Jimmie says | Dear Clovis Metcalfe...
TWO Saturdays past, all the races were named for veterinarians operating at Caymanas Park, World Vet Day, most likely a Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) initiative, considering JRC vets are among the most active within the local equine space, which is dominated by racehorses.
World Vet Day marked another afternoon at the races when the ‘vet’s list’ — a report of all the horses who either returned lame after competing or could not make it to the races – spilled over to two pages, exposing the chronic lameness affecting the equine population at Caymanas Park.
A two-page vet list has apparently become the norm at Caymanas Park, but there’s a pressing question to be asked of the JRC’s veterinarian department and the regulatory authority’s chairman, Clovis Metcalfe.
Sir Metcalfe, pray tell, why are horses deemed lame on the vet list and given return dates of approximately a month to be checked by vets for soundness, to be cleared for racing, reappearing on race programmes a week later, only to be declared late non-starters or breaking down in races, endangering jockeys’ lives and burning punters’ cash?
Also, Sir Metcalfe, while expressing your concerns about horses privately returning to barns from whence they were claimed, breaking no JRC rule, has it ever crossed your mind to ponder whether it is ethical for the commission’s vets to be private practitioners in the backstretch in the mornings and, by afternoon, be determining who should be deemed lame in the parade ring, or at the gate, before the start of races?
Could this obvious conflict of interest have anything to do with two-page vet lists, horses who should never have been allowed to make final programmes, now being the norm?
Another question, Sir Metcalfe, has senior consultant veterinarian Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, who was lauded on World Vet Day for his pivotal role in the local introduction of the anti-bleeding race day medication, lasix, updated you on the fact that the United States (the world, for some people) has finally seen the light and has moved to join the rest of the real world by starting with banning the drug from two-year-old races?
Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was run lasix-free, with a half of the field having never raced on the medication, which aids in the prevention of horses bleeding through the nostrils due to the rupturing of blood vessels during the strain of either exercising or competing in events, but is abused as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs.
The United States’ Triple Crown series, Breeders’ Cup Challenge series and World Championship races are scheduled to be conducted without race-day lasix, as well as all graded-stakes races in many jurisdictions.
Sir Bartlett, considering the introduction of lasix is your legacy, do you intend to bring Jamaica in line with ‘the world’, and the rest of ‘the real world’, where race-day medication, as a whole, has always been a no-no, ensuring a sturdy and hardy breed, unlike the bleeders from North America whose lineage have now come to dominate the local bloodstock?
Sir Metcalfe, has your management structure at the JRC been updating you that ‘the world’ is also catching up with ‘the real world’, finally legislating clear whip rules aimed at jockeys who insist on mercilessly clobbering horses, who are well clear of fields, at times right as they hit the winning post, a practice in which local riders revel, all for show?
The matter of whip rules brings into focus last week’s promised look at the policing of local racing — whether under the existing claiming and conditions system (egregiously adopted from ‘the world’) or ratings-based handicapping — which no country in ‘the real world’ has ever abandoned and all continue to practise as the only equitable method of classifying and allotting weight to racehorses.
Policing any system of racing, ensuring fairness to punters and participants alike, is a no-brainer. Again, it’s simple as ABC. Horse racing, anywhere in the world, under any system, requires stewards who have knowledge of the race form and are armed with effective, punitive measures to deal with offenders.
There is nothing wrong with paper-pushing stewards. Someone has to do the administrative work. However, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of race performances, no stewards’ course can replace an experienced eye on the lookout for in-and-out running.
It’s simple, considering the requisite skill does not exist within the existing stewards’ cohort, a parallel panel must be installed to immediately refer any perceived instance of impropriety during races for robust interviews by the paper-pushers and, if necessary, action that either hits deep in the pocket or have telling impacts on continuation in the sport.
Ainsley ‘Jimmie’ Walters has been covering horse racing for more than 25 years for the Gleaner Company (Media) Limited and is the editorial and production coordinator for the Track And Pools race form.