How to Shut Up PETA Forever

This is the heart rate/GPS chart of a 6F work at Churchill Downs: from the gate in 1:15. The horse in question won 10 races that year, from 15 starts.

More on him here:

But that’s besides the point. Imagine every horse in every race across the USA generating such data in real-time. US thoroughbred racing would become the ONLY sport in the world providing real-time physiological data on its athletes, made available for public analysis. I have already done so privately, but the rest of the world will soon develop and witness data proving that HR behavior before/during/after exercise is the earliest sign of a problem. Doesn’t tell you what the problem is, but certainly dictates undue stress earlier than any human’s eyeball.

Think of it as a stopwatch for heat. Every horseman prides himself on detecting heat in the legs of his charges. Where do you think that heat comes from? It comes from blood. The heart drives that increased blood flow by beating faster than normal. There is nowhere else for that blood to come from. There is no room for politics, no room for guesswork, no room for your eyes playing tricks on you. It’s science and math, plain and simple.

And, its been done before.

Many years ago equine endurance events experienced a rash of dead horses. The Cardiac Recovery Index was developed to objectively determine, DURING THE EVENT, if a horse was fit to continue. At regular intervals the horse enters a checkpoint, where a vet administers a simple test of recovery heart rate. Pass and continue. Fail and you are disqualified, doesn’t matter if your owner is the King of All Oil or a Utah rancher. More here:

We can do the same, literally overnight. Certainly the raceday drug issues needs to be addressed, that can’t happen overnight, but this can. With the snap of a finger we can show the NY Times that appropriate steps were taken not only to catch up to the rest of the civilized world of sport, but to surpass even the highest standards currently set. And think of the boon to handicappers. Admittedly few of these men and women, the lifeblood of the sport (like it or not), have a clue what heart rate vs GPS data means, but when it becomes available they will learn quickly to gain an edge at the mutuel window.

Granted the dishrag Times and PETA will simply find something else to attack, as that is their raison d’etre, but at the very least we can inject some new blood into the racing game: using each individual horse’s own vital signs to avoid another Nehro, while providing betting whales with the first advance in handicapping information in decades: a quantitative measure of fitness.

I’ll have to guess since no US racing jurisdictions allows for onboard HR/GPS monitoring, but here’s what it will look like approximately:

-If after a race your horse doesn’t meet the following criteria, he shall undergo intensive veterinary analysis before the next race. I’m not talking watching him jog, I mean bloodwork, bone scans, MRI, etc. All at the cost of the owner. Don’t want to pay? Retire him because these rules are in effect in every jurisdiction.

-Say the race was a 6F effort on dirt. HR must settle to 170bpm within 2min past the wire, while still at a jog (no walking). HR must further settle to 100bpm after saddle removed during walk back to backside, within 10min time from end of race.

Oh yeah, the horse in question must also complete 2 breezes before allowed to enter another race, one at least 6F, while wearing onboard HR/GPS gear and meeting the scores set forth in the Thoroughbred Racing Recovery Index.

For comparison’s sake, refer back to the HR/GPS chart at the start of this post. Time is along the X-axis. At roughly 9:45 this gelding enters the starting gate. He stands quietly, HR sinking to roughly 60bpm, which is very, very good. Around time 10:45 he blasts from the gate to begin his work. Peak speed is reached at just under 1:30 min/mile (44mph) for a few strides just before the wire. Within 2min his HR is down under 120bpm, and down to 97bpm just 5min later.

He is ultra-fit and shows zero signs of any problems anywhere. Imagine every horse in a 6F race providing this data, country-wide. Think of all the help this can give handicappers. Hell, the trainers should feel like they were handed the keys to the kingdom. No more guessing: Is he short? Did I work him enough? Too much? Is he sound? Did I hear a cough last week? Should he rest another week? Can I move him up in class?

If I die with the following on my tombstone, I will have made a mark on this world:

‘He saved thousands of horses by developing the Thoroughbred Racing Recovery Index.’

At the very least, it would give me great pleasure to put an end to crap like this:



About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on March 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Liam Archdeacon

    The most interesting part of the PETA video for me was the conversation between the undercover PETA agent and Asmussen’s New York Vet Mr James Hunt (D.V.M)

    PETA Agent: Does Asmussen have all the horses he works on Lasix, do you know?

    Hunt: They basically all run on it. It makes them lighter.

    PETA Agent: I just didn’t know if there were some that didn’t need it.

    Hunt: Probably, but it’s a performance enhancer

    Every right thinking person without a vested interest has known this for decades but it was just nice to hear it from someone actually administering Lasix.

  2. Phillip Haycock

    Your recovery qualification idea similar to endurance is brilliant Bill.
    Expressing the recovery in percentage terms may be more workable.though.
    This idea would lift the quality of horsemanship and animal health to the level of elite Endurance practices.

    • Yes, certainly percentage is the way to go. Perhaps recovery to 70% of observed HR max during race within 2min past the wire, but down to 50% before 10min has elapsed.

  3. Right on the money Bill,but It will be a big ask to have it implemented. It will have to come from the powers that be, as my experience with most racehorse trainers is that change is something they are deathly afraid of, and even more so if it is to do with science.

    • If as a trainer/owner/vet you are afraid of monitoring your horse’s heart during a race, you know you are doing something wrong period. Not necessarily something as evil as cobra venom or frog juice, but something as bad as willingly running a lame horse. Hell, I’ll even stipulate my Thoroughbred Racing Recovery Index is not applicable to claimers if possible. I am trying to contact the guy behind the Endurance version to see how he won the political battles surrounding adoption.

  4. While I think a national governing body with standardized rules and punishments for violations is an excellent idea and would untimately make training and racing easier, I don’t know of anyone whose reputations would hold up to having a biased plant inserted in their business for months, who takes mountains of video edited down to 8 minutes (out of context much?) , who sleeps with your best fiend(and others if rumors from the barn in question are to be believed)in order to gain information, and who then rolls it out in the national media. I’m not an Asmussen fan but the “investigator” was a PETA prostitute in my opinion and PETA deserves investigation for pandering as well.

    • I agree. Asmussen was breaking no rules, the problem is the rules themselves allow all kinds of medications to be used, legally. This ‘expose’ didn’t require an 8 month sting operation; but merely an 8min read of the HBPA rulebook.

      Ha! The only way PETA will be investigated is if they contribute to any TEA party candidate or the NRA, then they can expect the full weight of the IRS to descend upon them.

      • Sadly, you are probably right.

      • Just heard the Jockey Club has announce the demand that all states comply with the Universal Drug Code or they will bring in the Feds to force the issue. No mention of a national governing body though, to enforce suspensions and fines.

  5. Reblogged this on Christopher Crocker Thoroughbreds and commented:
    Thanks for a another great article.

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