Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: May 5, 3:15 AM ET
Why is just making the Derby a goal?
By Bill Finley
Special to ESPN.com
Trinniberg is a fast and talented racehorse and up to this point he's been well managed by owner Shivananda Parbhoo. After the colt won the Bay Shore at Aqueduct, it appeared that Parbhoo was going to find the next suitable spot for his colt, something short, maybe the Derby Trial. And then he lost all sense of reason.
Parbhoo announced last week that Trinniberg would make his next start in the Kentucky Derby. Why? Because he can.
Trinniberg has never run beyond seven furlongs or around two turns in his life. He no more belongs in the Kentucky Derby than he does in the Daytona 500. In announcing the move Parbhoo justified the decision by saying that Trinniberg had a better chance now that fellow speedster Secret Circle has been withdrawn from consideration, as if that meant his horse was going to lope around the track in the Derby in fractions of :49.3, 1:14 and win drawing away. There is plenty of other speed in the race.
Not that any of this matters. Even if all 19 other starters were deep closers, Trinniberg should not be in the Derby. It is an illogical thing to do, but, somehow and somewhere, logic was tossed out the window when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. Team Parbhoo is doing what most would do -- run a horse in the Derby simply because they have earned enough to get into the race.
It wasn't that long ago that top stables would eye the Derby only with an eye on winning it. Lesser horses would go for lesser spots. Three-year-old sprinters would sprint. Winning is, of course, still the primary goal. But now it's regarded as an accomplishment just to get into the field. Run last? Who cares? We were in the starting gate when the bell rang.
We are in the midst of the Mine That Bird era. The New Mexico shipper was 50-1, should have been 500-1 and won his Derby a pole. Maybe it was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Yet, it happened, and it encouraged others to shoot for similar miracles. Coming into the Derby, Mine That Bird makes Trinniberg look like Seattle Slew.
So Trinniberg will be in the gate May 5. He'll likely flash his speed for six furlongs or so, back up and finish near the rear. Still they will have come and saw. Conquering is no longer a major priority.
Even if all 19 other starters were deep closers, Trinniberg should not be in the Derby.
The Lasix Debate
While racing certainly needs to do something to shed its image as a sport that is plagued by out-of-control drug use, the debate over banning Lasix should ultimately come down not to public relations but what is best for the horses.
On that point, the pro-Lasix crowd won't exactly argue. In fact, it says that taking the drug away from the 98 percent of horses that use it when racing is tantamount to animal cruelty. Rick Hiles, the president of the Kentucky HBPA, said he recalls seeing horses collapse in pools of blood in the pre-Lasix days. He added, "I think that if this is allowed to happen, the Humane Society is going to come down on us like you won't believe."
If I believed any of this I would be leading the debate to save this "wonder" drug. But what Hiles and so many others have been saying just doesn't add up.
Outside the U.S. and Canada, no other major racing country allows the use of Lasix. It would stand to reason, then, that horses are collapsing left and right in England, France, Ireland and elsewhere lying in pools of blood. It would stand to reason that European versions of the Humane Society would be up in arms. It's not happening.
But the real indictment of Lasix is that it has failed miserably in the intended goal of keeping horses healthy and racing more often. Back when its fans were leading the charge to have it legalized they argued that horses had to have it to be able to overcome bleeding and keep racing. Since Lasix's widespread acceptance, horses have never raced less often or been more fragile.
This may only be anecdotal evidence but it is powerful anecdotal evidence. To fill horses up with drugs, to dehydrate them before a race (which is what Lasix does), to breed generation after generation of horses who have made every start of their lives with drugs in their systems doesn't sound like a good idea. It's not good for the horses and, therefore, not good for the sport. Lasix may actually solve a short-term problem like bleeding but the long-term implications of its use appear to have severely damaging affects.
That's not a scientific conclusion. It is a common sense conclusion.
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But the real indictment of Lasix is that it has failed miserably in the intended goal of keeping horses healthy and racing more often.