Whenever we think of the bill still pending before Congress that would result in the creation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority our thought turns to Mongolian Groom. Here’s a replay of an event from last year. It illustrates that American racehorses have absolutely no friends within the industry.
Training videos suggest Mongolian Groom shouldn’t have run in Breeders’ Cup
by Tim Sullivan | Louisville Courier-Journal | 14 Nov 2019
Hindsight says Mongolian Groom should have been scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Foresight, it appears, was in short supply prior to the 4-year-old gelding’s breakdown.
Training videos shot at Santa Anita in the days preceding the Breeders’ Cup indicated an issue that, at a minimum, called for unusual caution before Mongolian Groom was cleared to compete — a palpable glitch in his giddy up.
“What I saw was a very short (excerpt) and the horse was clearly demonstrating a gait abnormality,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, former equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). “And so it raises questions and I don’t know to what extent those questions were asked or answered.
“… I don’t know how that horse looked as he traveled an entire circuit of the track. You’ll see many of them that can look crabby or odd or whatever you want to call it and then they straighten out after a couple of strides. I have no way of knowing was it before he warmed up or after he had been on the track for a while. There’s no context.”
Still, the training videos showed Mongolian Groom favoring the left hind leg that would sustain multiple fractures during his stretch run in the Classic, leading to the horse being euthanized. With 30 veterinarians in attendance, and thoroughbred racing’s safety record in sharp focus, the fatal injury has overshadowed one of the sport’s major events and renewed calls for racing’s abolition.
“You blew it, boys and girls,” equine veterinarian Dr. Steve Allday said on Steve Byk’s “At The Races” radio show on Tuesday. “So stand up and take your medicine. Sit down and talk about it. Figure out what you screwed up. You’re about to see the demise of this industry because of your mistake.”
A day after Mongolian Groom’s death, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewed her call for racing to be suspended at Santa Anita. California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the state’s horse racing board 30 days to provide recommendations for regulatory or statutory changes to improve animal welfare.
“I wasn’t there and I wasn’t asked to evaluate him,” Allday told Byk. “Obviously he wasn’t a patient or client of mine. But from what I see, that horse is visibly deficit in the left hind and unless they knew the severity or the cause of it, the nature, a lame horse really shouldn’t race.
“Bottom line is, it’s a shame that a horse that I work on regularly and know well, Vino Rosso, wins a race like that and the only thing they can discuss or talk about is the fact that a horse broke down.”
“I can’t tell you what (on-site veterinarians’) priorities are, or what they were looking for or what their parameters are. I can only tell you that the thing they’ve got to do is look in the mirror. … Bottom line is, it’s a shame that a horse that I work on regularly and know well, Vino Rosso, wins a race like that and the only thing they can discuss or talk about is the fact that a horse broke down.”
The Breeders’ Cup Classic was Mongolian Groom’s 11th race of the year — none of his stablemates raced more than six times — and his $533,891 in purses represent 75% of the barn’s total.
Of the 11 horses raced by Mongolian Stable in 2019, Mongolian Groom was both the busiest and most bankable. The Breeders’ Cup Classic was his 11th race of the year — none of his stablemates has raced more than six times — and his $533,891 in purses represent 75% of the barn’s total.
Eager to exploit his star’s earnings potential, owner Ganbaatar Dagvadorj invested $200,000 in the supplemental fee to make Mongolian Groom eligible for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. Though that fee would have been refunded in the event of a scratch, big races have a way of clouding the judgment of a horse’s human connections. One of the biggest risk factors for condylar fractures, Scollay says, is the Derby Fever that afflicts aspiring horsemen determined to Run for the Roses.
Consequently, it sometimes falls to the veterinarians to intercede on behalf of the horse.
“I do not know of any regulatory veterinarian who has ever made a decision to allow an unsound horse to run in a big race because it was a big race,” Scollay said. “Having been in the role, I’m going to throw my allegiance to the regulatory veterinarians till all the facts are out.”
We understand that everyone connected with Mongolian Groom let the horse down in every possible way that ultimately led to a very public, heartbreaking breakdown resulting in his death.
Pay particular attention to Scollay’s comments throughout the above Courier-Journal article and especially her last quote at the very end of the article. She noticed an abnormality in the colt’s action then stated, “And so it raises questions and I don’t know to what extent those questions were asked or answered.”
The Bloodhorse reported earlier in July of the same year that “The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium” has hired Dr. Mary Scollay as its next executive director and chief operating officer.
“In her new role, which she assumes Aug. 5, Scollay will be charged with the advancement of world-class laboratory drug testing standards, promotion of RMTC-recommended rules and penalties for prohibited substances and therapeutic medications, monitoring of emerging threats to the integrity of racing and the health and welfare of racehorses, and administrative oversight of RMTC-funded research projects and educational programs.”
Big deal? Not a big deal?
What do you bet Scollay ends up with a lucrative role in the much anticipated and newly created Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority once the bill passes the Senate and becomes law.
Herein lies the rub. She has stated publicly and emphatically her allegiance is to her fellow veterinarians.
Poor horses. Not a friend in the world of racing. Not a one.
“It seems the only break racehorses get are the ones that kill them.” —Vivian Farrell
Featured Image: Mongolian Groom’s off hind fractures during the Breeder’s Cup Classic; he was subsequently taken off the track and destroyed.