Friday, September 14, 2018

Hope and caution

Life goes on, for those still alive, anyway.  And in our case that means going to Bath on Sunday and to Yarmouth on Tuesday, but almost certainly not to Brighton on Monday.  I covered Bath in a chapter earlier in the week.  We have scraped into the Bath Stayers' Series Final by the skin of our teeth as we qualified with zero qualification points, having not run in a qualifier (and only being qualified because we were entered in one which was abandoned).  Fortunately there were only 17 entries (well, 18, of which one wasn't qualified) and we were one of only two who hadn't run in a qualifier.  Funnily enough, these two (Hope Is High and Innoko) finished first and second in the Final last year.

Innoko and Hope Is High obviously would have been the first two to be eliminated were eliminations required.  As it has turned out, though, only 14 of the 17 were declared, and the safety factor is 14.  So no eliminations were needed.  Hope doesn't go into the race with the string of wins which she had next to her name 12 months ago, but the handicapper has given her a bit of a chance and she will run off a 3lb lower rating than last year - well, one could say that in practice that's 6lb, because Nicola will ride, claiming three.  Obviously we won't head down there with expectation (not that I ever head anywhere with expectation) but we can head with some sort of hope.

Parek (Sussex Girl) looks to have no chance of getting into her race at Brighton on Monday, but she and Das Kapital are entered for the same race at Yarmouth on Tuesday, and both are intended runners.  The race might be divided (although it looks more likely not to be) which would be nice, but if they have to run against each other, then so be it.  That's never totally satisfactory, but the race will be oversubscribed, so any horse would have 13 rivals whether I run one or two.  In fact, depending on which is the last horse to be eliminated, they could each make it easier for the other to win the race, not harder.

Whatever, it'll be nice to have runners at the Yarmouth September Meeting, which isn't as easy as it used to be as all the low-grade races (bar this one) have been removed from its upgraded programme.  It's always a big occasion in this area, so I'm pleased that we shall be there on one of its days.  Otherwise, what is there to say?  Too much, really, as we have had plenty going on without my paying as much attention as I should have done.  The altrenogest/Regumate thing is one of them.  I had noticed a week or two ago that Racing Victoria had told trainers not to use it and that the trainers were whingeing, but I hadn't gone beyond that.

It actually makes me despair when I hear of trainers whingeing about the prospect of not being able to use a drug, of trainers throwing out the lament of, "How are we to train the horses without this essential aid?".  It's ludicrous, whether it is Australian trainers gnashing their teeth about the supposed essentialness (essentiality?) of Regumate (or, formerly, anabolic steroids), or American trainers making similar assertions regarding Lasix, or bute.  What's wrong with these idiots?  Do they know nothing about horses?  Do they know nothing about the skills of their (our) predecessors.

One only needs to look up the schedules of the horses of yesteryear, the horses of the eras prior to Regumate, anabolic steroids, Lasix or bute being available, to realise that it is perfectly possible to train horses without them.  In fact, one might think that it was easier.  Our predecessors seemed able to race their horses far more rigourously than is now generally considered feasible, so what has gone wrong?  Are trainers nowadays so much less skilled than those of yesteryear?  Or is it that breeders collectively are so inept that they have allowed the breed to deteriorate so markedly that horses just can't cope with the schedules of the past?  Probably both.  But, whichever it is, any trainer who ever whinges that horses can't be trained without any particular drug needs to take a long, hard look at himself/herself.

The other long, hard look will need to be taken by our law-makers.  This observation has been prompted by what has brought Regumate from the recesses to the forefront of my mind, ie an email which I received from the BHA on Tuesday.  Apparently, the Victorian stewards have banned Regumate because it has come to light that it seemingly may well contain a small amount of an anabolic steroid.  ("Altrenogest is commonly referred to by the trade name "Regumate".  It has been reported in international racing jurisdictions that trace elements of the anabolic steroid(s) trenbolone and/or trendione have been detected in products which contain altrenogest.").

What can we deduce from this?  Well, it needs to be established in double-quick time whether Regumate does or does not contain an anabolic steroid.  If it is found that it does, then one of two things will need to be done, bearing in mind that the BHA has made a great play of creating a situation where the thoroughbred is meant to lead an anabolic-free life from the cradle to the grave.  Either Regumate needs to be banned for thoroughbred use, which would bring 'the breeding industry' to a standstill (either because its absence would make the practice of getting large numbers of mares in foal in a short period in the spring much harder, or because its continued use would see every breeder warned off or excluded) or the new rules on anabolic steriods need to be ripped up.

And don't, by the way, think that this isn't an issue because we are only talking about trace elements of an anabolic steroid in the product.  It is enough of an issue for RVL to ban it for use in racehorses.  (But, seemingly, not broodmares, so perhaps Victoria doesn't maintain the same life-time anabolic-free stance that we do).  Sungate, which was being used as a cortico-steroid (and cortico-steroids are legal, notwithstanding that I don't think that they should be) and which caused a mighty furore a few years ago and led to the warning off of Gerard Butler, only contained a very small amount of an anabolic steroid, along with its primary (and legal) ingredients.

Where does this leave us?  Can Regumate be used?  Well, yes - we are told that the BHA published Detection Time is 288 hours (15 days) but it comes with the caveat that, "In light of the international situation, the BHA would strongly advise trainers to be cautious if using altrenogest in racing thoroughbreds."  What does that mean?  Shouldn't trainers be cautious anyway about using any drug in racing thoroughbreds?  I know I am.  Just as all animals are equal but some are more equal than others, I guess that that maybe applies to caution too.

No comments: