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Any pattern of abrupt improvement in horse racing performance can arouse suspicions that a horse is under the influence of some pharmaceutical substance. However, this need not necessarily be the case, and there can be legitimate reasons for improvement in speed timings and trip behavior. Gelding a stallion, for example, will result in better speed timings. Training has obvious and major impacts, and a break from a grueling schedule of horse racing can often prove beneficial for both horse and rider.
Veterinarians may prescribe medicines to treat a horse which interfere with horse racing performance in one way or another. Racing sheets should mention this, and it is a convention to put an asterisk against the name of every horse which is under treatment and entered for an event. Punters should ask specifically about this matter, before making sporting bets if they have doubts. It would be unusual if no horse racing on a particular day has any medicine since it is routine to look after such precious animals with great care. Simulcast wagering networks should also ensure that their customers have information on par with fellow punters on the race track.
There are a number of substances which are banned from horse racing. They give competitors unfair advantages and affect betting odds. They can also damage horse health when used without a genuine therapeutic objective. Stewards generally arrange for testing all horses for as many banned substances as they can, but there are some drugs that can escape routine detection during testing. As technology is always on the move, horse racing needs major ongoing investments to keep testing methods widely available and up to date.
That is why punters should look for trends in which betting odds appear to be out of line with horse racing form and performance at events with high stakes. Stables and trainers who suddenly turn in unexplained results should be investigated, albeit with an open mind and based on hard facts. Allegations do not help the cause of horse racing, and we cannot expect decisive action on the basis of unsubstantiated suspicions.
Fortunately, horse racing does not have the level of doping problems as we read about in some forms of athletics, but there is no substitute for vigilance through comprehensive testing at all events. Transparent and fair horse racing and odds betting are vital for the future of the sport. Major investments in breeding, race tracks and simulcast wagering can produce just returns only if growing numbers of enthusiasts stay with the sport and have confidence in the authorities who regulate events.