Former United Tote Employee Charged With Extortion; Allegedly Stole Social Security Numbers

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A Kentucky man who formerly worked for Churchill Downs Inc.’s bet processing company, United Tote, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on extortion charges.

Ethan C. Fey has been charged in United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville with one count of Hobbs Act extortion and one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices.

According to an indictment unsealed when he was taken into custody on Aug. 30, Fey allegedly had “previously stolen personally-identifying information” of a company’s clients and “on or about June 5, 2017, he threatened to release that information unless the company paid Ethan C. Fey 50 bitcoins.”

Count two of the indictment alleges Fey, between June 8, 2016, and June 5, 2017, “knowingly and with intent to defraud, possessed more than 15 Social Security numbers of different customers of a company, operating in interstate commerce, said possession affecting interstate commerce, in that Ethan C. Fey threatened to release the Social Security numbers to the public unless the company agreed to pay Ethan C. Fey 50 bitcoins.”

The name of the company was not disclosed in the indictment. The alleged crimes took place in Louisville, Ky.

Bitcoins are a digital currency described by Bloomberg as the “currency of choice for hacker blackmailers who steal huge amounts of sensitive data.” Fifty bitcoins is currently estimated to be worth approximately $230,000.

According to his profile on the Linkedin social network, Fey was a senior operator for United Tote from July 2014 until sometime in 2016. Prior to that, the profile says, he was a United Tote operator at Churchill Downs-owned Fair Grounds in Louisiana from October 2012-July 2014; a United Tote hub operator from September 2010-October 2012; and a member of the Churchill Downs simulcast department from 2004-2010. Churchill Downs Inc. acquired United Tote in 2010 as part of a deal to purchase the advance deposit wagering company Youbet.com.

An alumni page for Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs, Colo., also lists Fey as having worked for United Tote. His Linkedin profile says he earned a bachelor’s degree at Colorado Technical University in cyber/computer forensics and counterterrorism.

In addition to United Tote, Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs racetrack, Churchill Downs Inc. owns the TwinSpires advance deposit wagering company – which is a customer of United Tote – and the online gaming company Big Fish Games. TwinSpires previously suffered a security breach in 2012. Big Fish Games reported in 2015 that some customer payment information may have been intercepted after malware was installed on certain pages.

Fey was released on his own recognizance after an Aug. 30 court appearance in which he pleaded not guilty. A trial has been scheduled for Nov. 6, 2017, with Judge David J. Hale presiding. Fey faces up to 20 years in prison on count one and 10 years on count two with fines up to $250,000 on each count.

Study Of Inflammatory Markers Leaves Researchers With More Questions About Predicting Racehorse Injury

by | 09.14.2017 | 6:59pm

For years now, researchers have been searching for some kind of agent detectable in horses’ blood to warn them of an impending injury. Research presented by Dr. David Horohov of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky at a recent Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council meeting shows the quest has continued to be a challenging one.

“The theory has been advanced that in fact, visible injury is a result of chronic accumulation of damage that exceeds the healing capacity of the tissue. And indeed, the whole process of conditioning an animal is actually one of breaking down and rebuilding tissue so that it’s stronger,” said Horohov. “If we could identify techniques to tell when that process has become imbalanced, where there is weakness rather than strength, we could begin identifying horses in advance.”

Initially, Horohov said scientists wanted to look for cytokines – biological message-carriers – associated with damage to bone and cartilage. This proved challenging because bones are constantly in a cycle of breaking down and building up in response to exercise. It is the remodeling process that prepares an equine (or human) skeleton to hold up to future impacts, based on past experience. This approach also did not seem sensitive enough and might miss other types of stress in the body, so Horohov set out to study the behavior of cytokines related to inflammation.

These messengers would be aware the body was recruiting inflammatory cells to deal with an injury but would not be involved in the inflammatory process themselves. Theoretically, he thought, low levels of inflammatory cytokines should indicate some degree of normal response to training, while high amounts might be a sign the body was not adjusting to the stress of training, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Between 2015 and 2016, Horohov and his team studied two groups with a total of 130 horses over two years: one group, scattered across different trainers, at Keeneland‘s synthetic training track, and another group on a lighter workout program (working on turf once per week) on a nearby farm. The results were somewhat surprising.

Immediately after exercise, horses typically have an increase in inflammatory biomarkers, which come back down over time and usually go below their original level – thought to be a sign the horses’ tissues were adjusting to exercise. Horohov’s group did find a difference between the horses at the track and those trained on the farm – over time, horses training on the track saw their base level inflammatory index increase, rather than decrease.

“To us, this raises more questions than it answers,” he said.

Horohov said it was impossible to tell whether the increase in inflammatory index was a sign of an increased risk for injury, or if it was simply a normal response to training. Both groups of horses had just begun the process of breezing.

Horohov also hopes in the future, the study of inflammatory cytokines could be finessed to predict specific types of injuries.

Besides the somewhat puzzling results, studies like this one are challenging because in order to get a group of horses in a true racetrack setting, scientists must give up control of the horses’ environments. Across the group of 130 horses studied, many were with different trainers and different feeding programs (including different supplements); those on the farm were getting turnout, while those at the track were not. It’s difficult to draw broad conclusions when variables like these place horses in mini sub-groups.

“One of the problems, too, about sampling horses is they leave,” said Horohov. “You get something you’re really interested in, you go back and they’re not there anymore.”

Horohov estimated about 25 percent of horses came up with some kind of lameness during the study period, but they were split between so many different trainers and programs it was impossible to say with certainty whether their cytokine levels rose before their lamenesses, or when.

From here, Horohov’s team hopes to expand the study to try to minimize some of these variables and to see whether an exaggerated inflammatory response does, indeed, preempt injuries.

Study Suggests Need For Another Revision To Uniform Drug Guidelines

by | 09.14.2017 | 12:48pm

Recommended withdrawal guidelines for detomidine, commercially known as Dormosedan, may face review after a recent study suggested horses could test positive while adhering to the guidelines. The current guideline from the Racing Medication Testing Consortium suggests the threshold for a positive be set at 2ng/ml in urine and 1 ngl/ml in blood, with the recommended withdrawal for a 5 mg intravenous dose set at 48 hours.

Detomidine is a relatively short-acting sedative with some analgesic properties and may be used to reduce stress during medical procedures or travel, or in hospital settings.

Recently, the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council funded a study to examine the behavior of a 20 mg dose (given intravenously or intramuscularly), which some veterinarians say is also used in the field, depending upon the situation.

For tests of the drug using a blood sample, a 20 mg dose was well below the recommended threshold by 48 hours post-administration; in some cases the drug was almost undetectable. In the case of urine tests for detomidine however, several samples were over the threshold at 48 hours.

 

 

Unfortunately, the study was designed to stop at 48 hours post-administration, and therefore did not shed light on whether extending the window to 72 hours would be sufficient to avoid accidental positive tests.

“The dose that was investigated initially was a 5 mg dose. A lot of our veterinarians use a 5 mg dose. Dr. [Andy] Roberts and some other veterinarians wanted to know if they could use a 20 mg dose. It’s going to give a bigger effect,” he said. “Very few of these substances that affect the central nervous system have a dose that’s fixed. It’s a dose range, and I think it’s a legitimate question on Dr. Roberts’ part about using that 20 mg dose.”

Sams, who is a member of the RMTC’s Scientific Advisory Committee, said these types of revisions are to be expected as more information comes to light about different drugs and their behavior in horses. Unfortunately, there is a disparity between the public’s thirst for uniform regulations and the amount of time (and money) it takes to complete studies like this one, which ultimately highlights the need for more research.

“The process was moving very slowly years ago and the RMTC came under enormous pressure to move forward and have thresholds for all of these substances that veterinarians had identified. The future of the RMTC, I think, was on the line at that point,” Sams remembered. “We made some less-than-optimal choices with regard to doses, but veterinarians were involved in every step of the way.”

Delta Downs: Funding Shortfall Could Mean Canceling Of Jackpot, Princess Stakes

by | 09.12.2017 | 8:54am

 

A decline in casino revenue has officials at Delta Downs considering eliminating several stakes races in October and November, including the track’s marquee event, the Delta Downs Jackpot.

The Daily Racing Form reports that much of the facility’s business comes from the Houston area, which was hit by Hurricane Harvey. That has resulted in a decline in casino revenue, which helps fund purses at the track.

According to the Form, Delta’s vice president and general manager Steve Kuypers sent a letter dated Sept. 7 to Louisiana Racing Commission chairman Bob Wright requesting that the LRC approve a request to eliminate eight open stakes races worth a total of $2.3 million.

“The impact of Hurricane Harvey to the people of southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana is having a significant effect on slot revenue and subsequently the track’s purse funds,” Kuypers said in the letter.

Kuypers added, “It is important that we support the local horsemen that fill our overnight races and this action will allow us to do that.”

Read more in the Daily Racing Form

Jockeys Melancon, Batista Organize Relief Supplies For Hurricane Harvey Refugees

by Paulick Report Staff

Jockeys Gerard Melancon and Alexis Batista worked together to organize a relief effort for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey last week, according to the Daily Racing Form. The riders gathered more than 50 cases of water and a stash of diapers to a shelter in Lake Charles, La. which has taken in Texas residents fleeing the flooding from the storm.

Melancon said the project was a combined effort of riders at Louisiana Downs, along with their valets and chaplain Dwight Brown.

Also on Wednesday, NTRA Charities announced it would donate more than $5,000 to the Penn National Gaming Foundation, which is helping Sam Houston Race Park employees affected by the storm.

The ‘Cajun Connection’ At Del Mar Has Tales To Tell

by | 08.11.2017 | 1:27pm

Kent Desormeaux, Joe Talamo, and Jamie Theriot

Cajun: An ethnic group mainly living in southwest Louisiana consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speakers from what now is Nova Scotia) who have exerted an enormous impact on the state’s music, food and culture – Wikipedia

Anyone who follows U.S. racing knows about the Cajuns and their imprint on the game. The horsemen who have come out of the bayou and swamp areas centering on Lafayette, Louisiana have dominated racing in that state and rippled out to touch racing locales all around the country.

This is especially so when it comes to race riders. For many years now the phrase “Cajun jockey” has been comparable to, say, Kenyan marathon runner or Canadian hockey player. Ten times the Kentucky Derby has been won by a Cajun rider. Five times racing’s Hall of Fame has beckoned a Cajun jock.

A quick scan of a general Cajun jockey roster would include names such as Albarado, Ardoin, Avant, Bernis, Borel, Borque, Broussard, Carmouche, Delahoussaye, Delhomme, Guerin, Guidry, Hernandez, Jr., Lanerie, Meche, Melancon, Perret, Perrodin, Romero, Sellers and Sibille.

You can add three more names to that list and take them right off this year’s Del Mar jockey roster: Kent Desormeaux, Jamie Theriot and Joe Talamo.

Befitting their Cajun roots, their names have a lovely rhythm to them: “De-sor-mo,” “Therry-O” and “Tal-ah-mo.” If you mix in some fiddle, concertina and accordion, no doubt you could come up with a Zydeco tune that would have folks up and dancing.

And what the trio of Del Mar horsebackers has in common is starting their schooling – even before they started their careers — in “the bushes,” the series of backwoods, unregulated and unshackled racetracks that flourished in southwest Louisiana from roughly the 1930s through the 1990s. They often were “bullrings” with rails (mostly) all the way around and starting gates for the beginnings; they sometimes were simply straights with rails down the middle for lanes and cow pastures for pulling up in. They featured mostly four-legged equines, primarily Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, though mules, Appaloosas, Shetland ponies, dogs and other sorts of four- and two-legged beasts and men that were capable of being matched up and bet on were occasionally employed.

They were all wild and wooly tailgating heavens filled with crawfish, gumbo, bar-b-q and other sorts of Louisiana treats cooking away; kingdoms filled with six-packs and kegs; man-on-man betting parlors (“I got $20 on the 2, you can have all the rest.”) where serious money regularly changed hands, and, in Cajun fashion, the tracks often were family-run. Besides all that, they also were among the great training grounds in all of sports.

Desormeaux, one of the most successful jockeys of our time who can brag of Hall of Fame credentials, three trips to the winner’s circle in the Kentucky Derby and nearly 6,000 winning rides on “legitimate” racetracks, just lights up in a smile when he’s asked about “the bushes.”

“Oh, man,” says the 47-year-old native of Maurice (10 miles southwest of Lafayette), “you’re talking about some seriously good memories now. I’ve got some stories to tell about those days.”

Theriot, 38, hails from Breaux Bridge (nine miles northeast of Lafayette), and took to riding in match races very early. “I was eight years old when I rode in my first match,” the rider says with a straight face. Yes, he said eight.

Shadwell Farm

Talamo, the 27-year-old “kid” of the bunch, was born in Marrero, just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, which is about 135 miles east of Lafayette. “But I’ve got Cajun on both sides of the family,” he says. “Cajun and Sicilian. How scary is that?”

Though they came at it in different decades, they all went to Bushes School – Desormeaux when “bush racing” was in full swing; Theriot right at the very end of the “bush” era, and Talamo when one of the more famous “bush” tracks – the Quarter Pole in Rayne (18 miles west of Lafayette) – was reopened as a training center in the early 2000s and they ran “schooling” races for teenagers who wanted to be race riders.

“You know,” notes the vibrant Desormeaux, “I rode about a hundred races in ‘the bushes’ before I rode my first ‘real’ race. When I first rode at Evangeline (Downs in Opelousas, about 25 miles north of Lafayette) in 1986, they gave me a 10-pound bug. I thought I was stealing. I was full of confidence and knew I was ready.”

It didn’t take him long to show it. He went from Evangeline to Louisiana Downs to Maryland and a run of riding victories that have yet to be matched. He won 450 races in 1987 (and an Eclipse as the nation’s top apprentice); 474 races in 1988, and 598 in 1989 (and another Eclipse as the nation’s leading rider). His 598 victories in a year is the best ever recorded.

But back to Theriot and riding match races at the age of eight. For real?

“You bet,” says the long (5′ 7”) and wiry reinsman who has won nearly 2,500 races in 22 years in the “big time.” “My daddy (Harold) was a trainer; had about 60 head of horses back then. I first learned on Quarter Horses; really liked riding them. First match race I rode was on a Quarter. I was eight and weighed about 45 pounds at the time; they put me in against an adult. I beat him.”

That was the beginning; then it became a regular happening. “Every weekend,” Theriot recalled. “So much fun; so exciting looking forward to it. Three hundred or four hundred people yelling, shouting, cheering. The environment was so special. The people; the food. Bar-b-q. Oh, yes. It was all so good.”

Especially for a third grader.

Talamo wasn’t riding match races at eight, but he grew up with a horse in his backyard and was up on horseback not long after he learned to walk. He was galloping horses at 12 and riding “schooling” races at 14.

“I was 14 and riding in races at the Quarter Pole against Cody Meche, Randall Toups and David Borque,” he remembered. “We were all 14 or 15. I won a race on a horse named Marie Laveau (New Orleans’ famous voodoo queen). Boy, that was special. I was wearing a pair of jockey pants that Robby Albarado gave me. My father bet $20 to win on me. I got a roast beef po’ boy (sandwich). I felt like I’d won a Triple Crown race.”

Talamo had just finished 10th grade and got his jockey license and spent the summer riding at Louisiana Downs (in Bossier City, about 200 miles northwest of Lafayette). He’d promised his folks he was going back to school in September (“One of the great selling jobs of all time,” he says.) But he got hot at the end of the meet, rode that on into a hotter streak that saw him win the riding title (over Albarado) at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and get a call from Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel to come ride in California. More than 1,700 wins and $92-million in purses later, he’s a Southern California fixture.

One of Desormeaux’s favorite “bushes” tales deals with a mostly Quarter Horse named Skunk Em Up.

“Had some Appaloosa in him and the spots came up over his knee, so they couldn’t call him a Quarter Horse,” he reminisced. “But he was fast, really fast. I weighed about 90 pounds at the time and his trainer, Dale White, had me ride him in match races in Louisiana. He was down for good money — $5,000, $10,000. We went three times, won all three. Then he set up another match in Mississippi. I rode in the van in the back with the horse, feeding him hay all the way over. We went like a shot there, too, and won that one. That was it, though. The game was up. Nobody would take him on after that.”

Among the great stories coming out of “the bushes” were sagas of “catch weight” races (you can put anyone or anything you want on a horse’s back – the lighter, obviously, the better). A classic example was when a chicken was tied on as the “rider,” an extraordinary bit of horsemanship made famous by a bit in the 1978 movie “Casey’s Shadow.”

Did our trio ride in any chicken races?

Talamo did not, but the other two did.

“Oh, yeah,” said Desormeaux. “I rode against chickens. I even remember a match race where both horses had chickens on their back.”

Theriot did it just once. Who, he was asked, won?

The rider lowered his head, then fessed up: “The chicken.”

For those so inclined, days in “the bushes” and fine tales of Cajun racing are well told in the 2008 book “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” by New York-based turf writer Ed McNamara. It’s a good read with a fine feel for a special place and its special people for anyone wanting to learn more about a most colorful and unique subject.

For those wanting an insightful thought from a man who was right in the middle of it all, here’s this from Desormeaux:

“You know, until Chris (Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron) started his jockey school in the last few years in Kentucky, this country really didn’t have a national one. Lots of other places do – Puerto Rico, Panama, South America. That’s a big advantage for a young rider. But in Louisiana – in “the bushes” – we had our own riding school. We learned lots of lessons and had lots of fun. In a lot of ways, you couldn’t have asked for a better one.”

Setback Jeopardizes Hall Of Fame Jockey Romero’s Chances For Organ Transplants

by | 07.09.2017 | 10:48pm

Paulick Report

Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero

A new health condition has caused Hall of Fame Jockey Randy Romero to be removed from the list of recipients for a transplanted kidney and liver, something he likely needs to sustain his life for a long period of time.

The new health condition started during his trip to the June 10 Belmont Stakes as a celebrity jockey  guest. Romero, 59, is one of the rare persons who has undergone dialysis three times weekly for over 12 years. Besides being particularly tiring, it requires a port placed under the skin, in his case on an arm, so he doesn’t need a thick needle stick for every session. The port ruptured while in New York and he wound up in a Garden City hospital Emergency Room. Doctors stemmed the bleeding, stitched and bandaged the arm, and he otherwise said he had a good time.

But during his drive back from the airport to the home of his brother, John Romero, in Lafayette, La., he hit another auto from the rear, totaling his car. With no one injured, he made it to John’s home and was upstairs in his room awaiting dinner and napping. The port ruptured, this time so violently he bled out and became unconscious.

“My mom (Joyce) came to get me for dinner and found me in a pool of blood,” he said. “She saved my life. I wound up in Intensive Care and my blood pressure was like 40 over 20. I nearly bled to death. They had to give me four liters of blood.”

Romero was placed on a ventilator to assist his breathing and was unconscious and in critical condition for over a week. The ventilator was successfully removed but he was hospitalized until early last week.

 

 

During a career that included 4,294 victories and purse earnings of over $75 million, Romero broke over 20 bones, suffered third degree burns over 40 percent of his body in a bizarre “hot box” fire, developed Hepatitis C from tainted blood transfusions following the accident, has one kidney and has undergone over 30 surgeries. But the latest injury may be the most serious because he will have to get strong enough to get back on the donor list.

“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “But I still believe in God and I’m not giving up. I believe in prayer and I know a lot of people out there are praying for me. “

How Old Is ‘Old’ For A Thoroughbred?

by | 07.06.2017 | 12:53pm

Gulch enjoying retirement at Old Friends Farm

Every year brings a handful of death announcements as stallions and broodmares succumb to “the infirmities of old age.” Whether the horse in question was in their early or late twenties, we usually get questions – doesn’t say, 25 years old sound young for a horse? And what exactly are the “infirmities of old age”?

Just as for people, there’s no hard and fast answer to the question of how long a horse can be expected to live. Generally speaking, ponies and miniature horses can live significantly longer than the average riding horse, and it’s not uncommon for them to reach their early or mid-thirties. Riding horses like Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses begin to show their age in their late teens or early twenties, though may live well beyond that. The oldest horse in the history books, according to The Horse magazine, was Old Billy, a barge horse born in 1760 who lived to be 62. Old Billy is the exception rather than the rule, with most riding horses living to be between 20 and 30. Draft breeds, much like large dog breeds, usually have a slightly shorter lifespan due to their size.

“I figure once they get to be about thirty, every day is a gift,” said Dr. Bryan Waldridge of Park Equine Hospital.

Waldridge treats the residents of Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., which always includes some number of geriatric Thoroughbreds. Unsurprisingly, Waldridge said, a horse’s life expectancy also has a lot to do with their health history. Horses coming off the racetrack with more wear-and-tear injuries may see those injuries flare into problematic arthritis more quickly and viciously than those that retired sound. Past illness can also leave a horse susceptible to complications later; a horse that has recovered from kidney disease may be more vulnerable years later to a recurrence, as is true for colic. There are also individual differences; some horses are more sensitive than others to environmental changes that could cause colic.

 

 

Waldridge also believes genetics and attitude have something to do with it.

“I think some people just genetically live longer and I think it’s true in horses,” said Waldridge. “Gulch looked like he was going to live forever until he got cancer and then it was over in no time. He was one of the oldest, toughest horses I ever saw.”

Gulch, a longtime resident of Old Friends, was euthanized in 2016 at the age of 32.

As with people, the death of an older horse can be the sum of one or more gradually worsening problems, rather than one, acute bout of illness (with the obvious exception of colic), hence the vague phrase “the infirmities of old age.” According to a study of deceased horses 15 years old and up from the University of Kentucky’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the causes of death for most geriatric horses were disorders of the digestive system and those of the cardiovascular system. About half the cardiovascular cases were caused by a uterine artery rupture, which is considered one of the possible complications for broodmares 15 years of age and up. Most digestive issues likely manifested as colic, which is still the most common cause of death for all horses.

Fifteen years old is also recognized as the benchmark for increased risk of a certain type of intestinal lipoma, a fatty tumor, that can cause fatal colic. Colic generally gets more common with age, and risks associated with anesthesia become more serious as a horse ages, so surgeons are less inclined to operate on colic cases in their late teens and early twenties.

Cardiovascular issues become more common because with time, walls of the heart valves become thickened and the valves can sometimes fail to close properly, allowing blood to leak through the valves, which makes the heart work harder. Waldridge sees a fair number of deaths from congestive heart failure for this reason in older horses.

Aging grays are also at increased risk for skin cancer. It’s fairly common for gray horses to develop tumors on their faces, necks, or around the rectum. Most of those tumors are not problematic on their own but can pose challenges if they begin interfering with an organ’s function.

“Unlike humans and dogs, they don’t tend to be malignant in horses but where they are, they tend to cause trouble and they really like the hind end, so a horse can’t pass manure,” said Waldridge. “I’ve seen them get so big the horse couldn’t raise their tail to pass manure.”

A horse’s teeth, which are constantly erupting through their gums throughout their lives, may also begin to wear down or fall out as they age, making it more cumbersome to chew tough feedstuffs like dry hay or grain. Additionally, older horses struggle to maintain weight during periods of extreme cold, even when fed appropriate diets.

A horse with any level of athletic function is at risk for developing arthritis as they age, and this can progress to the point it interferes with a horse’s day-to-day function, especially if the horse is already dealing with other illnesses.

All this means owners and managers often must weigh an older horse’s “infirmities” with his quality of life.

“My definition that I always tell people is that when they can’t walk around and eat grass pain-free anymore, then to me, it’s time to think about euthanasia. If they can walk around and eat grass all right, they’re pretty happy,” said Waldridge, who emphasized a horse that lives to 23 is not necessarily receiving inferior care to one that lives to 30. “I think you can’t do anything about genetics. If they’ve had some serious problem in their past, it may ding them somewhere and make them where if they get an injury or illness in the same body system, it’ll hit them harder. It’s genetics and what’s happened to them their whole life leading up to that point, it doesn’t mean anyone’s done anything wrong.”

Nail-Free Shoe Options For Thoroughbreds: Glue-Ons Prevail

by | 06.29.2017 | 9:49am

 

 

If you follow any fellow horse lovers on social media (and even if you don’t), chances are you’ve seen a photo of these nail-free, iron-free, colorful clip-on horseshoes sometime in the past several months. Photos of the Megasus Horserunners, as the shoes are called, have gotten a lot of attention on Facebook due to their bright colors and claims of a gentler, more supportive shoeing option for horses.

The Horserunners, expected to be available for sale later this year, are clip-on shoes with bottoms designed similar to human running shoes. The shoes are meant to be shock-absorbing and easily removed for riders who want to work their horses in shoes but turn them out barefoot. According to the company’s website, Horserunners are applied by placing two strips of Mega Lock tape onto the foot’s outside wall and adhering the shoe’s clips onto the tape strips.

So, will we soon see Thoroughbreds with equine running shoes color coordinated to their silks?

Pat Broadus, owner of Broadus Brothers Horseshoeing in Central Kentucky, has his doubts. A galloping Thoroughbred exerts roughly 30,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in his feet. Broadus isn’t convinced, from what he has seen of the Horserunners, the velcro-like tape combined with the shoe base would provide the right combination of adherence, traction, and slide needed to the hoof in that high-pressure situation.

 

“I’ve never seen a pair put on,” said Broadus, who had concerns about the tape used to adhere the clips. “It’s like Velcro. You know with Velcro, as soon as it gets dirty, it won’t stick anymore.”

 

Indeed, the target audience for Horserunners seems to be trail and casual riders, although initial tests suggests the clip-ons can withstand the force of jumping.

While the act of using nails to affix shoes is painless to the horse when done correctly, nails can pose problems. Horses with thin hoof walls can have shoes loosen, and nails can predispose the wall to cracks, chips or tears if the horse is stomping flies or steps on the edge of a loose shoe and pulls it the wrong way. Some horses, especially Thoroughbreds with thin walls, struggle to keep nailed-on shoes affixed.

If not clip-ons, what are the best options for racehorses needing a break from nails?

Broadus said glue-on shoes remain the standard for Thoroughbreds with special shoeing needs. They were initially found primarily in hospital settings but have become much more mainstream in the past few years.

“It used to be you’d go in a barn and it was taboo for them to have glue-ons, and now you’ll have three out of 20 with glue-ons on,” he said.

Broadus, who co-owns glue-on shoe company Hanton Horseshoes, says people have gained a better understanding of how to glue shoes to horses’ feet.

“When glue-ons first came around, everybody thought you needed a half a bucket of glue to glue a horse on,” he said. “I think we were way overkilling it and putting glue in places that didn’t need glue, and I put myself in that group. It’s the human mindset of, ‘More is better.’ It only sticks to so much. The more you put on, the more chance you have of part of it failing.”

Hanton’s shoes are a modified type of Victory Racing Plates with clips that rest against the outside of the hoof wall, and it is these that are glued on. More traditional glue-ons require a small amount of glue at the edge of the foot and are easy to remove as the hoof grows out, since the portion with the glue is often the part that would be trimmed off anyway.

Despite his involvement in the glue-on shoe business, Broadus said he only has about four horses actively wearing glue-ons across a practice with five farriers.

“I glue to get horses out of glue-ons, I do not put them on planning to leave them on for their entire life. That being said, I have done it when I’ve had a bad situation on certain horses,” he said. “A lot of times, I get a call to come put glue-ons on a horse and you’re not putting nails in so the feet grow out and they look beautiful, then they’re scared to go back to [nails].”

Broadus has one client whose top-level driving prospect had to be retired when he pulled a shoe, stepped on the nail, and developed an infection that spread to his ankle. She keeps her current driving horse in glue-ons for peace of mind, even though she acknowledges it’s unlikely such an accident would happen again.

The downside of glue-ons is they’re more expensive; some can run $75 to $80 a pair, a cost that gets passed onto the client. A pair of glue-ons cannot be reset after one use, which contributes to the bill, too.

Another option Broadus sees for Thoroughbreds needing a break from traditional shoes: hoof boots. Broadus has had good luck rehabilitating a horse on his farm with hoof boots for about seven months. Hoof boots have become better-fitted to horses’ feet in the past several years and have been a popular option among endurance riders negotiating significant mileage at a slow speed over tough terrain. He hasn’t had a request to try hoof boots from one of his racing clients yet, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it comes soon.

“I’m not so sure that that type of boot wouldn’t have its place at the racetrack at some point,” he said. “I don’t know that a horse would run in them because of the traction on the bottom. But I could see a horse come up with a bruised foot or something, and you put that on for a few days while you treat it. I could see where it would be a lot of protection. They’ve improved them so much.”

Final Jockey Assignments Confirmed In 2017 Run For The Roses: Includes Three Louisiana Natives

by | 04.30.2017 | 3:05pm

Always Dreaming works under the Twin Spires with John Velazquez aboard.

The last of the Kentucky Derby riding assignments was confirmed on Sunday morning, and the current field of 20 is all booked up for Saturday’s Run for the Roses. The most recent addition is that of jockey Channing Hill aboard Fast and Accurate for trainer Mike Maker; Hill breezed the colt at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, then announced the decision later in the morning on Twitter.

Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Patch for Calumet Farm, it was also announced on Twitter Sunday morning. Pletcher’s other riders were announced over the past few weeks, with John Velazquez scheduled to team with Always Dreaming and Jose Ortiz to pilot Tapwrit.

Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed his final Derby reinsmen on Saturday, naming Ricardo Santana to ride Untrapped and Corey Lanerie to ride Lookin at Lee. Florent Geroux had previously been named to ride Hence.

Late last week, trainer Dale Romans named Luis Saez as the replacement rider for the injured Robby Albarado aboard J Boys Echo.

 

Here is the full list of expected Kentucky Derby contenders and their riders, as of Sunday afternoon:

  • Always Dreaming (John Velazquez)
  • Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat)
  • Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux)
  • Fast and Accurate (Channing Hill)
  • Girvin (Mike Smith)
  • Gormley (Victor Espinoza)
  • Gunnevera (Javier Castellano)
  • Hence (Florent Geroux)
  • Irap (Mario Gutierrez)
  • Irish War Cry (Rajiv Maragh)
  • J Boys Echo (Luis Saez)
  • Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie)
  • McCraken (Brian Hernandez Jr.)
  • Patch (Tyler Gaffalione)
  • Practical Joke (Joel Rosario)
  • Sonneteer (Kent Desormeaux)
  • State of Honor (Jose Lezcano)
  • Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz)
  • Thunder Snow (Ire) (Christophe Soumillon)
  • Untrapped (Ricardo Santana Jr.).

Next up in order of preference: Royal Mo (Gary Stevens)