Screening horses for ailments, doping ahead of Preakness a ‘sophisticated’ task


Baltimore Sun, May 16, 2013, Kevin Rector

Photos of new anti-doping security and veterinarian practices at Pimlico. Racing Commission head will take us around, link us with v

David Zipf, Chief Veterinarian of the Maryland Racing Commission, will check all the Preakness entries for health and soundness before the race. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / May 10, 2013)

In a pair of low-slung green stables manned by security guards and watched by 24-hour surveillance cameras, a pack of brawny young horses will be monitored, poked and assessed down to the blood in their veins.

The horses set to race in the 138th Preakness are to be kept under a microscope from their arrival at Pimlico Race Course until they burst from their starting gates Saturday — not only to avoid injury but also scandal.

“It’s become more sophisticated,” said David Zipf, 72, the Maryland Racing Commission’s longtime chief veterinarian for thoroughbred racing. “It’s not hay, oats and water anymore.”

This year’s Triple Crown comes at a time of heavy scrutiny for the racing industry, with renewed concerns about doping and horse safety forcing officials and insiders to take a new look at security measures.

Racing officials have been developing reforms for years. Some are being introduced for 2013; others are still being considered.

Days after winning the 2012 Preakness, I’ll Have Another trainer Doug O’Neill was given a 45-day suspension by California racing officials for running a horse with a high total carbon dioxide level in 2010. He had been fined three previous times for the same thing. He dropped his appeal of the suspension over the summer and served it beginning in August 2012.

O’Neill vigorously defended his record at the time, swearing that he never did “milkshake” (administer sodium bicarbonate to) a horse.

A tendon injury in I’ll Have Another was discovered by O’Neill on the morning before the Belmont Stakes, and the horse was withdrawn from the race and retired.

With casino revenues swelling the daily purses at Maryland’s tracks, from an average of about $160,000 when the first casino opened in 2010 to nearly $250,000 now, officials say the pressure for horses to perform — and for trainers to push them ever harder — is edging up.

“The horses have become an investment, an implement to make money,” said Zipf, who has screened Preakness horses for ailments and injuries since 1965. “And sometimes with the economy, they have to grind on them to pay their way.”

More catastrophic injuries to horses have also been documented in Maryland, New York and other states.

Twenty-one horses were euthanized last year at Pimlico and Laurel Park, Maryland’s other thoroughbred racetrack, up from 10 in 2011. About 15 have been euthanized so far this year, according to Mike Hopkins, the executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission.

Hopkins said the problems are being taken seriously by the industry.

“The last thing the racing industry wants is to have a black cloud shadowing over it,” he said…

Continued – Read more and comment at the Baltimore Sun

AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • Susan Setzke

    What do you expect when you push horses so hard both mentally and physically at such a young age. Money and greed will eventually be the demise of the human race.

    May 17, 2013
  • LNorman

    “The horses have become an investment, an implement to make money,” said Zipf…when weren’t they????

    May 17, 2013
    • BlessUsAll


      Wrote Upton Sinclair, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary [or, I would add, his gambling winnings at the track] depends on his not understanding it.”

      I would also ask: Is there money to be made in merely “reforming” the horse racing industry (as if that were possible) but no money to be made from trying to abolish it?

      May 17, 2013
    • Sue

      To answer your question: horses were not an “investment” during the early days of racing, until approx. the 1950s. In those days, only truly wealthy people could afford to keep horses and race them for FUN and SPORT. Read some horse racing history; check out Calumet Farms, August Belmont, etc. Racing was a SPORT available to only the wealthy, who did not “need” the money.

      May 19, 2013
  • Linda Jackson

    Joseph Conrad wrote in 1904: At no time of the world’s history have men been at a loss how to inflict mental and bodily anguish upon their fellow-creatures.

    Where is the ASPCA, HSUS, AWI in these instances? Would their visible and conspicuous presence make a difference?

    May 17, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    I personally find horse racing disgusting. The despicable things people do to their horses, the slap on the hand if they get caught, the inevitable but preventable injuries and deaths, the whipping, the starting of yearlings under saddle, the list goes on and on. Just to make a buck. Maybe if they’d do a complete reform, maybe. But this is a good start.

    May 17, 2013
  • BlessUsAll

    All this invasive poking and prodding proves to me that it’s impossible to ever make racing fair to these equine slaves, who are forced to do their human masters’ bidding from birth until they’re tossed off the track.

    In other words, I think it’s useless to try to legitimatize an essentially illegitimate pursuit of pleasure (at the expense of others), power (at the expense of others), and profit (at the expense of others).

    I fail to understand why anyone who is opposed to the slaughter of horses (including horses who are raced) and to the capture and confinement of wild horses and burros would still cling to a romanticized vision of this “sport of kings.”

    It’s more like a crucifixion of innocent equines. The real royalty are the horses, who have more nobility in their kind hearts than all the blue bloods who favor this form of cruelty to animals have in their cold hearts.

    May 17, 2013
  • Lorrie

    I HATE any type of racing since I have to network and help rescue the very horses that are ruined and thrown away by the racing industry! Which includes all the nurse mare foals, born to die for the racing industry! I feel so sorry for all the horses at the racing venues throughout the United States! Kill buyers with their meat trucks at the back gates waiting to load the losers…

    May 17, 2013