The Thoroughbred Times has a story today regarding the continuing investigation into the incident with Life At Ten prior to this year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.(Life At Ten investigation includes extensive testing, interviews)
Not to belittle the investigation into the Life At Ten incident at this year's Breeders' Cup, but do we really need four months of interviews to come up with a way to avoid an incident like that in the future? I have no doubt those involved are doing their best to determine what happened and to recommend solutions as bet they can. At the same time, it seems pretty simple what changes need to be put in place in order to make sure something like this doesn't happen again, and that is simply have a track official or vet ask each trainer and each jockey two questions prior to the race:
1. "Are you comfortable with the current physical and mental state of your horse?"
2 "Have you observed anything out of the ordinary that you believe indicates that this animal should not race today?"
If those two questions had been asked to both Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez prior to the Ladies' Classic, and they had answered in the same manner that they told the TV audience, Life At Ten would have (or should have) been scratched.
Sometimes I think we're trying to look for an overly complex solution to problems regardless if other remedies are present. Both Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez stated that they had reservations about the condition of Life At Ten prior to the start of the race. (putting aside the issue that neither of them informed track officials, something I consider the gravest error in this whole incident). Had there been a standard protocol in place to question the trainer and jockey prior to loading the field into the gate (combined with observations by on-track officials and vets), would we be where we are today? We might but only if both the trainer and the jockey chose not to divulge their apprehensions to race officials.
The talk about testing, both pre and post-race, is important and I'm glad the investigation is taking a broad look at all aspects of safety and integrity issues. But doesn't it seem like this situation could have been avoided had either of the human connections simply made their concerns noted to the proper authorities. And again, statements to ESPN doesn't cut it - ESPN isn't a track official, nor are they vets.
There's an easy solution to the situation that occurred with Life At Ten: stick a track official in the paddock who, once the horses are saddled and led around the ring, asks each trainer the questions I outlined above. Then, after the horses have warmed up on the track and are preparing to enter the gate, ask those same questions to the each jockey. A negative response in either case should result in the scratch of the horse in question. Case closed.