It is not nearly enough for my liking that all the news, or at least the large majority of it in “The Sport of Kings” is good. I’d have it always be good news if it was up to me. While much of the good news occurred on the racetrack, and much has been written about all of it, I’ll focus on some good news in our game that occurred off the racetrack.
These are important issues Past the Wire has discussed before and I am pleased to report progress is being made. Of course we’d be remiss if we did not at least touch on some of the things that occurred on the racetrack. We’ll do so but the real progress and important things occurred off track, and given the exciting things that occurred on track, these issues have not been given their due until now. Regular readers of Past the Wire realize this is not the first time we’ve led the way, nor will it be the last.
Although we had no Triple Crown attempt on the line, The Belmont Stakes card generated as much excitement and great racing as any Kentucky Derby Card or Breeders’ Cup card could be expected to do. We saw powerhouse performances from Carina Mia, Shaman Ghost, Cavorting, Pure Sensation, and Tom’s Ready. Celestine proved she belongs with the better grass fillies, especially up to a mile and a sixteenth. Frosted humbled The Metropolitan Mile field in one of the most dominating performances we’ve seen in quite some time, and not just in The Met, but any Grade 1 race. True it was bias aided but it was awesome nonetheless.
Flintshire showed why Juddmonte kept him in training and sent him to Chad Brown to run in the US at 6 years old by toying with all The Woodford Reserve Manhattan runners with the exception of Ironicus. Ironicus fired a warning shot of his own in a troubled trip performance that saw him get second, and proved he can go a mile and a quarter and maybe more. That makes him a force to be reckoned with going forward. Without the troubled trip Ironicus encountered, the race against Flintshire would have been a lot closer.
Creator received a Hall of Fame like ride from Irad Ortiz Jr. to capture The Belmont Stakes by a nose in a thrilling renewal. Irad showed the world why the jockey does matter, as there are many who don’t win that race aboard Creator. On the West Coast, Songbird continued her impressive campaign with another dominating win against three year-old fillies. This time showed somewhat of a new dimension sitting off another horse early before Mike Smith flawlessly let her strut her stuff.
Wesley Ward won two more races at Royal Ascot with US based horses Alcapulco, and Lady Aurelia who was super impressive taking The Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. The star of the premier England meet, at least as far as US fans are concerned, was none other than Tepin.
Tepin became the first US based horse to win The Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, and did it under new conditions and circumstances. She ran without Lasix, over a straight course, without her nasal strip, uphill during the late stages, against males, and in a foreign country on a rain soaked course. Not quite in Triple Crown league, but quite the resume builder and achievement.
As aforementioned, there was some good and important news off the racetrack as well. While much of this was lost in the heralds on track, it is far too important to be under the radar, and we shall see that it isn’t.
The Jockeys’ Guild and Concussions:
Not long ago Past the Wire did an article featuring jockey and exercise rider safety which focused on the problem our industry faces with concussions. Listening to the It’s Post Time radio show, which I co host on occasion along with JJ and Samm Graci, in which they interviewed Eric Cancel, prompted me to reach out to The Jockeys’ Guild and do the article. If you missed the article you can read about it here:
I am sure most of us can agree there is nothing more important and no issue of greater priority than the safety and protection of both our human and equine participants. Our last article shed light on how deep the concussion problem extends, but also showed how much The Jockeys’ Guild is doing, and how far they have come under the leadership of Terry Meyocks. Support for their efforts is key, as is awareness. It is an ongoing fight to get caught up and ahead of the curve on this dire issue and that is clearly the goal and we are all obligated to help.
I am beyond pleased to share that on June 13th, 2016, two days after The Belmont Stakes, The Jockeys’ Guild and The College of Health Sciences made a significant and game changing announcement. They announced they were partnering in a Concussion Management Protocol Study for purposes of developing a protocol for jockeys and exercise riders, which will hopefully be followed to the letter by all US racetracks. Without a central governing body for racing, this across the board cooperation may be harder to achieve, but it really shouldn’t be. We are talking about lives, health, and safety. If we can’t unite on this, our issues are bigger than even we realize. There is no excuse for any racetrack to not jump on board and demand inclusion and participation.
The Concussion Management Protocol Study will be overseen by Carl Mattacola, Director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program, and a professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky. All Kentucky thoroughbred racetracks will be participating, including: Turfway Park, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, and Kentucky Downs. This is a significant step and achievement, and should move us forward in our battle against this inherent problem in our sport. There is so much more that can and now appears will be done, and we may not be as far behind some other racing jurisdictions as we have been until now. Again, every thoroughbred racetrack in the US should be demanding inclusion.
Carl Mattacola was quoted “We want to give the jockeys who suffer head injuries the best science has to offer, and an important first step towards that goal is to generate data from which an appropriate management protocol can be developed. This project will leverage the full resources and knowledge base of UK’s Sports Medicine Research Institute and the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center to help create the first national protocol for concussion management in jockeys.” Frankly, as exciting as what has happened on the racetrack lately has been, this is far more exciting and important in the long and short run of our game. We’ll always have epic performances on the track, this is an epic performance for our sport off the track.
As part of the study, jockeys will undergo a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool aka SCAT 3 test to develop a baseline score so that pre and post fall responses can be compared. A trained specialist will perform the assessments, and riders will be required to have an active account with the Jockey Health Management System, a database of medical and injury information on jockeys. We are now following the leads of mainstream sports, some of which are inherently less concussion prone than ours. We are also keeping pace with The British Horseracing Authority, The Irish Turf Club, and the FEI.
Terry Meyocks, National Manager of The Jockeys’ Guild deserves a lot of thanks and gratitude for this. I’ve spoken to him and know his passion and concern are genuine, and that dedication helped get us here. Mr. Meyocks was quoted “The pilot study and resulting concussion management protocol will finally bridge the gap that exists between horse racing and other major sports to further protect our human athletes.” This is what it is all about.
Past the Wire urges all its readers to share this article not only with other racing fans, but with your local racetracks and let them know you call for their support and participation, This is a chance for all of us to work and pull together and help the riders who put their lives on the line every day for the sport we love. Giving back is good.
If this wasn’t all good enough, there is more. On June 16th, 2016, The NTRA announced “The United States Senate Committee Joins House In Pressing The Treasury And The IRS To Modernize Pari-Mutual Tax Treatment.” This is also something Past the Wire talked about in a recent article, if you missed it you can read it here:
and see how this is long overdue and how bettors are taken advantage of daily under this old out dated system enacted before most exotic wagering even existed.
The refreshing long overdue language in The Senate Appropriations Committee reads in part as follows:
Guidelines for Pari-Mutual Wagering- The Committee appreciates The Department of Treasury’s proposed rule (REG-132253-11) published on March 4th, 2015, along with the associated public hearing held on June 17th, 2015. The Committee encourages The Treasury to expedite final consideration of the guidance which would modernize the rules governing pari-mutual wagering.
As promised, all good news. The concussion protocol is a fantastic development in the works, and The IRS overhaul is long overdue. Progress is being made, and a lot of effort is going into it. It’s a good time to appreciate some great racing, and positive developments for The Sport of Kings. Next column we’ll get back to hard core racing with an interesting article on two great riders, two great agents, and some well-deserved success.
The Jockeys’ Guild, Terry Meyocks, Carl Mattacola, University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Downs, Keeneland, Ellis Park, Turfway Park, KTA-KOTB, The Jockey Club, The Breeders’ Cup, TOBA, NTRA, The National HBPA, for either working on or supporting the protocol, or IRS update or both.
Any racetrack that does not jump on board and support this protocol development. Let’s go, work together!