Horse Racing News: HISA, Flightline, Horse Safety, and More

In this week’s horse racing news episode, I spend time discussing how weather has impacted the upcoming weekend at Santa Anita as they scramble to reshuffle their weekend cards after canceling Thursday’s contests due to excessive rain. In other news, the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) was unable to come to a governing agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) regarding ground rules for testing starting in 2022. The formal end of negotiations between the two organizations is a sad blow to the sport as USADA would have lent a great deal of legitimacy to the process, but ultimately, state regulatory boards did not approve the full-scale national standard that might have been at odds with current practices. HISA, despite taking effect in July 2022, will not have any sort of testing oversight until at least 2023. The need for oversight only grew stronger this week as Jeff Blea, the Medical Director of the California Horse Racing Board, was brought up on eight allegations of wrongdoing that could result in his veterinary license being revoked. It is charged that Blea administered Thyroxine to horses without giving them a medical examination prior to time at the Medical Director of CHRB. It should be noted the CHRB is not the organization levying these allegations but the California Veterinary Medical Board so yet again, an organization outside of horse racing is cleaning up the sport. In more positive news, Aqueduct will be using a sensor called StrideMASTER this winter as a way of examining the gait of horses in an effort to detect musculoskeletal issues in horses competing on the track in the hopes of preventing catastrophic breakdowns. Several organizations in New York have worked together to green light the initiative, which is a great proactive step for improving horse safety.

In on-the-track news, trainer Steve Asmussen announced that his super filly, Echo Zulu will likely point toward competing at the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 19th. After winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly in November, Echo Zulu is the unquestioned favorite for the 2022 Kentucky Oaks, but it may surprise you that she’s currently the 20th favorite for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Her times have been very comparable to her male counterparts and, in fact, her Breeders’ Cup performance was FASTER than Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Corniche’s effort over the same distance. The last week also saw the emergence of a new debate in horse racing over the colt Flightline who romped to an 11+ length victory at the G1 Malibu Stakes while posting the highest Beyer Speed Figure (118) of the year. The lightly-raced horse, who is trained by John Sadler, is now looking to go to the Met Mile in June at the Belmont, which will be another one-turn race. It’s unclear whether Flightline will get a prep race prior to that but Sadler mentioned that he hoped the horse would be able to run four times in 2022. Critics will point to the fact Flightline has been coddled and may not have faced the strongest fields while his supporters point to the historic speed figures and margins of victory over established sprint winners. Time will be the ultimate test for a horse that has all the talent and potential in the world. Finally, news came out of Europe that 2020 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf Champion Tarnawa will travel to the United Kingdom to be covered by legendary champion and sire Frankel. The hopeful offspring of this mating will have one of the most impressive pedigrees imaginable combining the multiple Grade and Group I winning filly with the undefeated super horse.

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