Were horseplayers ripped off last Saturday in the Santa Anita Handicap? More important, did a horse start in a race that should never have been allowed to pass a vet inspection?
Simple answer: Maybe. Maybe not.
The case is Effinex, the top choice to win The Santa Anita Handicap and the problem was hives. Really bad ones. Effinex, an East Coast invader trained by an incredible horseman, Jimmy Jerkens, finished third in the Big Cap on Saturday, but it was what happened prior to the race that was the issue.
Renowned equine photographer Barbara Livingston of the Daily Racing Form has an amazing picture of Effinex in the saddling ring on Big Cap day here:
From a physicality standpoint, I observed another strange thing about Effinex: he urinated in the saddling ring. Think about it: how many times have you seen a horse pee while all saddled up on the way to the race. Water is withheld from horses hours before a race, to the point where one old school way to insure a poor performance in a horse was to let it drink all it wanted before it ran. Let me be clear — I’m not saying that happened in this case in any way.
Here are some facts about hives in horses. You decide what to make of them in Effinex’s case:
1) Hives (medical term urticaria) – very similar to the hives humans get from an internal or external allergen. But there are some big differences in how it is experienced in horses, at least from what we can tell. It doesn’t seem to be as itchy for horses as it is for us, at least not usually, and Effinex didn’t show any signs of severe itching. He wasn’t trying to desperately scratch at thehives the way you and I might.