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Entering the World of Thoroughbred Horse Racing


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

For Thoroughbreds, entering the world of horse racing might begin at birth or even breeding, but for the youngsters, the first major step begins as a yearling. These steps include learning to be handled, groomed, worked in a round pen, having their feet trimmed, and, most importantly, having a series of radiographs of the bones and major joints to make sure the all-important skeletal structure is growing well. These radiographs of a yearling’s legs have become an essential element of their second year.

Albert Kane, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University, conducted a three-year study that was completed at CSU’s Equine Orthopaedic Research Laboratory. Kane’s peer-reviewed articles document the prevalence of radiographs for yearling Thoroughbreds.

“Radiography in presale examinations of TB yearlings has become standard practice in recent years.” His articles “describe the prevalence and distribution of radiographic changes in the fetlocks, carpi, tarsi, stifles and forefeet of Thoroughbred yearlings in central Kentucky when these joints were examined as part of routine pre- and post sale evaluations.”

According to Scone Equine Hospital, “Since their introduction in 2003, sales x-rays have become an integral and valuable part of Thoroughbred yearling and weanling sales. A set of Sales X-Rays consists of 34 images of the major joints of all four legs. They are taken no earlier than six weeks before the sale and must be in the sales company's repository four days prior to the sale. If a yearling has had invasive surgery, a surgical report must also be submitted.

“Viewing of radiographs is restricted to registered veterinarians and the sales company keeps a record of how many times a horse's radiographs are examined and by whom. The introduction of Sales X-Rays has allowed yearling buyers to know more about the horse they are purchasing, but it is not a guarantee. The interpretation of radiographs is complicated; it requires significant experience…”

On April 10, 2015 veterinarians from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine made a rare farm visit to Cardinal Farms, near Moscow, TN, to take radiographs of two yearling Thoroughbreds. Their regular veterinarian, Dr. Stephen Galloway from Animal Care Hospital, Oakland, TN, was also on hand to handle and tranquilize the colts, as needed. Blair Roy, Farm Manager, has been handling and training the colts – preparing them for their racing future.

The two yearlings, who were the focus of the visit from MSU-CVM, are well bred and will likely go to the September Yearling Sale at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. 

·  Steep, a colt by Unbridled’s Song out of Bellehop
·  Nile Gold, a colt by Pioneer of The Nile out of Harlow Gold

Dr. Cathleen Mochal-King, Assistant Professor, is the primary equine surgeon from MSU-CVM and was accompanied by residents Dr. Kathryn Bass, ambulatory and theriogenology resident, and Dr. Christine Lopp, equine surgery intern.

Dr. Mochal explained the procedure: “We’re doing 32 shots, specific x-rays to rule out any problems that might be corrected by surgery. This is routine for upper grade Thoroughbreds and the x-rays are required for major sales. Surgical survey films are regularly done in the spring on young horses.”

This was the second year of scheduling the x-rays with MSU-CVM, but it is a first for their staff to travel to the farm to provide the digital x-ray service.  The x-rays, performed by Dr. Cate Mochal-King and her team, are to insure there are no growth related issues that need to be addressed. The farm’s farrier, Gary Stevens was also present to trim the horses. Cardinal Farm is the only farm to which this team has traveled. “We don’t travel very much,” Mochal said.

Mochal continued, “Mississippi is not a parimutuel betting state, but Louisiana is. The largest population of Louisiana race horses is racing Quarter Horses. Mississippi has more barrel racers than any other state.”

Cardinal Farm has been involved in Thoroughbred breeding and racing for over 30 years. Originally located in California, the farm was relocated to Tennessee approximately 15 years ago.  The primary focus of the farm has changed over the years, with racing being in the forefront in the early years and then breeding taking the lead in the most recent past.  The farm is now placing focus on both breeding and racing.

The farm has presented yearlings and two-year-olds at sales such as Ocala Breeders Sale in Florida, Barretts in California, and most frequently at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in Lexington, Kentucky.  The sale of the yearlings is managed by the farm’s bloodstock agent, Havens Bloodstock Agency.

The farm breeds its mares exclusively to Kentucky based stallions. The farm has produced foals by Tale Of The Cat, Awesome Again, Curlin, Pioneerof The Nile, Candy Ride, and others.

The farm currently has four broodmares who are in Lexington, Kentucky at Woodstock Farm where they will foal and be bred for the 2015 Season. Once confirmed in-foal the mares and their foals will return to Cardinal Farm. The foals stay at the farm until they are either sent to the yearling sales or placed into training. The broodmares return to Kentucky in December for foaling and breeding. The farm uses Dr. Colin Anderson for all reproduction related veterinary matters.

Cardinal Farm’s broodmares include:

·         She’s The General by General Meeting (Seattle Slew-Alydar’s Promise, by Alydar)
·         Cheryl’s Sister by Dixieland Band (Northern Dancer-Mississippi Mud, by Delta Judge)
·         Bellehop by Hennessy (Storm Cat-Island Kitty, by Hawaii)
·         Harlow Gold by Orientate (Mt. Livermore-Dream Team, by Cox’s Ridge)

The farm also has three 2 year olds in training at Webb Carroll Training Center in South Carolina:

·         Yes Again a filly by Awesome Again out of Cheryl’s Sister
·         Troth a colt by Broken Vow out of Harlow Gold
·         Top Mention a colt by Congrats out of Bellehop

The farm has a 3-year-old colt, Compass Stone by Birdstone out of Harlow Gold, in training with Mike Stidham Racing at Arlington Park, Chicago, IL.

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