Figures belie recent spate of bleeding
By ROBIN PARKE
DESPITE two high-profile bleeding attacks on Saturday plus four at the Sha Tin night meeting last month, statistics show that so far this season the percentage of bleeders to horses raced here is one of the best in recent years.
When Nitrogen, winner of the Chinese Club Cup, and quality Australian import Fastabob were both mandatorily retired after bleeding for the second time on Saturday, it once again highlighted a perennial feature of local racing.
But senior vet Keith Watkins, who is conducting an on-going study of bleeding in racehorses, prepared year-end statistics on local bleeders - and things are looking pretty good.
''I did not take into account last season because we only had one meeting in December because of the virus and no horse bled at that meeting.
''For the month of December last year, the percentage of bleeders to horses raced was 1.6 per cent which was identical to December 1991 and better than 1990 when it was 1.7 per cent,'' said Watkins.
Going back further, they were poor years in 1988 and 1989 when the percentage for December shot up to 2.5 in both years. That compared disastrously with the 1.1 per cent in 1987 which is believed to be the best in the past decade.
A number of theories are regularly aired as to why Hong Kong horses bleed but Watkins pointed out yesterday that it was far from a local phenomenon.
''I attended a conference in Canada last year which dealt exclusively with horses bleeding from the lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary haemmorrhage) and it is very much a worldwide thing.
''Basically, we were saying that bleeding, of obviously varying degrees, occurs in virtually all racehorses at some time during their racing careers. Equally clearly, it is much worse in some horses than in others,'' said Watkins.
With sprinter Fastabob likely to continue his racing career in America, the spotlight has been turned locally on the medication Lasix. This is widely held to be of assistance to horses with a tendency to bleed.
But Watkins, who is fully supportive of the medication-free racing which exists here, said there was no definitive proof that Lasix, or under its medical name Furosemide, actually did prevent bleeding.