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Nasal strips for horses nothing to sneeze at

November 13, 1999|By LARRY YANOS

Over the years, thoroughbred horse trainers have tried a variety of methods to improve the performance of their runners.

State-regulated drugs such as lasix and bute are frequently used in an attempt to get a throroughbred to the winner's circle, and items such as blinkers and shadow rolls are the most common equipment changes.

Now, the trainers have a new outlet.

CNS Inc., which sells Breathe Right nasal strips popularized by professional athletes, is marketing a Flair equine nasal strip.

Three winners in last Saturday's Breeders' Cup races at Gulfstream Park (including the $4 million Classic champion Cat Thief) used the product. It may be pointed out, though, that many losers also carried similar equipment.

Florida is among the states currently allowing trainers to use the product on thoroughbred horses.

It is allowed in West Virginia but banned in Maryland.

Dick Watson, president of the Charles Town Division Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said, "I haven't seen too many horses here racing with the nasal strip but I'm sure every trainer in the country is giving it some thought after seeing the Breeders Cup last week."

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Watson added, "I don't see where the nasal strip can hurt a horse. I see jockeys wearing them. I don't see that they do any good but if they make them feel better, OK."

Last Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Cat Thief ($41.20), Cash Run ($67) and Anees ($62.60) all used nasal strips as did several other Breeders' Cup horses.

Trainer Wayne Lukas saddled Cat Thief and Cash Run and says the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the latest innovation.

"We have to be careful not to give the nose strips too much credit," Lukas said. "We need to do some research. I think (jockey) Pat Day - who also wore a nasal strip - and a very good horse won the race."

According to an Associated Press story, CNS chairman and chief executive Daniel Cohen said "the equine nasal strip is not going to turn every horse into a Secretariat but a product such as this will help the horse perform to its maximum ability."

The strip for humans looks like a small Band-Aid over the bridge of the nose. The nasal strip for horses is much larger - about 4 by 6 inches - but is "light as a feather" and does not distract the horses, Cohen said.

Going, going, gone

At one time, there was $2.2 million in the horsemen's account at the Charles Town Races.

Now, the group is in the red.

"We've gone from $2.2 million the first of May to an overpayment (owing track management)," said Watson, who cited a few examples for the drastic change of figures.

"We are running for a little over $80,000 per day (purse structure) and our revenues from simulcasting, live handle and video lottery are not keeping up," Watson said. "I was hoping things would have improved after Labor Day when we went from a five-day-a-week to a four-day-a-week racing schedule. This is a traditional slow time of the year but it's been a little slower than expected."

Management and horsemen figured one less day and the addition of the coin drop video lottery machines would help offset the traditional slow time of the year.

"We've seen delays with the startup of the coin drop machines and now they're talking about early December," Watson said. "That will make a difference. A few adjustments we have made now is to return to a 9-race card on Fridays and Saturdays and eliminate a $25,000 stakes race in December for two-year-olds."

Watson says the reduction of a race will save about $7,000 to 8,000 per day.

"It will make it more difficult to get horses into a race, but we are trying to contain overpayment as much as we can," Watson said. "By eliminating some races, we will help the overpayment situation."

Horsemen and management would like more days like last Saturday.

The Charles Town Races showed a $1,020,135 overall handle on Breeders' Cup Day - its second million dollar day of the year.

"We also handled over $1 million on Kentucky Derby Day in May," Watson said. "Last Saturday, we took in $192,894 on track, $232,504 with the exporting of our live signal and $595,737 on the merge pool simulcasts.

And the winner ...

Peter Stepp Jr. of Middletown, Md., won the $800 top prize in a special Breeders' Cup Handicapping Contest last Saturday at the Charles Town Races.

Stepp scored more than half of his 144 points when Cash Run ($67) won in the Breeders' Cup Juvenille Fillies race. He padded his total when longshots Heritage of Gold (Distaff), Zomaradah (Filly & Mare Turf) and Golden Missile (Classic) finished in the money.

According to Chales Town Races publicity director Frank Carulli, a full field of 200 entered the contest and helped contribute to a record day of wagering.

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