Two horses race in the dirt.

Illegal horse races, cruelty, investigated in central California

Update: The video report on this investigation is available for viewing at

Two horses race in the dirt.

We are occasionally rebuked for cross-posting more than our considered fair share of a news report, and this is the reason we do take a few liberties here and there with an extra paragraph or two. News stories disappear, and so does the information which is often necessary, sometimes critical, to our advocacy work.

A case in point is the story on illegal horse racing and its related cruelties, which we tweeted but did not post here, as we were going to do a bit more digging. However, that story — just one day later — is no longer on the news station’s website. There’s probably a good reason for that.

We see that the Paulick Report grabbed a bit of it before it went away.

Sacramento news station KCRA reports on a new investigation into dozens of illegal horse races taking place every week in California’s Stanislaus County. Undercover videos show a starting gate and photo finish for the unregulated races, which are attended by up to 2,000 people.

“We found stimulants like amphetamine, methamphetamine (and) cocaine,” said Dr. Scott Stanley of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “In some cases, we found all of those in a single syringe.”

Investigations into similar allegations led to four arrests and convictions three years ago, but due to dwindling county resources there have been no active investigations since then. However, after viewing the recent videos, Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said he plans to open a new investigation.

“It would take us some time and resources to be able to put together good cases and make arrests,” Christianson said. “But certainly at this point, based on what you’ve shared with us, we’re going to start doing the research and looking at this issue.”

From what we have been reading on Facebook and Twitter, this is not just a problem in Central California, but throughout the state. In common with illegal horse racing are the horrors of the equally illegal horse tripping, which routinely goes unnoticed and is not prosecuted. These types of events are usually conducted in out of the way places, with details of the locations closely guarded.

In the instance of the illegal horse racing, an investigation is underway, and we are very grateful to all the officers involved.

California is not the only state with this problem. At the end of last year, in Meriweather County, Georgia, 32 horses were confiscated in a raid that busted an illegal horse racing operation.

15 thoughts on “Illegal horse races, cruelty, investigated in central California”

  1. People may leave their cultural homes….but they usually always bring their cultures with them…whether that be good, bad or indifferent. So sad for these ” Innocent,Feeling, Horses ” *


  2. The state of CA banned drugs in horse racing under the RICO Act as the drugs interfere with gambling. Granted, CA is a huge state and the Investigation Units are always understaffed. That is why there is not oversight of these unregulated tracks. Hopefully, this will change.



  3. What we are witnessing in Ceres is nothing more than an extension of ethical practices from Mexico, which we regard as cruelty to animals. Where I live, some of the horses that participate in the races are worked in the abandoned field across the street. The horses are raced over squirrel hole infested, cut out trails with little regard for protection, risking broken legs and joint injuries; but, it only begins here. Throughout the neighborhood, there is cox-fighting, dog fighting, drug dealing and Mexican rodeo, where mares and steers are chased and heeled (roping the back legs and tripping) providing hours of entertainment for a lot of Mexican nationals.


  4. There have been “river bottom” races in California for at least 50 years that I know of. Just because the races are unregulated, does not mean they are illegal. It is the BETTING on the unregulated races which is illegal.


    1. The cruel handling of the horses and the drugging of them is reprehensible. Of course, that goes on in “regulated” horse racing. It’s all horrible. As a horse protection organization, we have not called for horse racing to be banned, but we are getting close. I know that has been puzzling to quite a few. However, we are fed up with the whole scenario, “legally” or illegally done. What’s the big difference? I don’t see much.


      1. Licensed horse races have drug testers on duty for every single race. All winners are tested as are all beaten favorites in addition to random tests. Horses at regulated tracks are treated IN GENERAL as the stars they are. They get the best in feed, bedding, veterinary care, grooming, shipping, farrier work and have the best footing money can buy.

        Unregulated horse races are just that, no oversight. Just as unregulated horse sports events of any kind.


  5. Has there been an investigation to determine if the horses involved in this were stolen from their owners? This has happened in my State of Oklahoma and that was the case for many of the horses.
    With all the laws California has on the books to protect animals I would think this would be a top priority.
    Thank you for the article.


    1. Hello Jan, the only results we have access to is what has been released publicly. We have updated our original post to include a link to the news report video. Nothing would surprise me about yet another horse cruelty racket. The things people think of to exploit them for. What a year it has been so far.


  6. A lot of these horse races are run by Mexicans in California. A large portion are illegals living in this sanctuary state which helped the governor get elected with illegal votes. You won’t get any help from Moonbeam. What is being done is exactly what happens in Mexico which is well known for their cruelty to horses. The same for the so-called dancing horses that they love to show off in parades. In order to train these horses they are beaten into producing the constantly moving gait to appear to be dancing. A lot of these horses are destroyed mentally because they can’t stop the so-called dancing because they are afraid being beaten severally. One woman bought one of these horses and that is what she said, it constantly hopped from one foot to the other. I didn’t see anymore information about this horse.


  7. Why doesn’t the CA governor know about this illegal horse racing, or does he? He and his wife are purported to be owners and lovers of Friesian breed! Swartzenegger has lost all credibility in my opinion…..


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