This article came across my desk as I was watching the video of I’ll Have Another running around a paddock, kicking up his heels, at his new home in Japan where he arrived recently to continue his racing career as a Thoroughbred Stallion.
Cross-posted from Deadspin
WRITTEN BY BARRY PETCHESKY
Our horses are sick. Our thoroughbreds are thoroughly inbred. They are locomotives sitting atop toothpicks. They are fragile and friable, designed to run but not to recover from running. And each time they break down or wear out, we chalk it up to an individual horse’s shortcomings, rather than the decades-long decline of the entire breeding industry.
I’ll Have Another, who withdrew from the Belmont Stakes two days before the race, was not a healthy horse. The New York Times reviewed his veterinary records, and at just three years old, after just seven career races, I’ll Have Another had the legs and joints of an elderly horse. He had been suffering from osteoarthritis for “a period of time.” The tendinitis that scratched him from the race had also been a chronic problem for a while. He was receiving regular injections of multiple painkillers and anti-inflammatory fluids. A completely legal drug cocktail was the only thing keeping him going.
I’ll Have Another, like all of his other distant cousins that make up American thoroughbred racing, was built to go fast, but not to go far, or to go fast repeatedly. The reason, says legendary horse writer Andrew Beyer, is that today’s breeders are in it for a quick buck, and the quickest bucks can be found in producing sprinters, even at the expense of stamina.
You would think I’ll Have Another could serve as a cautionary tale. This is what an unnatural horse gets you: the shortest of careers. But to the hundreds of commercial breeders out there, he’s an aspiration. He won nearly $2.7 million in prize money in his career, and he was just sold to a Japanese stud farm for $10 million. His genes, which served him well in the short term, and threatened his life and his livelihood in the long term, are the ones that the market has chosen to pass on to as many descendants as possible. Brief and self-destructive wins out over protracted and viable, again, as it does thousands of times every foaling spring. Horse racing continues to go the wrong way.
Read full article: http://deadspin.com/5925057/our-race-horses-are-broken-america
What I’ll Have Another’s connections did with him in my estimation is despicable and represents to me everything that is wrong with the thinking in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry. Not many will agree with me. That is the way the game is played now, they say. You just don’t understand, they add. Oh, I understand well enough.
And before you attack me, I grew up in horse racing and worked in it both sides of the pond. I know just how fickle a business it is, and I know the difference between right and wrong.
Apart from that, I’ll Have Another’s story illustrates what I have been told repeatedly by both Thoroughbred breeders and trainers over the past few years.
Breeders say that trainers take their beautifully bred horses and destroy them with unscrupulous drugging and training practices. Trainers say that breeders are producing horses they can only win with if they use every drug and therapeutic technique they can get their hands on to get and keep these horses on the track.
It seems a hopeless business to me.
For those of you who work in the industry in the U.S. and do what is right, you are the unsung heroes of the game. –Ed.