is entered to race, it is visited by a regulatory veterinarian on the morning of the event. The regulatory veterinarian conducts a pre-race exam of the horse to ensure its racing soundness, and he or she can recommend that the horse be scratched if a problem is suspected. There is also at least one regulatory veterinarian who watches horses in the paddock, in the post parade, and at the starting gate. He or she can decide any time up until the race goes off to recommend that a horse be scratched. Regulatory veterinarians are employed by the state/racing association, not by owners or managing partners of thoroughbred partnerships and trainers, so they serve as objective advocates for the horse.

Horse Identifier: If you watch horses enter the paddock before a race, you may notice someone crouching to get a look at the inside of each horse’s upper lip. This person is the horse identifier, and his/her job is to make sure that the horse that is entered to race is the horse that is brought to the paddock and runs the race. Horses are currently identified by a tattoo on their upper lip that consists of a letter and five numbers. Microchips will be become mandatory in 2017. The horse identifier also uses pictures provided by The Jockey Club of each horse to confirm that the documented colors and markings of the entered horse match.

Paddock Judge: Have you ever wondered who decides when jockeys can mount their horses and go to the racetrack in one coordinated proceeding? Who stops a trainer from adding blinkers to a horse without getting the stewards’ approval? These are just some of the responsibilities of the paddock judge. As the name would suggest, the paddock judge is in charge of the operations of the paddock. His job is to make sure that all horses arrive to the paddock before the race on time and that they leave to go to the track on time. The paddock judge also makes sure that each horse is wearing approved equipment. For example, he may scratch a horse for wearing prohibited horse shoes, and he will not let a horse add or drop blinkers for a race without prior consent of the track stewards.

Starter/Assistant Starter: The assistant starter has one of the most dangerous jobs in all of sports. An assistant starter’s job is to safely walk a horse into the starting gate and keep its head straight so that it is afforded a fair start when the gates open. When you are dealing with naturally claustrophobic animals in a tight, metal space, this is easier said than done. Assistant starters wear safety vests and helmets to protect themselves from horses that may rear, flip, and/or thrash in the starting gate. Before a horse can be entered to race for the first time, it must earn its gate card from the starting gate crew, which is achieved through schooling at the gate during training hours in the morning.

Stewards: The stewards are rarely seen, but their influence is pervasive at the track during a race day. When interference occurs during a race or a jockey lodges an objection, the stewards are the people who decide whether or not there should be a disqualification. Additionally, stewards will put horses who perform poorly on the steward’s list. This will prevent the horse from being entered in a race until it works out under a specified time in front of the stewards. When stewards are not adjudicating races, they may be holding hearings or writing reports. The stewards are responsible for the conduct of races and to make sure that the state rules are enforced.

The next time you head to the racetrack, keep an eye out for these men and women who make racing safe and fair for everyone involved!

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Topics: Opinion Piece

Horse Racing Partnerships 101: How We Treat Our Horses

Posted by LRF Staff on May 31, 2016 9:05:55 PM

In the aftermath of the Preakness Stakes last weekend, I was expecting that my non-racing friends and family would ask me about Exaggerator, the horse who finally defeated his rival, the undefeated Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, in a thrilling race on Saturday afternoon. Who owns him?  Is he part of a thoroughbred partnership? Much to my dismay, my post-Preakness conversations were not about the efforts of Exaggerator and Nyquist.

Rather, they were focused on Homeboykris and Pramedya, two horses who died earlier in the day. I had seen social media quickly blow up with links to articles about these deaths on Saturday afternoon, but I was not expecting them to be the lead story of the weekend. A common theme among the sources that was noted by myself and fellow horse racing fans was that these news outlets ignore horse racing 362 days a year (with the exceptions being the dates of the Triple Crown races). Thus, their limited “coverage” is skewed at best and wrong at worst.

We cannot help but become frustrated when my social media feeds are swarmed with comments from anti-racing people who come out of the woodwork whenever the mainstream media decides to shine a spotlight on the darkest parts of Thoroughbred racing. Unfortunately, racing suffers immensely from a lack of central leadership, and this deficiency often prevents the sport from standing up for itself when necessary. However, this does not mean that racing fans, those who are most frequently questioned about the sport that we love so much, cannot stand up for it and educate our friends and family who are willing to listen.

When a Thoroughbred dies of a heart attack, the casual observer needs to understand that the horse was not drugged, raced, or abused into cardiac arrest. He or she must realize that “drugs” should not be the scapegoat every time a horse suffers a catastrophic injury. They need to know that strict testing programs are in place to catch and punish anyone who tries to cheat and/or compromise a horse’s safety. Those who hate horse racing claim that people within the industry are apathetic toward equine fatalities. We wonder how many of these people have seen the outpouring of emotions at the track and on social media when a horse dies on the racetrack.

If the mainstream media will not tell the masses every part of racing’s story, then the knowledgeable racing fan must teach the casual observer that a riding crop/whip/stick is a tool, not a weapon. Like any tool, it is effective when used correctly. When it is misused, criticism of the user, not the whip itself, is warranted. If PETA and other animal rights groups will not acknowledge the countless organizations that exist to rehome ex-racehorses, then it is our duty as people who love racing and know about racing to debunk the ridiculous myth that all “slow” horses are sent to slaughter.

At first, we hated that tragedy has dominated my conversations about Preakness weekend. However, I have taken these discussions as an opportunity to teach those who would otherwise be left to form their opinions about horse racing from the warped portrait painted by mainstream media. I hope that people ask me the tough questions that mainstream media sources choose not to answer unless it will result in increased viewership and/or readership. I hope all passionate fans join me in embracing this questioning. The horse racing industry is far from perfect, but we should be the ones telling our story.

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Topics: Opinion Piece

Horse Racing Partnerships 101: Breeding

Posted by LRF Staff on May 20, 2016 1:00:00 PM

In late fall, horse racing publications are dominated by articles announcing that many of the male and female equine stars of the racing world have been retired. If the horse is an intact male, he will be retired to begin stud duties. If the horse is a filly or mare, she will trade racing for motherhood and become a broodmare (a female horse used for breeding). This sounds simple enough, but the transition from athlete to parent often involves significant planning and considerable amounts of money.

For a filly or mare, her retirement destination is not always obvious. If a racehorse owner also breeds horses on his or her own farm, it is likely that his or her fillies/mares will retire to his or her farm, which is where the mare will live for the duration of her pregnancies and while nursing her foals. It is also possible for horse owners to breed horses without owning their own farms. In this case, they will pay to board their mares at another farm. For example, commercial farms such as Claiborne, Lane’s End, and Hill ’n Dale keep their own horses on their farms in addition to boarding horses owned by clients.

However, not all people who race horses, breed horses, and not all people who race and breed horses retain all of their horses for breeding purposes. In this case, broodmare prospects are sold privately or at public auctions. Two of the most famous sales for broodmare prospects are the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and the Fasig-Tipton-Tipton November Sale. Two-time champion Ashado was consigned to the Keeneland Sale, where she sold for $9 million, while Havre De Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, sold for $10 million in the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. A filly or mare’s retirement plans are determined by her sole owner or if owned by one of the horse racing partnerships, the managing partner.

When it comes to successful colts, securing a stud deal is almost always more lucrative than the horse’s total racetrack earnings. A colt may have his retirement plans determined as early as his two-year-old-year or as late as at the conclusion of his racing career. Even though many racehorse owners do own farms, most farms are not home to breeding stallions. Thus, the majority of the top stallions in the United States are kept at farms who specialize in standing stallions at stud.

For the top farms, a colt usually needs to win at least one Grade I race (Grade Is are the most prestigious races) to become a sought-after stallion prospect. Once a colt wins a Grade I, his owner’s phone will start ringing with offers from stud farms. Stud farms aim to purchase the breeding rights of top colts and often divide the ownership into a syndicate (think horse racing partnerships) of shares upon retirement. Although the stallion will live at one farm, he may end up with dozens of new owners who own one or more breeding shares. These shares entitle the owner to a range of benefits including a share of revenue from the horse’s stud fees and free breedings to the horse with the shareholder’s own broodmares.

The colt’s owner may choose to sell all of the horse when he retires, but most retain some shares so that they can continue to profit from the horse after he leaves the racetrack. Secretariat made headlines in 1973 when he was syndicated for a record $6.08 million...BEFORE he won the Triple Crown. Fusaichi Pegasus, winner of the 2000 Kentucky Derby, was syndicated for about $50 million!

Regardless of a top horse’s gender, its breeding future is carefully planned so that it is afforded the best opportunity for success and its owners on the racetrack or in retirement can optimize their chances for profitability.

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Topics: Horse Ownership Tips

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