Letter To The Editor: Regulatory Veterinarians Shouldn't Act With Impunity - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Letter To The Editor: Regulatory Veterinarians Shouldn’t Act With Impunity

To The Editor:

On Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, my first-time starter, a filly named Royal Blood, was scratched by the Gulfstream Park veterinarian for unknown reasons. Immediately after I heard this troubling information that she was scratched, I personally requested my attending vet to check on the filly in the receiving barn at Gulfstream. After carefully examining her, he could find nothing wrong with her so we shipped her back to Palm Meadows training center where I currently stable my horses.

The following day I asked two different vets to check Royal Blood to get more educated opinions about her soundness, yet again both found that she was fine. After consulting with the third different veterinarian, we decided that in order to be 100 percent sure of her soundness we should take some diagnostic images and ultrasound views. After those images were examined, vet number 3 saw nothing telling in the X-rays and ultrasound pictures. So I decided to send the images to one of most renowned and respected vet in the world, one who does not practice on the racetrack. After this veterinarian did not find anything out of the ordinary I decided that I needed to speak up because this is not right. 

Royal Blood has 17 registered, official workouts, including five at Palm Meadows, one at Gulfstream, the remainder at Churchill Downs and other tracks in Kentucky. Under the current rules, prior to a workout horses must be examined and signed off on by a veterinarian. So this filly with no history of any issues has been examined by licensed veterinarians over 20 times during the last six months and only one of them has found any issue, an issue I may add that four other veterinarians do not agree exists on this horse. I left numerous calls and text messages with the Gulfstream Park vet yet it was several days before a response was made. He gave no specific reason for why the filly was scratched.

Basically, Gulfstream Park is letting their track veterinarian operate with impunity, little or no oversight and contrary to the benefit of the track, the horsemen and owners and, most importantly, the horses. This attitude is destroying the little guys, killing the spirit and soul of smaller trainers and owners, and unchecked power in the hands of a few will do nothing but chase away the people that pay to put on the show. Very few owners will be willing to sustain the daily charges of a horse who is placed on a vet list for 14 days before that horse is even allowed to breeze again even if there is no unsoundness found.

In order to get off the vets list not only do you have to work for the track vet in a designated time but they take samples to be sent off for testing that can sometimes take two or three weeks to get the results back. So essentially when the track vet makes a relatively arbitrary decision to scratch a horse, you are forced to miss training time and likely miss several potential races, depending on the results of the tests. So a horse, that in your professional opinion and the opinion of your practicing veterinarians was fit and ready to run, is forced to miss at least a month and maybe more. 

We hear a lot about safety and I agree that it's vitally important but it's also important to maintain a healthy working relationship between those in regulatory positions and the horsemen who are often placed in difficult situations.  If tracks can pay for entertainment and concerts and other non-racing expenditures, why not at least spend some money installing a local laboratory to do limited testing of samples for horses placed on vets lists so that there is no wait time and those horses can get back to racing? Perhaps do more random testing of suspect characters' horses too? 

The economics of racing horses are bad and getting worse. Many trainers can hardly keep their heads above water with their a daily rate, so the only way that they can survive is through purse earnings. Purses need to improve as well and without sufficient entries and healthy field size that won't happen, especially at places like Gulfstream where the purse enhancement from the Calder casino has been lost. 

We hear about problems that tracks and racing commissions have in not being able to find enough veterinarians to take these regulatory positions. After seeing some in action, I'm wondering about the quality as much as the quantity. I also wonder if some don't hold personal grudges against certain trainers that may not always agree with their assessments. I realize that by writing this I may be putting myself in the category of them having a grudge against me, but I'd hope that by speaking up perhaps some of these policies and the people in charge of enforcing them can be reviewed so that we can have a system that protects horses but doesn't overzealously cause financial hardship for no good reason. 

I know HISA is supposed to handle all these issues eventually, but I don't know how it's all going to play out. I have personal knowledge of several horses that weren't allowed to run at Gulfstream that shipped out of town and won races. 

I believe that most of Gulfstream Park management truly has the interests of racing at heart. Aidan Butler, Steve Screnci, Mike Lakow and Billy Badgett are all accessible to speak to horsemen about issues and try to find reasonable solutions. Others in the organization don't seem to be willing to do the same. 

I wish I was a bit younger but I'm getting older and sometimes feel too tired to keep fighting. However, at the end of the day, I will keep standing up for those who cannot fight and can't speak up for fear of retribution. 

If that makes me the bad guy in the eyes of some, well, so be it.

I've been called worse.

— Carlo E. Vaccarezza

Lexington, Kentucky

If you'd like to submit a letter to the editor, please send it to info @ paulickreport.com along with your name, home state, and relationship to horse racing (owner, fan, horseplayer, etc). We will request consent before publication. 

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