What Uncle Mo’s Upcoming Bloodwork Will Miss
Give me a break: 1940’s style blood work for Uncle Mo a few days after a disappointing effort? A near total waste of time. So you pick up a systemic illness and/or infection, big deal – use a thermometer. What we need to know is Mo’s precise fitness level. Some trainers have stepped into the 21st century with blood lactate testing after gallop exercise, as shown above by Dr. David Evans, author of the Australian study entitled: “Training and Fitness in Athletic Horses.”
To keep everything uniform: Mo should be tested during a routine morning gallop session in somewhere near a 2:00/mile pace. Let’s say one week after a race. Should have been done after his BC triumph, should have been done after the Timely Writer, and again here after the Wood Memorial. After his workout, while still on the track at precisely 2min post gallop, blood should be drawn as above. No need even for a full blood draw, these days we can use a pinprick of capillary blood to do the trick and get results in 15 seconds with a handheld device.
What we are after is the amount of lactic acid found in the bloodstream after such an easy exercise session. (A $15k claimer may need to gallop a 2:40 mile for comparison’s sake.) A horse of graded stakes caliber will show a lactate reading of under 4mmol/liter after a 2 min lick – indicating much of the work being accomplished by aerobic means.
Once you have this number, you can objectively determine if his fitness level is where it needs to be, as it undoubtedly was last November. Then Mr. Pletcher can move up to 5-6F breezes if deemed necessary before a possible Derby entry, or scratch and save a further loss of residual value at stud.
Lance Armstrong was a lower tier losing cyclist 15 years ago before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Along with exercise physiologist Chris Carmichael, he instituted this precise measure of fitness and embarked on a long Tour De France winning streak:
If bloodwork is too messy, use an onboard HR/GPS monitor. After a gallop as instructed above, download the info to a PC and if Mo’s average heart rate during the exercise is under 200bpm, all systems are go for Kentucky.
My point is: horsemen can now take advantage of tools not available to their mentors when they learned their craft 30 years ago. Does this stuff standalone without any horsemanship? Of course not, it is merely another tool to help with decision making, but it provides objective info from the inside of a horse, a piece of the puzzle that is often lacking trackside.
When you finally have your horse in peak condition, collect this physiological data so you will know if/when you can reach it next year, without guesswork and subjective opinion.
More info on Dr. Evans and lactate testing- here:http://www.equinehealthfitness.com/downloads/TLT%20Brochure.pdf