Friday, June 6, 2008

WHY THINGS ARE

...an ongoing series where we explain stuff.

There has been much discussion in and around horse racing about how to prevent catastrophic injuries and improve the sport via the health and safety of the horses.

A lot of conversation is about how horses are bred and what needs to be changed. Here’s a great example of one of the problems: In breeding.

As breeders world wide have focused on the most successful sire lines – Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer – the gene pool has shrunk. Both of those stallions descend from the same male line. Many other “out crosses” have disappeared over the years as these two sire lines have dominated racing.

Subsequently, like your cousins in West Virginia (Mr. Cheney! – just kidding), inbreeding causes some physical deterioration (not to mention that spooky banjo music) which is the reason horses are more fragile than they were one hundred years ago.

Check out these three specimens…

The pic above is of imported French sire Teddy, and the first Triple Crown winner Sir Barton (right), whose bloodlines have all but disappeared over the years. While all three horses ultimately trace back to the same foundation sire - Eclipse - check out what 90 years of inbreeding will do for you. Note Teddy and Sir Barton’s legs, what we in the biz call “substance.” In laymen’s terms the size and shape of the bones in the legs. They actually have leg bones, not little wispy pool cues or chicken legs or whatever you want to call him.

Simply put, horses of that bygone era had smaller upper bodies and stouter legs. Although, we gotta admit our boy Teddy (who stood in Virginia) was not exactly a looker!

Now check out the photo of Big Brown. His upper body is massive and his legs…well...they’re kinda skinny. Read that: fragile.

Especially, the cannon bone (the bone up front between the knee and the ankle) and the pastern bone (the angled one between the ankle and hoof) where so many injuries now occur. Note how much shorter the pasterns are on the first two as compared to Big Brown. Less bone surface is good. If you don't believe us, ask your physics teacher.

And that is exactly what happens when close relative swap fluids for a hundred years. Right, Bobby?

Solution: A world war in South America. After the first two world wars, a lot of European Thoroughbreds ended up in the good old U.S. of A. This added some stoutness through various out crosses. Now many of the European and Japanese horses are closely related to their American cousins so opening up another can of whoop ass on France, England or the Rising Sun boys isn’t gonna solve the problem.

Now down in South America they have some bigger stouter horses with slightly different bloodlines. Quick call the White House, there is still time for one more war!

Maybe we’ll find some oil while we’re at it…

(Photos by Thoroughbred Heritage, AP and Getty Images)

BIG BROWN HOOF

In spite of what you may have heard, the quarter crack in Big Brown’s front hoof is in NO WAY life threatening. Unless of course, you could die from a split fingernail or a hangnail. So all you PETA types lighten up.

Yes, he could break a bone with his next step, but his hoof crack isn’t gonna get him. It may slow him down, which would suck, but…

So what’s the deal. Quarter cracks are pretty common in big horses and Big is big. It is typically repaired with a fiberglass patch or a metal staple/suture which is exactly what has happened here – a combination of both.

Big Brown’s blacksmith/farrier/horse shoer is a Canadian fellow named Ian McKinlay who obviously knows what he’s doing. He has been working on Big Brown for some time and he has custom fit and designed the padded shoe he has worn since the Florida Derby.

Big Brown, who is undefeated, is therefore undefeated wearing Mr. McKinlay’s special horse shoe. Take that, Dr. Scholls.

Having done this for many years, McKinlay saw it coming, so he has had a plan in place for some time to deal with Big’s not-so-good feet.

Enter the “Yasha” shoe, named after McKinlay’s best friend, which has a red, firm polyurethane pad that wraps around the front edge of the hoof and a softer black pad on the inside to absorb concussion.

Then this little bit of equine shoe technology is glued on (as many racing shoes now are) so there is no issue of nails starting, or exacerbating, new or existing cracks.

As good luck would have it, McKinlay’s done this before. In 1997, he patched up Touch Gold who suffered a bad quarter crack when he stumbled at the start of the Preakness. McKinlay worked his magic, and Touch Gold went out and ran down Silver Charm to win the Belmont and thwart yet another Triple Crown bid.

Hopefully, his horse will do the thwarting this weekend.


(Photos courtesy of the Blood-Horse)

AS MEATLOAF ONCE SAID…

Two out of three ain’t bad…

Here are the recent Triple Crown near misses...

Twenty horses have come up short in their bid to win the Triple Crown, including Smarty Jones (right), in 2006 the sixth horse in eight years to enter the Belmont with a Triple Crown shot. Smarty Jones had won the Preakness by a record 11 1/2 lengths and led the Belmont by more than a length with a furlong to go, but suffered his first ever loss at the hands of a 36-1 long shot, Birdstone (left).
(Photo: Bill Frakes/SI)
Funny Cide (top right corner) became the first gelding to win the Derby since 1929 and ran away with the Preakness by 9 3/4 lengths, but slipped to third place on a wet Belmont track when jockey Jose Santos ran him along the rail, the muddiest part of the track.

(Photo Bill Frakes/SI)






After a four-length, wire-to-wire Derby win and a close victory at the Preakness, War Emblem (middle) quickly lost his Triple Crown chances by stumbling out of the Belmont gate. Though the horse came back to take the lead late in the race, he faded into eight place on the back stretch -- the worst Belmont finish for any winner of the first two Triple Crown legs.

(Photo: Bill Frakes/SI)


In 1998, Real Quiet (right) had held off charges from Victory Gallop (left) in both the Derby and Preakness, but Bob Baffert's second straight Triple Crown contender lost a six-length lead in the stretch in a photo finish.

In 1999, Charismatic was the third straight horse with a chance at the Triple Crown, but lost the lead in the final furlong after injuring his leg.

(Photo: Bill Frakes/SI)


"He will win the Triple Crown, I guarantee it," jockey Gary Stevens said of Silver Charm (right) in 1997 after winning the first two legs by a head and a nose, respectively. Into the Belmont homestretch, the guarantee looked good, but Touch Gold (with a patched quarter crack) ran down Silver Charm and won by a half-length.

Photo: AP

PICTURE OF THE DAY

BIG TIME...Big Brown, ridden by exercise trainer Michelle Nevin runs through a workout at Belmont Park Race Track on June 3, 2008 in Elmont, New York.
Look familiar?


(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

BEFORE THERE WAS BIG BROWN...

...there was Big Red.

Here are a few shots from Virginia-bred Secretariat's Triple Crown in 1973.




























DRAFT ME: I'M ONLY HURT A LITTLE

An MRI exam on North Carolina forward Danny Green's injured left elbow revealed a hairline fracture, his dad, Danny Green Sr., said Monday. But the junior will go forward with individual workouts to judge whether he wants to remain in the NBA Draft.

"He's sore," Green Sr. said. "But he's a tough kid. I asked him if he wanted to relax and just go back to school, ... but he said he wants to continue."

Green, who was already playing on a sore ankle, injured his elbow while attempting a dunk at the NBA pre-draft camp late last week in Orlando, Fla. A previous MRI exam came back negative on the ankle, Green Sr. said, then another MRI exam on Saturday on the elbow revealed the hairline fracture.

Green, one of the top sixth men in the country last season, has workouts scheduled with Toronto, Cleveland, Washington, San Antonio and Chicago, his dad said. His last workout is scheduled for June 13, so it won't be until near the actual deadline for early entries to withdraw from the draft -- June 16 -- that Green will decide whether to return to school. Green has said he'll likely stay in the draft if he thinks he will get a guaranteed contract.

Sophomore teammates Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington are also going through individual workouts.

"He's having a great experience," Green Sr. said of his son. "Roy [Williams, UNC's coach] has been keeping in contact with him, ... and Danny's just been playing."

BIG M(ACC)S

North Carolina still is loading up on elite basketball talent, and other ACC schools are getting into the act as well.
As summer camps for prospects get into full swing in June, ACC basketball fans have good recruiting news on the heels of three consecutive largely forgettable NCAA tournaments.

One-third of the 24 McDonald's All-Americans in the Class of 2008 are headed to ACC schools. In the Class of 2009, six of scout.com's top 20 players have committed to schools. Four of them have chosen ACC schools.

"I think the ACC is really from my perspective, the number one conference in America in recruiting success right now," said All-Star Sports analyst Bob Gibbons. " ... It bodes well for the future of the league."

Over the past three years, the ACC has had just one Final Four participant and an NCAA tournament winning percentage (.559, 19-15) lower than those of the SEC, Big 12, Pac-10 and Big East. But that hasn't hindered recruiting.

North Carolina has three McDonald's All-Americans entering school in the fall and two top-20 commitments for 2009, according to scout.com. Other ACC schools such as Wake Forest, Florida State and Virginia that don't routinely land elite prospects also have McDonald's All-Americans coming. Clemson has a top-20 commitment for 2009 in Milton Jennings.

"It strengthens the league in a big way," said scout.com analyst Dave Telep, "and you've got to include Miami in there, too, because (with DeQuan Jones) they popped their first top-25 recruit since Darius Rice (in 2000)."
Conference Number
ACC 8
Pac-10 5
Big East 4
SEC 2
Big Ten 2
Big 12 1
Conference USA 1
WAC 1

S.S. TURTLE TAKING ON WATER

According to Washington Post staff writer, Eric Prisbell, Gus Gilchrist, a 6-foot-9 center who was expected to have a major impact on the Maryland men's basketball team next season, has been granted his release to transfer, marking the latest and most significant setback for the Terrapins this offseason.

Gilchrist, who enrolled at Maryland in January, was to have 2 1/2 years of eligibility beginning in December. But Gilchrist decided he is willing to sit out the 2008-09 season, as NCAA transfer rules require, so he could have four years of eligibility remaining once he becomes eligible at another school, according to his trainer, Terrelle Woody.

"The difference is that if he sits out the whole year, he still comes back with four years of eligibility" in the fall of 2009, Woody said. "At Maryland, it would be [2 1/2 ] years of eligibility. He is a young kid so he needs his opportunity to play four years of college basketball."

Gilchrist, who originally signed with Virginia Tech, was required to sit out a year before he was eligible at Maryland because of ACC intra-conference transfer rules. Maryland filed one appeal with the ACC in November, and Woody said another was filed with the conference in April. Both were unsuccessful.

"I would like to thank Coach Williams and the basketball staff at Maryland for all of their support and attempts in appealing this process," Gilchrist said in a statement. "I wish them the best in the future."

Gilchrist, who attended Progressive Christian Academy in Temple Hills, was expected to be a major contributor in Maryland's front court after the graduation of seniors James Gist and Bambale Osby. Maryland's back court also took a hit last month when recruit Tyree Evans, a heralded guard with a history of legal troubles, was granted his release.

"Coach Williams was the reason Gus came to the school," Woody said. "He has kept his word in every situation. I really thank Coach Williams for helping Gus through everything this year because it has been very hard for him."

(Top photo by Richard A. Lipski -- The Washington Post)

FOUR ACC TEAMS IN SUPER REGIONALS

The eight Super-Regional hosts were announced today by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee. Three ACC teams are among the eight hosts - Miami, North Carolina and Florida State. NC State is the league's fourth participant, but the Wolfpack will travel to Athens, Ga. for its Super Regional.

A minimum of 45 hours of super-regional television will be provided by family of ESPN channels, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Consult local listings for specific games shown in each area of the country. As many as 15 national broadcast windows could appear on the three ESPN networks from June 6-9.

ND AD GOES TO DUKE

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White was named to the same position at Duke, the Blue Devils announced Saturday.

His resume has Duke written all over it. While at Notre Dame the Fighting Irish Lassies won National Championships in women's basketball in 2001, and men's and women's combined fencing in 2003 and '05.

What he said: "I'm really excited about the challenges facing Duke athletics, passionately excited," White told ESPN.com Saturday afternoon.

What he meant: “I’m marginally entertained by the prospect of answering to Coach Krzcnvbsd4ski all the damn time, but the pay raise was sweet and it’s damn cold in South Bend.”

Terms of a deal were not disclosed. The appointment is subject to approval of the university's board of trustees.

(Photo by AP Photos/Joe Raymond)

"FOREGONE CONCLUSION"

Way back in 1981 when Virginia-bred Pleasant Colony (born at Buckland Farm, Gainesville, VA) made his bid for the Triple Crown, his trainer Johnny P. Campo was considered quite confident, if not downright brash. Mr. Campo wait at the bar...

According to ESPN/AP, Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. held nothing back recently, saying it's a "foregone conclusion" his horse will win the Triple Crown.

What's more, he insists that Smarty Jones, the last horse to try for racing's biggest prize, lost the Belmont Stakes because his connections "were not smart."

Asked if he was getting nervous in the days before Big Brown's attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978, Dutrow seemed even more emboldened.

"I feel that he will do it," he said Thursday during the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's pre-Belmont conference call. "I feel like it's actually a foregone conclusion. To me, I just see the horses he's in with and I see our horse so I expect him to win this race.

"I know that when that day actually does come, and if our horse is in good shape, it will be the most exciting, thrilling moment of my life. So I just ... I know that that's coming, but right now I'm just staying involved with our horse and what we think is best to get him there the right way and it keeps us plenty busy.

Big Brown missed three days of training this week with a slight crack on the inside of his left front hoof, but Dutrow says it won't affect the unbeaten colt in the 1½-mile Belmont on June 7.

"I can't imagine what I'm going to feel like when they turn for home," he said. "I just can't imagine. I know that it's going to be a beautiful picture for us. I know our horse is just ... he's just in a zone and I see his competition, that turning for home something is going to come over the crowd. So, I can't wait."

He discounted the chances of unbeaten Casino Drive (pictured right), who won the Peter Pan Stakes by 5¾ lengths and is considered Big Brown's top challenger despite just two career starts. Japanese owned Casino Drive has a brother and a sister who have both won the Belmont...

"The Japanese horse has so much to prove," he said. "I don't know if he's on the top of his game training [at Belmont]. I would not depend on this horse for second [place]."

When asked if he thought any of Big Brown's rivals might be out to hinder his colt's attempt rather than trying to win, he said: "I just can't imagine that anybody would go do something stupid just to keep us from winning the race."

(Dutrow photo by AP Photo/Mary Altaffer , Casino Drive photo by AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, Big Brown photo by AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

PICTURE OF THE DAY

YES, WE LOVE CRAZY PEOPLE...Yves Rossy, known as the 'Fusion Man,' flies with a jet-powered single wing over the Alps in Bex, Switzerland.

Some people go fishing on their day off. Yves Rossy likes to jump out of a small plane with a pair of jet-powered wings and perform figure eights above the Swiss Alps.

Crazy People Hall of Fame automatic bid.

(Photo by AP/Anja Niedringhaus)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 2

MORE CRAZY PEOPLE...Swiss wing-suit flyer Ueli Gegenschatz jumped out of a plane 14,763 feet in the air and then flew unaided 10.9 miles over Galway Bay, Ireland reaching an average speed of 155 mph on June 3.

He landed after 5 minutes 45 seconds. This is believed to be a new record.


Hmmm...record for what?





(Photo by AP/Julien Boule)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 3

A GOOD AMPHIBIAN SPOILED...Jacob Smith, 16, races his frog "Skeeter Eater" to a first place finish at the Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee in Angels Camp, Calif.

(Photo by AP/Victor J. Blue)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 4

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT...? Austin Clow, of Melba, Idaho, tries to wrestle a steer to the ground during the Idaho District II High School Rodeo at the Caldwell Night Rodeo grounds in Caldwell, Idaho.

Clow was awarded a "no time" as the steer outfought the cowboy within the time limit. Basically, that's a "win" for the steer.

Clow is currently being recruited by Al Groh.


(Photo by AP/Charlie Litchfield)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 5

TRYOUTS FOR THE PBA...A parrot slam-dunks during a performance at the Laohutan Ocean Park in Dalian, a port city in northeast China's Liaoning province, on May 2.

Rumor has it UVA is recruiting this particular bird.


(Photo by AP/Ren Yong)

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