A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Image by Al Seib / LA times.

U.S. horse racing continues to lose

A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Image by Al Seib / LA times.
A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Safety notwithstanding, the track reverted to dirt for faster times and will hold this year’s Breeders’ Cup. Image by Al Seib / LA times.

U.S. horse racing continues to lose horses and relevance. In case no one in the industry has noticed, the two go hand in hand.

This brings to mind the recent article written by Eric Mitchell for the Blood-Horse regarding the recent racehorse welfare and safety summit.

Mitchell starts with:

Recently completed at Keeneland is what has become one of Thoroughbred racing’s most important annual events—the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.

Come on now. Since the welfare and safety of the racehorse is not the most important item on American racing’s agenda, how important can its annual summit on this subject be? You will see what I mean a bit further down.

Mitchell goes on to applaud racing’s Equine Injury Database claiming that racing is now “armed with meaningful statistics on fatalities” so attending veterinarians can identify “horses of interest”, meaning ones who may require a second look — just perhaps they should not be racing. Mitchell continues with some data analysis mentioning the number of fatalities.

Then his article takes a change in tone when he rightly points out, “The industry simply has to do better.”

Now on to the bit (so to speak) that caught my interest, mostly because I was surprised, not by content but by inclusion. Mitchell recounts a conversation he had with friends when the subject of horse racing came up.

“You know, we haven’t been to the races a lot, but every time we’ve gone a horse got injured and had to be put down,” said the husband.

“I can’t bear to watch them put up that big screen,” said the wife.

The other couple at the table had been to the races only a few times as well and on at least two visits also watched horses break down.

Even among longtime fans of the sport, I hear over and over that they have stopped attending live racing out of fear of seeing a horse injured.

No one has to hear too many stories like these to understand why Thoroughbred racing is struggling to gain fans.

A comment by “sceptre” hits the nail firmly on the head:

Yes, Mr. Mitchell, here’s where the focus should be-on the safety and welfare of the horse. The goal, however, should be this in itself, and not as a means for attracting more fans/revitalizing an industry.

Do I hear an amen? Read full article on BloodHorse.com >>

So on it goes. Even the U.S. Breeders’ Cup is not what it was. Where are the sport’s stars? The ones still standing are sent into the commercial breeding pipeline to make more horses for the industry to cripple and breakdown. And we are talking 3-year olds here. Where are the Europeans? Most of them are staying home.

There may be a glimmer of hope. I read in the Paulick Report a post about English trainer Richard Hannon, Jr. sending one of their youngsters to the Breeders’ Cup to run in the Juvenile Fillies turf race. But note what he says:

Assistant trainer Richard Hannon Jr. said on his father’s website, “We have never had a winner at the Breeders’ Cup, but Sky Lantern probably represents our best chance yet. She has solid group 1 form, and, being on the turf, we have to think that she has a serious chance, especially as there is no Lasix permitted in all the 2-year-old races out there, which makes it a level playing field for everyone.”

A level playing field for everyone. What a concept. Why does American horse racing refuse to see this would help everyone; would be for the good of everyone.

2 thoughts on “U.S. horse racing continues to lose”

  1. Peggy I agree with most of what you said EXCEPT “ALL of the horse industry…” Many in the industry are driven by economic greeed, but not all are, at least not me. I did right by my TB’s, I found them good homes when they were finished, I was active in horse rescue, I was an outspoken advocate for the racehorse at the expense of my career. The people in power in the horse industry DON’T support good owners/trainers like me. In fact, if you are outspoken you are labeled and they make your life a living hell on the backstretch of the racetrack. It has only been recently that they have started to change, but not enough and certainly not quick enough. We still have trainers with multiple drug doping violations training. They don’t get rid of them! There is rampant alleged corruption with NO oversight resulting in the wagering public getting defrauded with the TB’s being the biggest loser. For example, we have people on racing commissions OWNING racehorses! The implication of this is enormous since they set rules, implement rules, and have the power to destroy a person’s racing career. Recently, the rash of Dermorphin positives were traced back to owners on the New Mexico Racing Commission. That would be like Lance Armstrong being on the International Doping Committee handling drug tests!!! This racing commission has never and probably will never get cited for violations. Well, how can he when he is on the commission with all of his buddies? The racing industry would never survive in a normal working environment or would be sued since it practices gender discrimination and inequality on a regular basis. It has been cited for human rights and labor violations. There is Mexican help working 7 days a week probably 80 hours per week with no overtime and minimum wage. Most live in rat infested dorm rooms and have very little economical support when they get hurt on the job. They are taking care of TB’s whose owners may have spent $250,000 or more on the horse and probably don’t tip them a dime! It is a dichotomy of rich and poor. In the end, it is a losing game done on the backs, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood of racehorses. I fooled myself thinking that I could be a caring and responsible owner/trainer only to find out that it is not possible. The system is set-up for horses and people to lose and the system is not doing enough to change and become part of the civilized century.


  2. Let’s face it there will never be a level playing field for the welfare of the horses…..They are the ones that suffer and pay the ultimate price sometimes more than not ending up at sales to go to kill buyers….The only thing that is important to these greedy so called humans is how much money they can make at the expense of a helpless animal….All of the horse industry is driven by money and greed……It doesn’t matter if it;s race horse, TN. Walking Horses, Quarter Horses, Arabians the people behind so much of what we see are Money Hungry Jerks and then it continues with the selling of these beautiful animals to go to slaughter so more people can PROFIT at the expense of the horse…Makes me and may others sick at how the human race can be….Let’s level the playing field and do the same to these arrogant uncaring [edited]!


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