Saturday, November 04, 2006

"Glue-y Ville" Hosts Breeders Cup: Shoes Stay On

Photo: Therapist Diane Volz of Louisville, a subscriber to Hoofcare & Lameness Journal, helped at least 30 of the Breeders Cup entrees with bruised feet, sore backs, aching legs, and anxiety problems during the week leading up to the races. Photo by Fran Jurga, copyright Hoofcare Publishing.

Adrenalin, anyone? Today's Breeders Cup had thrills and spills and the hoof angles (pun intended) are still pouring in. The biggest story seems to be how many horses had their shoes glued on. But there's more...

First, let's talk about Round Pond and her heartwarming win of the Distaff being marred by the tragedy of the death of Pine Island and the breakdown of Fleet Indian. I am sure that those crashes are being replayed on the evening news tonight around the world. Just last May, Round Pond's trainer Michael Matz was watching from the stands at Pimlico when his star horse, Barbaro, stumbled to a halt on the track in front of him, his fetlock dangling.

But today, Matz was back in the winner's circle where he had stood with Barbaro after the colt's dramatic win of the Kentucky Derby in May. And he was looking over his shoulder at the horse ambulance. Did someone call the screenwriters' guild?

But Round Pond has a hoof story. According to the web site, Round Pound sat out nearly five months this year because of hoof problems. Originally thought to be a foot bruise, the injury didn't clear up, so the filly was shipped to the podiatry unit at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where she was treated by Hoofcare & Lameness Journal consulting editor Scott Morrison DVM and his staff.

"They figured out that Round Pond has very thinly soled feet, and the nails from a standard shoe tend to pinch her feet," explained Round Pond's owner, Delaware car dealer Rick Porter, in the Philadelphia newspaper article. "The answer was to use glue-on shoes, which she used in the Beldame and will wear for the Breeders' Cup."

To read more about Round Pond's roundabout trip to the Breeders Cup, visit

Round Pond, by the way, is a real place; it is one of my favorite little Muscongus Bay towns on the coast of Maine.

Also dipping into the glue were three top horses wearing the Burns Polyflex shoe (

The filly Malibu Mint recently set a Polytrack record at Keeneland in Lexington, KY wearing the shoes; she didn't do quite so well against the colts in the Breeders Cup Sprint today. Gary Mandella's Silent Name in the Mile also wore the shoes, as did Brother Derek, trained by Dan Hendricks, who led for about half of the $5 Million Breeders Cup Classic (powered by Dodge) before fading.

Curtis and Diane Burns currently make the wire-cored urethane shoes themselves; scroll down for a more detailed article about the shoes, deeper in this blog; you can also click on the August archive link button in the right hand column.

Brother Derek, by the way, is usually shoeless; Hendricks prefers to train the colt barefoot. He had farrier/inventor Curtis Burns glue the see-through shoes onto the colt before the Goodwood at Santa Anita, where the horse ran second to Lava Man. The horse continued to train in the shoes, shipped east, and ran in them today.

I haven't checked in with my friends Dan Burke from Farrier Product Distribution and Steve Norman, ace shoer at Churchill to see what sorts of special shoes they whipped up, or saw whipped up, but I will update this story when I hear from Dan. He's in Virginia at Danny Ward's big farrier clinic today--along with everyone else in the farrier world!

Not to be outdone by the farriers, Hoofcare & Lameness subscribers Mimi Porter and Diane Volz have been hard at work all week providing therapy to the horses at Churchill. According to a news story on, Diane has used the Equitonic massager on 30 horses bound for the Cup races today. Since she provides therapy for the Todd Pletcher stable, that would be 17 horses right there. I know Diane will be heartbroken by the injury to Pletcher's Fleet Indian, but it sounds like the filly will recover.

AAEP On Call veterinarians Wayne McIlwraith and Larry Bramlage had a busy day. ESPN seemed to keep a bit more distance from the tragedy than the network sports broadcast team at the Preakness.

(An amazing fact from today's races is that trainer Todd Pletcher sent out 17 horses and did not win a single race. But he scored enough placings to take home almost $2 million in purse money, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Without winning a race. Think about it.)

Finally, the day ended with South American superstar Invasor running down the favorite Bernardini. I don't know what that horse had on his feet, but they worked just fine. I know a little bit about Invasor. Every time I saw him at Saratoga this summer he was sulking in his stall, but his existence here is thanks to Hoofcare & Lameness friend Hassan bin Ali, endurance racing trainer for Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum, and a former bloodstock agent for Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Stud.

Hassan, who is an avid follower of shoeing technology innovations, popped in here one day last August in the middle of a heat wave, which was like a cold day in Dubai. He showed me videos on his cell phone and camera; he came here straight from Uruguay, where he had been buying endurance horses. To show off the sale horses, they galloped them on a paved road for miles, with Hassan following in a car with the windshield wipers flapping back and forth. It was quite a video.

I made a comment about road founder and he laughed. "Oh, and I bought a racehorse, too, while I was down there," he added nonchalantly. "The champion of Uruguay. I think maybe he will win the Breeders Cup."

The next time I saw Hassan was in the winner's circle after the Whitney at Saratoga. And today his impulse buy for the Sheikh won not just a Breeders Cup race, but THE Breeders Cup race, the Classic.

One of the saddest things about the end of the Breeders Cup, after the death of Pine Island, is that so many of the horses will not ship back to Belmont and Santa Anita, or even to Florida. They'll just take a 90-minute van ride to Lexington and their racing shoes will be pulled off forever as they start new careers in the breeding shed and broodmare band.

It was great to see older horse Better Talk Now charge up to second place in the Turf; sadly, 7-year-old Perfect Drift didn't do much in the Classic.

I'd like give a big thanks to all of the horses, and to the people who have worked so hard all year to keep them sound. This year had many fewer horses lost in the final weeks because of foot lameness. Is it the glue? Is it training on the Polytrack at Keeneland? Was it the wet summer up here in the North? I don't know, but racing has been great fun to follow this year, and the fact that they all have four feet means that the odds of me finding a story to tell are probably better than that I will ever cash a winning ticket.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Readers: if you have hoof-related stories from today's Breeders Cup, please send an email to and I'll share it!

This and all content on the Hoof Blog copyright 2006 Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. The Hoof Blog is created by Fran Jurga as an adjunct to Hoofcare & Lameness: Journal of Equine Foot Science. . For more information or to subscribe, please visit or call 978 281 3222 in the USA.