Saturday, December 20, 2008

Video: Update on Blood Test for Thoroughbred Breakdown Risk Markers, Researcher McIlwraith Interviewed

by Fran Jurga | 20 December 2008 |

Click on the screen to launch the video.

"How's his blood?" "Did you check her blood?" Questions like those might be the new mantra of racehorse owners when questioning a trainer before a race.

Colorado State University researcher Dr Wayne McIlwraith is bullish on the reliability--80% accuracy, he claims--of a blood test developed in his Equine Orthropaedic Research Center. This video is a good introduction to the concept of a blood testing protocol in the bigger picture of breakdown prevention.

The blood test will certainly not replace good horsemanship and monitoring of routine soundness and training issues, and there's no indication yet of what the test would cost, but this is a good news video for the holiday season.

Tests like the CSU protocol will do nothing to help accidents like the horrific death of a runaway filly at Aqueduct racetrack in New York last weekend. Nor will it help horses who go down from clipped heels or other stumbling upsets, starting gate mishaps or any number of accident-type situations that can happen in a race.

It's not clear how often racehorses would need to undergo the blood screening, or if McIlwraith would recommended that this test be a requirement for entry in a race. Breakdowns frequently occur during training sessions, although the public only sees the ones broadcast on television.

But I hope that the racing world does embrace this glimmer of hope, that it is found to be predictive, and that this is a legitimate step in the only viable direction left for racing: up. Up with horse welfare, up with safety, up with preserving the excitement and vitality of a great sport.

They should name it the Eight Belles Test. Passing the Eight Belles test would be a good thing.

Click here to download a pdf file of an article explaining more about the test, written by Andrea Caudill. This article appeared in the October 2007 edition of The American Quarter Horse Racing Journal, and is also posted online by the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation.

Click here to download a PDF file of Dr. McIlwraith's recommendations for reform of racing to improve horse safety, as presented to a Congressional subcommittee in June 2008.

Thanks to ZooToo for sharing this video.

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