- Aug 9, 2012
Dr. John McCaffrey (Director of Veterinary Services at Racing Victoria Limited), explains the use of bicarbonate of soda in racing (Pacemaker Magazine - March 2005)
Milkshake have become a common, albeit a somewhat unpopular term in racing circles over the last 15 years. A milkshake is a colloquial term used to describe the administration by naso-gastric intubation of 300-600 grams of bicarbonate soda, perhaps mixed with glucose and a variety of other possible additives.
The inevitable question follows: What effect on a horse's race performance do milkshakes have?
The use of milkshake made front page news in New York recently, following the federal investigation of 17 individuals allegedly involved in an illegal gambling ring, accused of fixing at least one race at Aqueduct. The winner of the race, A One Rocket, had been administered a milkshake prior to his 10-length victory. This resulted in a furore as to the purpose of the administration.
In North America, the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium are in process of recommending uniform penalties and testing protocols for milkshaking by regulatory bodies in the various racing jurisdictions. Meanwhile, Australia has refined its testing protocols to an extremely high standard.
The practice of supplementing a horse's feed with various electrolyte mixtures - in many cases as simple as a teaspoon of baking soda (or Bicarbonate Soda NaHCO3) has been considered an acceptable routine feeding management practice for many years. When a horse is exercising it uses two forms of energy production: aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic metabolism results in the muscle cells environment becoming increasingly acidic. As the horse exercises, there is an increase in lactate in the muscle cells (and eventually in the bloodstream), therefore limiting the muscle activity and leading to fatigue. Therefore, as the lactic acid builds up, the horse slows down.
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