A LOAD OF HOT AIR
The normally reliable journalist Bruce Millington rather lost the plot the other day on his Racing Post column when calling for wind operations to be made public by trainers to the BHA for publication on racecards and in the printed press. He claimed that the upcoming Cheltenham festival form book could be ”rendered unsafe” due to the fact that ”procedures ” or wind operations were going to be taking place on certain animals and that same lack of reportage would be detrimental to the four days and to punters everywhere. What an absolute load of tosh… The world really is going crazy.
This subject is doing the rounds now due to a few overzealous television presenters and other reporters who seem to have got into a right old stew about the necessity for the publication of any type of corrective or exploratory wind operations carried out on racehorses. I want to point out the folly of their ways with regard to their latest crusade to protect and care for hard pressed punters in their search for winners and now of course the ruling BHA are about to investigate the issue with a view to making it law because of the furore. I would much prefer to have seen the likes of Millington and co tackle the BHA on issues that really matter such as this case below which I will discuss further in the future https://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjE6beOldHKAhUInRoKHTyPDF0QFgghMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.racingpost.com%2Fnews%2Fhorse-racing%2Flingfield-a-w-lingfield-owner-blasts-appalling-photo-after-result-revision%2F2006082%2F&usg=AFQjCNH2gSl5BTGCq3BGXGu8aUa7PMX9qA .
In this latest media driven crusade about the need to publish wind operations I wonder how many backers/punters will be asked their opinion about this overriding, pressing desire to save our great sport from the ”secret world” as Millington puts it. I would wager that very few will be interviewed. Furthermore, I would venture that if bettors were asked, their answer would be that they couldn’t care less. Why ? Because they just want to move on to the next race to bet their particular fancy and whether that animal has had surgery or otherwise will not influence them either way. In fact, I imagine that this extra useless information will only clog up their minds as most punters just throw a cursory look at the amount of data that is available now for each runner. The added information for every runner nowadays is welcome but has reached maximum levels. Take for example the brilliant ATTHERACES website. They are the leader in my book as regards data on each runner but it is at saturation point now and one could easily claim the need to have a PhD in racing science and technology just to sift through it.
So, why did Millington raise the possibility that the form book might be rendered unsafe for Cheltenham and indeed in general, especially for punters ? Did he need to fill some copy space ? He is obviously a punter [and very good reporter normally] but why come out so strong with what I would call ‘sensational’ wording like ”rendering the form book totally unsafe”. This must be countered.
The form book is very safe at the moment, especially for those that really study it. Astute punters know which horses are likely to run somewhere near to form on any given day. They also know which yards are giving ‘educational’ runs to young horses in their first three maiden races over trips which they might never see again in their lifetime once they have been allocated a handicap mark by the assessors. The punters who do study the form book know how and where to identify these horses and fair play to them. Thanks to the likes of Nick Mordin, bettors know more about horses now than ever before, for example the types that need to be fresh, need a big field or small amount of runners to be at their optimum, they know whether the horse is better suited going left or right handed etc etc. I hope these and all other punters show a profit for their endeavours. I also hope the owner and trainer make money as there will be no show without any of them, especially the owners. Ah yes, that poor soul, the owner. With the exception of the big players, a lot of owners are not that rich, hell I am such a person, a fool if you like who knows that there is no possibility of a return but invest in the hope that someday my/our investment will reap a rich reward. It is the owner who pays for EVERYTHING. The owner buys the horse, pays the breeder, pays the auctioneers, pays the agents, pays for the registrations, colours, feedstuffs, pays the hard pressed trainers [most of whom now are owners themselves], pays for entries, pays for stable staff, pays for travel, pays the brave jockeys who risk their lives everyday, pays for vets, dentists, blacksmiths, schooling races, blood tests, etc.etc and yes Bruce Millington, he /she also pays for the bloody WIND OPERATION. A wind operation that only has at best a fifty per cent chance of success and even then the animal in question is likely to regress after one or two seasons anyway before needing yet more surgery for the same ailment because it will come back in some guise or other as the animal ages.
Bruce, what type of information do you want us owners to have printed about ‘our’ racehorses for the punters benefit ? I want to help the punters as I am one of them too. Can you simplify all the following list below about wind operations as to how it would appear on the racecard and press and form book because each of these are different problems and it would not suffice just to put the letter or letters ‘w’ or ‘wo’ for example ? Here are just some type of intervention/procedures/operations that can be undertaken.
- An operation for ‘roaring’. This is a high pitched wheezy noise and is very common. You hear this noise when the horse breathes in at canter/gallop. The more severe the whistling noise is the more obstruction is taking place, the fancy name for this is laryngeal hemiplegia, paralysis on one side of the larynx, usually the left side. The normal intervention is a tie back operation or laryngoplasty or also known as a hobday. For the benefit of Bruce’s form book there is only a limited chance that this procedure will actually work.
- An operation for ‘gurgling’. This is when the horse makes a gurgling or fluttering type noise as he exhales and this is normally a displaced soft palate. This problem can be difficult to identify, maybe during strong work or when the animal is tightly flexed at the poll. A displaced soft palate could have several causes and worse altogether it can be intermittent. The horse could be in full gallop when the soft palate could flip up into it’s airways and block the nasal passages as it attempts to breathe out. Soft palate issues can be caused by muscle weakness, nerve damage, inflammation or other throat diseases. It could also be a trapped epiglottis and that is for another day to explain as I am pretty sure you are well bored by now. Some say there is no cure for these problems but others hope that throat surgery which is done with the horse standing under local anesthesia while yet more owners/trainers prefer laser and video endoscopic equipment but you will pay big for that at a veterinary clinic or hospital. Many trainers correctly use cross nosebands and or tongue ties to help lessen this problem already.
- An intervention for ‘rasping’. Not as common but is another bad boy when detected. It is caused by a collapsed pharynx and affects the animal when breathing in especially during hard work.
- There are many more ailments that cause breathing problems that can affect performance and where yet more surgery can be tried but those are also for another day.
So, there is just an at a glance type summary of what can cause horses to run below form because of breathing difficulties but as I stated earlier, intervention or surgery is absolutely no guarantee of success. These issues are well known to anybody that studies racing in lots of detail but not known to the average punter/bettor that Bruce Millington and some of his contemporaries want to protect or enlighten, but for what purpose. An intervention is as likely to fail as succeed. The normal old fashioned way for horses with wind issues to run to their optimum was to catch them on their first two starts after a lay off and then a break of forty two days thereafter and that those animals as well as being fresh would always perform better on good or faster ground and better still if the course is a flat one. Horses that have breathing difficulties are most unlikely to want or act on heavy going and in that sense are much like bursters, sorry horses that bleed, sorry again, EIPH is the term and that is exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage which studies have shown that over 75% of the horse racing population suffer from. A lot of that seventy five per cent would have bled internally. Should a horse that has had a bleeding episode carry some sort of prefix on the racecard as well ? Let’s see how that would work on a Bruce Millington inspired form book. Just suppose the horse was a bleeder [bd], had a wind operation [wo], wore a hood [h] and visors [v], wore a tongue tie [t] and cheekpieces [c]. This is what it might look like on the Bruce racecard. No.1 JOE THE HORSE ,age 7, weight 10-6 bd wo h v t c. The mind boggles, can you imagine going through all that invaluable information and ten minutes before the race JOE THE HORSE is withdrawn because a steward has noticed that the poor unfortunate trainer failed to declare the bd or was it the wo or the h or v or t or even c………….
Bruce Millington goes on to talk about the ”secret world” of wind operations as if it were a big cover up against all the punters/bettors like ourselves or if that was not his intention then what did he mean by the statement and therefore needs to clarify that remark. Indeed, I publicly challenge him to do so. Horses are put into surgery for breathing difficulties in the first instance to help relieve pain because it hurts them when they cannot breathe properly, the trainers and owners are very mindful of this and it is not done for gambling purposes just in case there are people out there that think otherwise. The welfare of the animal is always uppermost in the minds of those owners and trainers.
A bit of advice to Bruce. The clue for punters who want to see information about wind operations or horses that are experiencing breathing difficulties is there in the form book and press and racecards already and it is in the shape of a simple little letter ‘t’.That signifies that the trainer and owner have already decided and are announcing to the press that his/her horse is already suffering some sort of wind /breathing infirmity or that the animal in question is getting it’s tongue over the bit and they have applied a TONGUE TIE today to help their animal. Another point for Bruce is, what happens when the surgery that ‘might’ have corrected the problem surfaces again ? Does the owner and trainer now instruct the BHA that ”hey lads and lassies, do you remember that time I told you we did a wind op on Joe The Horse, well you better take away that symbol you guys are using in the press and form books because he is gurgling badly again and needs more surgery but you can reinstate that letter with the prefix WO2 [wind operation two] in six weeks time when Joe returns to the track. Our reason for telling you this is that we are not part of a secret world and do not wish in anyway to distress our badly needed punter friends and by the way while you BHA people are at it how about deducting one penny in every pound bet as a levy towards helping the owners and trainers keep the show on the road and indeed help us pay for the wind operations in the first place especially if is causing such consternation in the betting shops. After all the prizemoney in the UK is derisory and yet there would be no product but for us”. Hmmmmmm……..
Oh just one more thing Bruce.. Horses that have had breathing operations generally do not like hills so you would have been better to leave the word Cheltenham out of your article. Have a good day and breathe easily.