The Sound Barrier

The debate over fast workout times for sale 2-year-olds

The specter of catastrophic injury continues to haunt sales of Thoroughbred 2-year-olds in training. Every time a horse breaks down during an under-tack show, the debate heats up again. Are immature racing prospects being asked to work too fast too soon?

John Kimmel, a trainer who has a veterinary degree, believes the answer is yes.
"There were some very nice prospects here," said Kimmel during the Keeneland April sale, "but I think that many of them fell prey to the craziness that has been going on in these breeze shows. It would serve everybody well if we slowed everything down and sold sounder horses. There is no need to whip and drive them as fast as they can possibly go. It’s counterproductive to the horse physically and mentally."

Said Kentucky horsewoman Jackie Ramos, who owned an interest in a Thunder Gulch colt that was consigned to the Keeneland auction: "We should take away the clock altogether. If you are any kind of horseman at all, you can see a horse’s action if he just gallops out nicely."

A Hennessy colt was euthanized at Keeneland after he suffered a compound fracture of the left front fetlock while galloping out following a quarter-mile work in :21. Earlier in the year, a Roar filly was euthanized prior to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March auction after she shattered her left front cannon bone following an eighth-of-a-mile workout.

Officials with the companies that conduct major juvenile sales—Barretts, Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, and OBS—all agree breakdowns are unfortunate and horrific. But they don’t plan to make significant changes in the speed-oriented approach to marketing 2-year-olds any time soon.

Here’s why:

  • Even though there are complaints, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among buyers or consignors that the system needs to be overhauled.

"While there are some concerns, there has not been an outcry that times are too fast. I don’t think there is any real movement toward people working their horses slower," said Boyd Browning, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fasig-Tipton.

  •  The number of catastrophic injuries does not seem to be alarmingly high. When horses are asked to work fast or compete, an occasional breakdown is inevitable.

"I would be shocked if the incidence of horses breaking down has increased as the times have decreased," Browning said. "When you think about how many horses breeze in under-tack shows, the breakdown rate is very, very low. While we also wish it was zero, it’s not going to be zero. Even if horses only galloped, you would still have horses break down because injuries do occur."

Said Jerry McMahon, Barretts president and general manager: "Certainly, I’ve heard from people who are upset about a specific track condition in relation to workouts, but not simply that times are fast and therefore we have physical problems. If there were wholesale scratches after a preview when there was a lot of speed, there would be cause for concern."

About the Author

Deirdre Biles

Deirdre Biles is the Bloodstock Sales Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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