11/13/2013 2:04PM

Jay Hovdey: Eclipse voters have one tough call to make

Tom Keyser
It may be difficult to pick between Ria Antonia (left) and She's a Tiger for champion 2-year-old filly.

Did I hear someone say that there are still Eclipse Awards to be decided in the wake of the Breeders’ Cup?

This is true only if you believe Will Take Charge needs to win the Clark Handicap in order to stick a fork in the championship chances of the now retired Orb, a lovely colt who hasn’t been a factor in anything since the first Saturday in May. I say Wayne Lukas will stand pat.

Anyway, it is the Breeders’ Cup races that decide championships with either a positive bump for its winners (Wise Dan, Beholder, Groupie Doll, Dank, New Year’s Day) or a forgiving spin on highly regarded losers (Royal Delta, Game On Dude, Will Take Charge). Mixed results inspire Eclipse voters to search backward through the season for division champions among noteworthy Breeders’ Cup no-shows, like the late Points Offthebench, and deservedly so.

The last time a race run after the Breeders’ Cup decided a championship was in 2004 when Del Mar Futurity winner Declan’s Moon skipped the Breeders’ Cup and then beat Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Wilko in the CashCall Futurity. Wilko didn’t really need to run, but what was his co-owner, Paul Reddam, supposed to do? He sponsored the CashCall.

The toughest decision Eclipse voters will have this time around is for the 2-year-old filly championship. Ria Antonia was a well-deserving 32-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies when she finished second by a nose to the veering She’s a Tiger. If we are to take her jockey’s word for it, She’s a Tiger would not have won by the slender margin had she not been energized by the contact, or so says Gary Stevens. This gives Ria Antonia the victory in the biggest race for the division, while the disqualified She’s a Tiger has the best overall record, with 4 firsts, 3 official wins, and 2 seconds in 6 starts dating back to June. Both fillies are through for the year.

“She’s done enough,” said Jeff Bonde, trainer of She’s a Tiger. “We’ll map out a plan for next year and try to win the Oaks.”

That would be the Kentucky Oaks, where Ria Antonia also will be headed. Is Bonde eager for a rematch?

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’ll happen.”

Now that the Eclipse Awards are settled, let’s talk about Lasix, always fun, and how Europeans look at the issue.

Here is England’s Greg Wood in The Guardian: Breeders’ Cup “needs to be staged on a level field and, if the horses cannot run without drugs, they should not be running at all.” Wood’s sentiments are echoed by Ireland’s John O’Brien in the Independent: “To any rational mind or to those who love racing, though not at the expense of a horse’s welfare, the permitted use of race-day medications like the anti-bleeding drug, Lasix, represents a stain on the sport that needs to be wiped away in the interests of credibility.” And let’s not neglect Scotland, where Garry Owen wrote in the Daily Record: “It’s a huge ask for our horses to compete with the ‘septic tanks’ in their own back yard and I’m convinced the only rule in U.S. racing is there are no rules.”

Don’t be offended. Coy wee Garry is using rhyming slang there for “Yanks,” meaning us. On second thought, go ahead and be offended.
Such sentiments, however, did not discourage trainers Jo Hughes, Michael Stoute, John Gosden, and Aidan O’Brien from bellying up to the Lasix bar for London Bridge, Dank, The Fugue, Magician, and Declaration of War in their various Breeders’ Cup events. For the record, three won and the other two just missed. About all that was heard from the critics was a tsk-tsk-sigh at the sad fact that the Euros were forced to deploy the “When in Rome . . .” justification for the use of the legal diuretic on race day.

What the foreign press forgets to mention, however, is that Lasix is just as common as a training tool in Europe as it is in the States (for training and racing), along with a variety of other medications allowed up to certain low, post-race test levels. Every trainer worth a nickel in Britain and Ireland will have a chart of withdrawal times for a menu of therapeutics and preventatives that need to be cleared by race day, just as U.S. trainers need to be ever mindful of how long certain substances will last in the equine system.

The horses administered Lasix for Breeders’ Cup races got their doses (from 3 to 10 millimeters) from one of four independent veterinarians working not for the trainers and owners but for the Breeders’ Cup under the auspices of the California Horse Racing Board. This should be enough to satisfy those who object to Lasix because its use gives private vets access to horses on race day. Those in favor of a complete Lasix ban have a taller hill to climb.

The third-party policy of Lasix administration already is in pragmatic use for all races in jurisdictions like New York, Kentucky, and Ontario. Unfortunately, California is lagging behind in implementing this simple reform, primarily because of objections raised by horsemen and veterinarians. It can only be hoped that by the time the Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita in 2014 Californians will have taken at least this small step in the direction of a more sensible drug policy.

Rudy More than 1 year ago
I think Ria Antonia is a good horse, but not that good. She's a tiger should be the one. And if Goldencents wins the Cigar Mile and Will Take Charge(whenever people say WTC I think your saying World Trade Center) loses the clark, it should be Goldencents. And one thing for sure is that Orb should NOT get any eclipse award.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Vinod Jhangimal More than 1 year ago
Yeah but see Big Jeff, that's not even close. That one is unanimous. Not a "tough call" at all.
Albert More than 1 year ago
Chances are that I will never have an opportunity to cast an official vote for Horse of the Year or any other category, so taking a position on the subject is really kind of meaningless. However, I vote for best horse of this or that every time that I make a bet. On that basis I am able to take a position on some of this year's categories. For the last two years I 'voted' for Mucho Macho Man over Game on Dude when they met in the BC Classic and the profitable results of doing so meant that I was right. The Dude cannot be HOY because he proved slower. He may have had more graded victories, but he lost when they met. Case closed. I bet Orb in the Derby and won because I saw that he had better speed numbers going into that race than any of the other horses (except for Goldencents who freaked on the West Coast.) However, that was the very highpoint of Orb's career numbers and he did not improve from then on. I never bet him again thinking that he would bounce in Pimlico and then felt he might never get back to the Derby level that he achieved. Will Take Charge had slower numbers than Orb going into the Derby, but since then has steadily improved. I don't want to argue whether or not a late developer should get the 3YO championship honor, but WTC is today a better horse than Orb. The numbers and the results prove it. You might say that he won the second half of the year; if this was an actual race, he came from behind. Who doesn't really relish a come from behind win as a bettor? At the finish line, a win is a win. I think if we took a vote among a hundred bettors as to whom we would bet in a match race today, ninety or more would finger Will Take Charge. Choose your sides based upon graded wins, etc. But when you lay down your money you KNOW who the best 3 year old is.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
Interesting take on the whole championship argument.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
It's one thing to not compete in any of the TC races and win the 3YO title like Tiznow did in 2000 when his late season triple of the Super Derby-Goodwood-BC Classic got him over the top. It's another thing to run in all three of TC races, finish no higher than 6th, and win the 3YO Eclipse. Yes Will Take Charge won the Travers, PA Derby and just missed in the BC Classic and Jim Dandy, but Orb soundly beat WTC 3 times and the only time WTC beat Orb, he was all out in doing so. I'd vote for Orb given how he cashed a check 7 outta 8 starts. Plus, he won the most prestigious race of them all....Y'all heard about the Kentucky Derby right?
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
"The toughest decision Eclipse voters will have this time around is for the 2-year-old filly championship." You really think that? Ria Antonia had ONE top-class effort all year. She's A Tiger turned in several. Easy, easy call here! (And even if you don't like She's A Tiger, several other fillies outdid Ria Antonia on the year.)
Carol Arroyo More than 1 year ago
I totally agree with you ghost2 Ria Antonia one win please! She's a Tiger shows heart every time that fillie runs she wants it BAD and NEVER give ups EVER! She deserves the Eclipse award for sure.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
In your own words, "it is the Breeder's Cup races that decide championships" Oh yeah, right. I have but two words for you... Rachel Alexandra.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
I thought it was supposed to be the whole year that decides a championship - the "body of work" as they say.....?
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Oh, and the best two year old filly who has no shot at the eclipse, is Sweet Reason. She gets my money no matter where and in what race she shows up.
Drew More than 1 year ago
Ya she got my money in the BC and I'll never get it back.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Had little chance against the speed bias. You will get it back.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I've been around racing a long time, and am confused on the issue of training on lasix, so I'll ask the question and hope for an answer from someone who knows. It's thrown out there that the Europeans train on lasix but no details of what that means. Do their horses get lasix when training hard or breezing? How often does that occur and why. If they can't race on lasix, what benefit is there for doing that. If a horse is in the 5% of actual bleeders, he'll likely bleed during race so whats the point. Do we ever train on lasix? Maybe if the horse is a true bleeder but it can't be often with the heavy water loss, and re-hydration after every dose. I can only see one reason, to help flush and clear the system for a clean post race test. So how about some details on that they use it to train fact, and why we would do the same.
John More than 1 year ago
Lasix is not so much a performance enhancer, as it is a preventative medication . All it does is lubricate the blood vessels and relax them so when the horse, who breaths mostly from his nose blows hard, he doesnt get nose bleeds . I just retired from medicine, Cardiology with the VA , and we gave ALL our post surgery patients lasix for short periods to go home on. Its a safe drug, if its used sparingly...................and used correctly ! Why not share this vote, they both had excuses( Shes a Tiger fast pace)( Ria, tough trip ) lets split the vote !
Steve S More than 1 year ago
You are wrong
John Nicoletti More than 1 year ago
Best post on the thread john. You laid it out beautifully, and accurately. As a former owner, our trainer and Vet administered the drug legally and sensibly..
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
"it's a safe drug, if it's used sparingly, and correctly." The thing is a horse when dosed prior to his race, will urinate excessively losing something like 30 pounds of water weight. After the race it has to be put back. Not sure your post surgery use is anything like a horses prior race use. Just an observation.
nick More than 1 year ago
Dear John(No, I am not breaking up with you . . . ) Lasix is a diuretic, no? As such, it makes whoever takes it urinate a lot. So what it does is flushed the system out. The reason it is distrusted is not because it can enhance performance(although it might be argued it DOES enhance performance since it lets horses who would normally bleed race without bleeding sometimes) but by virtue if its system flushing characteristics it might flush out traces of possible performance enhancing drugs that might be given, and not leave a trace of them in the body.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
If a performance enhancing drug was given far enough in advance to be "flushed out" by the lasix, chances are the effects of that drug are gone also. So what would be the point?
Adam More than 1 year ago
I didn't have Ria Antonia, so I am not boasting, but I was confident that She's A Tiger did not want the distance, as she was tiring badly in deep stretch her previous race; I suggest that is exactly what happened at the BC. Seemed obvious to me before and after the race. Bonde may think she will get stronger and be able to run this or longer distances successfully, but I just don't see it. She veered out because she was done. The Oaks? Please! Bonde you have stars in your eyes. As for the Lasix issue, any of these debates about horse welfare blah blah blah are all a matter of degree, and therefore any strong position or moral outrage is ultimately indefensible. If you want 'what's best for the horse,' don't race any of them, don't inbreed these depleted thoroughbreds, etc. Within that framework however I don't see how someone on principle objects to an anti-bleeding medication, if the horse is otherwise sound. It enhances performance, at least indirectly, so what's the problem with that?
Carol Arroyo More than 1 year ago
Please Adam you need to check yourself!!!!!