Monday, November 19, 2018
There have been a lot of ups and downs at the sales this week, a lot of horses made good money and some of them didn’t, for whatever reason. Something I think that needs addressing is the assessment of the horse's wind.
When people are selecting horses to buy, they may get a select few vetted and this can include x-raying, scoping to check their wind and checking for soundness and overall wellbeing of the horses health. When scoping the horse to check the functioning of their airway a vet will give a grading on how their larynx and palate are performing at rest. This result can vary at different times of the day both at rest and exercise and can be a challenge for the vets to interpret and there are significant limitations to assessing a horse's wind at rest.
The best way to see what the larynx and palate are doing is to see how they work at exercise with the use of an overground scope. This is a device fixed on to the horse to record images of the throat and show what actually happens when the horse is put under pressure. This is the gold standard way of assessing them at exercise but vets do not have the luxury of this at the sales. Therefore, I do understand the difficulties that they have but unfortunately a fail is often damaging to vendors.
We had one particular horse who went to the sales this week and was examined by two independent vets. One passed him and one failed him on his wind. The same horse won a race two weeks earlier so there can’t have been too much wrong with him then. At the sales everyone is trying to assess the horses by looking at their respiratory function but it is a big frustration within the industry because of the inconsistency in the grading of the scopes.
There is a broad spectrum within the horses throat and there some that are assessed as completely normal, ones that are abnormal and the few that are borderline. These borderline cases are quite frustrating and challenging for everyone.
The decisions the vets make can have a huge detrimental effect on the value of a horse and if word gets around that they have a wind problem, it is very hard to sell them. I know that if I was going to buy a yearling and I found out it had a wind problem I would have to look elsewhere. You might want to buy the horse but in the back of your mind you know it may be a problem. As much as you believe in the horse, if the vets fail him on his wind it makes it very difficult to convince a potential buyer that the horse will be ok.
I have ridden lots of good horses that when cantering to the start of the race made a noise, a bit like ourselves when we snore when relaxed. When these horses concentrate during a race they make no noise. This may be why when a horse is scoped at rest at the sales, a problem may be seen, which then does not become apparent at exercise.
The whole situation is a very grey area and is having a huge effect on horses and their prices. I appreciate that it is not black and white and I have a huge respect for the Veterinary profession. I am not blaming them in any shape or form, as they can only give an opinion on the evidence they see. I don't know what the answer is but it is having a massive influence on the horses value and is something that could be discussed.
Breeders' Cup a tough but incredible test for European raiders
I went over to Churchill Downs to ride Sky Lantern and I got locked up on the inside with nowhere to go but the following year I rode in the same race and got the run of it.Winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Fillies on Chrisellium was brilliant, I would have to say it was one of the highlights of my career.
The Breeders' Cup is on the world stage and there is a lot of pressure on English jockeys because our horses jump slower than the Americans do making it is hard to get the best position. As a whole it is quite chaotic, the parade rings are always rammed full of people and it almost quite dangerous. I remember we were pulled into the stewards' room one day and warned not to break the parade, they were getting a lot of money off these TV channels and they banged into us the importance of it.
This season's Breeders' Cup looks great but I would not be surprised to see a few shock results over the weekend at Churchill Downs. The turf track can get very loose when it is wet, it is sand based and it shifts around underneath them. For the horses it feels slippery, it is not genuine ground turf where you can dig down into it. If your horse does not like it they start to back off, become unbalanced on the wrong stride and will start to slip almost like a wheel spin. It is a little bit like when you hear that a horse didn’t come down the hill at Epsom. It is not for every horse.
Expect Enable to shine in the Breeders' Cup Turf
I think winning will be a formality for Enable in the Breeders' Cup Turf on Saturday. It is not the strongest race and I do not think anyone will take her on. I think she will have come on from the Arc quite a bit.
Roaring Lion has been brave and consistent all year , however I think it will be a stiff task for him to win.. Not only will he have to handle the dirt underfoot but he has never experienced the kickback and you can't underestimate the effect of it. It is like someone pushing a car out of the mud and standing behind the tyre. As soon as the horses cross you on the rail it is like someone hitting you in the face with a shovel as it bangs off your goggles. It is quite unbelievable how bad it is.
The French have a knack in the Breeders Cup Mile and I think Polydream should go well. The horses in France tend to go over there a little bit fresher than ours as they tend not to race as hard. They go a little bit slower, are a bit more zippy and that suits that track.
Melbourne Cup will always be remembered for Dermot Weld's epic training performance
The Melbourne Cup is another special race, it is such an important race to Australia and it's very valuable too.
I have ridden in a few Melbourne Cups and I was fourth in it with Simenon for Willie Mullins. It was a great experience to ride in the race, the course was buzzing and the atmosphere is incredible.
I think the Melbourne Cup has evolved over the years. I remember once Frankie Dettori saying that you need a mile and a quarter horse to win. Back then they used to go 6 furlong pace for 2 furlongs then the pace would collapse and they would literally hack around all on top of each other. There would be 5 length seperating first and last. When they turned for home they would the sprint again. Over the years with the introduction of some many European horses I believe it has now changed into a real stayers race.
When you see all the horses we have sent down there it highlights what an amazing job Dermot Weld did to become the first overseas-trained horse to win the race with Vintage Crop in 1993 and then to repeat it 9 years later with Media Puzzle in 2002. When you look back at all the good horses that have gone over there and been beaten, Vintage Crop did especially well. It was one of the best training performances in history. He made the dream possible for a European to go over and win the best race in Australia.
It is a red hot race this year and I would love to see Marmelo win.