Two days after writing an Op-Ed for the TDN calling for a ban of Clenbuterol, trainer Mark Casse continued his campaign against the use of the drug in the Thoroughbred racing industry when appearing as the Green Group Guest of the Week on this week’s TDN Writers’ Room podcast. The Writers’ Room podcast is sponsored by Keeneland.
Casse said he believed that numerous trainers are abusing Clenbuterol because it can act like a steroid and is therefore a performance-enhancing drug. He called trainers that abuse Clenbuterol the “Lance Armstrongs of our game” and said competing against them can be like “going to a gunfight with a knife.”
“Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that training horses is not rocket science,” he said. “The way it’s supposed to work is the guy that has the best horse brings his horse into the race the best he can. And he’s supposed to be the one that wins. But that’s not what’s happening a lot of times. And we have so many ways to judge; we have the Beyers, we have Thoro-Graph numbers, we have Ragozin numbers. We have a pretty good idea what are the horses are supposed to do and how they’re supposed to perform. And when you see somebody get a new horse, and then a month or two later, you see this drastic change. Well, that’s fine if it happens once, and maybe if it happens twice. But when it happens time after time after time, there’s a problem.”
Asked what percentage of dramatic form reversals–positive and negative–he felt were due to Clenbuterol abuse, he answered, “Ninety-five percent.”
Casse remembered losing a horse via the claim and then witnessing its transformation for its new barn.
“I had a horse claimed from me three or four years ago and when we lost him he was like a board,” Casse said. “There was no width to him. Three months go by and my assistant and I are in New York and saw the horse. We both looked at each other. He looked like Ben Johnson, the Olympic runner that was disqualified. He looked like a different horse. So that’s what’s so crazy about it. We’re not allowing anabolic steroids. Why are we allowing Clenbuterol?”
Casse said that he decided to speak out because he was fed up and believes he can spur the industry to change by eliminating what he sees as a dangerous drug.
“This is not just occurring at the racetrack,” he said “This is occurring early on. There are too many weanlings and yearlings that are getting this drug. It changes the structure of the bone. Especially over the last few years, we’re getting horses home from the yearling sales and I can’t even break them. We’ll ride them around in a paddock for two weeks and they’ll be sore. It’s ridiculous.”
Clenbuterol is legal in most racing jurisdictions so long as it is withdrawn within a set time frame before a race. Casse wants a complete ban of the drug.
“It has to be zero tolerance,” he said.
Since he wrote the op/ed in the TDN, he said that people around the world had reached out to him to express their support. “The response has been unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve gotten calls from the biggest in the game. I’ve gotten calls from Japan, from Dubai, from England, from Ireland. So this is an easy fix and we need to fix it ASAP.
“I’m very fortunate. This game has been extremely, extremely good to me. It was extremely good to my father and I’m hoping that it’s going to be extremely good to Norman. But I feel like I’m in the point of my life where I have to give back. I have to give back for all the things that the horse racing has given to me and I’m trying to help save it. We see all these breakdowns, and when you read the studies and see you are increasing muscle mass and decreasing bone density, how is that not a formula for disaster?”
Also on this week’s podcast, during the News of the Week segment sponsored by West Point Thoroughbreds, the writers weighed in on the win by Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) in the Saudi Cup and the fines and suspension handed down to Mike Smith for excessive use of the whip in the race. They also talked about the stunning decision made by Kiaran McLaughlin to leave training to become the agent for jockey Luis Saez.