08/04/2012 2:31PM

Del Mar: Claiming rule to be put to the test following Friday breakdown


DEL MAR, Calif. – A controversial new state rule regarding claiming of injured horses will be on the front-burner this month at Del Mar, owing to a protest over the claim of a horse on Friday, and a California Horse Racing Board meeting later this month during which the rule is scheduled to be discussed.

At issue is whether, and when, a claim goes through when a horse suffers a catastrophic injury that necessitates the horse being euthanized.

In Friday’s final race, the 3-year-old filly Elivette broke down inside the furlong pole and was finally brought to a halt by jockey Rafael Bejarano just past the finish line. She was so severely injured that, after leaving the track, she was euthanized.

But Elivette, who was trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, was claimed out of the race for $12,500 by Demitrius Xanthos, who races as Fortuna Ranch Racing. According to the new racing board rule, had Elivette been euthanized immediately on the track, the claim would have been voided. But since she was taken from the track and euthanized minutes later, the claim went through.

Steve Rothblum, a former trainer who manages Xanthos’s stable, on Saturday morning at Del Mar said he was going to file a protest on Xanthos’s behalf over the claim going through, believing that the new rule puts the ontrack veterinarians in a terrible position and leads, in this case, to unnecessary suffering.

“You’re putting pressure on the state vet to play God,” Rothblum said. “The claim should be voided. That’s the spirit of the law. But what was really terrible is that the filly was made to suffer for 15 more minutes while getting her off the track and back to the barn. We put her down as soon as she got back to the barn. The rule should be abolished. It’s a stupid thing.”

Doug O’Neill, who would have been Elivette’s new trainer, on Saturday said his “main focus was the filly.”

“It’s a horrible, sad situation,” he said.

Mike Marten, a spokesman for the racing board, said that an original proposal for the new rule would have resulted in the Elivette claim being voided, but that after many meetings and industry input, the current rule was adopted. He said that the rule is scheduled for discussion on Aug.  24, when the board’s medication and track safety committee meets at Del Mar

Big money for Cal-breds

The new Golden State Series for California-bred and –sired runners has been a bonanza for those eligible for the races, including Unusual Heatwave, who won the Real Good Deal Stakes for 3-year-olds on Friday.

The Real Good Deal had been a $100,000 race in its 14 most recent runnings, but the purse was doubled this year because of the new series.

“How can you pass up $200,000?” said Alexis Barba, who trains Unusual Heatwave. “That’s the bottom line.”

Unusual Heatwave earned $120,000 for the win and has now earned more than $400,000 despite never having placed in a graded stakes race, such is the lucrative nature of Cal-bred racing these days. He has won three times in 12 starts, his biggest previous victory coming in April in the Snow Chief Stakes for Cal-breds at Betfair Hollywood Park.

Unusual Heatwave, by Unusual Heat, was bred and is owned by Ellen and Peter Johnson and Teresa McWilliams.

Mike Lovell More than 1 year ago
Jerry H is a shrewd trainer who over medicates his horses. The horse who broke down should have been tested for banned drugs. They say all trainers cheat, some much more than others. Russell Baze was the recipient of many of Jerry's heavily medicated horses!
Bsb Jaws More than 1 year ago
The tomato goes through a lot of peoples hands is true. The guy that eats it pays everyone of those peoples bills. You're not real sharp are you mousy.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Congratulations, Champ. If I'm the Anonymous you are talking at you couldn't be more wrong. Then again, based on what you have written I probably set the bar too low. I'm not sure I have ever posted in a "breakdown" article comments section on DRF before. Commented on Del Mar, Hollywood Park, SoCal racing, Jocks, the 2YO crop and a number of stakes races. You wouldn't know as I haven't yet created a dedicated account/user name for DRF. Doesn't stop you from assuming though, and assuming otherwise would spoil your whole argument, such as it is. I'm a 3-4 day player. During a bad month I probably support more groom's families than you do in a year. Besides the major Cal tracks, I support local tracks and fair circuits- Santa Rosa in NorCal is a gorgeous fair and track with a great media program. I'm fortunate enough to have made an acquaintance of an Owner/Trainer based in Hollywood Park. I can tell you who within the CHRB spearheaded the switch to synthetic tracks at most of California's high profile tracks when there was no real outcry for it. Heck, not that it matters but I remember Kirk Breed when he was Chairman of the freaking State Fair Board. Basically, I'll stack my knowledge of this sport and the industry against yours any time- and still have the self-awareness to admit I know little compared to the really informed and involved. One needn't be a member of PETA - and I'm not- to be concerned with the suffering and pain of any animals who enrich our lives, especially these animals whose destiny it is from foal to race to bring thrill and enjoyment to our lives. That when faced with a mortal injury these magnificent creatures should be subjected to even a second longer of needless suffering just to satisfy some misguided rule that must have sounded coldly logical on paper to a few guys sitting around a room as opposed to trackside during a breakdown is reprehensible to many, as is your more callously expressed disregard for the horses. Considering your "dog food" comments it's pretty clear that you could be content betting on anything and be just as happy. Might as well start a National Cockroach Racing Association. Clearly it isn't the grace, power and courage of this sport's athletes that draws you but the visceral thrill and adrenalin of racing and wagering. Your type of fan is indeed needed for the sport's survival. But for the sport to thrive horse racing needs to appeal to a broader audience. Don't ever forget that. Right or wrong a lot of people who read your cold, indifferent remarks will see them as reflective of the industry as a whole and turn away from the sport altogether. Offending potential fans: That is exactly what horse racing doesn't need right now. Not very smart PR for a sport you claim to support. BTW- I hate tofu.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
That's one of the spirits of the claiming races: 1) The old barn trained and fed the horse, paid any applicable entry and other fees to run in that race, therefore they get to reap the monetary rewards of the race. 2) A claiming race is the lowest level. The old barn picks a claiming level to run the horse because the horse is not good enough to win a higher level race. By running in a claiming race, the old barn accepts the risk that someone might actually claim the horse. 3) The new barn gets to evaluate all the horses, and pick the ones that they think they can be successful with. The data and past performances of these horses are readily available. They don't have to risk the uncertainties of buying an unraced horse, yearling or two year olds in training. There is no free lunch in this world. There is small risk associated with claiming horses out of a claiming race. There is a possibility that the horse you claimed breaking down during the race. This risk is well publicized, by submitting a claim the new barn acknowledge this risk - they should have done their homework regarding the soundness of the horse that they plan to claim. Of course, it could just be the luck of the draw that a horse breaks down but by submitting the claim, the old barn accepted this risk. Those are the spirits and reasoning behind claiming races. They are not that complicated. Nobody should be crying foul unless someone try to change the rules resulting in them becoming more vague and debatable. In my opinion, the California Board of Racing shouldn't have messed with these basic ethos. They could change the various rules regarding when the new owner is allowed to run the new claim back and other similar issues. Don't change the original spirits of the claiming race.
Dr LGH More than 1 year ago
Grass Is Greener, I could not have put that better myself and have been in the TB racing industry for almost 30 yrs; walked hots, rubbed horses, galloped and rode races... you are succinct and perfectly correct, well done. The rules of claiming have been in place for surely a century, if not more, why were changes made?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
''Mike Marten, a spokesman for the racing board, said that an original proposal for the new rule would have resulted in the Elivette claim being voided, but that after many meetings and industry input, the current rule was adopted.'' He gives no explanation as to what salient arguments were proffered via ''industry input'' that merited the exclusion of that proposal. Anyone following the CHRB the last several years knows the body needs stronger leadership.
Sam Shelby More than 1 year ago
I don't think this claim could stand up in court.
Colette More than 1 year ago
Tom Cook is right. I have always been shocked at the lack of true vet checks. It seems like the mere presence of a vet, standing within 10 ft. of a horse, can somehow be called a vet check. Even when they go thru the motions of walking a circle around a horse is an act of lunacy, probably meant to somehow ressure the masses. Take their "vet checks" & apply it to how doctors check humans & you'd soon realize doctor checks & vet checks are polar opposites. Imagine going to your doctor or to the emergency room & the doctor walked in a circle around you or stood beside you holding a clip board in one hand & a coffee in the other. How confident would you feel if by the doctor's mere presence in your room, he or she diagnosed & evaluated your condition & sent you off telling you you were fine? I have been a critical care & emergency room nurse for over 30 yrs. & I have owned multiple horses since 1985; as many as 80 at one time. Doctors & nurses do develop a "trained eye" that picks up on something not being quite right before a non medical person will. But, even that "trained eye" has to do more than merely stand in a horse's presence. That 'trained eye'" may notice a being, human or animal, doesn't quite step correctly, even if it is only every fifth or so step or their breathing is a little too rapid or their muscles feel a little taut or their eyes seem a liitle dull. Unless the medical professional spends time watching a horse walk, trot, turn and watches their breathing as well as how he or she is carrying its head as well as how bright eyed they appear and then checks the horse's vital signs after such light activity, they cannot begin to know if a horse has pain, etc. Horses can't talk just like babies can't talk. So, we have to spend time observing & looking for clues that something is wrong. That observation will lead to possible questions that lead to ordering tests to investigate further. The medical professional, in this case, the vet, should also perform their own set of vital signs & draw a routine set of lab tests. The lab tests will indicate if a horse has been rendered too dehydrated after its dose of Lasix & other routine tests will indicate a multitude of illnesses. The routine lab tests I am talking about are the 2 labs ordered by virtually every doctor in every ER for just about all patients that come to an ER. These 2 labs, a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Complete Metabolic Panal (CMP), require only 2 tubes of blood & take only about 30 minutes to get the results from a lab & are relatively cheap.. Just about all illnesses will show clues that something is wrong or brewing in those 2 lab results. I understand that the trainers are ultimately responsible, just as parents are ultimately responsible for their children. But, parents are not held responsible for something only the doctor can & should diagnose. Yet, when something goes wrong with a horse, the trainer is always the one vilified. They, like children's parents, expect the medical professional to have the knowledge & expertise to know more than they do when it comes to the health of the horse. If not, why bother having vet checks? What completely disillusioned me about so called vet checks was the complete lack of noticing something was wrong with 'Life At Ten' in the post parade before the 2010 BC Ladies Classic. Knowing that most horses have pre race Lasix, I could readily tell, watching the post parade on TV, that Life At Ten was tying up. Her walk was stiff, her steps were short & her head was down, all indications of an animal or human having a medical problem and / or pain. The Lasix had led to dehydration which leads to chemical reactions within the muscles, that amongst other medical issues, causes the muscles thru-out the body to cramp up. I could see all of that clearly on a TV because of my medically "trained eye" & at the time, I was yelling at the vets, who should have the same "trained eye" as I, to notice while I was standing in my kitchen watching a TV screen. If a human doctor missed such an obvious display of medical distress, at the very least, he or she would be brought in front of a medical review board & possibly lose ttheir license. We have to put the onus for diagnosing a horse having a problem, medical or orthopedic, where it should be... on the track vets. As I said before, trainers of horses should be responsible for their horses well being as a parent is for a child. But, the medical professional is responsible for diagnosing & interpreting problems, not the parent. Why, then, on the track, is the medical professional not held responsible at all & all the onus placed on the trainer?
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Thank you Colette. I'm glad somebody sees that it's not just the horseman here who are potentially at fault. It takes diligence on many parties to avoid these accidents. It' just boils down to everybody doing there jobs. Vets can be just as culpable.
Dr LGH More than 1 year ago
First of all, there is absolutely nothing a CBC & Chem screen are going to tell you about a potential breakdown. Nor will they indicate anything relating to the body's response to lasix. Life At Ten's poor performance was not due to any lasix reaction or dehydration. And believe me, the vast majority of trainers and their own veterinarians are monitoring the general health and musculo-skeletal health of the animals under their care. You simply do not have success with equine athletes if you don't keep them in optimal health. Here is the statement regarding Life At Ten from Todd Pletcher, one of the most attentive trainers in the country: "We know that she trained brilliantly up to the race," Pletcher said in the statement released the morning of March 10. "We know she was examined on a regular basis by her primary care veterinarian. We know she was scrutinized by numerous state and Breeders' Cup veterinarians the week leading up to her race, and again on race day. "We also know that there were 12 attending veterinarians actually present for her race. We know that her pre-race medical history is unremarkable as she was completely healthy, sound, and prepared to compete in the Ladies' Classic. We now know from state officials that her pre-race blood sample was subjected to comprehensive instrumental screening analysis -- consistent with analysis performed on post-race samples and that no prohibited substances were found." And the reason the trainers are fully responsible is because they must ask their vet to look at a potentially sick or lame horse, the private veterinaian does not have the authority to order tests on a hose withot the trainer's permission. State racing veterinarian's do have the authority to scratch a horse from a race for any reason, and perhaps they were at fault in this case, we all make poor decisions at times. But if you think you "have an eye" for these medical conditions, and can do a better job than the current state vets, you should get yourself to vet school.
Gee More than 1 year ago
I hope the animal rights people get a hold of this..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not sure if you are serious about this. But if you are: Most Animal Rights groups are viewed as outright enemies of the sport by the industry and a good majority of the fans. So even when they have an opinion that deserves consideration the inherent resentment and scorn towards these organizations foments a negative reaction towards even the most valid observation. They might score points in the public arena- though even then it's quite often a ''preaching to the choir'' positive reaction- but for effective change to rules and policy to be implemented the cause must originate organically, the voice of reason has to come, and be heeded, from within the industry.
mikey More than 1 year ago
The horse that's claimed must walk into the new owner's barn before he own's him.These sudden drop down's are a joke and another way for owner's to cheat.The fan's need to be protected not the trainer's.
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Jim Mattos More than 1 year ago
100% right. when you put a claim in you own the horse if he drops dead 1 step out of the gate. when i trained in california years ago that was the rule that was enforced forever as far as i thought. today not just in horse racing in everything. the only thing today is money and drugs. the people have no clue whats going on. i do.
Vinod Jhangimal More than 1 year ago
There is a big gap between what is "stated" and what is, in fact, true. Technically speaking if you own the horse "the moment the horse leaves the starting gate" then the price money won in that race should be awarded to the person who claimed the horse. This will end up going to court and any halfway decent lawyer will be able to poke so many holes on both sides of the rule that in the end it will become a toin coss as to the final ruling. That being said, ethically, morally and yes, legally I believe that if the horse has to beput down due to a catastrophic injury suffered during THAT race, whether on the track or off it then the claim should be voided.
Dr LGH More than 1 year ago
There is nohing about claiming races that is "cheating." The majority of horses are not competitive at the highest levels, claiming races are simply a lower level of competition.
mike More than 1 year ago
Tis a F*&ed up game..........that will never get any better. Its a horrible part of the game. If you ask me, they should remove the low claiming ranks altogether.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Yes but half the track's will close not a bad idea.