Post-mortem

I still haven’t made it all the way through the six hours of TV coverage of Saturday’s races. Next time, I’m going to TiVo hour by hour, so that I can delete after each segment, instead of having the whole damn show take up space on my TiVo.

On Inside Racing Tuesday, Jason Blewitt and Eric Donovan (NYRA’s oddsmakers/ handicappers) explained why it took so long to cash winning tickets after the Classic. Apparently, there was a problem with the Pick 6 payoffs posted by Monmouth Park, and when the computers at Aqueduct got the prices for the race, the race was flagged, halting all payouts. They didn’t specify what the problem was, but added that NYRA made admission to Aqueduct free for Sunday, so that people could come back to cash their tickets.

I didn’t know that George Washington had been put down until after I got home Saturday night, and like so many others, I was sickened and saddened. I expected that, given his popularity and the size of the stage, there would be enormous coverage and likely an outcry. I expected that George Washington’s connections would be questioned about their decision to run this horse in the Classic; I expected that people would call for installation of more synthetic tracks.

I didn’t expect people to accuse George Washington’s connections of callousness verging on abuse, and of virtually committing equinicide.

I didn’t expect the esteemed British press (of which I am a big fan, having lived in England for three years) to steep itself in sanctimony and look down its stately nose on U.S. racing.

I didn’t expect that George Washington’s breakdown would be attributed, without question, to his running in the mud.

Is it possible that the muddy track contributed to the breakdown? Of course it is. Is it a fact? Of course not. Should questions be asked about why the horse was entered in the Classic? Of course. Should his connections be pilloried for making that choice? Of course not. It seems inhumane to point fingers at the grieving connections, and I simply cannot conceive that they would knowingly put this treasured colt in jeopardy.

I’ve watched horses race on muddy/sloppy tracks my whole life, and it has never seemed to me to be necessarily any more treacherous than good/fast tracks. If you have an informed opinion with which to weigh in, please do…I’d love to hear from people with more experience/information than I have.

Back in action at the Big A on Wednesday.

5 thoughts on “Post-mortem

  1. I had the same reaction, particularly to some elements of the British press, much of which seemed to stem from a poor showing overall this year rather than from real hurt about George Washington. But with the exception of Dylan Thomas, they did not really send horse at their peak this time around — perhaps that’s a bigger part of why they did ‘so poorly’ this year.After Horatio Nelson, O’Brien wasn’t going to do anything foolish, and I don’t see anything beyond simple bad luck.

  2. The vet who briefed the media following the Classic (I forget his name, but it was not Dr. Bramlage) said an injury that catastrophic likely stemmed from a pre-existing condition that probably wasn’t detected. The vet also said that a horse like GW likely changes it gait to try and handle the sloppy track and probably also contributed to the final injuries.Is it interesting that none of the media — whether U.S. or British — bothered to write this.

  3. Very interesting, Tom–I’ve read a lot of press over the last few days, and this was never mentioned. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. Here is the transcript of the vet addressing the media after The Classic.During the running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic Thoroughbred race, George Washington was injured and subsequently euthanatized. Following is a report from the Breeders’ Cup notes team from an Oct. 27 interview by Erin Wing with AAEP On-Call veterinarian Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DSc, DrMedVet (hc), Dipl. ACVS, Barbara Cox Anthony Chair and Director of Orthopedic Research at Colorado State University (CSU), immediately after the injury.Eric Wing: We are live in the interview tent right now. Before we bring in the winning connections of Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge winner current link, we have with us Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, the on call veterinarian of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). We saw George Washington was eased late in the race. Can you give us an update on what is going on with George Washington.Dr. McIlwraith: George Washington sustained an open fracture of the cannon bone in the right front fetlock joint and disarticulated the joint at the same time and had both sesamoid fractures broken. So it was a hopeless injury as far as repair, and he has been euthanatized. Eric Wing: Is this anything that can be attributed to a sloppy racetrack or not? Dr. McIlwraith: No. You know, there’s been no comparative work done scientifically as far as the nature of the track.You know, at times, a sloppy racetrack at the end of the day, you could have some concerns, because they are running in the base; and then obviously the base is not made for them to be running on directly; like it was a very sloppy track. You know, as you know, the rest of the races have gone off well, but it’s always a concern. Eric Wing: It looked, watching the race, as a spectator, that George Washington was maybe having a little trouble negotiating the course early on. He seemed to be struggling, at least relative to the other horses. Is there any knowledge whatsoever about when during the course of the race this injury might have occurred?Dr. McIlwraith: Well, typically these injuries occur in the last part of the race. They are more fatigued so they have got less support to the joint. And that’s when the injuries normally occur. As you know, he’s I think this is the first time he’s raced on a dirt surface. And he could have had trouble with being less coordinated on that, as he’s used to racing on grass; those are possibilities. We generally consider these fractures to start as associated with earlier damage, so they can sustain a small degree of damage and then it can escalate into a fracture. So it is quite possible, especially when you have a horse that’s relatively inexperienced at that surface and racing on a different surface. We talk a lot now about investigating the cause of these fractures, minor incoordination or just not landing on the leg as exactly the same way as a horse that’s completely used to that surface does. Eric Wing: Were any of the three owners or trainer involved in the decision prior to euthanatization, or is it an open and shut case, pardon the term.Dr. McIlwraith: The decision was made very quickly. Aidan O’Brien was on the racetrack with the horse right after it happened, and he requested euthanasia. Eric Wing: I wish to point out, George Washington raced in the Classic at Churchill last year, but races on grass and switches to a track with a lot of water and slop, does it have any meaning, meaning is this a bad example?Dr. McIlwraith: You mean a bad example to switch it to a sloppy track? Eric Wing: Are you saying it’s not a wise move that it should be or should not be done? Dr. McIlwraith: No. I was being asked for sort of possibilities as to, if you can have contributing factors, and you can certainly have many contributing factors. But, no, I certainly did not imply that it’s not a wise move. Eric Wing: I don’t mean to take you outside your field of expertise or your focus today, but as an onlooker and an observer, can you characterize in any way the emotions of Aiden O’Brien or the owners from where you stood? Dr. McIlwraith: Well, we weren’t there. Dr. Bambridge and I, we were across the racetrack. So we have no we weren’t present for that. But I’m sure he’s extremely upset about it. Eric Wing: Doctor, as always, we appreciate your expertise and your speed in getting in here and updating us on the situation. Thank you very much. Produced for Breeders’ Cup FastScripts by ASAP Sports

  5. I will remember this event forever. It was my first breeders cup attendance. My wife and I were battling the rain and it seemed to let up some the last three races. To see English Channel and Curlin win was such a great thing to watch. My eyes were upon Curlin at the finish and then turned back to the finish line and saw GW’s hoof/leg flop was just horrible. After the event I learned more about GW than I did before the race. He was a true champion and I will remember him as that. The jockey praised him because GW did not fall. It was a very unsettling trip home. I hate when this happens and with Eight Belles tragedy it is a reminder that the love of these horses that coincides with our love of the sport brings out the most of our emotions.I would never condemn O’Brien but I often believe in his heart he questioned himself. GW back from retirement, racing on dirt rather than turf, and in the slop had to cross his mind. I just hope trainers in the future will use this event in understanding a scratch can be better than being a long shot in the slop so far from home. GW deserved better for he was a champion.

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