Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The heat and the drugs

We're still doing well with this weather, or rather we were.  Yesterday was a bit cooler, but today confounded the forecasts by being lovely and hot again, sunny and up in the mid 20s.  I got finished outside early this evening, around 5.15, and came indoors while the evening sun was still beating down.  That was only about three quarters of an hour ago.  I looked at the forecast, noted to my surprise that we were due thunderstorms tonight, which didn't seem at all likely - but, blow me, the forecasts are spot on.  Ten minutes ago the sky turned black and it's now pelting down with rain.  Still very warm but, with an overnight minimum of 14 expected, so we won't be worrying too much about losing summer just yet.

This won't do the ground any harm, so overall things are just grand - and as these photographs from today (of Sail Past heading off for her gallop, then of the dogs lying up, wilting from the heat, and also Frankie having a refreshing shower after his work - and finally, as we had space, a picture from the weekend, of dear little Roy at large in the field) show.  We just don't want days and days of rain again.  We've had quite enough of those in recent weeks.  Otherwise, what's happening?  Well, my eye was taken yesterday by the supposed fact that Windpower ran in the two-year-olds' maiden auction race at Chepstow yesterday, the second run of his life but seemingly his first as a gelding.  Nothing odd in that, one might say - except for the fact that he had only made his debut eight days previously.  Can this be right?

It's fair to assume that Windpower wouldn't have been gelded until the day after his previous race (rather than that evening after getting home from the races) so he'd seemingly been gelded a maximum of seven days before yesterday's race.  Unless a vet is very foolhardy, he gives a colt plenty of both sedative and local anaesthetic prior to gelding - so would these drugs be out of the horse's system seven days later?  I don't know - but I do know that I wouldn't want to put myself in the position of finding out courtesy of the racecourse testers.  Interesting.  (The more likely explanation, of course, is that the horse was gelded months ago, but that his connections forgot to notify Weatherbys in advance of his debut, and that the mistake in his registration was only spotted when his passport was checked when he showed up at the races for his debut.  An interesting one, nonetheless).

Drugs have been on my brain anyway.  I've got some Derby-related drugs musings, but I might hang on to those for a while yet, even though I'm sure that I'll inflict them on you before too long.  But let's get the Derby out of the way first.  What brought these thoughts up was an idiotic statement by Andrew Tinkler's usually-very-sensible racing manager Tim Jones in Tuesday's Racing Post, stating that, as regards the cost of having a horse in training, "Newmarket is 30% dearer than anywhere else".  As crass generalizations go, this one takes the biscuit.  And that's saying something.  It would have been half-OK (but still misleading) for Tim to say something along the lines of "the average cost of having a horse in training in Newmarket is 30% more than the average cost of having a horse in training anywhere/everywhere else".  But to refer to the cost of having a horse in training in Newmarket as if it were a single quantifiable figure, when there is a massive variation among trainers' fees (I'd say that the basic daily rate in Newmarket varies from 30-something pounds per day to 70-something pounds per day) is just ridiculous.

Anyway, another racing manager, David Redvers, waded into the discussion with the statement that "It's not the training fees that are that much more; it's the vets' bills".  Another strange thing to say.  I can't believe that the practice which we use (Newmarket Equine Hospital, formerly known as Greenwood, Ellis & Partners) charges any more than any other veterinary practice elsewhere in the country (in fact, I think that they generally charge surprisingly little) but David's point was that, apparently, "Over-reliance by some in Newmarket on their vets makes their training bills often the lesser part of their monthly bill".

Again, there's a massive variation in policy from stable to stable (I'm like Criquette Head in that use of the vet is kept to a minimum, and here it would have been a disappointing and injury-plagued year if the total annual vet's bill was more than 100 pounds multiplied by the number of horses in the stable, bearing in mind that at least 50% of the horses would have their compulsory annual 'flu vaccination as their only veterinary expense in the year - although I should point out that that is not including worming, which happens four times a year, as a veterinary charge, as one buys the wormers over the counter from Horse Requisites, rather than on prescription from the vet) but maybe there are trainers who use vets so much that each horse runs up many thousands of pounds in vets' bills per year.

If David says that that is the case, then I'm not going to disbelieve him.  Anyway, and I'll get to the point eventually, if this is correct, what's this money for?  It can't just be for a vet looking at a horse once a while and giving a second opinion; it must largely be for medication.  Is this right?  Medication is a big issue at the moment as we are all getting very high and mighty about the Yanks' over-reliance on medication.  But if, as seems to be the case, it is an accepted method in prominent British racing stables for the horses each to be receiving several thousand pounds of drugs each year, are we in any position to maintain our self-righteous stance?

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