Classy Arabian ‘STORM’s to near record 6F win in 1:17.3. And, What is a drug?

So Big is Better (A) jets to a 7+ length win at Delaware Park in 1:17.3, just 0.3 off the track record set by his sire, Burning Sand in 1990. Video here (he is the nearly white runner wearing bib 2B):

2 weeks earlier he had shipped out to Arapahoe Downs and won by 5+ over the same distance at the handicap level. You may remember him from the Preakness undercard where he ran 4th in the Grade 1 President of the UAE Cup after just 6 weeks of training (off a 6 month layoff) and 4 weeks of STORM.

Much congratulations to trainer Scott Powell, the first Arabian client of Thoroedge and STORM – but hopefully not the last!-

Arabians are of particular interest to me as genetically they are less prone to having high muscular carnosine levels, therefore beta-alanine supplementation stands to have an even greater effect, theoretically speaking.


A lot has been made in the mainstream press lately about the ‘frog juice’ drug violations down in Louisiana. Much like cobra venom, frog juice is used to kill of any pain felt by a racing animal, as well as to interject a feeling of euphoria.

I think we can all agree that use of such substances is cheating and unkind to these wonderful animals. Easy.

Next we have the always boiling controversy about Lasix, a diuretic used to lessen the incidences of bleeding from the lungs in equine sports. Proponents of the drug call it a therapeutic method to make racing less rigorous on the vulnerable pulmonary system of the horse, opponents term in a performance enhancer. Not so easy to judge.

Lastly, we have purely nutritional interventions like STORM, an amino acid supplement to the daily ration that also includes some carbohydrates. Protein and carbs, staples of any human performance diet.

Here’s a convenient line to draw: any substance NOT typically found in the horse’s natural diet meant to OVERRIDE physiological warning signs (such as pain or bleeding) so that a horse can run faster and further is a drug, plain and simple. I don’t care how you justify it, legal or not, these are purely pharmaceutical interventions.

Or, how about this? Anything you treat a horse with 4 hours before post time is a drug meant to improve the upcoming performance. That seems to be a simple delineation. Even better, anything you treat a horse with that is evident in the urine or blood before/after the race is a drug. Who the hell can argue with that?

Now, onto food supplements.

The first step is making sure whatever supplement you use is actually getting absorbed by the equine gut. That is not the case with creatine according to 3 separate studies. Which is not too surprising because in nature creatine is found in meat, and….

Unlike humans, horses are vegetarians by nature. But, we are forcing them to be athletic – training and racing (often under the whip) to run increasingly further and faster. We expect them to emerge from breezes and races stronger, sounder, and possessing more endurance. One of the prime nutrients that a human ingests in order to be athletic is protein. The typical equine diet is very low in protein, as it should be, because horses are not carnivorous. However, this lack of protein is not good when you are attempting to develop an athletic horse. Humans who race increase the amount of protein in their diet in order to repair muscle damage in an effort to get stronger.

One of my major clients is a member of the ‘hay/oats/water’ crowd, yet runs all their horses on Lasix and Bute (and testosterone in the old days). The racing manager refuses to consider any type of nutritional supplementation – and in doing so, has guaranteed that his horses lack some of the nutritional building blocks necessary for athletic development. They still win races all over the world, but could be doing much better by their stock.

So, with the increasing effort to ban drugs like Lasix from the racing game, let’s take this opportunity to ADD supplements to the daily ration that support the unnatural demands we are putting in front of our animals.

In summary, drugs are short acting and meant to override physiological signals telling the horse to stop, yet correct nutritional supplementation takes place 2-3x daily (in the feed) over the long term to provide the raw materials that support the development of athletic horses.


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on June 28, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. nice post Bill. soon to come supplement revolution in horse racing, possibly? we’re a few years behind the human sports, as always. will be interesting Q for our drug enforcders as to what to do with supplements that mimic the illegals.

  2. What is tricky is that stuff that works in humans, like creatine, doesnt always work in horses. And stuff that does work in both is vastly different in magnitude: typical human muscles have only 8% carosine, while some equine muscles have 30%.

  1. Pingback: So Big is Better Storms to Arabian Breeders Cup Win | ThoroEdge Equine Performance

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