Maybe Joe Drape lost a bundle on a race. That might give some insight into why the NYT reporter wrote such an uninformed and biased article (I’ll Have Another had History of Ailments) for the the paper yesterday, claiming that I’ll Have Another suffered from chronic soundness problems which O’Neill, tried to conceal by injecting “two powerful painkillers as well as a synthetic joint fluid.” Almost lost in the story was the fact that the horse was scratched from the Belmont and retired.
It was also notable that the Drape did not name those drugs in the article but made it sound underhanded and nefarious . Since that was written, it is now possible to download copies of the vet records. What was the big fuss about? Phenylbutazone (Bute), dexamethasone and polyglycan. All of these drugs were legally administered and to call Bute or dex a “powerful pain killer” is like comparing Aleve to Oxycontin. As for the polyglycan? How many of us are “guilty” of giving our horses joint medications both prophylacticly and as a way to keep them comfortable as they age?
What else did I’ll Have Another get? Vitamins, acupuncture, sedation before his x-rays, and ulcer medication. Nothing that raises any red flags. In fact, since that article was published, several veterinarians have reviewed the records and declared the treatments to be “routine care.”
I’m not trying to downplay the overall problem — that too many horses on U.S. racetracks break down or that too many drugs are used to keep unsound horses running. But this isn’t the way to do it. Mr. Drape has written more compelling on this subject before. In April of this year he wrote Big Purses, Sore Horses and Death, about breakdowns at Aqueduct and told the story of Wes Vegas, a horse that was euthanized after breaking a leg.
I’m not even saying the I’ll Have Another might not have had some problems several days before he was scratched from the Belmont. I read reports leading up to the Belmont that he wasn’t changing leads while galloping — behavior that was not typical of his workouts. Could that have indicated a tendon problem coming into the race? Maybe.
But the way this was written up — full of innuendo and hyperbole — undercuts what should have been an important message and leaves the people who know something about horses wondering why this guy has such a problem with a trainer and an owner scratching the horse from a big race because he was hurt.