New York Times investigative team probes horse racing fatalities and drug use

Track personnel try to hold down Eight Belles after the 134th Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 3, 2008, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking both front ankles following a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. (AP Photo/Brian Bohannon)

You can run, but you can’t hide. That is the first thought that came to mind when I learned that the New York Times have formed an investigative team to probe horse racing fatalities. Perhaps the tragic deaths of the racehorses used in the filming of the HBO series “Luck” and the 20 who died at Aqueduct since last November will not be in vain, as sad as that is. But they are joined by the 700 or 800 (depending on whose report you believe) who die as racetracks across the US every year, many whose names we shall never know, and just as relevant and just as tragic.

The Paulick Report states:

This coming week, perhaps as early as Sunday according to sources, the New York Times will begin a multi-part series on equine fatalities in Thoroughbred racing throughout the United States over a three-year period. Led by three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Walt Bogdanich, with reporting by veteran racing journalist and two-time Eclipse Award winner Joe Drape, the series will rely on statistics compiled by an investigative team using Freedom of Information Act requests and official racing charts from Equibase.

Until the New York Times investigative report on horse racing fatalities is published, we will not know whether or not the number will include those who breakdown and die during training. These are often omitted or under reported deaths.

We are very pleased to see that the following has been looked into, probably because of the involvement of Joe Drape, who has been beating this drum for many years.

The investigative team has also examined every rules violation related to medication, from overages of therapeutic substances to findings of banned performance enhancing drugs.

Of great interest to us is this:

However, other major tracks, including Aqueduct and Santa Anita Park (where a synthetic surface was replaced by conventional dirt after complaints from some horsemen and many gamblers) will reflect higher than average rates of catastrophic or fatal injuries, the Paulick Report has been told by a source familiar with the series.

Read full report at the Paulick Report >>

The Int’l Fund for Horses protested the return of the Breeders’ Cup to Santa Anita because of the high number of fatalities there. Not surprisingly, we were ignored or charged with either “being a joke”, “animal rights nuts who hate racing”, or having no idea what we are talking about. Not guilty as charged.

It is our opinion that no reputable or caring horseman would risk their precious charges on that track no matter what the prize or payout. No doubt not a single horse will be withdrawn from the Breeders’ Cup because of these concerns. Not at the moment anyway. Let’s wait and see what impact the New York Times investigation makes. Or will Santa Anita (where incidentally “Luck” was filmed) say they have fixed the problem and everyone will simply move on until the next disaster strikes.

In the meantime, Aqueduct have formed their investigative team as directed by New York Governor Cuomo. Read more at the Paulick Report >>

10 thoughts on “New York Times investigative team probes horse racing fatalities and drug use”

  1. Whenever I ask a known racing source about slaughter, I get silence or defensiveness. I don’t know what it would take to get a substantive response from racing’s big names.

    After all the Uncle Mo hype, you would think that the major racing names would want to improve their image. Instead, they seem to be unable to cope with this well known issue. I have asked journalists, newsletter writers, individuals and others associated with racing.

    I know just two names in racing who support an end to slaughter and have indicated so personally. I wonder if more can’t speak out for fear of losing employment or backers. It says something about the culture that people who know better don’t speak out in public. Why be afraid when most Americans would support their effort to help end slaughter? Rescues are not enough and breeders have to be brought into the fold. Three Chimneys started with their broodmares but that is a drop in the bucket.

    When do we see official racing speak out on this international issue and take action to stop this horrific activity?


  2. I hope the NYT’s gets a list of the drugs these horses are given, if they put that before the public and tell them what happens to most of these horses that is just one more nail in the coffin of of horse slaughter.


    1. I am extremely sure they will. Joe Drape loves horses and if he is the ‘lead’ on this he will cite everything down to the last bloody detail.



  3. I have found that whenever the humane treatment of horses and other animals is mentioned, the guilty and the ignorant always descend into a rant about PETA (which means nothing in re their own behavior) and about their “personal freedom”.

    I object to inhumane treatment and the lack of enforcement in any horse industry. Excuses for abuse and even slaughter are absolute nonsense. Anyone who has owned an OTTB and other horses would agree.

    We need to strengthen laws, fund adequate enforcement, have long prison sentences which are mandatory (esp in fraud cases like Lafever) and end slaughter or nothing will ever change.

    Thanks for the information.


    1. You are right on target. Horse abusers love to cite Peta even when Peta are not in any way involved, and call anyone who hates the abuse of horses as Peta lovers. How handy for them they have Peta to use to bash everyone who calls foul on their horrific behavior towards animals.


  4. Finally! The New York Times is a source of information you do not want to mess with. Their facts and figures are cited and on an odd report they will not reveal the source. The New York Times was sued over their reporting on ‘The Pentagon Papers’ expose’ however, the Times prevailed.

    Thank goodness for the NYTs!



    1. I totally agree with you! Thank goodness for the NYTs for exposing this issue……
      It is about time! We must stand up for those who have no voice!


      1. Hey Kathy,

        I am waiting with ‘baited breath’ for the next part. There has been a lot of heat about mentioning PeTA and Ingrid Newkirk specifically. That is the last thing that should have been mentioned. Ingrid Newkirk is not a representation of the ‘main stream’ thinking on any type of animal welfare. We know she euthanizes puppies and kittens and drowns bunnies as well. The sad thing is that there are really some great people at that organization and they must now be leaving in droves over her outrageous commentary.

        If PeTA gets more attention, then that gives fodder for those such as Sue Wallis and her lot. That is something that we do not need.



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