DENTAL FLOATING & BALANCING

June 1st, 2011 by Greg Beroza
‘STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH’

Dr. Gregory Beroza, DACVS & DABVP
Board Certified Equine Surgeon and Practice Specialist

 
          When horses bite into life, they do it in the way that was determined by their evolution as grazing animals. Their natural grazing characteristics allow their ever erupting teeth to gradually wear down in proportion to their growth.  Their 12 front teeth are designed for grabbing and/or biting and their 24 rear molars are for grinding. The condition of their teeth affects the animal’s overall health more than owners and trainers realize. Just as a horse needs four balanced feet, he must also have a well-balanced mouth to perform properly. Horsemen are acquainted with the old saying, “No foot, no horse,” but, while they can easily see the condition of the feet and legs, the inside of the horse’s mouth is not so easily accessible; but just as important. 

          The initial baby teeth, called caps, are lost or need to be extracted into the horse’s 5th year of age.  Their adult teeth emerge and change as he ages; the very long upper teeth drop down from within his sinuses and the lower ones erupt from his jaw bone each at an estimated rate of 1/16 inch per year. At first, the grinding surface of the baby teeth of a young horse meet on their flat surfaces; while those of an older improperly managed horse may eventually wear to a 45 degree occlusive angle. As a grazing animal, normally the horse is constantly wearing down his teeth. His teeth may eventually wear down to an abnormal angle, because the upper row sits slightly wider in his mouth than the lower row; thereby placing uneven abnormal stress on the horse’s jaw and TM (temporal-mandibular) joint.

Intraol Dental Examination, see sharp inside points

          If the horse cannot process his food properly, his digestion is also harmfully affected. Whole oats, for example, may be swallowed without even being ground. This is comparable to a person swallowing his food whole, without chewing it. The best nutrition is useless if the horse cannot digest it effectively. In turn, the horse may lose weight and perform poorly. He may show signs of unthriftiness, digestive trouble, and colic or he may possibly even develop ulcers or have breathing problems. Properly ground food is essential to the optimal digestion of a horse’s feed.

          Symptoms of tooth problems may be evidenced in many different ways. If the teeth are not in proper alignment, are broken, are impacted or infected, a horse might drop his food, veer out to get away from the bit because of pain, develop undesirable lead switches, shake his head, bite his tongue or the inside of his cheek, fight the bit or generally not be training up to par, achieve sub-maximal weight gain, and/or develop breathing or oral bleeding problems.

          One of many racing thoroughbreds that I recently treated at Belmont Park for trainer David Duggan had a tooth growing irregularly into his cheek, thereby causing an ulcer. After the tooth problem was corrected, there was a marked improvement in the horse’s performance. David stated that, “proper dentistry made my job of training easier. Before the tooth problem was fixed, my horse was uncontrollable and would not have made it to the races. Now there is no longer a problem with his performance.”  Additionally, I also examined and floated 5 recently claimed thoroughbred racehorses for Robert Klesaris at Belmont Park. Both he and his assistant, Raul Ruiz, noted that the very next day, 2 of those horses had “a remarkable improvement in their training performance”.

Uncle Mo Winning 2010 Breeders Cup Photo by Z

          A racing filly training at Belmont Park for trainer Jim Toner went to far as to flip over backwards to avoid training just because of her anticipated pain due to her sharp teeth. Once properly floated and balanced, her behavioral problems were resolved. During the 2006-07 Winter Aqueduct and the 2007 Spring-Summer Belmont meets, one of my regular dental client trainers, Gary Contessa, captured Leading Trainer titles following regular power floating and balancing maintenance care. There is a direct correlation between good dental health and optimal athletic performance.

          In the performance show world, Jagger Topping, of Swan Creek Farm in Bridgehampton, New York remarkably observed that, for his large population of horses, our power floating dentistry went even more smoothly and quickly than the previously conventional hand-floating methods he formerly employed. Ann Aspinol, of Topping Riding Club in Sagaponack, New York had “no doubt” in her mind, that over the past 5 years we have been taking care of her horses’ teeth, they now look better and maintain their weight better than in previous years. Even her boarders recognized a positive difference. Lieutenant Nicholas Pandolfo, former commanding officer of the Nassau County Mounted Unit, observed after several years of our improved dental care that he had been able to appropriately cut back on his feed bill, because his horses are now eating well and doing better.

          The Chronicle of the Horse recently reported in its March 28, 2011 issue about 2 top international dressage riders who were immediately eliminated from FEI World competition because their horses had blood coming from their mouths during competition. One horse was quoted supposedly as having ‘bit its tongue’. Without further information one can only speculate that these horses may have had recent or unresolved dental issues which equated to serious show consequences.

          Ideally, performance and pleasure horses should have their teeth examined and floated twice a year. According to New York State law, this should be done by a licensed veterinarian; although interpretation and regulation of these laws has been indecisive, at best. While some lay people calling themselves dentists have experience and training in this area, a qualified, knowledgeable veterinarian will provide the best opinion and the most thorough job. The veterinarian should examine the entire mouth, looking for and correcting any potential problems; and, yes, horses do get cavities, although they are not as significant a problem as they are in people. Floating is the procedure in which sharp enamel points or rough edges are removed with a dental file and it is an essential part of routine horse care.



Equine Scull and Dental Power Equipment

          The method I employ is power floating; primarily using motorized equipment rather than hand tools. The standing horse is lightly sedated (something a lay person cannot do), and the horse’s mouth is propped open with a speculum. This enables the veterinarian to look and reach far back into the caudal recesses of a horse’s mouth, where they may have sharp “hooks”; especially common to older horses. A combination diamond and carbide bit is used, which does not injure the inner soft tissues of the horse’s mouth. With power equipment, I consistently get equally balanced results in all 4 quadrants of each and every horse’s mouth. Trainers and owners should be aware that after sedation, although horses can go back to work 1 hour later, there may be show rules governing proper withdrawal times prior to showing, due to the tranquilizers used. In racehorses it is four days.

          Laws regarding professional care of the horse’s teeth vary from state to state, because there is no national code. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, this countries 2 major regulatory organizations overseeing the practice of dentistry within veterinary medicine, universally agree with the rest of today’s world of modern medicine, that both large and small animal dentistry is uncategorically a medical procedure, and that veterinary dental assistants or technicians can be utilized by veterinarians in their office and under their direct professional supervision. Although veterinarians are universally required to have nationally recognized credentials, not all equine veterinarians or veterinary dentists have proper state licenses.

Power Dentistry Equipment In Use

          To date, there is no uniform nationally recognized dental training code, although most veterinary schools include courses in dentistry as part of their professional curriculum, and areas of veterinary dental specialty are burgeoning. However, the business practice of equine dentistry in New York State is limited to licensed professionals only. Consequently, should an owner use a non-licensed individual to perform dentistry and any damage is done to their horse, the owner has little course of legal action or restitution; similar to using an untrained, unlicensed and unregulated contractor. Lay individuals performing dental procedures cannot obtain malpractice insurance for doing such.

          Power floating has its share of bonafide critics when performed improperly; however, when done right, it is vastly superior to the older manual methods. This is analogous to current use of power equipment by properly trained, skilled and licensed contractors. My fourteen years of pioneering experience utilizing motorized tools to power float and balance tens of thousands of horses’ teeth, have proven to me that it is absolutely the best method of routine dental care available to the public. Medical licensing was established in the late 1800s to protect the public against shoddy work from untrained, unskilled, unlicensed and uninsurable non-professionals. In my humble view, to practice equine dentistry today without direct supervision of or by a medical license is comparable to the dark ages, when barbers were allowed to perform surgery on their patrons.

Equipment for Surgical Removal of Cheek Tooth Under General Anesthesia

Surgical Removal of Infected Cheek Tooth Under General Anesthesia

Surgically Removed Lower Cheek Tooth

          Basic regular dental maintenance, complete routine oral examination and early problem correction help eliminate the risk of serious future trouble, such as cracked teeth, impacted teeth, dental and sinus infections, TM joint problems, secondary breathing problems such as soft-palate displacement, behavioral and attitudinal training and performance issues, etc. The well being and careers of our prized horses are at stake.

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SPOTLIGHT ON SAFETY HELMETS

April 14th, 2011 by Greg Beroza

by Dr. Gregory Beroza & Paula Rodenas

For almost five years, Debra Wilcox of Riverhead, N.Y. has been in a coma, unable to communicate and dependent upon high maintenance medical care just to keep her alive. Debra was formerly an active dressage rider with a promising future before a riding accident brought her career and her normal life to an abrupt halt. In June 2006 she was routinely schooling one of her dressage horses on the flat, and nobody knows what happened – possibly her horse stumbled and fell, and Debra either was thrown or bailed out. The end result was a severe head injury. She was not wearing a safety helmet.

Debra Wilcox before Accident

“I always told my girls, ‘Put your helmet on,’ and they’d say, ‘Oh, Mom!’” recalled Debra’s mother. Some of the female students at the Wilcoxes’ Hillcrest Farm were reluctant to wear helmets for fear of messing their hair. “Even on the ground with a hard-to-handle horse, the helmet should be worn,” said Mrs. Wilcox.

Debra’s plight was not as well publicized as Olympic rider Courtney King-Dye’s spill in March 2010 in which she also sustained a severe head injury when her horse slipped and fell. Courtney’s skull was fractured, and she was in a coma for a month. She had ongoing physical and speech therapy and is on the road to recovery. Before her accident, Courtney wore a helmet with some horses, not others, and on the day of her accident, she was in a hurry and didn’t put it on. Her story served as a wake-up call for dressage riders. When she attended the World Equestrian Games, Courtney found herself regarded as a role model. She noted that Sue Blinks and Jacqueline Brooks were wearing approved helmets in the Grand Prix arena, a setting that traditionally calls for formal top hats. “Is there some reason we don’t care about the brains of people competing above fourth level?” questioned event rider Darren Chiacchia, who suffered a head injury in 2008 (see Chronicle of the Horse, December 17, 2010).

Courtney King-Dye on Mythilus from Jaffer of Star-Ledger 6/26/10

Since the King-Dye accident, the United States Equestrian Federation has mandated that, effective March 1, 2011, everyone except riders 18 and older wear protective headgear on horses competing at the F.E.I. (International) levels of dressage. “Dressage riders called the Courtney King accident their 9-11,” said Sally Ike, USEF manager of eventing. The first rule change, influenced by a decrease in head injuries in combined training (which includes a dressage phase) through the use of helmets, required anyone on a horse to wear an ASTM/SEI-approved helmet while mounted on competition grounds. In January, a Rider4Helmets-hosted symposium in Wellington, Florida discussed the topic at length. In February, the USEF executive committee said it would meet to define the rule as applied to breed competitions.

Although Courtney King-Dye attracted national attention, there are many riders like Debra Wilcox whose unexpectedly altered fates went unnoticed by all but their friends and relatives. As Debra’s mother pointed out, the injury is only the first part of the scenario; the care of a coma patient is ongoing and extensive help is needed from insurance companies in order to carry on with necessary therapy. Families of coma patients face exorbitant, unimaginable expenses and responsibilities.

2010 Alltech F.E.I. WEG Jumping by Peggy Kline

Hunter-jumper riders have long acknowledged the need for protective headgear. EMTs at dressage shows are not called upon as often to tend to head injuries as they are at competitions that involve jumping. It was long believed that riding at speed or jumping obstacles creates more of a risk that riding quietly on the flat. “There’s more of a chance of something happening – if the horse spooks or refuses a jump, for example, or if he takes a bad step,” said jockey Frank Lovato, Jr., who was injured in a 1980 racing accident. But, as Courtney King-Dye said, “I think my accident showed everyone, including me, that anything can happen.”

2010 Alltech F.E.I. WEG Eventing- Happy Times & Sam Griffins by Peggy Kline

While her experience alerted the equestrian community, there is still a need to educate the general public. Several years ago, a New York TV channel aired a program that featured a handicapped child shown riding without a helmet. When a viewer wrote in and criticized this, she received a form letter from the producer saying, essentially, “We are sorry you did not like our program,” missing the point entirely. A 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that riding accidents accounted for 11.7% of all traumatic brain injuries in recreational sports between 2001 and 2005.

The United States Equestrian Federation rules define an acceptable helmet as “properly fastened protective headgear which meets or exceeds ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carries the SEI tag. It must be properly fitted with harness secured.” Helmets are required in all classes that include jumping, as well as in marathon combined driving, Paso Fino classes, combined training, endurance competition, Morgans, roadsters and possibly other divisions as listed in the official rule book.

Proper Polo Headgear

The United States Polo Association long ago mandated that all polo players wear their helmets during competitions; and almost all polo clubs also mandate use of helmets during every practice. The Nassau County Mounted Police Unit’s policies are indicative of most other mounted units wherein the officers are mandated to wear their protective headgear whenever mounted, except for color-guard ceremonies. However, each municipality is responsible for their own standards. Protective helmets are optional in all rodeo events. Many high level rodeo riders, especially in bronc and bull riding, now voluntarily wear protective helmets after several of their colleagues sustained severe head and face injuries that would have been minimized by wearing helmets.

Proper Mounted Police Headgear

Western riders, however, continue to wear their familiar cowboy hats.  Marty Pelcyger of Arizona, who rides cutting horses, said the National Cutting Horse Association calls for western hats in their rules of attire. Anything else, he suggested, would look “silly.” (Imagine John Wayne wearing a safety helmet.) However Dave Brian, Director of Shows of the NCHA, quoted the rules as saying: “Under advance approval of show management, safety helmets are permissible in place of western hats.”

Cody Whitney-Extreme Bulls by Greg Westfall 2/19/11

In reining, the Western equivalent of dressage, helmets are optional. Reining was the only sport at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in which riders appeared in western saddles and cowboy hats. According to Jessica Johnson of the National Reining Horse Association, that association’s executive committee is reviewing the new dressage rules and may meet with the USEF for discussion in the near future.

Kaycee Feild on Multi-Chem Brother by Greg Westfall 2/19/11

“I have found that 99% of the time, falls occur without incident,” said reiner Sue Lomangino of Long Island. Although she approves the enforcement of the helmet rule for youths, she feels that the use of a helmet should be an individual decision in the case of adults. She pointed out that Christopher Reeve was wearing a helmet when he was paralyzed in a cross country spill in 1994. The helmet did not protect the cervical portion of his neck. It was what Sue called a “freak accident.”  Reeve broke his first and second vertebrae (C1 and C2), just below the edge of his helmet.

2010 Alltech F.E.I. WEG Reining-Anky Van Grunsven on Whizashiningwalla by Peggy Kline

Think of barrel racers galloping around at great speed, their hats flying off behind them. The danger is obvious. Yet a representative of the National Barrel Racing Association said that helmets are optional for all riders and estimated that only about 10% of the riders wear them.

The American Quarter Horse Association requires approved helmets for hunters, jumpers and equitation or for anyone jumping on the show grounds. For Quarter Horse racing, individual state racing commissions oversee the use of helmets.

Goldikova-2010 Breeders Cup by Z

Jockeys in the Thoroughbred racing world are well aware of the dangers of galloping at 30-plus miles per hour. According to Bruce Johnstone, Manager of Racing Operations for the New York Racing Association, the sport has a minimum standard for jockey helmets that allows some leeway for different types or brands. The older Caliente helmet has been improved upon by a new European-made helmet that is larger and more shock resistant. Jeff Johnson, Regional Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild, explained that while the states all have their own rules for helmets and other safety equipment, many states try to adopt rules listed in the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) list of “model rules” in an attempt for uniformity. Joe Mahoney, information officer for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said, “Safety is of paramount importance” and cited New York State rule 4006.7 as follows: “Every jockey, apprentice jockey, and other riders, whether in a race or when exercising a Thoroughbred horse, shall wear a safety helmet of a type approved in writing by the stewards, and no change shall be made in any such helmet without the approval of the stewards.”

The bottom line seems to be that the English disciplines are presently adaptable to helmets, while Western riders are reluctant to give up their cowboy hats. Should safety helmets be mandatory or a matter of individual choice in all equestrian sports events? To see additional photos or to contribute to public discussion about this subject, please see the Blogsite at www.HorseDoc.com. The authors also appreciate any comments or points of view being addressed directly to them via Email: horsedoc@horsedoc.com. Let us hear from you!

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WINTERIZING YOUR HORSE

January 31st, 2011 by Greg Beroza

As we in the northeast and many other regions of the country are in the midst of one of our most severe winters in the past several years, it is time to reflect on the appropriate health care of our equine companions.  Whether or not you personally hold yourself directly accountable as your horse’s owner, legal guardian or best friend, it is nonetheless our moral obligation to best care for the comfortable health of these amazing animals no matter the circumstances.  Winter brings cold weather, snow and frozen water and heating pipes.  Fresh clean frost free water is a necessary mainstay of all living beings and our horses require their sizeable daily portion of potable water.  Make sure all the pipes to your barns are sufficiently protected from freezing.

Horses Winterized in Snow Turnout

Properly applied, heat tapes are well worth it.  Please be careful in the application of heat tapes because, wrapped too closely around pipes so that they cross, they can short or burn themselves out and can cause fires.  Where appropriate, space heaters and heat lamps can be used, however, not all types are safe for use in barns.  Make sure any extension cords, outlets, fuse boxes and services are properly grounded and of sufficient size to carry the increased winter electrical loads.  If you are in doubt about any of these electrical recommendations, please check with a qualified electrician to assure your barn and horses’ safety.

Unless heated automatic watering sources are being properly used, outdoor water buckets often freeze.  Being outside for several hours, eating dry hay without water and being returned to a barn with more dry hay and unpalatable ice cold water, is an unplanned and unfortunate set-up for a horse developing a digestive tract impaction.  We often must think for and take appropriate precautions for our horses, no different than we would to protect our children from winter’s worst elements.  Regular and timely feeding of warmed grained mashes enriched by adding dietary oils for digestive tract lubrication, is a good method for increasing a horse’s necessary water intake and keeping their stools appropriately softer.  Lesser winter volumes of food may be sufficient to nourish our horses due to their decreased activity, but some horses require the same, if not more feed, due to their increased need for energy to produce heat.  Because of their long winter coats, their true body condition may not be readily apparent.  Check your horse’s body conditioning as each one is uniquely individual.

Foot Iceball-no pads-no borium

Foot no Iceball-snow pads-heel caulks

Unless properly blanketed and during moderate winter days, horses should not be turned-out for as long a period of time as you would during the warmer months.  During the coldest days, it may be more appropriate to keep them in the barn or turn them out for only an hour or two daily.  While it makes for a beautiful postcard to see horses standing knee deep in fresh snow, practically speaking, it is often more dangerous than it appears.  Horses feet can ball up with snow or ice and cause them to slip, slide or be unable to get proper traction.  Snow pads are one solution to lessening this problem.  Borium and/or heel caulks applied to the bottoms of our horses’ shoes are another helpful solution.  Care must also be exercised that horses not panic from being entrapped in knee high or chest deep snow which can cause them to act in unpredictably dangerous manners.  Horses can break bones in their feet and legs from poor footing, compounded by dangerous behavior or even panic due to a perceived entrapment in the snow.

Horse too deep in snow drift

Blankets and leg wraps can be used, both indoors and outdoors, to help your horse conserve their body heat.  Each should be applied appropriately to avoid other problems.  Making your horse too warm by excessive blanketing, both inside and outside the barn, is possible and should also be carefully avoided.  Unless your horse is properly acclimated to the winter’s worst weather, the disparity in conditions between inside and outside the barn can cause a horse to sweat and loose even more valuable water.  Just like with people, the cold wind blowing over your horse’s body increases the chill factor.  This can create a more significant problem than the lowered temperature itself.

Try to provide your horses with a covered structure or wind break if they are to stay outside for any significant length of time, during the winter.  You will find horses migrating to protection from the wind, when they need it most.  Similarly, seal barns from any drafts or air leaks, especially if the barn isn’t heated.  A well insulated draft free barn filled with horses usually doesn’t need auxiliary heat during average winter conditions, to keep it above freezing.  Collectively, horses’ body heat is amazingly warm.  This can be yet another reason not to turn some if not all of the horses out during the most severe winter days.  Heated barns should be kept above freezing, but not so warm that horses don’t grow a sufficiently protective winter hair coat.  Be aware, however, that no ventilation whatsoever can create its own problem, leading to increased respiratory disorders.  This issue is best accessed via the help of qualified veterinary and architectural/contractor input.

Scenic winter snow; Horse & Groom heading back to the barn

Winter time is often a slower and less intense time for equestrian use.  So, this is a good time to catch up on several veterinary health care responsibilities such as examination and floating of our horses’ teeth.  Late fall & winter vaccinations, useful against respiratory viruses, are just as prophylactically important as are their use against flu in people.  Horses housed more closely increase their opportunities for sharing respiratory viruses and parasites, also making deworming very timely and appropriate.  Any and all of these important equine medical issues should be discussed with and addressed in conjunction with your veterinarian, as part of your overall supervised healthcare program.

For additional equine healthcare information about this or other subjects, please review Dr. Beroza’s internet site @ HorseDoc.com and/or review the ‘Talking Horses’ materials on the HorseDoc.com Blogsite and/or call the Long Island Equine Medical Center @ 631-427-2213.

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THE COLONIAL CUP: STEEPLECHASING AT ITS BEST

December 15th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

THE COLONIAL CUP: STEEPLECHASING AT ITS BEST 

By Dr. Gregory Beroza and Paula Rodenas      Photos(c) by Tod Marks 

Demonstrative(yellow) 2nd race-view from below jump

 

            In South Carolina, where pari-mutuel betting is not permitted, more than 60,000 people turn out to watch the Colonial Cup in autumn and the Carolina Cup in the spring at Springdale Race Course in Camden. The scene echoes the English countryside, where   races over obstacles and rolling terrain are part of the culture. Although steeplechasing traditions were brought from England to the American colonies, the sport is popular today in only a limited number of states and takes a back seat to flat racing, with its various forms of permissible gambling, and to many other present-day spectator sports.

Field stalks Preemptive Strike

            Slip Away ran away with this year’s 41st running of the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup on November 13, covering the 2-3/4 mile course over 17 obstacles in a time of 5:14.80 minutes. The seven-year-old gray gelding, ridden by Paddy Young, galloped to a 25 and 3/4 length win over Preemptive Strike-2nd, followed by Tax Ruling- 3rd, in the field of nine. His victory made him a leading contender for the National Steeplechase Association’s 2010 championship, as well as an Eclipse Award candidate. He is the leading earner for the year with $191,500. If Slip Away earns an Eclipse Award in the steeplechase division, Ken and Sarah Ramsey will become part of an elite group of Thoroughbred owners who have raced a champion both on the flat and over hurdles. 

Slip Away to wire-Paddy Young looks back

            “He’s a dead-honest racehorse,” said trainer Tom Voss. “If they don’t give the Eclipse Award to this horse, there’s something wrong.” Slip Away, by champion flat racing 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away, won seven straight races in 2009 and was then claiming horse of the year. This season he won three out of seven starts between April and November, including the Temple Gwathney Hurdle Handicap. “He’s been a bridesmaid several times this year,” said owner Kenneth L. Ramsey. “We decided to take him back off the pace in the Colonial Cup.”  Then Slip Away grabbed the lead over the next-to-last fence.

Slip Away over last jump

            Paddy Young, a two-time consecutive National Steeplechase Association leading jockey, found Slip Away exceedingly fit. “I could hardly pull him up,” he said. “He’s won a lot of races, but this was his best career win.” Voss said the horse did not seem tired after the race, but rolled and bucked when he was turned out in the paddock. 

             Many Thoroughbreds whose performances on the flat are mediocre show an aptitude for jumping. Mr. Ramsey likes to tell the story of a Thoroughbred he once owned called Flat Top, who did not run well. He sold the horse for $5,000, and it later turned out to be a two-time Eclipse Award winning steeplechaser (1998 and 2002), winning the Colonial Cup in 1998. “I was determined not to do that again,” said Ramsey. Slip Away ran a few races on the flat, and then, said Ramsey, “Tom (Voss) turned him from being non-productive on the flat to what he is today. As for my role, I had the good sense to send him to Tom in the first place.” 

            “It is really good for steeplechasing, to have a big flat owner like this,” Young said of Ramsey. “Hopefully, it will bring other owners and attention to the sport.”  

Paddy Young weighs out after race

           Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who received an Eclipse Award as the leading owners of 2004, have a farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky with almost 500 Thoroughbreds, a training track and a grass course. They won back-to-back leading owner titles at Saratoga (2008 and 2009), as well as titles at Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Gulfstream Park. They have won the Kentucky Media Award for the past ten years as that state’s leading owners. Their horse Furthest Land won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile; Kitten’s Joy was the top turf male of 2004; and Roses in May won the Dubai World Cup in 2005.             “I’ve been involved in flat racing much more and had more success in that,” said Mr. Ramsey, 75. Although he has never attended the Colonial Cup personally, he said, “Next year, if he (Slip Away) races again, I will be there. I hope some of my best memories are still ahead of me.” 

            If Mr. Ramsey makes it to Camden, he is sure to be impressed with the hospitality and atmosphere. Charlotte Van Cott of Long Island, who was there for this year’s Colonial Cup, found it both elegant and exciting. “It was like the Kentucky Derby, with the ladies in their hats,” she described. “They had a nice tent with good food. We were at the finish line. You could see the whole course.” The event was saluting the military that day, and parachute jumpers with huge American flags floated down on the scene. 

Colonial Cup trophies

            Camden has long been a training center for racehorses, as well as an R & R spot for many, including the late, famous Ruffian. Springdale was the name given to the old racecourse in town by its purchasers, Henry Kirkover and Ernest Woodward, both avid fox hunters. The property changed ownership several times and was eventually   purchased by Marion duPont Scott. Mrs. Scott was a racehorse breeder and owner and a driving force behind the Colonial Cup. When she died in 1983, the 600 acres comprising the Springdale Race Course were deeded to the state for equine use. 

            The Colonial Cup International was initiated on November 14, 1970 and won by Mrs. Ogden Phipps’ Top Bid. In spite of bad weather, the race was well attended by visiting stewards from England, Ireland and France, as well as many American dignitaries. Nine of the 22 horses that competed over the soft turf were from overseas, making it a truly international event. 

            Steeplechasing supposedly got its name from a match race that took place in Ireland in 1752 between two horses called O’Callaghan and Blake. The four-and-a-half mile course started from Buttevant Church and ended at the spire of St. Leger Church, hence steeple to steeple. Steeplechasing became an official sport in the early 19th century. Today there are three kinds of steeplechase races: 1) hurdle races, used as proving grounds for young horses; 2) brush racing, which specifies the number and types of obstacles in each race; and 3) point-to-point races (also called timber races), for entrants who qualify by having hunted with a recognized hunt. England’s Grand National is the world’s most famous brush race. 

Hall of Fame flat jockey Eddie Maple at the Cup

            Before the American Civil War there were recognized race meetings in several states and there is a record of a jumping race held in Washington, D.C. in 1834. Race meetings were held in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania after the Civil War. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when horseracing and gambling were banned, the cities that had racecourses suffered huge economic setbacks. The Thoroughbred Times reported that more than 1,500 horses were sent to Europe between 1908 and 1913, in addition to jockeys and trainers, some never to return. Until the bans were lifted, said Hall of Fame trainer Burley Cocks, “Jumping saved racing in the United States.” Today these jump races have gone back to their roots in rural areas. 

            It is not unusual for both English and Irish fans to take a few weekday afternoon hours off to go to the races. But how many New York businessmen would now think of taking a break and going to Belmont Park or Aqueduct for the afternoon? Although steeplechase races are occasionally held at Saratoga over National (standardized) fences, relatively few people in our country are aware of the thrill and beauty of the sport. 

Salute to the Military

            The Carolina Cup Racing Association, Inc. offers a quote from English horseman John Hislop, who wrote: “Steeplechasing has about it rather more glamour and excitement than the flat, a trace of chivalry, a spice of danger and a refreshing vigor … that flat racing lacks. The atmosphere is less restrained, more friendly, sympathetic and intimate. It gives the impression of being a sport and not primarily a business.” Dick Francis couldn’t have phrased it any better. 

For more information, contact the National Steeplechase Association, 410-392-0700 (www.nationalsteeplechase.com).  Photos (c) by Tod Marks

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Zenyatta and 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championship

November 12th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

Zenyatta and 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championship
-5 Stories and Photos of Unique Interest   -photos by Z © 

Churchill Downs Breeders' Cup Track

 

  

1)    Amazing ‘Zenyatta’
        All eyes were on Zenyatta as hopes for her perfect 20 wins for 20 races vanished in the final stretches of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic race.  She lost by a head to newly anointed superstar winner Blame.  However, the team of Zenyatta, jockey Mike Smith, trainer John Shirreffs, and owners Jerry and Ann Moss remained as classy in defeat as that were during Zenyatta’s meteoric success.  “We’re real proud of our girl,” said Moss.  “She tried hard and ran a tremendous race only to get beat by the slimmest of margins.”  We congratulate Blame and his connections; he beat a superstar.”

Blame & Zenyatta at Finishline

  

       The obvious historic question will always linger in our memories, “what if Zenyatta had the opportunity to begin her amazing home stretch run just seconds earlier?”  There is no question to anyone that saw the race that shortly after the turn for home she catapulted herself from last place to pass each and every one of the horses in her way; needing to pass all other 11 horses over more than a 12 length lead, while traveling at super fast fractions.  Unfortunately, Zenyatta got trapped behind several horses at the turn, causing her to initially delay in hopes of a straight run between split horses, which never materialized.  She therefore had to go wide, using more energy and causing her to run an even greater distance.  She had the crowd of 73,000 roaring fans on their feet at Churchill Downs, all hoping to see perhaps the greatest equine racing accomplishment of their lifetime as this near miracle of equine performance increasingly appeared to be a reality.  Zenyatta finished strongly and came within 12 inches of winner Blame, at the wire.  Zenyatta still had ‘plenty of go’ and perhaps within another stride or two she would have won; however, she ran out of race track and time.  The record books will state that she came up 1 head or 1 nose too short (see the photo finish for yourself).
       While Zenyatta technically came in only 2nd, her first place status in the hearts of both old and new racing fans was undeniable.  The morning after the race, while the crowd around $5 million dollar Classic winner Blame’s stall was reported to total about 14, including security, employees, and media; Zenyatta was visited by a legion of her fans.  Onlookers were graciously accommodated as they politely made their way forward to get a souvenir photo with racing’s favorite diplomat, Zenyatta.  ESPN’s Kim Jessup estimates that the final hour of ESPN broadcast, which covered Zenyatta’s race, drew a 3.1 rating; nearly triple the 1.1 rating for the same hour last year.  She was the only mare to take on 11 other of this year’s most accomplished boys, and she came up 1 nose short.

Honeymoon Couple to see Zenyatta

       Zenyatta’s story doesn’t end here.  Jerry and Ann Moss still feel the same way as three weeks before the Breeders’ Cup that it would be a “slap in the face” if Zenyatta retired without a Horse of the Year trophy.  Smith takes full blame for Zenyatta’s loss and declares, “she ranks up there with the greatest of all time.”  Zenyatta was denied that most prestigious thoroughbred racing honor last year, in losing to an equally talented Rachel Alexander; who is now retired.  She will now be considered alongside Blame for what many believe would have been an undeniable honor, had she won her second Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday. 

2)   More Amazing ‘Goldikova’   
       While the American public has been fixated on their superstar Zenyatta, not enough attention has been paid to Europe’s superstar Goldikova.  Zenyatta’s bid for winning 20 races out of 20 starts fell short by one win on November 6th, at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championship.  Were she to have won on Saturday, besides her perfect record of races against both sexes, she would also have uniquely won 2 successive Breeders’ Cup races. 

Goldikova racing on Turf

       However, the European trained Goldikova, owned by brothers Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, ridden by jockey Olivier Peslier, and trained by Freddie Head, had already won 2 successive Breeders’ Cup Mile turf races and were competing this year for an unrivaled 3rd straight win.  Not only did Goldikova beat both the boys and the girls, she did it impressively.  She trailed most of the leaders in the race until hitting the final turn and the home stretch.  Therein Goldikova ran 5 wide to easily win; leaving no doubt to her endurance and impressive athleticism.  

Goldikova & connections in Winner's Circle

       Goldikova had already won 11 Group 1 victories in Europe, seven of them against the colts, and she has now won 16 races in 22 starts.  Trainer Freddie Head has uniquely won the Breeders’ Cup Mile 5 times; twice as jockey aboard the sensational Miesque in 1987 & 1988, and now 3 years consecutively as trainer of Goldikova.  Miesque was the first filly to win back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Miles and Goldikova is the only horse to ever win 3 consecutive Breeders’ Cup races.  Goldikova may not even be seriously considered for Horse of the Year honors.  Goldikova’s connections say they are now planning Goldikova’s entire 2011 campaign around getting her ready for an unprecedented 4th chance to win next year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf.

3)    Borel v Castellano- Jockeys Fight of the Year
        A rare winner’s circle jockey clash evolved on national television between flyweight jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano after the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon on Friday 11/6/10. While insiders confirm that jockeys have been known to air their post-race differences via fistfights in the locker rooms, Friday’s venue was spectacularly unique.  Immediately post-race, while the connections of Eldaafer, including winning jockey John Velazquez and trainer Diane Alvarado, were preparing to officially begin celebrating a new track record for having won the 1¾ Maration, heated differences were publicly being aired by both Borel and Castellano.

Borel restrained by Brother & Staff

       During the immediately preceding race, Castellano who later claimed to be trapped to the inside, “went for the hole” and in so doing, “took [Borel’s] lane.  Castellano, aboard Will I Am made a dangerous mid-race move near the top of the home stretch.  He pulled up in front of Romp, causing that horse to stumble and nearly throw its jockey, Martin Garcia.  “My horse clipped heels and started to go down.  I was loose on top of the horse.  I don’t know how I stayed on.  I pushed off of Calvin’s horse A.U. Miner to get back into the saddle”, stated Garcia.  Onlookers credited Garcia’s extra-ordinary athleticism as saving his life and that of his mount. 
       Both jockeys were said to have exchanged choice words and fists.  Borel, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby aboard Super Saver, was restrained by his brother Cecil and fellow jockey Shane Sellers and he was escorted from the scene by no fewer than eight guards.  Borel subsequently told ESPN that he and Castellano had patched things up.  Both jockeys then competed in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile without incident, with Castellano finishing 2nd aboard Morning Line. 
       Prince Will I Am was disqualified from second and placed tenth; with A.U. Miner being moved up to second.  Had Borel not had to check his horse, he would have had a better chance at a 1st place finish.  Fortunately, no jockeys and no horses were hurt on the track.  Chief racing steward John Veitch later issued Borel a $5,000 fine for the incident.  Castellano was issued a $2,500 fine for ‘the altercation’ and he also received a 6 day suspension for his ‘riding interference’. 

4)   Velazquez Asks Vets Not To Run ‘Life At Ten’  
       On Breeders’ Cup opening Friday, jockey John Velazquez asked state examining veterinarians to examine his race favorite mount Life At Ten on the track moments before she entered the starting gate for the $2 million Ladies Classic.  There was a storm of controversy and plenty of blame after the race in which jockey John Velazquez eased his mount once the starting gate opened and throughout the race; thereby coming in a far last.  More than half a million dollars was wagered trackside alone on the 7-2 favorite to win, place and show; not to mention the additional enormous sums of money bet off track and on all other forms of exotic wagering throughout the world. 

Life At Ten last place Finish on Track

       While Life At Ten was on the track warming up before the race, Velazquez was interviewed live by ESPN and asked if his 5-year-old mare was OK.  Velazquez answered that, “She wasn’t herself.  I don’t know.”   “I don’t know if she had an allergic reaction to the Lasix shot, or if she suffered from cramps but she was not herself in the paddock,” trainer Todd Pletcher was quick to state.  He took full responsibility in stating that, “She clearly probably should not have run.”  Pletcher was observed to be making his way from the stands to trackside following Velazquez’s pre-race comments.  Many speculated that Pletcher may have been attempting to make a last minute scratch; however, the crowds and limited time prevented him from intervening. 
       Blame appears to be plentiful as to who was most responsible ‘to make the right call’; however, not everything in life is crystal clear, even in hindsight.  With television minutes and race purses being worth millions of dollars, snap decisions like the one mandated by this incident, need formal pre-race preparation and even then, that may not be enough.  Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards plan no action against trainer Todd Pletcher or jockey John Velazquez.  Further speculation is best left to the concerned critics; so long as the betting public doesn’t appear to have been purposefully defrauded.   

5)    ‘Uncle Mo’ Becomes Kentucky Derby Favorite  
        The long gone legendary Hall of Fame thoroughbred racing trainer Woody Stephens was quoted as stating that he stays young, “because there is a new crop of 2-year-olds to look forward to each year”.  Well in 2010, current superstar trainer Todd Pletcher has his own spectacular 2-year-old in training in his barn.  Recent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo is Pletcher’s latest new hopes for the next running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May of 2011.  While Pletcher has had several previous potential Kentucky Derby horses, this one feels special.  After winning the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (for 2 year olds) by a powerful 4½ lengths, Pletcher was quoted as saying, “I really don’t get goose bumps very often watching a horse race… but that was a pretty special performance.  I was literally shaking a little bit after the race.  It was just unbelievable.”

Uncle Mo racing on Track

       Owner Mike Repole was even more emotional as he couldn’t stop hugging and kissing Pletcher from the moment Uncle Mo won and continuing even into the winner’s circle.  Repole, who was born in Queens and is a St. John’s graduate, said, “I’ve thought about this moment for 30 years”.  Uncle Mo will be named champion 2-year-old of 2010, after completing a perfect 3-for-3 season.  He won his maiden race by 14¼ lengths in August at Saratoga and followed with a Champagne Stakes win on October 9 at Belmont Park.  
       A 41-year-old Middle Village, Queens resident, Repole races in orange and blue silks in honor of his favorite baseball team, the Mets.  He is the former president of Glaceau, the company that introduced Vitaminwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola for a reported $4.1 billion.  Repole is presently chairman and majority investor in Pirate’s Booty snacks and Energy Kitchen, a healthful chain of fast-food restaurants.  He got into thoroughbred racing as an owner because he always loved going to Aqueduct as a youth.  He named Uncle Mo after a sports expression used to describe a team or players on a roll.  “I’ve always had a saying, says Repole, ‘Think big; dream bigger.”  Much will always happen in racing between now and May 2011, but Repole presently has the Kentucky Derby favorite; and he, Pletcher and Uncle Mo are ‘on a roll’. 

Uncle Mo, Repole & Pletcher on Track after race

 

-photos by Z©

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2010 WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES- in Review

October 26th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

2010 WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES   ‘The Competitions In Review’  

Dressage-Grand Prix Special-Ashley Holzer-Pop Art (CAN)

           The results of the 2010 Alltech F.E.I. World Equestrian Games, held Sept. 27- Oct. 1 in Lexington, Kentucky, yielded a few surprises. The Germans, who long dominated dressage, emerged third in dressage behind The Netherlands and Great Britain. The American team took what The Chronicle of the Horse called “the dreaded fourth place,” meaning out of the medals. Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas of The Netherlands earned three gold medals. The Dutch have two things going for them: a strong national riding school and Dutch Warmblood breeding farms that combined the bloodlines of Thoroughbred stallions with those of the native Groningen and Gelderland mares to produce superior sporthorses. What was surprising was Great Britain’s silver team medal, as that nation had never won one before in a world championship or an Olympic Games. British rider Carl Hester pointed out that years ago, the highest score they ever got was 66%. This time the scores ranged between 70.12 and 82.51%.

Jumping-Mylard Cathago HN & Penelope Leprevost (FRA)

            Germany was first in show jumping, ahead of France and Belgium, after not having won a world championship since 1998. The United States placed 10th. The individual gold went to Phillipe Le Jeune of Belgium, and the silver to Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia, a country hardly known for success in this discipline. In fact, it was the Middle East’s first medal at a World Equestrian Games. McLain Ward and Sapphire wound up seventh individually after having recently won the Hampton Classic Grand Prix and several other prestigious events.

Eventing & Stadium Jumping-Ad Simone Metado Marcolab & Loisse Garcia (VEN)

              Of particular interest is that the top four riders in individual show jumping must each ride all four individual horses over a course in the last round.  Furthermore, although the final four riders represented countries from four continents, they were all based at least some of their time in Belgium.

            The team from the United Arab Emirates won the endurance team competition over France and Germany. However, they finished second and third individually behind Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton of Spain on Nobby, a 15-year-old bay Arabian. These placings obviously underscore the endurance of the Arabian horse. Only one American rider completed the test to finish 18th.

Eventing-Happy Times & Sam Griffins over Shaker Simplicity Jump (#16)

            In eventing, the home advantage did not help the United States, who again was “the dreaded fourth,” with Great Britain taking the gold, Canada silver and New Zealand bronze. While the Brits have done well in the past, Canada and especially New Zealand were surprising additions to the podium. New Zealander Mark Todd, 54, rode in six Olympics, retired in 2000 and returned eight years later. Todd’s horse Gandalf, favored for the WEG, had to be euthanized in December, and he pushed hard to prepare a 10-year-old Irish Sporthorse, Grass Valley, for the Games.  Mark Todd placed 11th individually in eventing and was a member of the New Zealand bronze medal team.  Eventing, also known as combined training or three-day, combines dressage, cross country and stadium jumping in one competition.

Eventing-Winning British Team

 

            The United States expectedly excelled in reining, winning the team gold over Belgium and Italy, and Tom McCutcheon and Gunners Special Nite of the U.S. were golden in the individual standings. Since the introduction of reining to the WEG in 2002, the Americans have consistently won. That may seem like a no-brainer, considering the traditions of the American West and its sturdy Quarter Horses, but reining has actually become quite popular in many European countries, perhaps because of imported cowboy movies.  Reining is the Western equivalent of dressage that tests the horse’s response to the rider’s aids and is judged on various movements, such as spins and rein-backs that require supreme athletic control and agility. Several European riders, formerly better known for sporting their typical tophats for dressage competition, have taken to wearing cowboy hats and competing in the reining competition.  

Reining-Anky Van Gunsven on Whizashingwalla

            Another competition in which the Americans excelled was vaulting, winning the championship over Germany (always a strong favorite) and Austria.  Among the team members were veteran Devon Maitozo and Annalise Van Vranken.  Annalise has presented exhibitions on Long Island and emphasized the importance of strong gymnastic training and a smooth-gaited, broad-backed horse.  Equestrian vaulting is best described as gymnastics and dance on horseback.  Vaulters compete as individuals, pairs or pas-de-deux, and teams.  Vaulting competitions consist of compulsory exercises and choreographed freestyle exercises done to music.  Freestyle may include mounts, dismounts, handstands, kneeling, standing, and aerial flips.

Vaulting Practice

            The Netherlands won the team gold in driving over the United States and Germany. America’s Tucker Johnson took the individual silver behind Boyd Exell of Australia, and other U.S. entries placed 9th through 25th. Johnson called it “a team effort.”   

             The para-equestrian division found the British riders in first place, Germany second and Denmark third. The U.S. was 7th. The benefits of therapeutic riding are recognized throughout the world, and spectators at the WEG were awed by the participants’ abilities in the face of disabilities. 

Secretariat Tombstone-Claiborne Farm 1970-1989

            Attendance at the WEG was 507,022. Possibly even more spectators might have been attracted in a location closer to a larger more accessible city. Lexington is hard to get to, as there is a lack of direct flights. In spite of this, however, Kentucky in general and Lexington in particular have a population that is both horse-oriented and is small enough that WEG made a large local impact.  While the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, California “Miracle of ‘84” hosted amazing equestrian events in which American Joe Fargis broke all records by winning gold medals in both individual and team jumping, the 2010 WEG (which occurs every 4 years) was described by one attendee as, “the biggest horse show in the world”.

            Spectators came from 50 states and 58 countries, according to HRH Princess Haya, President of the Federation Equestre Internationale, and an estimated 752 horses and 632 athletes participated. The Kentucky Horse Park and the Lexington area gained world recognition during the course of the Games, not to mention the economic benefits to Kentucky. The bluegrass state is famous for its horses, and the Kentucky Horse Park’s museum and other attractions, such as the Saddle Horse Museum and local breeding farms, are of further interest to visitors (note that the American Saddlebred is unique to the United States). The event was aired on national television, which is rarely the case with equestrian competition in the U.S.; and this too significantly boosted viewership and exposure of our equestrian sports.  In spite of a generally sluggish present economy and a depressed equine market, the WEG gave a boost to the Kentucky equine industry and their entire local economy.

            The United States earned seven medals, trailing Germany with 10 and ahead of Great Britain and The Netherlands with seven each. America did not take its place in world class equestrian competition until after World War II and the formation of the United States Equestrian Team, now the United States Equestrian Federation. We’ve come a long way. Our country has an abundance of horse breeds tracing back to English and Spanish roots, and the introduction of European Warmbloods added to the melting pot. We have it all in terms of resources and diversity and are able to compete on equal footing with the rest of the world.Eventing-Mary King & Imperial Cavalier-Covered Bridge

            The World Equestrian Games were initiated by the F.E.I. in 1990 and included the three Olympic disciplines (show jumping, dressage and eventing), plus driving, vaulting and endurance. Reining was added in 2002 in Jerez, Spain. In 2006 the WEG were hosted by Germany, a nation known for its equestrian traditions and variety of Warmblood horses. The 2010 World Equestrian Games marked first time in 20 years that they were held on this side of the Atlantic. The purpose of the WEG is to gather the various disciplines in a single major world championship.             
P. Rodenas; contributing co-author
-Photos courtesy of Peggy Kline (c)

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SECRETARIAT- The Movie In Review

October 5th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

SECRETARIATThe Movie in Review

   

Bramley-Disney SECRETARIAT Movie Photo NYTimes 10/7/10

The newly released movie Secretariat is well done and well worth seeing.  In her twilight years, Penny Chenery-Tweedy, Secretariat’s owner and racing manager, wanted to make sure that “Big Red’s” story made it to the big screen for all people to appreciate and enjoy.  To that end, by teaming up with Disney, the entire world will get a small but intimate snap-shot view behind the scenes of both a truly deserving racing and athlete-of-the century equestrian superstar legend. 

    Secretariat’s mark on history is indelible, not only having been the first horse in the preceding 25 years to have captured the elusive Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing; but, also for his becoming somewhat of a time worthy American folk hero by lifting our spirits and giving us something of a risky positive feel good character to root for during the years that most Americans were preoccupied with the negative feelings of coming to grips with the bitter end of the Vietnam war, compounded by the beginning of national political disgrace of top governmental and presidential involvement in the Watergate investigations.  For all of these and more reasons, Secretariat made it to the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated magazines; and, he has been recognized as one of the greatest athlete’s of all time. In 1974, he was inducted in thoroughbred’s National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame; and, his winning race times from 1974 still exist as track records for both the Derby and the Belmont Stakes. 

     Disney did what Disney does best, by artistically spinning the tale of an up and coming, perhaps once in a life-time if not era, truly talented great athletic Michael Jordanesque freak, into a sentimental come-from-behind winner; similar to other Disney films like Miracle and The Rookie.  For this and other reasons, hardened race fans and industry insiders will be disappointed with the exuberant amount of poetic license engaged in less than accurately presenting the facts.  Contrary to film representation, the Chenery family already had a business relationship with Secretariat’s trainer Lucien Laurin (preceded by his son Roger Laurin) and his jockey Ron Turcotte.  The same trio of characters had successfully steered Secretariat’s future stablemate, Riva Ridge, to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in the previous year.  In thirty starts, Riva Ridge won 17 races, placed in three, and came in third in one.  His life earnings amounted to $1,111,497 and he was admitted into the thoroughbred racing Hall of Fame in 1998.  Truth be told, the same trio had as deep, if not deeper, respect for Riva Ridge, who also assisted keeping Meadow Stables in business.  Not to take away from the truly deserved Secretariat, as with many of life’s intangible opportunities, the race performance timing and public popularity that fell to Secretariat’s favor was not afforded to Riva Ridge.

    Disappointingly, there is only one piece of actual race footage cut into the film; that being the Preakness Stakes.  The original Belmont Stakes television footage is much more awe inspiring than Disney’s reproduction, which was shot in Keenland, Kentucky and none of the New York scenes were shot in New York.  In any other year, while Secretariat drew all the star quality attention, his nemesis contender Sham was a very opposing figure.  He was the equivalent to superstar boxer Joe Frazier battling against the freakish boxing legend Mohamed Ali.  Disney again used extreme poetic licensure to have so strongly portrayed opposing trainer Frank ‘Pancho’ Martin, and contemporary horseman and racing rival Ogden Phipps, as true nemeses of Penny Chenery-Tweedy in her pursuit of Secretariat’s winning of the Triple Crown.   Contrary to movie representations, in William Nack’s novel Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, he documents identical matings suggested by Penny Tweedy to the Phipp’s stallion Bold Ruler and the Chenery’s broodmare Somethingroyal in 2 different years, with a winning coin toss securing the Phipp’s ownership of The Bride (’68) and the Chenery’s ownership of Secretariat (’69).    

    On a personal note, as a young man of 21 years, in 1973 I assisted Secretariat’s veterinarian, Dr. Mark Gerard in hydrating Big Red with his electrolyte fluids before the Belmont Stakes.  I’ve personally handled Secretariat, Riva Ridge, Sham and met owner Penny Tweedy, trainer Lucien Lauren, jockey Ron Turcotte and groom Eddie Sweat.  I distinctly remember the journalistic critics claiming that Secretariat couldn’t go the 1.5 mile distance of the Belmont Stakes because of his conformation; having a ‘duck’s ass’ sloping rear end. 

    While Disney used its poetic license to modify the truth, the story behind the story is that of all the horses and individuals having contributed to Secretariat’s successful story, only Penny Tweedy and Ron Turcotte are still alive.  It is a great testament again to Penny’s tenacity to bring ‘Big Red’ and her personal story to the silver screen, through Disney’s eyes.  This film brings thrill, enjoyment and greater racing awareness to the general public, much like Seabiscuit and Dreamer.  Although it falls short of much historically accurate detail, the movie is an enjoyable non-documentary story that was well worth making and is well worth taking the entire family to see.     G. Beroza

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GEORGE STEINBRENNER & THE MANAGER

September 28th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

    Mr. Steinbrenner was a neighbor of ours in Tampa, but we never moved in the same circles. However, I ran into him in person on two occasions. One time was at a ball game of the Tampa Yankees, and another was at an I-Hop Restaurant around the corner, where this eccentric billionaire frequently ate his lunch. 

Here is:  MY TALE OF GEORGE & THE MANAGER       by  A. H. Felman

    When Lynne and I lived in Jacksonville, I played polo at a club near our home where we met a young, unmarried couple from Ireland.  They worked as grooms and I hired the young woman on occasion to help me with my horses.  One day when Lynne and I decided to take a drive, we spotted the couple walking along the street, each carrying a suitcase. They had been fired from their jobs, and their old car had been totaled in an accident. They were essentially homeless and without funds. So we drove them to our vacation condo in St. Augustine, loaned them an old car that we kept for the kids when they returned from college, and gave them enough money for food and essentials.   

    It wasn’t long before the young man found a job riding horses at the Irish Acres Farm in the thoroughbred country of Ocala. They were doing well until their immigration status necessitated a return to Ireland. They subsequently married, had three beautiful colleens and became fairly prosperous. The man ran a farm, and carried on his horse training activities and other endeavors, while his wife worked as a beautician.   

    Throughout the years, we kept in touch by mail and phone and eventually the couple decided to return to Florida. Lynne and I helped them obtain green cards and a place to live in Ocala, a town in the Thoroughbred horse country to our north.  

    While working as an exercise rider at the Ocala Stud Farm, the man answered an ad to exercise horses at the farm of George Steinbrenner. Following a successful interview with the woman who ran the farm business, he decided that the pay was insufficient and turned down the offer. Within a few months, however, he received a call from George Steinbrenner himself and they had a meeting. It seems that the manager of his farm had quit and the woman who had interviewed the man recommended that Steinbrenner hire him to manage the farm.   

    Steinbrenner hired the Irishman, and gave him a house to live in on the farm as well as complete control of his 2500 acres, 200 brood mares, several stallions, a herd of cattle and all else that went with it. The new manager took pride in the improvements he had made to the farm which included digging a swimming pool for the horses. Lynne and I visited the couple on occasion and stayed in a sumptuous guest house. We walked about the barns and fields where I had the opportunity to view some of the most gorgeous horse flesh and pastures I have ever seen. 

   One lush field contained about a dozen older horses grazing about in the Ocala grass. The proud new manager told me they were old mares, no longer able to breed, but living out a comfortable old age until they died. He added that none of Steinbrenner’s horses had ever been sent to the killers. I couldn’t help but think about the terrible accusations that the media heaped upon Steinbrenner, but I never read anything about this good humanitarian side of George. Even though he ran a Thoroughbred farm, and competed with owners who were notorious for their abuse of these beautiful, hard working animals, he retained a fundamental love of the horses which had given him so much of themselves. The public never knew that side of this often enigmatic and controversial man. 

      The new manager seemed completely at home in his new position and I still marvel at his moxie or whatever it was that made him so good at what he did. Shortly after arriving at the farm, he told Steinbrenner about a stallion that he had previously ridden at the Ocala Stud Farm and he thought it might make a good race horse. Steinbrenner told the manager to go buy the horse; and, when asked how much he should pay, Steinbrenner just said, “Buy the horse!”   That is how Kinsman Farms acquired Bellamy Road for $87,000. After a bit of training, he won a few races and then went to the post in the Wood Memorial along with some other Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Bellamy Road proceeded to win by about 7 or 8 lengths going away. 

    This win catapulted Bellamy Road to a new sensation within the racing world and when entered in the Derby, he was listed as the odds-on favorite. Meanwhile, the Manager was voted “Horseman of the Year in Florida” and a “Man of Merion County“, getting his picture on the front of it’s new calendar. At the Derby, the manager was interviewed several times by the national news media and he became the current “Wunderkind” of high-stakes thoroughbred racing.  Unfortunately as often happens in horse racing, Bellamy Road pulled up sore after the Derby and had to be retired to stud; however, he managed to make many millions of dollars for his owner‘s initial $87,000 investment. 

    After several years, during which he built the farm into one of the most successful winning stables and productive breeding operations, the Manager left Steinbrenner and now has his own farm and small thoroughbred operation in Ocala along with other interests. During his employ, the Manager repeatedly told us of the generosity that Steinbrenner showed toward him and his family. He often gave them extra money and presents, and he seemed to be particularly fond of his three girls. In fact the waitresses at the local I-Hop Restaurant, where this multibillionaire ate many of his meals, also told me of George’s generosity toward them. 

    In the Tampa and Florida region, Steinbrenner was extremely philanthropic and generous with his money. As a physician, I cannot understand how a person like him had a fatal initial heart attack, without having had some previous warning symptoms and the opportunity to receive preventive care such as coronary artery stents or similar cardiac surgery. If this is true, he joins a vast array of other celebrities who, in my opinion, were not well served by the medical profession. Humphrey Bogart, Douglas MacArthur, Ingrid Bergman, Elvis Presley, to name just a few.              Al Felman

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Aqueduct gaming contract near final approval stages:

September 16th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

The Aqueduct gaming contract approval process is anticipted to near the final stages of its lengthy process. 4,500 Video Lottery Terminals are expected to generate more than $650-million in revenue per year for New York’s beleagured Thoroughbred racing industry. Gov. Paterson & legislative leaders approved Genting New …York LLC, a part of the huge Malaysia-based casino company, to run the racino. New York Racing Association is slated to get 7% of racino revenue and an additional 6.5% will go to boost purses, increasing to 7.5% in year 3; while breeders will get 1% to start & 1.5% in year 3.
After nearly a decade of false starts and broken promises, the 30-year licensure contract, involving hundreds of millions of dollars, could be instrumental in supporting the flailing NY thoroughbred racing industry. Genting has 10 days to pay the state a promised $380-million upfront licensing fee. Work is expected to start in the next couple of months & the racino’s first 1,600 VLTs should start producing revenue sometime next spring. The project is slated to employ 1,300 construction workers and a permanent staff of 800 employees. Genting also has gaming interests at Foxwoods in Connecticut, Seneca Niagara Casino in Western New York & owns NOrwegian Cruise Lines.
Present market conditions include significant financial problems with other national gaming facilities. Only time will tell if the exhorbitant number of years and political wrangling necessary to incorporate casino style gambling into the thoroughbred racing format in New York is too little too late. Hopefully not!

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Dr. Beroza, LI Equine Medical Center Staff & Friends to appear on episode of ‘Royal Pains’

June 15th, 2010 by Greg Beroza

This Thursday night 6/17/10 at 10pm on USA Network (Cablevision Channel #38 / Verizon Fios Channel #50) episode of ‘Royal Pains’ with participation of Dr. Beroza, Staff & Friends of the Long Island Equine Medical Center.

Show portrays ‘Big Show’ Champion Wrestler being evaluated by a Mobile Equine Diagnostic Unit because he is too big (7’2” & 500 pounds) to fit into standard hospital equipment.

Click here for more information about ‘Royal Pains’ on USA Network

Pictured above from left to right - l-Bandit (horse); Debra Daly; Paul (Big Show) Wight-actor/wrestler; Jill Casey-actress (Jill Flint-character name); Spencer (horse);Dr. Gregory Beroza; Joanne Singer; Mark Feuerstein-actor (Dr. Hank Lawson-character name); Revy (horse) & Gail Cangro

 

Pictured above from left to right - Deb Daly, Gail Cangro, Henry Winkler, Dr. Gregory Beroza & Joanne Singer

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