McGaughey: Kentucky's Regulatory Vets Showed 'Some Over-Caution' During Kentucky Derby Week - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

McGaughey: Kentucky’s Regulatory Vets Showed ‘Some Over-Caution’ During Kentucky Derby Week

Trainer Shug McGaughey

Hours after the highly-publicized Saturday morning scratch of Kentucky Derby favorite Forte by Kentucky state veterinarian Dr. Nick Smith due to a foot bruise, Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey sent out Talk of the Nation, 10-1 on the morning line for Saturday's Grade 2 American Turf Stakes. The 3-year-old ended up being scratched just three minutes before post time for the $500,000 contest.

“I think that that was very much overkill,” McGaughey told racing media during last week's NTRA teleconference. “I kind of grew up that when a jock felt something a little funny, a jockey makes it to the gate and asks the vet to watch his horse jog up and down a time or two. And a vet would either agree with them or disagree with them. And he would scratch him or say he looks all right to me.

“Now, it's the vet standing out in the middle of the race track making the decision instead of the jock. I was a victim of that, Derby day, and my rider asked the vet to please don't scratch this horse. There's nothing the matter with him. And they scratched him.”

While McGaughey was quick to share his frustration, he was also very aware of the circumstances that may have played a role in the vets' decisions.

“I do think it's very concerning about what went on at Churchill that week,” he said. “And I don't know that we'll ever get to the bottom of it. But seven deaths in a week and they had three at Keeneland and it made 10 deaths, that we know about, in a month. And that's too many.

“That's something we're going to have to address… I don't think it's anything we should keep in the closet; I think we need to be very transparent about what's going on.”

McGaughey clarified, however, that he believes increasing regulatory vets' caution may not be the best way forward.

“I think there is some over-caution. I think it's overdone a little bit,” McGaughey said. “I think that there's probably a tremendous amount of pressure on all these regulatory vets to kind of make the right decision, but I do think that they need to kind of go into it with more eyes open than maybe they are.”

Other trainers on the NTRA teleconference did not seem to share McGaughey's opinion.

Asked about the scratches and the fatalities, Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen said: “Bad timing. Unfortunate circumstances. Who knows? Intense pressure. There's just a tremendous amount of variables that I think went into the week and the decisions that were made.”

Two-time champion trainer Brad Cox said he focused doing his job to the best of his ability: “My job is to take care of the horses that are under my care, obviously. It is concerning. It's one of those things where you just do your best to send out a happy, healthy horse.”

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