Thoroughblog will return to news and Woodbine recaps following today’s important post.
VERNE’S BABY 2002-2010
SHAME RUNS DEEP IN GELDING’S DEATH
Sometimes the heart can’t go on.
VERNE’S BABY, a stakes winner, track record setter and popular old guy, dropped dead of an apparent heart attack yesterday morning on the Woodbine sand ring.
He was jogging and getting ready for his 8-year-old campaign.
The big, leggy dark bay son of Whiskey Wisdom had a long and unusual life and to anyone in the industry who understood the business, the odds were very low that this warrior was going to leave the world in a tragic manner.
Veterinarian Dr. Peter Vatcher came to the scene where Verne’s Baby collapsed and said he was dead when he arrived.
The gelding’s body has been sent to the University of Guelph for a post-mortem.
Trainer Vito Armata, who had been given the horse to condition last spring, was trackside when the horse crumpled to the ground.
“I’m so sorry it happened,” said Armata. “He was a good horse.”
Vito’s son Willie Armata, who had another old horse, Very Professional, die of a heart attack while grazing, said he thinks drugs and steroids catch up to older horses.
“Whatever they have had in the years throughout their careers, stuff they have been given in the past, might start to catch up to them.”
Willie trained Verne’s Baby in Fort Erie last season, where the horse was racing for $4,000 and $5,000 claiming.
“Maybe (Verne’s Baby) should have been retired before I got him in Fort Erie, he was starting to shows signs then that he didn’t want to do it.”
Meanwhile, the gelding was all about heart – he won three times last year after a 2 year layoff in which some vets deemed the gelding unsuitable to race.
Bred by George Bigliardi, the gelding took the local racing world by storm, winning six races from 2004 through 2007 and scorching 7 furlongs in 1:20.54 in the Overskate Stakes.
Trained then by Sid Attard, the gelding was delicate with a litany of issues including knee chips and osteoarthritis that eventually led to Bigliardi polling three vets around the world.
The verdict was the same – the horse was not going to make it back to racing.
Unfortunately for the gelding, he was not retired to rest on his laurels which included $305,000 in earnings.
According to a video/CD presentation found here (you can watch the old guy galloping and winning):
Dr. Fred Kahn, president of Meditech and Bioflex laser therapy who had been treating the horse for Bigliardi and Attard, the gelding was given to him.
ACCORDING TO THE VIDEO …Dr. Kahn took over the horse from Bigliardi in lieu of payment for treatment and then somehow managed to get the horse’s registration papers from Bigliardi.
Within 2 years, the gelding was back at the track, being treated by Dennis Potosky and Dr. Kahn.
He returned to the races last April at the allowance level but was continuously well beaten in his races at Woodbine.
It was by the time he landed at the $4,000 claiming level that Verne’s Baby was able to win under jockey Mike Mehak. It was a victory not just for the horse but for Dr. Kahn who was very proud of his student.
But the horse was a far cry from the fellow who was posting 110 and 105 Beyer Speed Figures years ago.
Verne’s Baby raced a lot in 2009 – 3 wins in 16 races including a score at Woodbine for $12,500.
Dr. Kahn, in a number of interviews and phone calls from Thoroughblog last year, insisted the horse was sound and doing well.
Vito Armata, in the video clip mentioned above said “Now he’s like a little kid, he has a great personality now. Before he was just in the wrong hands.”
So, just over a week ago, Verne’s Baby arrived at Woodbine from a winter break and on Saturday, he blazed 3 furlongs in 35 seconds and change in his first workout back.
Two days later, he was dead.
“Nobody is happy about it,” said Dr. Kahn yesterday. “I saw him on Thursday and he was doing so well. And I gather, to my knowledge, you can’t predict these things.”
A series of phone calls to various vets at Woodbine yesterday generally received responses akin to that of a shrug of the shoulders. ‘These things happen’ or ‘it can’t be predicted’ were the prevailing lines.
Certainly, vets wanting to keep their business intact and thriving will not be in a hurry to talk about any kind of longterm uses of drugs in racehorses that eventually, and most definitely, take their toll.
Whether it is steroids, hormones, anti inflammatories or the infamous synthetic EPO that is rumoured to be making the rounds in racing, vets are usually hush-hush about the business.
It was this attitude and a lot of greed and ego by most of the people mentioned in this article that led to the death of Verne’s Baby.
Who is to blame? Everyone. Anyone who didn’t stand up for this horse, all these folks, the vets, and the industry as a whole who allowed him to race.
He may not be munching on the sweet spring grass anymore but the abuse has ended.
For that, I am thankful.
Go in peace old friend.