By VIVIAN FARRELL
How I wish horse racing in the U.S. would die. I doubt it will. But tracks are closing all the time. It’s already being predicted by some racing insiders that the three Triple Crown races might be all that survive.
Before I go any further, let me assure the reader that I am very knowledgeable about racehorses and horse racing. The work we have done on this issue at The Horse Fund is testament to that in and of itself. Plus this.
I don’t having a living memory without horses in it. In particular, thoroughbreds. When my Dad brought me home from hospital after I was born he took me first out to the barn, before going into the house, to have the horses breathe on me — a kind of “blessing” he wanted me to have. I went to my first thoroughbred race meet at 6 months at Haydock Park in Liverpool. I have had horses of my own throughout my life. And worked as a racing photographer in Britain and Europe for many years.
Then I came back to America with my Irish husband who had gotten a job with Allaire du Pont, the famous owner of thoroughbred horse racing Hall of Fame champion, Kelso, who still had a few horses in training and raced locally. Northern Dancer’s head collar hung in the entryway to her outer office. That’s some history.
As time went by I became shocked at what I was witnessing at racecourses and in training in the States. Since then, thoroughbred racing has done nothing but go from very bad to very, very bad to unconscionable. It is painful to watch. Two year olds’ dying while training? Really?
Quarter horse racing is equally rife with chemical abuse; the breakdowns are just as brutal and horrifying.
I am based in Louisville these days and have witnessed much.
Drugging horses and cheating has always been a part of American horse racing. That is a matter of record.
Take Jack Keene for instance. Keene was kicked out of both Europe and Russia because of racehorse doping. So what did he do?
Jane Allin tells us in The Chemical Horse:
Unable to race horses in Europe, and now banned from racing horses in Russia, Keene soon returned home to Kentucky and his family farm – Keeneland – where he laid out the track that bears his name, and helped build Lexington into the influential Thoroughbred racehorse breeding and sales center it is today.
North American horse racing is as steeped in tradition as in its drug use.
Ray Paulick, who runs a horse racing blog called The Paulick Report writes:
“With so many racehorses dying every year in America, how long will horse racing itself survive?”
That’s the fundamental question asked by correspondent Bernard Goldberg on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” which aired a 20-minute segment on equine fatalities in Thoroughbred racing in the U.S. on Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET.
The [HBO] feature, entitled “Raced to Death,” was prompted by the spike in racing fatalities this winter at Santa Anita Park and begins with videos of horses sustaining fatal injuries while racing at the Arcadia, Calif., track. “The fallout was fast and furious, the deaths quickly becoming a national story,” Goldberg says. “This much is known: what happened to the horses at Santa Anita is just the tip of an iceberg the public knows virtually nothing about.”
If you follow us, you know about it. We have been covering it and sounding the alarm for more than a decade.
Take a look at Horse Racing Wrongs and you will see that this is not just about a rash of racehorse deaths at Santa Anita, although they seem to be especially successful at killing horses.
I can tell you right here and now that American horse racing is never going to stop drugging racehorses, or killing racehorses — in training, on the track, or by sending them to slaughter when they are through with them or run them into the ground.
Can horse racing in America be saved? Can any amount of reformation help now? No — is the definitive answer. It is too damn late. It is way past too late. What took decades to destroy will take even longer to rehabilitate or restore, if it can even be done. I’ll tell you why tomorrow.
And why even do it? Except for the Kentucky Derby who gives a damn about horse racing in America these days, even though at one time it was a major “sport” and much beloved? Only a small, insular group plus racetrack and online gamblers remain dedicated to horse racing.
American horse racing is on its knees and on the brink of destruction — a self-imposed destruction in which they remain entrenched and continued denial about.
Watch HBO’s “Raced to Death” if you can. Amazon has it online with Amazon Prime. HBO also has it online. They are offering a week’s free trial at the moment.
Let us know what you think. See you back here tomorrow with more. Much more. Thanks for stopping by.