Friday, October 3, 2008

Good News and A Vacation

The vet stopped by to visit with Fizzy Pop this morning and was very impressed at the progress that has been made in his ankle. It has now been diagnosed as a sprain with no bone or ligament damage. Hooray! If we wanted to we could run our boy in about 10-days or so.

That was the good news. Quite frankly, there wasn't any bad news. However looking back over his lifetime past performances, Fizzy had run 15 times since last December 7. Many of those races were at a mile or more. A couple of years back I was made aware of a rule that Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham had about resting a race horse: after every 7 miles of racing, the horse earned a break. I don't know how long that break was, but it was a time for the horse to get turned out and relax, play in a paddock and just be a horse. In this time period, Fizzy has logged 14 miles of solid racing. He picked up four wins and earned almost $50,000. The slightly sprained ankle was the perfect excuse. Fizzy is going on vacation!

In point of fact, Fizzy is going to enjoy a nice respite from racing. He will be turned out to Michael Biehler's farm in Oklahoma for about a month. At the end of October when the first group of Rhone horses move south, Fizzy is going with them where he'll reside at the farm of a retired veterinarian for another month and start to resume training in mid-December. Depending upon how quickly the Fiz can get ready to race, look to see him emerging from his winter break in late January going a mile or more over the turf at Tampa Bay Downs. What level? Well that is going to depend upon Fizzy and how he's training for his five year old debut.

An interesting crossroads we found ourselves at this week. There was the possibility that Fizzy had a bone chip in his ankle and we could have been facing surgery. Or we could have made the decision to run him a lower level and get him taken from us making his ankle someone else's problem. It brings up an interesting intersection of responsibility and accountability. Ultimately I am accountable to my partners, the folks that put up the money and trusted me with it to be the best steward I could be in a very tough game. One could argue that I've done a pretty good job with that: we claimed a horse for $10,000 that has won at $25,000; has won two races; finished in the money in three more; and earned us over $25,000. Valuing the assets at this time and place our original investment has nearly doubled in value.

However...and it is a pretty significant however...there is a responsibility to the horse. Fizzy is our responsibility. We bought him and it's our duty to take care of him. There is a balance in owning a racehorse in partnership: the money and the athlete. We have been fortunate with Fizzy's racing career in that he has been moderately successful for us. What if he was a $5,000 claimer with virtually no upside? A much tougher dilemma I admit, and one I'm glad I didn't face. But I think that the decision would have been to retire him. Enough people have expressed interest in Fizzy that for the cost of a transportation ticket he would have been theirs.

Is there middle ground here? I think that there is. The heartbeat of our sport is the claimer that races each and every day around the country. Some race for larger purses near big cities and others in fair races across rural America. Every track runs them from Saratoga to Del Mar to Retama Park. These races are the great equalizer in our sport: you race too high you never win, you race too low and you lose the horse (and leave money on the table!). Each and every day horses will rise and fall on this ladder and claims will be made and horses will switch barns. A trainer and owner will then discover what it is that made the last duo put it up for sale at that price. Maybe it's sore knees, trouble breathing, a sore ankle or just not that much ability. Some horses may just need a rest away from the track. Maybe a minor treatment or procedure will be all the horse needs to get back to a slightly higher level. Perhaps what you have on your hands is a horse that's worth exactly what you paid for him. In that case, you just run him back at the same level and just run for the purse. It's a risk you take when you claim and I think the best we can do is mend that horse to the best of our ability, run them to win and retire them responsibly when they can't.

So I guess the question readers would ask themselves at this time is: Would Ted drop a chronically sore horse in the hope that someone would claim him? I would...with a caveat: if the soreness or injury was a symptom of a deeper, perhaps fatal, problem, I would not. Soreness or a minor injury is no more indicative of a horse that no longer can perform than it is for a professional athlete that plays through minor aches and pains throughout the course of a season. If some treatment and 60-days off won't treat it (think of it as the equine 15-day disabled list), then the horse shouldn't be running and should be retired responsibly.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully Fizzy will have a long, happy life with someone that is caring and give him the life that he so deserves after racing.
He as do all thoroughbreds deserve this.

Ted G said...

Thanks for reading. He has had several offers from some very caring and loving people so I know that we'll be able to retire him to a very happy home if we get the chance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted -

It's been fun following Fizzy's campaign this year. He is a hard worker and you can see that he gives his best each and every race. You and Bernell have taken great care of him, and his racing numbers prove it. I look forward to his return, but until then I wish Fizzy a well deserved vacation.

Ted G said...

Hey Lloyd!

Thanks, all the credit in the world goes to Cindy & Bernell Rhone, Liane and Dean Butler and all the satff at the barn. A wonderful group to work with and very good people!