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Jack Darling's Blog


Make TCO2 Testing Levels Public

Published: January 23, 2018 9:22 am ET

Last Comment: January 29, 2018 8:40 am ET | 12 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

With the recent advent of the Standardbred Racing Integrity and Accountability Initiative, I thought it would be a good time to give some thoughts on TCO2 testing (milkshaking with baking soda) and what can be done to level the playing field for everyone.

Whenever a trainer receives a positive test on TCO2 the suspicion is that this trainer has probably been giving a certain amount of baking soda regularly on race day to get the horses TCO2 levels up as high as they can without quite reaching the level of a positive test. There is an overwhelming consensus in our sport that milkshaking a horse does improve its performance. To the best of my knowledge, a horse has to be tubed (drenched) with baking soda on race day to have an effect (drenching a horse with anything on race day is illegal in Ontario, but that is a subject for another day). The question is, what can we do about it?

My answer would be this. Many horses are tested for TCO2 levels each race night. I would like to see all the results posted for every horse and its trainer so that everyone can see them. The results should be posted at the track and online so that everyone has access. These results would show who if anyone was milkshaking on race day. I think just by posting this publicly would curtail the activity to some degree. The transparency and peer pressure would have some affect but the racetracks themselves can step in and eliminate the problem. If track officials see that a certain horse or trainer has unusually high TCO2 levels, they have the right to call that trainer in and insist that if they want to race at their track, they must have their levels in line with the norm.

I believe that with this policy in place all horsepeople would have the level playing field that we want, at least with regard to TCO2 levels. This policy would also act as a safety net for all trainers and owners as they can see what the natural TCO2 levels are on their horses, as there is a fear among some trainers that certain horses have a naturally high TCO2 level. By seeing these levels posted, we can all feel confident that our horses don't have a naturally high TCO2 count that could push them over the limit.

Jack Darling

The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

January 29, 2018 - 8:40 amIf the rules are spelled out

If the rules are spelled out as to what the # is then that's the #. If you don't like the number then change said #. I'm a bettor not a horseman, so it baffles me as to how this is an issue? If the speed limit is 100 KM/H then the speed limit is 100 KM/H. Much ado about nothing.

January 28, 2018 - 9:11 amI have also followed some

I have also followed some positive tests and could not find a final action. This idea just lets the offender keep racing. If there is a positive - no racing - if appealed, still no racing til hearing over and results posted. Right now it is a laugh.

January 26, 2018 - 1:47 pmWhile your intentions to

Dean Nixon SAID...

While your intentions to inform and open up dialogue are well intended, we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Much of what you’ve said, Jack, is flawed or simply wrong. There are many naturally occurring as well as man made ways to influence TCO2. There is a reason that additional grace is provided to horses on lasix with respect to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood. TCO2 levels can increase or decrease with exercise, illness, hydration, and diet to name a few. Almost every supplement in the tack shop, especially those designed to aid hydration or help with metabolic issues such as rhabdomyolysis. While sodium bicarbonate (a naturally occurring compound used by the body to maintain several biological systems) can raise the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood, so can compounds such as sodium acetate, calcium carbonate, sodium citrate, and potassium citrate to name a few. These are all naturally occurring buffers designed to keep you healthy and alive. All of these substances can be provided to the animal free choice in the feed, parenterally, intervenously, or naso-gastrically.

With respect to your assertion that certain trainers horses may be chronically high NORMAL, the onus should be on the track operator to determine exactly why this is the case and aid the trainer to find a resolution to what you perceive to be a violation, even though the animal is within the allowable limit. That would be akin to telling motorists they cannot use the 400 series highways because their vehicle was found to be travelling routinely in the high 90km/hr range.

In summary, while we all would like integrity in the game, it’s aword that seems to apply differently for different individuals. This has been discussed ad-nauseum on the various horse racing blogs and chat rooms.

January 24, 2018 - 11:50 amTest all horses at the track

John Hill SAID...

Test all horses at the track as they arrive, or having a detention barn (very costly) are the only surefire way to eliminate this problem. Large fines, 3 strikes for any kind of positive and your out would help also, although most courts law of will side with the offender who can afford a good lawyer as we have seen in the past. Probably the cheaters will find a new way to enhance their horses abilities anyway. No more benefit of doubt, if you get a positive that is proof of guilt and you should be suspended until proven otherwise, no more stays of suspension, that just leads to business as usual.

January 23, 2018 - 4:35 pmJack Your suggestions sound

Ted Decker SAID...

Your suggestions sound great but unfortunately they won’t work. There is a threshold why will a higher number work now. I think dealing harshly with violators would help deter this type of behavior, I am and have been tracking positive tests from last year, one from last February and no action has been recorded as of yet. I've sent e-mails to many people into AGCO as well as the minister who owns racing and have only received 2 responses from a member of AGCO with the same response, the cases are under investigation or under appeal. Does it take a year to investigate a positive test? Nothing will change with the current system of dealing with the cheaters. Until the AGCO tightens the rules for these violations and hold these trainers accountable your barking up the wrong tree. Same old same old.

January 23, 2018 - 2:19 pmTCO2 manipulation is and has

chris bush SAID...

TCO2 manipulation is and has always been the biggest threat to integrity facing our industry. Why? It's cheap easy and effective. Worse yet legal. Giving a horse 5-8 points over a normal level is too much latitude. Good luck with the peer pressure angle. It doesn't exist where money and egos are involved or desperation. There are two solutions. Lowering the level or 24 hr D barn. Any good bettor knows who to stay away from when there is a D barn. The change in performance is dramatic. Don't know if it can be done but maybe we need to test for alkalizing agents. If you have excess calcium propionate in your system, you're guilty. Like too much cobalt.

January 23, 2018 - 1:03 pmThis is something that I

This is something that I suggested time and again starting in the early 2000's Jack on many occasions with officials of WEG, the ORC, the name it While I did on ocassion get a conversation going on the merits, many of which you have covered here, it obviously never went anywhere. Make this information available and the handicappers will determine its value for themselves. Best of luck getting some traction on this.

January 23, 2018 - 12:16 pmTest every horse pre-race,

Georg Leber SAID...

Test every horse pre-race, not just a random selection. The selection often makes no sense. The cost is minimal when you consider how much each start already costs an owner.

January 23, 2018 - 12:12 pmSo we already have a test for

Randy Copley SAID...

So we already have a test for TCO2 but we should have another test? Aren't you deemed not to be cheating if you are below the standard the industry has set?

January 23, 2018 - 12:10 pmAll well and good Jack but

Tim Bates SAID...

All well and good Jack but the test is an indicator and not an absolute. Check the science behind it, it is based on statistical probability, and the racing commission assigns guilt based on the test result alone.

The third party option for testing was removed in 2012 at the recommendation of the test lab, so you have no alternative(not to mention the official machine was obsoleted by the manufacturer prior to 2012 and is only used as a conformation test after testing is completed with a different machine)

The lab in Milton offered up a test for pennies a piece to be administered at the track to every horse, but this was rejected.

There are other factors that can affect the TCO2 level in horses and the racing commission dismisses these 100%. OHHA can provide you with information.

All I can say is good luck to anyone who tests high. You can pay the fine and serve the time, or if you have integrity and are principled get out of the business.

January 23, 2018 - 10:29 amVery good idea Jack. Someone

Norm Brunet SAID...

Very good idea Jack. Someone else posted (and thank you) that a horses normal TC02 is around 31 yet the industry allows up to 37. I think that anything that is done will be better then what is done now, which does not seem to curtail the use of drugs.

January 23, 2018 - 10:10 amVery well thought, hoping

Very well thought, hoping those responsible for testing will do just that.

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