Apparently, I am not Bay of Freedom's biggest fan...

I will explain the title later but, first, let me give you the most important news: an update on Bay of Freedom and his continuing woes:

Peter sent him up to Troytown Vets last Tuesday for an endoscopy; the result was that he has a sizeable ulcer. The vet said that, on a scale of 1-5 this would rate a 3+. He also said that he couldn’t believe that the horse had been eating so well, that he was in pretty good spirits and that his coat was in such good condition; all things you would not expect with a significant ulcer.

I have read more about Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) than is good for me so, with profuse apologies to vets everywhere, here is my layman’s description:

Horses secrete gastric acid continuously if they are eating or not. The lower stomach has a built in lining and protection but the upper stomach relies on saliva production to buffer the gastric acid. This saliva is created naturally through grazing in a field. In the case of racehorses they are not feeding continuously (typically twice per day) and so there can be insufficient saliva to buffer the gastric acid; this can lead to inflammation, lesions or ulcers.

As many as 90% of racehorses get some form of ulcer so it important to not only recognize the issue but also treat it and then move to prevent it’s recurrence. The good news is that they are very treatable; the bad news is that they will almost certainly recur if changes are not made.

The typical treatment is a 28 day course of Gastrogard(full tube) and then a gradual weaning off until a daily preventative dose is determined. Gastrogard inhibits the production of the gastric acid. While it is possible to keep horses in training while the Gastrogard is administered, we will not be doing that with Bay of Freedom. Our preference is to use Gastrogard in conjunction with putting the horse into a field for an elongated time; this will allow him to graze naturally, produce saliva and, hopefully, accelerate the elimination of the ulcer.

If you would like to read a more erudite overview of EGUS please click here

Once the ulcer is eliminated we will figure out how to prevent any recurrence. As you can see from the above this is easier said than done given the typical training regime of a racehorse; a combination of a maintenance level of Gastrogard (or equivalent) added fibre and potentially a new feeding regime might be required.

None of this is cheap, of course, A month’s course of Gastrogard to treat the ulcer could be as high as $1500 and the maintenance level could be $375-$750 depending on dosage. On the plus side (and this is me playing mind games with myself) the daily cost to keep him in a field is $25 less than in training so it’s almost ‘a wash’

The plan right now is that he will be in a field for the next six weeks and then we will repeat the endoscopy to see if the ulcer has healed or if he needs more time.  The important thing is to get the horse completely right and enjoying himself again; so we have already determined that there will be no point in bringing him back into training this side of Christmas as we would not be wanting to run him on the heavy ‘winter’ ground anyway.  All being well, he will come into training in early 2016, we will manage his diet and medication and he will be ready to run in the Spring.

This last comment may surprise the true Bay of Freedom aficionado who will have noted that he is entered in a race at Cork on Sunday. He will not be running – we entered him as a way of seeing what handicap mark he would get, Well, we have our answer: 115

Peter and I chatted about this yesterday before the rating was published and estimated that he would get around 108-109. Even that was higher than his latest performances would merit but Peter had spoken to the handicapper last week and he had indicated that he would base his rating of the Down Royal run in May and, basically, ignore his last two runs.

Knowing that, Peter and I could still only see a rating of 108-109. We beat Scorpion Star by 1 ½ lengths giving him 8 pounds – this would make us a 10 pound better horse. Scorpion Star is rated 98. However, that was not the form line the handicapper chose to use.

In order to get to 115 the handicapper has rated us as being the same level of horse as Cecil Corbett who was second in that race. On one level there is some basis for this: Cecil Corbett was getting 8 pounds from us but beat us by 7 lengths; this makes us the same level of horse as Cecil Corbett. Cecil Corbett is rated 115 so what is my problem?

Well, here is my problem: I don’t think there is any way that Cecil Corbett ran to 115 that night. He had only joined Gordon Elliott a few days previously and he had no time to elicit any improvement in the horse. There is little doubt that Cecil Corbett improved markedly in his next few runs. The handicapper did not provide the 115 rating until after Cecil Corbett had won a race at Downpatrick; A quick look at the Timeform and Racing Post ratings for Cecil Corbett at Down Royal and Downpatrick indicate that the horse had improved: 

Down Royal         107 (Timeform)                 104 (RPR)

Downpatrick                  113+ (Timeform)                 117(RPR)

In other words Cecil Corbett had improved between 6 and 13 pounds between Down Royal and Downpatrick.  If the handicapper gave him a rating of 115 after Downpatrick then his rating after Down Royal would have been nearer to 109 (or lower); that would mean that Bay of Freedom’s rating based on Down Royal would be 109 as well.

While I am on a rant just consider this:

We finished 15 lengths (equivalent to 15 pounds) behind Ultimate Horseman at Roscommon last week. The handicapper revised Ultimate Horseman’s rating after that race to 111 which would mean we ran to 96. 

Now, even I would say that 96 was too low but to be given a rating 19 pounds higher?  That is crazy!

The handicapper is a good man and hopefully remarkably prescient. He has obviously used convoluted logic to get Bay of Freedom’s mark as high as possible in the belief that the horse is much better than any mark he can justify (we seem to be paying the penalty for running well at Cheltenham)  In one way I appreciate his vote of confidence and I am sure that we will both be watching his next race hoping that this confidence is not misplaced.      

Before any of that though, we have a job to do: get rid of this ulcer!

Oh, and one more thing: this is going to be a relatively quiet period for Bay of Freedom news so, in the interim, this blog will provide an unbiased and irreverent weekly commentary on events in the racing world.