If you're finding the so-called mucus issue a shade confusing, take heart - you are not alone. The minds of many of racing's most experienced professionals are being challenged by the mucus conundrum, too. And while the mucus continues to work its way to the top, a definitive answer has not. There is also a strong divergence of opinion about what caused the failures of two of Tony Cruz's odds-on favourites over the past two weeks. Legionnaire, in a race on the all-weather track, went from dirt champ to dusty chump on March 29, finishing at the tail of the field after failing to travel for a single stride in the Class Three event. It was a similar story with $16 favourite Dream Horse on the weekend. The gelding was in trouble after just 200 metres and, like Legionnaire, checked in at the opposite end of the field to the one punters generally expected. Cruz, the reigning champion trainer, has no doubt that excessive mucus in the lungs and trachea - a fluid created by the body in response to environmental aggravation or allergy - has caused the problem. As far as the trainer is concerned, he says he did everything in his power to ensure that the horses were mucus-free and fit for competition. He says that when the horses have been subjected to the cardio-vascular pressure of a race, the mucus has then come up and interfered with the horse's breathing and the free exchange of oxygen in the lungs. In Dream Horse's case, Cruz adds, the pressures of the mucus interference in the breathing process has caused a level-four blood in trachea finding - the top end of the scale and as serious as it gets before a horse is formally deemed a bleeder and barred for three months. The Jockey Club's veterinary department and their boss, executive director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, are not so sure. They argue that Legionnaire and Dream Horse were 'gone' a long time before the real pressure on a horse's cardio-vascular system begins - in the home straight. In Dream Horse's case, he was beaten a mere furlong after the start. And it's difficult not to accept as valid their belief that a displaced soft palate, rather than a level-two mucus finding, was more likely to have caused the bursting of blood vessels in the lungs. However, there's little to be gained by a further micro-dissection of Dream Horse's health, or Legionnaire's for that matter. The reality seems to be that there is an environmental issue affecting the health of the horses at Sha Tin and that horses in competition are turning up with positive mucus readings significantly more than in other jurisdictions. The bigger issue is about the legitimate use of therapeutic drugs and the tailoring of a more modern approach to the use of preventive medications. As retired champion trainer Ivan Allan said so eloquently, the line between illicit drugs and legitimate medicine has become unnecessarily blurred. Allan puts the blame squarely at the desk of Dr Keith Watkins, the Jockey Club's long-serving Head of Veterinary Regulation & International Liaison. Allan's battles with Watkins are of legendary proportions, and there's no doubt plenty of ill-will between the pair, but that shouldn't prevent progressive ideas being accepted just because they are supported by Allan. Training thoroughbreds and keeping them in peak physical condition is not a straightforward thing. All over the world, researchers are coming up with new ideas, new preparations and medicinal aids to help keep horses sound and minimise the wastage of horses. There should only be one bottom line: that the horse is sufficiently sound and well to compete to the best of its ability, 100 per cent drug-free, on race day and give confidence to the punters who bet an average of $86 million per race on the sport in Hong Kong. Anything that helps owners, trainers and the Jockey Club to achieve that goal is worth a serious look - whether it was part of policy in the past or not.