It's been an eventful year to say the least, and Wednesday morning, the crew of the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland wrapped up the biggest stories of 2020 and looked forward to the promise of a new year with an assist from trainer Brendan Walsh. Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week for the second time, Walsh talked about the highly-anticipated return of barn star Maxfield (Street Sense), what his hopes are for the implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and trainees he's excited about sending out in 2021.
Maxfield, a blowout victor of the 2019 GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity, missed the rest of his 2-year-old season with an ankle injury and, after a victory in the GIII Matt Winn S. in his sophomore debut, had to be taken off the GI Kentucky Derby trail soon after with a condylar fracture. Returning to training in late September, he's set to run for just the fourth time in Saturday's Tenacious S. at Fair Grounds.
Asked about how he manages the mental toll of conditioning the talented but oft-injured Maxfield, Walsh said, “It's been disappointing and frustrating each time [he's gotten hurt], but the saving grace of it all is the fact that the horse could come back from when he's gotten inured. There was always something in the future. As far as fractures go, it was non-displaced and a pretty easy fix. I've had lots of horses with fractures like this and the recovery rate is actually very high for them. So yeah, it was disappointing, especially this year, because it meant missing a potential chance for the Derby, but we always knew that eventually we were going to get another crack at it late in the game.”
The conversation turned to the expected passage of the HISA in 2021 and how important it would be to establish the kind of centralized regulatory body that the Irish-born Walsh dealt with in the British Horseracing Authority.
“I think we've made big, big leaps forward this year,” he said. “Last time I was on the show, we touched on this and I wasn't totally confident about it happening. But it looks now like there's a very good chance it will happen. I think it's highly essential that it happens for racing here. We've made a lot of advances in various states with medication policies, etc. but it's very important to have a uniform policy all over the country. It's going to make it easier on everybody because people will have a clearer picture on medications we are and aren't allowed to use. That's what we'd all like to have.”
Elsewhere on the show, the writers assessed where the industry stands with its most pressing issues such as the FBI indictments, HISA, equine safety and handle trends and how they expect and want those stories to develop in 2021. In the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, they talked about the demise of greyhound racing and how horse racing's powers that be may be finally acting just in time to save their industry. Then they discussed what horses they're most looking forward to seeing next year and relived the best of host Joe Bianca's 2020 rants. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version.