Two horses will not answer the bell for the running of the 2007 Kentucky Derby (as noted by SeattlePI.com and the AP). One, Cobalt Blue, is a promising colt owned by horsing aficionado and TV host Merv Griffin.
Entertainer Merv Griffin decided to take his colt out of the running, citing Cobalt Blue's seventh-place finish in the Illinois Derby and a recent subpar workout at Keeneland.
"I've just been unhappy with a few of the things that have happened to him," Griffin said by telephone.
This episode sets up some controversy. First, it is interesting to find this comment before the Illinois Derby:
ILLINOIS DERBY - Cobalt Blue looked good in the San Felipe, but I'm not sure that race was a legitimate Grade 2. I'm not sure thisis either, but I'll take Cowtown Cat to post the mild upset. jeffhen
Perhaps Cobalt Blue suffered a bit from LMS (Lava Man Syndrome, more commonly known as "Bute off"). He failed to fire at Hawthorne. Some horsemen couldn't train a cow to moo. We'll see if Todd Pletcher can train a "Cow" to win the Kentucky Derby. Yet another nice ride by Fernando Jara in a big race. Cowtown Cat paid a solid $9.
'Bute-off' or 'The Lava Man Syndrome' refers to the decrement in performance seen with a horse who trains taking the anti-inflammatory/pain-killer Bute, then doesn't run the race with the drug. Without the drug, the horse is stiffer, and in more pain and thus slower...Duh.
The Nation is not expert in horse racing. However, we documented horse doping in the past. Furthermore this all sounds a bit suspicious as the Kentucky Derby instituted pre-race anti-doping tests. Although there may be legitimate concerns about the horse's performance, there also may be concerns about repeating the 1966 Derby where the winner was declared ineligible (for prize money) when Bute was found in the horse's urine.
The debate, while never solving the inevitable public relations nightmare, began to recede. The bad dream finally came true in 1968, when Kentucky Derby winner Dancer’s Image tested positive for Bute. At that time, the drug was illegal in Kentucky. First-place money was awarded to Calumet Farm’s Forward Pass, but the stewards amended their original ruling because the rules concerning disqualification for forbidden drugs stated only that the purse could be taken away. Dancer’s Image was decreed a “non-profit” winner. There were also inconsistencies in the chemist’s report, as well as contradictions in his testimony.
Since that time, lawyers have tied up court cases of horses caught doping. Bute appears to have been legalized in many racing jurisdictions, along with Lasix. However, cheating continues to occur.
There are other issues. States appear to have inconsistent rules where some allow Bute to be given up to 24 hours before the race. (Why give a horse an anti-inflammatory, run the hell out of it, then not allow the pain-killer to be used in the race? What silly logic). Bute (the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone) may allow the trainers to drive the horse past normal limits, thus causing more wear and tear injuries. Further the horse is less pain sensitive; pain, for all the bad PR, serves a purpose -- to warn about injury. Might the epidemic of horse injuries be related to the use of pain-killers?
In the 2005 racing year, 320 racehorse deaths – 272 of which were thoroughbreds – were reported in California, according to the CHRB, a number believed to be an all-time high. It was a 31.7 percent increase from the previous year, with 154 of the deaths coming during races, up 33.9 percent from the previous year...
Meanwhile, the medication issue might be as notorious as it is these days in baseball. To ease the pain and pounding, three anti-inflammatory drugs and eight therapeutic drugs are legal in California, but they may not be administered to a horse within 24 hours of a race. Some arguably mask health problems that would be better served with rest.
“A lot of trainers train on Bute (Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug) just so they can train their horses because they're so sore,” Mullins said. “I'm going to tell you, without medication they wouldn't have races. They wouldn't be able to run without medication.”
It appears that Merv Griffin spun the Wheel of Misfortune.