WE often hear references to “blood pictures” when leading trainers like Geoff Woodruff and Mike Azzie win races and this was again mentioned after Woodruff and Gavin Lerena landed a fine Champions Day double last Saturday with Schippers (Gr2 Camellia Stakes) and Sunshine Silk (Gr3 Gold Bowl).

It’s obvious to some, but there have been some queries on social media and Woodruff explained: “A horse’s blood picture gives you a window into the well-being of a horse. I’ve used it successfully for many years.

“One keeps historic record so the various blood counts can be compared. You have three levels, an optimal blood count when you know your horse is more or less spot-on, a passable count which is acceptable to race on and a third count which is abnormal and indicates all is not 100% well, the horse may be incubating a virus.”

Trainers make use of blood counts in their preparation, but Woodruff said it’s an expensive exercise which can’t be carried out with every horse, every day. “It costs about R600 per blood picture so we only use it pre-race, when our best horses go into feature races and we can perhaps give their owners some extra confidence to have a bet, and so on.”

The multiple champion trainer rates blood among his handful of strike-determining factors like talent, course and distance suitability and general well-being and said: “One knows when your horse is ready, you can see it in level of fitness, coat and so on but it’s never fool-proof. That’s why the blood-picture helps.”

Both Schippers and Sunshine Silk had perfect pictures pre-race, and confirmed this with big wins. “Our goal with Schippers was to achieve bold black type for owner Geoff van Lear, who is breeding successfully. We wanted the Camellia to show us whether Schippers was good enough for the Gr1 SA Fillies Sprit and now we know she is. She won a good race, we’re giving her an easy week and then we’ll build up again to Scottsville at month-end.”

Sunshine Silk has turned the corner since Woodruff removed blinkers from her racing equipment and he said: “She may have needed it before, but she’s learnt her trade now and she loves racing without blinkers, she’s loving life.”

The trainer told: “When she raced with blinkers she was always a bit edgy with damp sweat, but when I saddled her without blinkers for the first time before the Sun Chariot on 9 March she was easy and relaxed and she won very well, she’s been like that ever since. We’ll be looking at the Gold Vase on July day and perhaps the Gold Cup.”

Woodruff said that Sunshine Silk’s win was a “tonic” for owners Ashley and Sunil Devachander, who have both suffered illness recently.

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