Making money at the race track is easy if you're a:
Otherwise, forget it.
"Show me a vet making less than $100,000 a year and I'll show you a man incompetent at his profession," a thoroughbred owner said recently in the Bowie paddock. "I can still afford my trainer even at $24 a day (per horse). What I can't afford to keep paying are the veterinary bills."
Maybe that owner should fire his trainer and keep the veterinarian, especially if his horses have been winning a race or two. The veterinarian is rapidly becoming more important than the trainer to any owner, whether the owner knows it or not.
This being the case perhaps it is time for the veterinarians who practice on the racetracks in America to be called in for questioning.
Veterinarians, along with chemists and several of the state's most respected horsemen, were among those heard by the Maryland Racing Commission when it conduced hearings on the possible approval of Lasix for racing purposes.
The directic would not, we were told, enable a horse to run faster than it naturally, could. Nor could Lasix serve as a "mask" for prohibited drugs, we were assured.
Yet sciertific studies published recently, with more to come, indicate the expert testimony was wrong on both courts.
Unfortunately, the drug "mechanics" in racing always have run far ahead of the industry's chemists. The unethical veterinarian or trainer knows what works, and how, and in what quantity, and what can be detected, long before the commission's laboratory technicians learn how to read the more sophisticated spectrophotometers.
There has been a desperate need in racing for a national testing center for new drugs as they appear on the market. That need still exists, more acutely than ever.
"What good does it do for anyone to get up on a soapbox and rail against Lasix or anything else, so long as no one is seriously testing for steroids, and while Cortisone injections can produce their little miracles?" a trainer asked yesterday morning.
He's right, of course. Racing is not about to return to hay, oats and water, and to giving the over-raced animals all the rest and recuperation they need. No way.
The states want revenue, which means the programs must be filled. Owners and trainers already are in a bind, financially, when it comes to balancing their books at the end of each month.
The pressure is steady and severe to keep going, to find an elixir that somehow might enable a horse to race five or 10 more times before it drops. Meanwhile, no one seems to care about the bettors and what they are up against in trying to fathom a horse's form under "controlled" medication, which never has been controlled.
Certainly, in the case of Lasix, there was no reason for the Maryland Commission to sanction the drug for racing purposes until some definitive research had been completed about its effects.
On a practical level, the use of Lasix should have been approved for a horse only by the state veterinarian after he had seen that horse bleed on track.
One can only wonder aloud where thoroughbred racing is headed under the current uncontrolled medication.
How is any sport supposed to have the respect of the betting public, for example, when in truth the state racing laboratories are not equipped to detect this high-powered depressant, which can be employed to slow a flat runner to a trot?
This is particularly important because nearly all the major race fixing of recent time has centered on depressing the fivorites out of the money.
Racing, accodingly, continues to sink lower and lower in the popularity polls. By the time the industry gets the answers it needs to drug questions, it tends to be too late.
Too much damage has been done. Perhaps that can be turned around in the future. But don't bet on it.