Monday, January 24, 2011

I Want Revenge (on my trainer...)

Old story, but somehow the New York Times was able to get a copy of the veterinary bill for this fantastic equine specimen during last April, the month before his unfortunate scratch the morning of the Kentucky Derby, here is a portion:

The colt was x-rayed 04/10/09 and remained in training for the KY Derby.
Colt underwent ultrasound on 04/14/09 and remained in training for the Derby.
Colt had tendon sheath injected 04/15/09.
Colt had both front fetlock joints injected with HA on 04/29/09.
During the previous month the colt also received:
60 cc DMSO IV jug,
IV baytril X 6,
IV liquamycin X 4,
IM adequan X 2,
gastroguard paste ($280 worth),
panacure powerpack,
naquasone paste,
injected “enzymes” and “vitamins” X 5,
lasix X 3,
dormosedan X 2,
IV bute X 5,
IM banamine,
L-arginine (animo acid),
robinul (decreases stomach acid),
and anedotal evidence suggests more was involved but left off the invoice in question.

Noted vet Dr. Larry Bramlage was quoted as saying this was a typical prescription for all Derby horses.

I include this info because I have many foreign readers who perhaps don't allow medications in the countries in which they race. Also, because when we discuss conditioning practices in terms of how far, how fast, and how frequently horses are exercised - we need to realize that there are many factors of which we have zero knowledge about.

My critics will state: "So what, he was scratched - the vets did their job." But he wasn't scratched until the morning of the Derby when he was unable to jog sound - even though he threw a bullet 4F work just 3 days earlier - a work he could have never attempted without multiple injections. We are all lucky he wasn't allowed to run 10F on Saturday.

As trainer Jeff Mullins stated so eloquently: "People who bet on horses are suckers." I'll give the man this, he's a honest guy.

How can you bet off of info from Ragozin and DRF when neither of them will give you the vet bills on the horse you back with your money? We spend all of this time and effort handicapping and arguing about surfaces when performances often result from good or bad drug practices.

I, and my clients, WILL prove that you can win in the US without drugs. I am not anti-drug by nature, if all of this stuff added up to horses running Derby times under 2:00 I would be a big advocate for Lasix, Bute, and others.

But, we breed the equine Michael Jordans and Marion Jones(track) a million times (80 years X 12,000 times a year) conservatively, and we still cannot run Classic races any faster than we did in 1930. What is wrong with this picture?

How about we stop the drug use, employ old time training regimens with speedwork twice a week starting at age 2, and use 21st century technology such as interval training, massage, chiropractic, hyperbaric chambers, etc. on horses BEFORE they go lame, in an effort to product the next Secretariat?

The alternative is to do the same stuff and waste another 80 years of potential development so we can watch the 2094 Derby winner come across the line in a pedestrian 2:03, what a waste of a fantastic animal.

EDIT: Here is the actual vet bill:


  1. It is horrifying and abusive to treat horses like pin-cushions. Racing needs a commissioner/czar, who then needs to BAN drugs for racing/training horses.
    It's 2011. Medicine/veterinary medicine and pharmaceuticals are completely out of control- there is a drug for every ailment and non-ailment, and the pushers are making tons of money drugging every horse and person in sight.

    I hope that you produce tons of evidence by producing many drug-free winners over the next few years- this is how the pendulum can begin to swing back.

  2. I thank you very much for that blast of fresh air.

  3. That is a really long list of meds and I'm surprised Dr. Bramlage said that was usual. I wish I could say I was surprised at the pharmacology of IWR. Six days after the Derby, I wrote a blog piece about video analysis and IWR, pointing out his erratic R.B. Lewis stretch run and his pre-race workout video. Since then, the workout was removed from you tube.

    Where does a owner/trainer draw the line? How much medication/treatment is too much? Even using a hyperbaric chamber, chiropractic treatment, modalities such as magnets, ultrasound or electrical stimulation is much more than running on just "hay, oats, and water."

    The "old school" way levels the playing field. Getting a winner should not be about buying the best care available as smaller outfits try to heal with natural remedies such as ice/heat. The game should be about horsemanship, I'd like to see this advanced care go away, including Lasix and Bute, for "race-ready" charges.

  4. another quote from Dr. Bramlage:

    "Trainer Jeff Mullins and the owners should be commended for putting the health and welfare of the horse first."

  5. and how about IWR's vet, Dr. Foster Northrup?

    Northrop was vice chairman of the American Association of Equine Practitioners Racing Task Force, which authored a white paper and issued guidelines for protecting the health of a thoroughbred.

    Among its many recommendations was to “provide complete transparency for the veterinarian-trainer-owner relationship in all aspects of health-care decisions.”

  6. Now for some credit where it is due, of the 20 connections asked for their vet records after the Derby, only 3 complied:

    Friesan Fire (Rick Porter owner, Larry Jones trainer), Papa Clem (Bo Hirsch owner, Gary Stute trainer) and Win Willy (Jerry Myers owner, Mac Robertson trainer).

    I Want Revenge's vet bills were drug out in unrelated court proceedings I believe.

  7. My good christ, no wonder they break down. I've seen that list before, but it always is worth seeing again. A horse full of all that stuff couldn't feel it if he had four bowed tendons and three broken ankles. Shame on American racing for allowing this to be "normal."

  8. No one ever takes into account that the horses that can actually run fast, are going to injure something at some point in time. Look at your professional athletes, name a single one that hasn't had a minor set back from an injury during there career? I want revenges injuries might have been miniscule during his romps in new york, but possibly came apparent after his bullet work at churchill three days before. I love when people that don't know much about training horses write blogs about how horses should have been trained before a race.

  9. Typical apologist, I was waiting for one of these. Athletes do get hurt, and they also miss games and seasons. It happens, true.

    I Want Revenge was unsound before his bullet work, as evidenced by numerous scans and injections in April. After the work, he was injected again and still not scratched yet. Write your own blog explaining how wonderful 'horsemanship' that is. Here is the vet bill:

    How many times have you ordered a scan on a sound horse? Never, you can to see where to inject, then you inject.

    Physical training is physical training, whether it's Olympic athletes or elite thoroughbreds.

    Humans can play hurt and survive, horses that play hurt are often injured further.

    If you tell me, Mr. Horseman, that it's common practice to inject joints, add bute, and lasix in order to survive a 4F breeze - then you are part of the problem.

    Let's say your son has a race coming up next week in high school. The only way he can compete is if you inject his knees and give him painkillers the night before. Does he race?

    If you want to treat horses like disposable cameras that is your decision, but I don't have to like it.

  10. Sorry to continue to rant, but I take issue with the comment above saying the injury 'might' have been miniscule in NY and 'possibly' came apparent after his work when it's a matter of record that:

    'He received a filling in his ankle on April 10 after Regard says the horse pulled up lame, and the ankle subsequently received an x-ray and two injections.'

    Horse run just as fast in other countries without a Kroger pharmacy coursing through their veins.

  11. X-rays and ultrasounds are very commonly used on a horse racing at IWR's level - sometimes after EACH work just to be on the safe side.

    Two of the meds listed are ANTIBIOTICS, to treat infection. Are you implying that the hay-oats-and-water folks would also deny a horse common remedies like antibiotics for possible infection?

    Gastroguard is a med to prevent ulcers (omeprazole) and is used a whole lot by folks who can afford it. It's pricey but really, really effective. It is not "banned" anywhere. I daresay there are trainers elsewhere in the world who use this to prevent/treat ulcers.

    Panacur powerpack is a parasite removal regimen, involving deworming the horse five days in a row. It is broad spectrum and targets encysted small strongyles, the HARDEST parasite to get out of the horse completely. They don't deworm horses where you live/want to race? It is common to follow deworming with antibiotics to prevent post-treatment infection from the massive parasite kill.

    I could go on - there is NOTHING in this list that is not commonly used with the exception of the Lasix which is the anti-bleeder med that is not used in some foreign countries.

    I want the licensed trainer who claims this list is somehow so extraordinary and cruel to the animal to identify himself/herself so that I can put him/her on my too-ignorant-to-be-trusted list.

  12. Please put me on your 'too-ignorant-to-be-trusted-list', that will save us both a lot of time.

    In all seriousness I very much appreciate your homework above, I was too lazy to look up all of those drugs.

    My main issue is with tendon sheath and joint injections within 24 hours of a powderpuff 4F breeze with the intention all along of running 10F just days later on national television.

    Plus the fact that we cannot discount the use of Gastroguard can be necessitated by multiple doses of Bute everytime he goes to the track for a simple gallop.

    I try to convince trainers to go back to the Allan Jerkens way of training, possibly he drugged the hell out of his too - but they also trained and raced much more often, and even 80 years of selective breeding and drugs have not resulted in faster horses.

    You keep doing things your way, and I'll keep doing them mine. You can find ample info on the web of how horses are conditioned these days, but many out there are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes.

  13. The use of these therapeutic drugs points to one fact, and one fact only: the effort to reach the targeted race was more important to owner, trainer, and veterinarian than the horse itself. I Want Revenge was obviously compromised, and the evidence is in the medication list. Wormer and antibiotics aside, a horse undergoing such treatment requires time off. As my mentor was likely to say, "tincture of time, iodine of neglect" and the cure is achieved. A corollary to all of this is that the betting public was deceived. No wonder handle continues to decline, and horse racing closes more tracks. People sense this even when it is kept secret, as most trainers and owners keep these facts secret. It is rotten to the core. Every time a horse is sore, it is due to injury; how preventable is that injury, and how is a horse undergoing therapeutic treatment allowed to run?

  14. Xrays and scans to be on the safe side? Followed by injections one day later?

    Your guesstimates and assumptions Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous can often go unchallenged, but not in this case thanks to the lawsuit and vet testimony detailed below:

    IEAH Stables, which bought 50 percent of the horse in March, asserts that I Want Revenge was ailing as early as April 7 and that the co-owner David Lanzman, who managed the colt’s racing activities, failed to disclose the injuries to IEAH.

    Mullins was worried about puffiness in I Want Revenge’s right ankle upon his arrival at Churchill Downs, just days after the colt captured the Wood Memorial in New York, according to Northrop’s testimony.

    “He was a little concerned that he may have a small chip in the ankle is what he said,” Northrop, who was I Want Revenge’s primary veterinarian in Kentucky, testified. “He had done something overnight in his stall.”

    On April 10, the colt’s right front fetlock was X-rayed, and on April 14 an ultrasound was conducted on it, according to testimony and veterinarian bills.

    The next day, I Want Revenge was injected in his right front digital sheath with hyaluronic acid and Vetalog, a corticosteroid.

  15. Using modern medicine to keep a horse in top condition is the job of the trainers.The good trainers do it well.Antibiotics worming, ulser medicine,x rays ultra sound and yes joint injections are all for the health of the horse.How many times a year do professional baseball pitcher have their shoulders injected? Screaming drug abuse when you don't understand shows ignorance.

  16. Hey, anonymous, put me on your list, too. Doesn't seem right that you get my name and I don't get yours, but that's OK with me. I do think you owe it to yourself to become enlightened about the rules of racing in other countries before you put yourself forward as knowledgeable on that subject, though. Gastroguard (and everything else on that list, with the exception of the wormer) is indeed banned in "other places". The withdrawal time is about five days, so we have to stop it once the horse is entered. As for antibiotics, giving them for a "possible" infection is a disservice to medicine. And as for x-raying and scanning "just in case," geez, no wonder owners feel like they're being fleeced. I've seen American training bills with vet fees that outstrip the day rate. Scandalous.

  17. Anon-

    Injecting joints and tendons the day after an ultrasound, then breezing 4F on, or about, the SAME DAY of a 2nd round of injections is not right in my book. In come cases your comments may be accurate, but not in this one.

    Using modern medicine to breeze and race a lame and unsound horse is not an 'advance', it's a cheating shortcut.

    And pitchers these days blow out their arms after 4 innings, while the old timers threw just as hard and twice as long with no injections. Again, cheating shortcuts tied to economics - not a miracle of modern medicine.

  18. Probably not a coincidence that the connections of I Want Revenge have all been accused of immoral, unethical, illegal behavior somewhere down the line, within or without the thoroughbred business.

    Trainers with multiple drug violations, owners facing various equine lawsuits, histories of bad behavior in other businesses, etc.

    I don't blame all the defenders of these guys calling themselves Anonymous.

    Take a second, fill out a Google profile, and put your name and reputation out there for all of the readers like I and others have done.

    I will proudly go down in internet history for the positions I have taken, will you?

  19. Another gem from a respected horseman:

    Northrop, who declined to comment, is the vice chairman of the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Racing Committee, a group that has advocated taking the mystery out of what comes out of its members’ black bags. In June he wrote an essay for The Times, “Making Good Decisions to Protect Horses.”

    Still, when IEAH’s lawyer, Andre Regard, asked, “What do you think about the fact that one of the advertised issues of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is greater transparency and disclosure?”

    “I’m all for it,” he answered.

    “Do you think that a horse that’s the favorite for the Kentucky Derby deserves more transparency and disclosure of treatments?” Regard asked.

    “To the owners, yes,” Northrop said.

    “What about the public who is betting on it?” Regard asked.

    “No,” he replied.

  20. Dr. Northrup only has a reponsibility to his client; however, hiding knowledge of compromised horse health aids in deceiving the public. Knowingly sending a compromised horse to post, when that horse is likely to have a lot of money placed upon it by the betting public, is conspiring to defraud the public. After Bill's comment, this is stating the obvious, but making it explicit should help define a new standard in ethical accountability for veterinarians. The complicity in defrauding the public should be addressed.
    Have you heard the comment "they're all drugged anyway"? Although withdrawal times likely were followed, and no positive test resulted, knowledge of the widespread practices exemplified by this case creates that general impression.

  21. Please consider these two points:
    1. Dr. Northrup is on the KHRC - surely a blatant conflict of interest.
    2. Veterinarians have no vested interest in a racehorse winning - no purse money, no bonus, no public recognition.

  22. All you need to do is go to - it's free - to find out how common sense saves vets' bills.

  23. Been there, great book that you can access from my site at:

    I have corresponded with the author too, Mr O'Gorman is a very sharp gentleman and a little research show that while traditional trainers injure 50%+ of their horses, he does not.