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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BC Friday Picks

In the wide open Filly and Mare Turf, Lady of Shamrock (12-1) is a blossoming three-year old daughter of Scat Daddy who's a nose away from being undefeated on the grass, in six races, for trainer John Sadler, who purchased her privately for Hronis Racing after she graduated about a year ago.  Nice pick there.  She climbed the grade ladder and won two Grade 1's, most recently the Del Mar Oaks, which followed her American Oaks win at this mile and a quarter distance.  This was all against three-year olds; this will be her first try against older horses, no small ascent in class at this level.  Whatsmore, her Beyers, though steadily increasing, don't quite match up with the other top North American contenders here.

However, the figs I've been looking at, and her Sheets numbers, do.  That tells me two things: that her final time was compromised by the pace scenario and ground loss.  The last 3/8ths of the Del Mar Oaks were run in 35 1/5; and Lady of Shamrock was way wide on the turn heading into the stretch; six wide according to the chart while Trevor Denman had her out there in the eight path!  Yet she rallied past the field to win, with Mike Smith wrapping her up in the closing strides.  The Beyer speed figures don't take pace or ground loss into account; so one can see why she was rated higher by the Project Ultra performance figures, which factor pace into account; and by the Sheets (on which she earned a 4), which consider ground loss.  In any event, it was a highly impressive performance which built on all the ones that preceded it.  She's had 76 days to recover from that effort, and has worked steadily, increasing the distance of her drills from a half mile to seven furlongs along the way.  A concern is the lack of pace on paper in this race.  But all of the top contenders in this race face the same problem, so at her 12-1 morning line - and even at a more likely, in my opinion, 8-1 - I'm willing to roll the dice on this filly showing further improvement and scoring an upset here.

Nahrain (6-1) disappointed overseas at age four after her second place finish to Perfect FREAKING Shirl in last year's edition of this race.  Man, what a glorious day I would have had...still can't believe I lost to that dog.  Anyway, reunited with Lasix, Nahrain returned to win the G1 Flower Bowl at Belmont last month.  It was a somewhat odd performance visually I thought - looked like she didn't have it after they turned for home, but she managed to get home over Zagora with a late surge under a persistent Johnny V.  I think maybe she didn't love the yielding ground, and surely won't have that problem - if that was the case - here.  She ran back to her career best 5 on the Sheets which she earned in this race last year.  I think she'll have to do a little better to take the top honors here.

The Fugue (7-2) and Ridasiyna (4-1) are the two top European shippers, and both come in with highly impressive credentials.  Three-year old Ridasiyna is taking the same route as Nahrain did last year, having won the Prix d'Opera at Longchamps on Arc day.  Tried a different running style, waiting confidently towards the rear of the pack before exploding home for an impressive win at 6-1.  Might be better served being closer to the front in this field as she'd been in the past, though it is sure impressive to see a young horse have the ability to smoothly change tactics like that.  The Fugue, also a 3yo, comes off a couple of excellent Group 1 efforts, and cuts back from a mile and a half to what I think is a preferred distance.  Obviously, either of these fillies can win this race.  The Fugue is rated a point higher by Timeform, while the Racing Post rated Ridasiyna's last race as faster; whatever the hell those numbers mean with respect to ours.  The Sheets, which attempts to rate them on the same scale, has each of the fillies' last efforts as a 4, the same as Lady of Shamrock.  So, at these expected mutuels, I'll use these two underneath.

I'm A Dreamer (8-1) was off a step slow in the Flower Bowl, which had to compromise her chances in that lethargically-paced affair; but she nonetheless rallied for a close 4th.   That followed her Beverly D win, in which she seemed uncomfortable in tight quarters before shifting out to a clear path.  11 post won't help, but can't count her out.  Marketing Mix (9-2) looked like she would have passed I'm A Dreamer in the Beverly D had it been a sixteenth of a mile longer at this distance.  But my numbers rate her slower than the above runners.  Zagora (8-1) is one tough mare, but I think she prefers shorter than this.

I'll use Lady of Shamrock to win, and on top in various combinations and permutations with some or all of the others mentioned.  How's that for being specific?

 - I'm not quite as pumped for the Ladies Classic.  But since I'm not betting any of the 2yo races nor the stupid Marathon, might as well give it a shot.  Wish Royal Delta (9-5) would have run in the Classic, where I may have considered betting her at generous odds against a flawed field.  Now, I'm gonna try and beat her as I did last year, and that didn't turn out that well.  I thought her visually impressive Beldame was made so to a large extent by the competition not showing up, and her figures across the board indicate that it was not a step forward.  Same effort could win here, and I really don't want to get beat by this horse again.   So I'll save with her in some doubles and stuff.  But otherwise will use underneath.

The public workout by Awesome Feather (3-1) in her return to the races at Belmont last month was quite a display.  And, as effortless as it was, she earned some nice numbers, including a career low 5 on the Sheets, just one point higher than the best numbers in the field.  One concern might be that she's not battle tested enough in light of the long layoff (236 days) and the facile race against a weak field.  But I guess that's five-years-ago type thinking.  I think she only needs to move forward a little off that return.  And in the hands of the masterful Chad Brown (a typical, for him, 30% second off the layoff), and with her tractability and strategic speed, that seems a pretty good bet.

Love and Pride (8-1) defeated Royal Delta with a stalking trip in the Personal Ensign two back, and wired the field off a rated pace over this track in a good prep in her last.  With Questing in the field, she'll have to use the former tactics to win here.  Four-year old daughter of AP Indy has been improving steadily this year for the Toddster, and also would have to continue to improve her numbers just a bit to be competitive here.

Questing (4-1) won the Alabama by bottoming out the field with a display of raw field; and was edged out in the Cotillion after being nursed along to a slow pace.  Don't see her getting away with either tactic here.  Cotillion winner My Miss Aurelia (4-1) is undefeated, and if she remains so after this race, I will tip my cap and count my losses.  Just don't think these two are fast enough for this spot.

Include Me Out (12-1) is a little interesting based on a pattern of improvement on the Sheets.  Grace Hall (10-1) has a couple of impressive running lines, but those were against short fields and against lesser competition.

So I'll use Awesome Feather and Love and Pride in exactas with Royal Delta underneath.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Morning Line First Impressions

Some quick first impressions of horses I think would be fair value at their morning least for the races I'm considering playing, which are those other than any of the 2yo races, the Marathon, or the Turf.

Nahrain (6-1) - Filly and Mare Turf.  Last year's runner-up had a disappointing Euro campaign this year, but showed vast improvement when reunited with the evil Lasix in her game Flower Bowl win.

Love and Pride (8-1) - The Race FKA The Distaff.  Followed up her upset win over Royal Delta with a win over the track.  Bettors will be all over the latter after her overrated Beldame can you not like this one if she's 8-1?  Presence of Questing means she'll have to stalk, but she's done so and won before.

Fed Biz (6-1) - Dirt Mile.  Two-for-two over the track and distance, and has shown the ability to stalk and win, which will surely help in this race filled with question marks.  I'm all in against Shackleford in any event; and John Scott (12-1), though it may be that he's simply a synth horse, would be worth a shot at that price too.

Jimmy Creed (6-1) - Sprint.  Actually was hoping he'd run in the Dirt Mile, so just a quick mention here.

Mile - Moonlight Cloud (6-1).  Endured nightmare trip against Excelebration in August, and only lost by a length and a half.  Always-trying filly has really come to hand at age four.

Classic - As stated previously, not worth staying home for on a Saturday night.  Another commentary on how I feel about this field is that I'm actually tempted here to mention Mucho Macho Man (8-1).   Note that Pool Play (30-1) is two-for-two on dirt surfaces.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Ready for Prime Time

We're told that the Classic will be run for the first time in "prime time;" Saturday night from 8 until 9 PM in the east on NBC.  (This will actually be the only hour of the event to be shown on the parent network over the two days, with the rest being on NBCSN.  When we first heard the happy news that the Breeders Cup was returning to NBC from its moribund run at the apathetic ESPN, I thought that meant NBC.  Not the network formerly known as Versus.  But what do I know?)

Not entirely sure exactly who this would be considered "prime time" for.  For new or prospective fans?  Not sure if Saturday night really works for that.....better on the west coast in the late afternoon I would think.  Of course, I think that even the most optimistic and hardcore amongst us would acknowledge at this point that the Breeders Cup, with its too many championship (and otherwise) races in too short a time even for many of us experienced players (and the resulting lack of coverage by mainstream outlets far too overwhelmed to deal), is an industry party, and not one likely to attract a new audience.

But also, this experienced hardcore (though not that optimistic) player says: seriously?  You mean, I'm expected to sit at home on a perfectly good Saturday night in New York City to watch this race?  Surely one of the most uninspiring Classics ever?   The Head Chef is gonna love that.  (Actually, she wouldn't even be thrilled if it was Zenyatta vs Rachel Whatwashername.)  Don't get me wrong, it's a very good betting race; at least if you're willing to bet against Game On Dude.  But, I'm really going to plan my night around watching a race that features Game On Dude?  Not to mention supporting slugs such as Flat Out, Ron the Greek,  Dullahan (on dirt), Mucho Macho Man (I just don't like him), Brilliant Speed, Nonios, and we can also put Alpha in that category with his PA Derby trouncing and his career high 100 Beyer.   Those horses have burned enough money of late to fund something like .00003% of the national debt.

I don't know about this, dude.  Might just bet Fort Larned and watch the race later on DVR.  Seriously.  

Well, at least the Friday card doesn't present much of a problem this year.  I'd already cut down on two-year old BC races from my betting menu over the last few years as those races became more of a guessing game.  Now, I'm out for sure given the Lasix ban brought to you by the New York Times.  So, since the first four races on Friday are three two-year old races and the Marathon, I'll be home in plenty of time for the only two races I'm interested in betting that day, the F&M Turf and the Distaff.

 - Noticed that the Form is trying to lure people into buying their entire Breeders' Cup package for $29.95 if you try and buy the advance pp's from their Formulator menu.  But you can purchase just the $9 advance program online at this link here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Handicapping Post

In the 8th at Keeneland, Marlin Mission (5-1) returns off a layoff off another layoff for trainer Dale Romans, just 2 for 24 at this meet.  One of those winners was Tapitsfly taking the G1 Just a Game, and Marlin Mission is a 3 yo half-sister, by Strategic Mission, to that multiple G1 turf (and BC Juvie Turf) winner.  She's shown promise in her five career starts; but, as mentioned, hasn't been on the track much lately.  It was off a four month layoff that she graduated at Churchill in her last, and that was 116 days ago.  It was a classy performance in that win off a layoff similar to this one; three wide on the first turn, she sat patiently and professionally before bursting through a seam midstretch and winning well under her own power and earning a career high figure.  And she returns for her debut against winners with a series of works spaced about a week apart, the same pattern Romans used to train her up to the Churchill race.  Tight call on expected price in a really tough heat.  A Time to Love (9-2) blazed her way to the lead in very quick fractions this level in her last, and lasted over all of them but one, the improving Mott trainee Lily the Pink.  Not much else in the way of speed; she doesn't really even need better rating to hold on shortening up to a mile in this spot.  Warm Glow (7-2) trounced a weak state-bred maiden field at Parx after just missing against maiden claimers at the Spa.  Faces much better here, but owns the best figures in the field (at least the numbers that I'm looking at).

In the 1st at Belmont, Colossal Gift (4-1) seemed to find a suitable level and distance in his last, his first for trainer Rick Dutrow, sharp of late on the track, not so much in the courthouse.  The state's high court threw out his latest challenge to the 10 year ban which is 40 times harsher than the harshest penalties we usually see around here.  If that doesn't qualify as 'arbitrary,' I'm not sure what does.  Look, the guy had this coming, no doubt, as much for his flippant attitude towards his repeated suspensions as for those suspensions themselves.  But, as I've posted before, (and I refer you also to the article that post was based on), Dutrow's legal team's point that Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini had a conflict of interest due to his membership in Racing Commissioners International, whose chairman was loudly calling for the trainer's permanent ban, seems a valid one worthy of discussion in a court of law.  The New York court felt otherwise dismissing it outright, at least on constitutional grounds, and Dutrow's team will try again with a broader appeal.

Back to this race, Colossal Gift rallied solidly for third behind King David, who only won the G1 Jamaica in his subsequent try, in that last race against a strong pace grain after the prior connections seemed to struggle to find the horse's niche; seems set for further improvement here.  Adirondack Dancer (5-1) drops in class and returns from a freshening for Linda Rice; won off a similar layoff in April.  Never On Time (3-1), a $225,000 yearling purchase for Repole, drops in for this 35K tag for the Toddster, probably the horse to beat here.  Best of luck and have a great day. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

United Industry Fights Back

This press release below is from a group called the New York State Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance (NYHR & AIA).  OK, maybe that's not the smoothest acronym.  But hey man, this is what I'm talkin about!!

New York State Horse Racing & Agriculture Industry Alliance Press Release                                                            

Here's a group representing owners and breeders of NY - thoroughbreds AND standardbreds (Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association of NY / New York Thoroughbred Breeders AND Standardbred Owners Association of NY / NY Harness Horse Breeders) - along with the New York Farm Bureau.  It is apparently no mean feat to have gotten the two breeds together, but I'm told by someone close to the situation that they are fully united in this matter.  And the matter is to sing the praises of our industry in New York State, which has taken such a severe beating over the past few months and years.
The New York State Equine Industry Economic Impact Study determined that the equine industry has a $4.2 billion effect on the state’s economy and generates 33,000 full-time jobs. Equine commerce also results in $187 million in state and local taxes for New York. The thousands of horse farms, training centers and riding stables doing business across the state preserve 1.3 million acres of open space. There are 157,500 horses in New York.

"When you look at the numbers, it's eye-opening," said Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "The Study shows, in black and white, that every horse in New York is a potent job creator. The horse should be our state animal. But it comes as no surprise that the equine industry creates tens of thousands of jobs. There is so much that goes into the raising and training of a horse. It is a very labor-intensive business." 

New York's racing industry engenders a particularly strong work force. The Study demonstrates that there are 80 jobs for every 100 racehorses in New York. In addition, each individual racehorse has an economic impact of $92,100 on the state's bottom line.
 That's right.  Please read the release yourself (and I've embedded the entire report that it is based on, as well as a ten minute video produced by the Alliance, at the bottom of the post....I'm just a wealth of information here today).....and sing it loud, sing it proud.  The release also notes how handle at each of the three NYRA tracks has indeed increased since the introduction of VLT's at the Big A, in direct contrast to claims by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.  This is exactly the kind of coordinated response to the attacks by the governor, and the hints by members of his administration that slots revenue should be reduced, that has been needed.  And it came on the same day that the Times reported on the problem that the state's rising unemployment rate presents to Cuomo's national ambitions.  So....yeah baby, right on.

State legislators, of both parties, got involved at a press event to release the report on Tuesday, with Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering Chairman John Bonacic (R) and the Assembly Racing Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow (D) on hand.  Pretlow even took the opportunity to call out the Times on its ongoing hatchet job. 
  “Recently there was an attack on the racing industry, I guess first perpetrated, by the old gray lady, they call it the New York Times.....That caused a lot of people to look into racing, and I think that what had happened was extremely unfair. Because of so many people who have absolutely no knowledge of the industry, they have been trying now to take away from that industry.” [Politics on the Hudson]
  Also yesterday, I received copies of the new "emergency" rules on voiding claims of horses that are vanned of the track, and on longer lead times for medications that were recommended by the task force report on the Big A breakdowns.  Those are also embedded below. NYS Racing and Wagering Board Emergency Rules on Voiding Claims                                                           

NYS Racing and Wagering Board Emergency Rule on Medications 10-11-12

A couple of comments here.  For one thing, for what is supposed to be an "emergency," they sure seem to be taking their sweet time about this.  The task force report was released on September 28.  So it was two weeks before these rules were issued.....and the rules don't take effect until December 12.  Some emergency.  How many horses will perish in the interim?  One might have thought that, just for appearance sake if nothing else, they would have made sure the rules were firmly in place in time for the opening of the inner track, the site of the breakdowns, which usually takes place around Dec 1.

And secondly, I'd like you to please take note of exactly who is issuing these rules.  Check it out.  It's the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.  These rules are not from the New York Racing Association.  They are not signed by Ellen McClain and they are not illustrated by Peb.   It is the New York State Racing and Wagering Board that establishes the rules for medicating horses in this state.  Perhaps that is something that all of the ignorant editorial writers who focused their ire at NYRA in the wake of the task force report for "failing to protect horses," were not aware of.  Trainers and owners, playing, with very few exceptions, within the rules established by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, medicated their horses to the point where, according to the task force report, an accurate assessment of their fitness to race could not be made by NYRA veterinarians.

I initially praised the task force report for staying above the fray of politics, in part by refusing to, for the most part,  name names, including those of the trainers, owners, and jockeys involved.  Upon further reflection though, I think that the report actually played into the hands of the Cuomo administration and newspaper editorial boards' anti-NYRA agenda by failing to do so.  There were two cases cited in which the jockeys testified that they knew on the track that there was a problem; yet they went out and rode the horses hard nonetheless.  Why exactly aren't those jockeys named?  I hate to say it because I love those guys - you can go back over seven years of posts on this blog and count the number of times I've criticized a rider for something even as relatively harmless as poor riding judgment on the fingers of one hand - but what those riders did (and you can look up who they are with a minimum of effort) were arguably more directly responsible for the death of those horses than anyone else involved.  Yet, we see nor hear hardly any criticism of them at all.....just as the criticism of the owners and trainers responsible for medication and racing decisions is muted and considered only peripherally.  If those horsemen had been named, then maybe we'd have seen editorials blasting them; calling for the suspension of their licenses.  But instead, the report remains vague, and thereby allowed the administration and the editorial boards to heap blame nebulously onto "NYRA."

In any event, the fact is that the Racing and Wagering Board establishes the rules, and it is a state agency.  Its chairman is appointed by the governor of New York State.  So, wouldn't it be equally fair (or unfair) to say that it is Governor Andrew Cuomo who has failed to protect horses?

Equine Study

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Global Pari-Mutuel Village

We're traveling abroad for a few days, and will be back in NYC this week, at which time I'll endevor to resume a more regular posting schedule.  Or, at least I'll do so after Wednesday night's highly anticipated and well sold-out show by Swans at Bowery Ballroom in support of their superb (though not for everyone) and epic new album The Seer.  (And a belated shout-out to Spin Records in Carlsbad, CA, one of the dying breed of independent record stores, who was playing the album when we dropped in during our trip there over Labor Day weekend.)

But as far as racing goes, it doesn't much matter where I am.  It was with much fanfare over the last year or so that Amazon and Apple rolled out their cloud platforms for music.  But wagering on horse racing has been in the cloud for quite some time.  As long as I have an internet connection, doesn't matter if we're down at my mom's house in Florida, out in California, or, say, in Gay Paree.  All I have to do is click on my NYRA Rewards account.....and voila!  Just like home.  Can bet, watch, and add money to my account, just like I was home in Queens.  (And, conversely, those of you back in the city were able to watch and wager on the Arc today.)  That's at least one way in which horse racing has been out on the least technologically.

And it's also why, as I was discussing over lunch with a couple of other know-it-alls last week, the matter of on-track attendance is really irrelevant nowadays.  Sure, we all love to see a vibrant scene at the races....and we do at the boutique tracks like Saratoga and Del Mar.   And we'll continue to do so there.   But the bottom line is the bottom line, and, truth be told, the proof is in the handle figures, and it really doesn't matter to NYRA whether there are 800 or 8,000 people at Belmont, as long as people are betting, especially through their Rewards advance deposit wagering platform.

Speaking of which, saw another newspaper piece, this time by Ed Fountaine in the NY Post, bashing NYRA and its "apologists," of which I guess I'd be considered to be one (though I'm not "apologizing" for any of its shortcomings, only pointing out that they are hardly the only ones to blame....I mean, where the hell is the invective towards the trainers who, and I quote directly from the task force report, "consistently indicated that they [not Charlie Hayward - ed.] determine the pre-race medication program for the horses in their stable"?), over the said report on horse safety.  He writes of the "shameful crowd of just 8,639" at Super Saturday....and does so in the same article in which he's bashing NYRA!  I mean, don't you think that this steady and relentless drumbeat of NYRA Sucks, NYRA robbed horseplayers of millions of dollars because the takeout on certain wagers was 1% too high, NYRA kills horses because it cares more about filing races than dead horses, can have an effect on how many people go to the track?  Made me laugh to see Fountaine write that in the same piece in which he contributed to the misleading hysteria.

But anyway, enough of that, I'm on vacation 3600 miles away.  So I guess I'll finish up and bet on the 2nd at Keeneland.  Best of luck and have a great day.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Task Force Report Brings A Welcome Breath of Objectivity

Perhaps by now you've read through the task force report on the Big A breakdowns that was released last's a link to the large PDF file if you're interested.  I highly recommend it - at least the first 99 pages or so, before the Appendix.   It serves not only as a meticulous, fair-minded investigation of what transpired and why the task force believed that 11 of the 21 deaths (or "more than half," in the more sensationalized world of the New York Times) that were probed might have been prevented.  It also serves as a primer on the common factors found in catastrophic equine injuries and, especially, on the medications that horsemen use to try and keep their horses earning money on the track.  And also as a disturbing portrayal of a disorganized and inexperienced NYRA veterinary staff that sounds dysfunctional enough to work in the state capitol.

The report goes out of its way to distance itself from the incendiary language we've heard from the Cuomo Administration and by the Times.  It notes the "intense scrutiny...on the use of medications and drugs;" and that it was "mindful of the numerous suggestions that illicit drugs or inappropriate medication must have have been a contributing factor."  It even rebukes the Times directly, both in the report and, as reported by Steve Crist, in the Q and A afterwards; disputing the notion that prescription NSAIDs qualify as "powerful painkillers," a catch phrase use frequently for effect by the Paper of Record in its series of articles.  And it appealed for calm and objectivity. 

  However, the Task Force does not intend for this Report to be used to find fault, assign blame, or otherwise result in disciplinary action for events that have occurred.  This Report is intended to be a constructive analysis, identifying actions with the potential to prevent or mitigate injury to horses and riders, and our overall conclusions regarding the fatally injured horses as a group sets the stage for our recommendations. 
That didn't stop the Times from planting their story on the front page with the headline Inquiry Faults Racing Officials in Horse Fatalities at Aqueduct.  Of course, the Times didn't actually read the report before reporting on it.  Instead, probably so that it could place the story on Friday rather than the less-widely read Saturday paper, based its story, prior to its release, on accounts by "people with direct knowledge of the investigation’s report."  Instead, you could go with people like the Form's Matt Hegarty or Tom LaMarra of Bloodhorse who actually based their stories on the report itself and the press event at which it was released.  LaMarra's story was more accurately titled: Report: Deficiencies Had Role in Horse Deaths.  Yes, the hierarchy at NYRA, specifically with respect to the veterinary department, is indeed flawed, so blame that on "racing officials" if you will.  But trainers, owners, jockeys, the Racing and Wagering Board, and the drug culture ingrained in the sport in this country all share responsibility.

As far as I can see, the Times did not even follow up with a story on the actual report the next day; please correct me if I missed it.  I find that a little weird.   At least perhaps, if Joe Drape wasn't busy on Friday taking a victory lap on Twitter, he might have corrected some mis-characterizations that the story made.  Or, then again, probably not.

The Times article reports:
  The investigation found that veterinarians and officials of the New York Racing Association often cared more about filling races that generate revenue for trainers, owners and the racetracks than about whether horses were fit to compete.
The report in fact stated no such conclusion.  It reported on what it termed a "critical conflict of interest" in that the veterinary department was reporting to a racing secretary's office whose job is to fill the races to the brim.  "The racetrack-employed veterinarian's advocacy for the horse can become conditional and based upon the needs of the employer, rather than the needs of the horse."  Obviously, the potential for the kind of behavior the Times reported as fact is present.  But the report alludes only to some unspecified instances of scratch recommendations being overturned by the Racing Office.  It's an unacceptable, if not libelous, stretch in my view to make the inference that the Times does.

Additionally, the Times writes of "numerous instances of corticosteroids being injected in horses in the days leading to their fatal races."  That is true only if you consider four out of 21 to be considered as "numerous."  And, while we're at it, why hasn't the Times ever reported, as noted in the report, that 7,106 drug tests taken during the winter meeting resulted in not a single positive for an illegal or performance enhancing substance (or at least what the task force considers as such)?  And only five overages of permitted medications, none in the injured animals?  I'm sure those are statistics they could have come up with (and perhaps knew), if they wanted to present a fair and balanced report instead of trying to portray a hypodermic free-for-all.

Having said that though, the report paints a picture of rampant and, under current regulations, legal use of various medications that are endemic in the sport, not only at NYRA tracks, but nationwide.  18 of the 21 horses investigated were administered medication of some kind in the 48 hours prior to their final race.  And it was made clear that the fatally injured group was medicated no more or no less than the rest of the population.  Should the recommendations on reducing such medication becomes the law in New York and elsewhere, the 21 horses shall not have died in vain.

This report presents the facts merely as the facts.  It speculates infrequently and with caution when it does.  The section which explains, in exhaustive detail, the circumstances leading up to each of the fatalities, is a disturbing account of young horses pushed to their limit even, in two cases, when its jockey (like most of the subjects, unnamed) knew that something seemed terribly wrong.  Facts, on their own and unembellished,  can be powerful things.  I found this section to be more poignant than the amplified hyperbole used by the Times to create a desired impression rather than to report on the news.  In fact, parts of the report outdid the Times even on strictly a reporting basis; I don't recall the paper reporting on the conflict of interest between the vets and the racing office that is one of the key points made by the task force, even in its recent article on the vets' own financial conflicts.  Maybe they would have gotten to that if they weren't busy wasting our time on quarter horses in New Mexico.