Updated: March 26, 2014, 3:03 PM ET

An 'All Natural' approach to the Kentucky Derby

By Bill Finley | Special to ESPN.com

It may sometimes seem, with all the bad publicity, all the talk of drugs and cheating and investigations in horse racing, that there's nothing or nobody left out there that's untainted. That's not true. I have found an honest man with a horse who gets to the finish line on ability and determination alone. Now that man wants not only to win the Kentucky Derby but prove that you can win it the right way.

Dr. Russell Cohen is a practicing veterinarian at the NYRA tracks, a breeder and the racing manager for his mother's Tri-Bone Stables. On Sunday, Tri-Bone's Effinex won an allowance race at Aqueduct by 6 ¼ lengths. Cohen promptly wrote out a check for $6,000 to supplement the horse to the Triple Crown and began plotting a strategy to get his horse to the Derby. Cohen is considering a run in the April 5 Wood Memorial next.

That makes Effinex one of 100 or so that remain in the Derby pipeline, but he is unique in that Cohen refuses to bring drugs into the equation. The horse does not run on Lasix or anything else and Cohen says that the horse has had one shot of medication in his entire life.

"Unfortunately, there are people in this business that have fallen off the rail and believe that they cannot succeed without medication," Cohen said.

Cohen said he believes you can go drug-free and win, yet he admits his theories might put him at a competitive disadvantage. Effinex (named for Cohen's feelings about his ex-wife) will likely be the only horse in the Wood Memorial to run without Lasix, a legal drug that many believe is a performance-enhancer.



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• Bill Finley is an award-winning horse racing writer whose work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
• To contact Bill, email him at wnfinley@aol.com

A road filled with potholes

By Gary West | Special to ESPN.com

Big Brown was forced to retire from racing with hoof issues.
Horsephotos.comIn 2008 hoof issues didn't stop Big Brown from winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but did ultimately lead to the colt's retirement from racing.

Top Billing cracked a cannon bone during a routine workout, Indianapolis became ill, Shared Belief had a persistent foot problem, Honor Code injured a suspensory ligament and they've all left the highway. Are this season's 3-year-olds more fragile than past groups, or could it be that the road to this year's Kentucky Derby has more potholes than usual?

Or has the Derby road simply attracted more traffic than ever?

If the Derby road seems more hazardous than most boulevards, it's probably because the spotlight of widespread interest and media attention shines relentlessly on it. Each setback, every injury, is cataloged.

"I believe the attrition rate [on the Derby road] is magnified because everybody knows who these horses are," said Todd Pletcher, who this weekend will send out Intense Holiday in the Louisiana Derby and Constitution in the Florida Derby, "and everybody is following them."

Actually, the road leading to the 140th Kentucky Derby is no more hazardous than those that led to past Derbies, and probably no more precarious than the run-up to many rigorous sporting enterprises. Injuries accompany any athletic endeavor, either as a haunting possibility or a compromising burden. ESPN's astute baseball writer Buster Olney recently pointed out that it "seems like 30 percent of the starting pitchers in the American League West" have been injured already, and the MLB season hasn't even begun.



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