The damage cobalt can do to a racehorse   2 comments

The damage cobalt can do to a racehorse

July 22, 2015 – 4:59PM
Glen Boss rides Midsummer Sun to victory at Caulfield in 2013.Glen Boss rides Midsummer Sun to victory at Caulfield in 2013. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

High doses of cobalt chloride being administered to racehorses has been linked with the crippling hoof disease laminitis, according to the latest study conducted on the substance’s effect on racehorses.

Already known to be highly toxic when given to horses at excessive levels and causing side-effects such as “shaking, trembling and sweating up”, researchers from the University of Surrey have now suggested high amounts of cobalt, which has to be given in a compound form, can trigger laminitis after a paper was published last month.

The hoof ailment has been known in more recent times to cause the death of Black Caviar’s unraced $5 million half-brother “Jimmy”, the most expensive yearling ever sold in the southern hemisphere.

Damage to other load-bearing tissue is also “potentially possible” according to the research while leading vets have suggested the administration of cobalt in high doses to equine animals is akin to animal cruelty.

It is the latest side-effect of unscrupulous use of cobalt, which was said to have caused Gosford Cup winner Midsummer Sun to be visibly distressed after being administered the substance in evidence tendered by trainer Sam Kavanagh to an ongoing Racing NSW inquiry.

The University of Surrey study also panned suggestions cobalt has an effect on the performance of human athletes and racehorses, despite theories it had an EPO-like boost in maximising the production of red blood cells when given at excessive levels.

Researchers cited a recent study which intravenously administered cobalt to 18 racehorses, claiming a single dose had “no effect on EPO concentrations, red blood cell parameters or heart rate in any of the horses studied”.

It did claim anecdotal evidence from laboratory studies on other animals may have spurred a demand from trainers for cobalt, which was suggested to have the same effect as EPO in bone marrow.

“High doses of impure cobalt chloride may be associated with significant toxicity and it is totally irresponsible and unethical to administer them to horses,” the study found.

“In the interim, we remain most concerned that some trainers will continue to use Google as their source of information. It is the duty of veterinary surgeons working in the racing industry to ensure that trainers are aware of the dangers of the ‘amateur’ use of a potentially fatal compound.”

There have been a number of unexplained deaths in racehorses in America later found with high levels of cobalt in their system.

Cobalt applications have been known to have medical applications for the treatment of anaemia, but it was also known to cause heart disease and was thought to be the cause of death in regular beer drinkers at breweries with cobalt contamination in the 1960s.

Cobalt, a transition metal in the periodic table, is a naturally occurring substance in horses. Traces can be found in vitamins and supplements provided to horses and cattle.

It is also found in human foods such as nuts, green leafy vegetables, fish and cereals.

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Posted July 23, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

2 responses to “The damage cobalt can do to a racehorse

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  1. Adam: I want to thank you and University of Surrey for finally giving me some of the answers I sought for months with absolutely no luck. Out of frustration I finally made a decision to go with my three month study of the cobalt chloride story. On May 27 I published “Cobalt epidemic has horse race industry in a flux” on our website

    When you read it you will understand why I was so frustrated with this story. Despite making a myriad of sources I could not find out two things. Why any trainer would give the substance to a horse. And secondly,what might be the negatives connected with it’s use. You and the U of Surrey have answered the second part. I’m still in the “wanting mode” for someone to spell out what motivated so many respected trainers to use cobalt-chloride?

    I have made a study of PED abuse in all of sport. I’ve taken it so far as to rate the biggest cheating sport. It is not horse racing, like so many believe, the NFL without valid blood testing is the runaway “cheating” sport. HGH is out of control. If they ever start in and out of competition blood testing, I believe at least 40% of the players will not be on the field.

    I’d still like to hear from a respected trainer as to why they were encouraged to use cobalt. I’ve yet to hear the kind of answer I would expect. .

    Until I learn differently I am the senior turf writer in the U.S. and currently live in Pearl River, La. I’ve been covering horse racing venues for more years than most.

    Thanks for doing such a great job on this story.

    I consider DVM Brian Stewart, formerly with HKJC, to be the best expert on drugs and equine methods I have ever come in contact with. When he stonewalled me way back, I knew there was a bigger story in Australia than he was able to discuss. In fact, there was zero discussion.

    Warren Eves

  2. If anyone wishes to contact me in regard to this cobalt issue you can do so via e-mail at

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