Mongolian Groom. Sports Illustrated image.

Horse Racing 2019 Year in Review


With 10 horses suffering catastrophic injuries in January 2019 at celebrated Santa Anita Park in California, horse racing got off to an unusually bad start. Over the course of the year, horse deaths became the prevailing national horse racing story, culminating with the death of Mongolian Groom in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 3.

This led to public outcry, urgent calls for major racing reform and even suggestions that horse racing in North America should come to an end.


19th Racehorse dies at Santa Anita

February 24, 2019

National media have widely reported the death of the 19th racehorse since the winter/spring racing season opened in December 2018 at Santa Anita. Of the 19 horse fatalities, six were on dirt, five on turf, and eight in training. 

This prompted Santa Anita Park, in conjunction with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to close its main track for training for 2 days to fully evaluate sub-surface conditions such as moisture content and soil consistency.  Experts will look at whether the heavy rainfall which has fallen across the region over the past few months has factored into the death toll. 

The main track re-opened on February 28 after Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs who evaluates soil samples from Santa Anita Park every month, deemed the main track “one-hundred percent ready” for both training and racing. 


Santa Anita Racetrack Closes

March 16, 2019

The Santa Anita racetrack is closed indefinitely, after 21 horses died in the last few months. Questions have been raised about the racing industry across the U.S. since 26 December, when the current winter-spring meet began. 21 horses have died during racing or training at Santa Anita, a number much higher than in comparable periods over the last three years. 

The dirt track is blamed by many, and is undergoing extensive testing. Meanwhile, some Santa Anita trainers have claimed that they have been pressured to run horses even when they are uncomfortable doing so.

The deaths have drawn outrage from PETA, which has called for a criminal investigation into the matter.

Santa Anita implements Lasix ban, increased restrictions following 22nd fatal breakdown

March 14, 2019

The Stronach Group declared a zero tolerance for race day medication at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields. These Thoroughbred racetracks will be the first in North America to follow the strict International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) standards. These revisions comprise best practices currently employed at racetracks around the world:

  • Banning the use of Lasix.
  • Increasing the ban on legal therapeutic NSAIDS, joint injections, shockwave therapy, and anabolic steroids.
  • Complete transparency of all veterinary records.
  • Significantly increasing out-of-competition testing.
  • Increasing the time required for horses to be on-site prior to a race.
  • A substantial investment by The Stronach Group in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.
  • Horses in training are only allowed therapeutic medication with a qualified veterinary diagnosis.

Horseracing Integrity Act Re-Introduced in the U.S. House

March 14, 2019

Today, U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Andy Barr (R-KY), who represent two of the meccas of American Thoroughbred racing – Saratoga Springs and Lexington – introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act to create a uniform national standard for drug testing that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

S. Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Andy Barr (R-Ky.), congressmen representing Saratoga Springs and Lexington, respectively, introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act March 14 to create a uniform national standard for drug testing in racehorses that would be overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The Horseracing Integrity Act is backed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a diverse group of 18 members that includes racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal welfare groups that support adoption of a national uniform standard for drug and medication rules in horse racing.

IFHA Chairman: “In complete support” of Stronach Group Moves, asks others to join

March 18, 2019

International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), which comprises racing authorities and race organizers from all major racing jurisdictions across more than 50 countries, says it is in complete support of the actions and decisions made by The Stronach Group to bring its medication policies in line with international standards. 

It also calls on other jurisdictions and race organizers in the U.S. to follow suit. These measures, in addition to the guidelines outlined in the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, would employ internationally accepted measures that protect horses, jockeys, and all stakeholders.

Jockey Club calls for major drug reform, says fatality spikes will continue without it

March 28, 2019

The Jockey Club released a major white paper calling for comprehensive reform of the U.S. horse racing industry including a major overhaul of drug use and uniform out-of-competition drug testing, citing the need for “transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses.”

The paper’s release follows the death of 22 racehorses at California’s Santa Anita Park in less than three months.


ARCI proposes to significantly increase trainer, owner penalties for doping

April 11, 2019

The Drug Testing Standards and Practices (DTSP) Committee of the Association of Racing Commissions International (ARCI) is considering a major change to the recommended penalties for violations of the association’s drug rules to dramatically increase sanctions on those violations that can be considered “doping” or “equine endangerment”.

Penalties would be effectively doubled from the existing Class A penalties, with a first violation requiring a two to five-year suspension of the trainer and a minimum $50,000 fine which could be increased to $100,000 with aggravating circumstances. A second violation in any jurisdiction would trigger a license revocation.

The proposal would also impose a $25,000 fine on an owner if there is a second lifetime offense in the owner’s stable in any jurisdiction. A third offense would suspend the owner for a minimum of thirty days to as much as a year and impose a minimum fine of $50,000 which could be increased to $100,000.

Coalition representing major U.S. tracks announces Lasix ban for 2-year-old races, then Stakes races

April 18, 2019

A coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations announced a new horse racing initiative committed to phasing out the use of the medication Furosemide (Lasix) beginning in 2020 and eliminating the use of Lasix in stakes races held at their racetracks beginning in 2021. 

Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs.

Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018.

WHOA: Recent horse racing reform proposals just a bandaid

April 19, 2019

WHOA Supporter and past Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission (ORC) and the ARCI, William Koester points out that the ARCI establishes Model Rules as a guideline but there is no enforcement for jurisdictions that refuse to comply by these rules. While a press release by the ARCI advocates stiffer penalties, what does it matter if many state racing commissions do not enforce them. 

It changes nothing and the industry will continue to operate with a total lack of uniformity. Koester sated that what is needed is an outside independent agency to set the agenda so that it favors no one group. Other industry groups like the AQHAHBPA and the AAEP out and out oppose the new push for reform and a ban on race-day medication. 

ARCI: “Dramatic Drop” in horse racing doping cases in 2018

April 30, 2019

“The 2018 Anti-Doping and Drug Testing Program conducted by U.S. racing regulatory bodies found continued substantial compliance with racing’s medication and anti-doping rules and little support for claims that the use of drugs to mask pain when horses race is rampant.”

Class 1 or Class 2 substance violations are considered instances of “doping” while violations involving substances of a lesser classes are usually overages of medications deemed therapeutic or authorized by U.S. federal law for veterinary use.

There was a dramatic drop in doping instances from 2017 to 2018 and violations involving Class 3 substances and the Class 4 and 5, last likely to affect performance were slightly increased.

Sure, if you say so. The transparency in this industry is questionable, at best. 


ARCI: Lasix ban may lead to inhumane practices such as injecting formaldehyde

May 5, 2019

The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI or RCI) put all racing regulatory commissions on notice that the banning of race day Lasix administrations by some U.S. racetracks or governments may lead to the practice of substituting intravenous administration of formaldehyde to combat incidences of bleeding – a cruel, inhumane and potentially dangerous practice to the health and welfare of a horse.

The advisory noted that formaldehyde use is already being investigated in at least one U.S. jurisdiction, and the RCI investigatory intelligence network is reporting that if furosemide is banned in the US, illegal formaldehyde use as an alternative may become common.

Maximum Security is walked off the track after being disqualified Saturday at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Maximum Security is walked off the track after being disqualified Saturday at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Kentucky Derby 1st place horse, Maximum Security, disqualified

May 6, 2019

Maximum Security, the first horse to cross the finish line at the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, was soon after was disqualified due to an objection raised by team members of second-place finisher Country House. After an unbearable half-hour wait, the verdict dropped: Maximum Security was disqualified, the first-ever ostensible winner to be disqualified, and 65-to-1 long-shot Country House was officially named the “winner”.

Maximum Security led for most of the race. But on video replay, he was determined to have violated interference rules, altering the paths of War of Will, Long Range Toddy, and Country House with a stumble to his right. The former two horses faded to the back of the pack in the final stretch, but Country House — one of two teams to lodge the complaint that overturned the race — came in second.

Shortly thereafter, Maximum Security’s owners,  Gary and Mary West, filed a lawsuit to restore their horse’s win, saying the process that disqualified him is “unconstitutional.” They also requested the purse money to be redistributed in accordance with the original order of finish; the winner’s share for the race was $1.86 million, while the jockey and trainer were denied $186,000 each.

Jockey Club Survey: Drugs, fatalities top list of public concerns about horse racing

May 10, 2019

According to a new, national and Kentucky-based poll commissioned by The Jockey Club, horse fatalities are the single most important factor facing the horse racing industry with nearly seven in 10 likely voters (69 percent) saying that it is a “very important” issue. The misuse of drugs was almost equally significant with 65 percent saying it was “very important.” Integrity and corruption also scored highly at 63 percent.

“This survey is further proof that the horse racing industry has reached a tipping point,” said Jim Gagliano, The Jockey Club president and COO. “The health of horses is of concern to both horse racing fans and the general public, and it’s time we make some real changes.”

The slaughter of Ace King

May 15, 2019

A harrowing story, tragic and shameful, about the fate of racehorses in Korea when they fail to meet expectations. A must read, not only because it is in Korea, but because this brutal practice exists globally — an article that is befitting to the realities of what happens to racehorses at the hands of the unscrupulous when these majestic creatures can no longer run for their lives. 


Gary West issues $20 million challenge to four Derby runners

May 17, 2019

Maximum Security owner Gary West, still furious over his horse’s disqualification from the race, issued a challenge to the owners of Country House, War of Will, Long Range Toddy and Bodexpress: race Maximum Security and get $5 million if you finish in front of the West colt; pay $5 million if Maximum Security finishes ahead. (The horses did not face each other again.) 

Ultimately, a lawsuit from West against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission over the disqualification was dismissed by a federal judge in November. West vowed to appeal.

Meanwhile, discussion over the incident focused not just on whether Maximum Security should have been disqualified but whether the rules the stewards followed were fair, prompting a broader discussion about how interference rules in the U.S. compare with those in other racing jurisdictions.

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: Race to Death (HBO)

May 21, 2019

The HBO special “Raced to Death” investigated the harrowing rise in horse racing deaths in the U.S. 

Following the closure of the renowned Santa Anita Park due to an increase in racehorse deaths, REAL SPORTS reveals that more than two thousand horses die racing in the United States every year, and thousands more are slaughtered after their racing days are over. Correspondent Bernard Goldberg reports on the combination of drugs and overuse that is contributing to the death toll.

After 84 years Suffolk Downs says goodbye to live horse racing

May 22, 2019

Suffolk Downs is retiring horse racing, which is slated to be turned into apartments and retail shops.

Suffolk Downs has before faced shutdowns, changes in ownership, and a casino bid that ended in failure. [CEO Chip] Tuttle says this time, it’s for real.

And in the meantime, the races will continue through June, preparing for the final goodbye.

The track opened in 1935 after being built by Joseph A. Tomasello for a cost of $2 million. A number of famous horses raced at the track, including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Funny Cide, and Cigar.

NTRAs unbelievable response to HBOs report on horse racing

May 28, 2019

Surprisingly, NTRA responded to HBO’s report on horse racing, in a manner of speaking, via Alex Waldrop. This was unexpected, but the appalling spin on it was anything but:

“Once again, HBO’s Real Sports presents a slanted, sensational and inaccurate view of horse racing by failing to learn about or acknowledge the important progress our entire industry is making with respect to safety, welfare and aftercare. While we understand the media’s right to cover a significant story, we will not tolerate the painting of our sport and our participants with inaccurate broad-brush strokes.”

Read the rest of Waldrop’s statement here.

26th horse death at Santa Anita prompts calls for a halt to racing

May 29, 2019

“Tracks in the United States have significantly higher rates of death than tracks overseas. We need to determine what we’re doing wrong in this country and fix it. If we can’t, we need to consider whether horseracing has a future here.” — Sen. Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for the famed Santa Anita Park outside of Los Angeles to be temporarily shut down after the 26th thoroughbred fatality there since Christmas.

California’s senior senator urged the drastic action after Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, was euthanized Sunday, marking the third horse death in just nine days.

“How many more horses must die before concrete steps are taken to address what is clearly an acute problem?” a statement from Feinstein said.

She said track conditions and the history of each of the horses’ medications have to be carefully scrutinized.

California Governor steps in to protect racehorses

May 31, 2019

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his support for SB 469, which would authorize the California Horse Racing Board to suspend horse racing licenses to protect the health and safety of horses.  

Additionally, the Governor announced his administration has taken substantive regulatory actions through the horse racing board in response to the recent horse deaths in the state. See


Winx’s brother among Australian racehorses killed for meat in S Korea

June 4, 2019

The brother of the Australian racing legend Winx is one of thousands of exported thoroughbreds killed for meat in Korea under conditions the RSPCA has called “very distressing”.

Footage filmed secretly at the Nonghyup abattoir in South Korea last year shows horses being repeatedly beaten on the head with lengths of black polyethylene pipe in an attempt to herd them into the facility.

That treatment would be in breach both of Australian animal welfare laws and of the requirements imposed on abattoirs that process live export animals if it was part of a formal Australian supply chain, the RSPCA said.

But because the horses were exported to race or breed, rather than for slaughter, and because horses are not classified as livestock in Australia, they are outside the protection of laws that govern the live export industry.

Review team will decide if horses fit to race at Santa Anita

June 14, 2109

Santa Anita put together a five-member team to review horses’ medical, training and racing history for the final six racing days at the Southern California track where 29 horses have died since December.

Led by the California Horse Racing Board’s equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, and chief steward, Darrel McHargue, the review team includes independent CHRB vets and stewards, who supervise the outcome of horse races.

The review team will decide if individual horses are at elevated risk of injury before racing. They will look at any history of a horse on the veterinarian’s list and steward’s list as well as medical and race history and physical observations of the horse.

Gillibrand, McSally introduce Horseracing Integrity Act in U.S. Senate

June 12 2019

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 — S.1820 — was introduced in the U.S. by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ).

The bill would create a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority, the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HADA), responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program for horse racing. 

The Bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

S. 1820 has 24 cosponsors as of this writing including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Susan Collins.

NTRA will support a law banning horse slaughter

June 14, 2019

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced that it will support the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 961) that would prevent the horse slaughter industry from re-establishing operations in the United States and prohibit the export of American horses abroad for slaughter. 

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is something the NTRA has opposed for many years,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “In the last decade alone, thousands of retired U.S. racehorses have been adopted and transitioned to second careers. The development and growth of quality racehorse aftercare programs continue to be a high priority for the industry.”

HBPA opposes Senate version of Horseracing Integrity Act, the legislation is “misguided”

June 17, 2019

The National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) announced its opposition to the Senate version of the Horseracing Integrity Act (S. 1820), introduced last by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ). The HBPA has been steadfast in its opposition to the House companion measure introduced earlier this year by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20) and Andy Barr (R-KY-06) (H.R. 1754).

Eric Hamelback, CEO of the HBPA claims that banning race day Lasix will cause more equine deaths, and additional regulations will cause jobs to be lost. Hamelback also believes the introduction of this legislation is a misguided attempt to address the recent equine deaths in California: “S. 1820 would not have prevented one single death. 

The problem is that Hamelback, or other supporters of Lasix on race day, have never addressed several questions which include the facts that NA horses competed successfully for many decades without Lasix, 2/3 of the world’s horses also race without it successfully, the fact that EIH has a genetic component and by masking it via the use of Lasix it is reintroduced back into the breeding pool and that Lasix is a PED (performance enhancing drug) and the public is aware of this. The industry needs to address these concerns.

Hall of Fame trainer Hollendorfer told to vacate stalls at Santa Anita, Golden Gate

June 22, 2019

Jerry Hollendorfer was told by The Stronach Group he would no longer be granted stalls or entries at the company’s racetracks after the death of American Currency following a workout in June. 

The horse was Hollendorfer’s fourth to suffer a fatal injury during the now-infamous spike of equine fatalities at Santa Anita in 2019. Del Mar would later adopt the same policy, and Hollendorfer brought legal action against both racetracks. A San Diego judge granted an injunction requested by Hollendorfer at Del Mar, but his legal case against Santa Anita has not gone as well for him so far. The trainer plans to spend the winter at Oaklawn Park.

Track veterinarians believed Hollendorfer to have demonstrated negligence, and that he asked a veterinarian to sign a form to work a horse off the vet’s list and threatened the veterinarian if the person didn’t cooperate.

One day after being notified by The Stronach Group that he was no longer welcome to stable or race at any of the company’s racetracks (Santa Anita and Golden Gate in California, Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland and Gulfstream Park in Florida) Hollendorfer got the green light from the New York Racing Association to stable and participate at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.


Milkshaking at Santa Anita

July 5, 2019

On March 9, when Santa Anita Park was re-opening after 3 weeks shutdown following the deaths of almost 2 dozen horses, California regulators watched a live surveillance feed of a trainer’s assistant carrying a bucket into the stall of a horse named Tick Tock. Moments after the assistant left, a white foam was visible on the horse’s lips, a telltale sign of performance-enhancing drugs.

Investigators later found syringes in the bucket, along with a fatigue-fighting agent known in racing as a milkshake.

The news that investigators believed Tick Tock had received such a concoction — before the first race on the first day of the track’s return to racing, no less — is indicative of the dysfunction that has enveloped Santa Anita the past six months, a period when horses had to be euthanized after suffering fractures at an alarming rate. Thirty horses have suffered this fate since Dec. 26 at Santa Anita.

Suspected sea snail venom used on racehorse in Oz

July 10, 2019

A deadly venom found in sea snails which can paralyse fish within a second has emerged as the latest chemical suspected to have infiltrated horse racing. Racing NSW and Racing Victoria officials confirmed they had started screening for the mystery drug, which has subtypes known to be infinitely stronger than morphine. It can also be extracted to be used for therapeutic purposes on humans in the form of the conotoxin-based Prialt.

Apparently, the sea snail venom was imported into Australia and used to manage pain in horses suspected to have raced in both the thoroughbred and harness codes.

Gorajec: RCI medication penalty structure needs overhaul

July 10 2019

Gorajec, the former executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, points out that common medication overages are placed in the RCI penalty classification C. Those “points” accrued by trainer violations are erased every year, so technically a trainer could have eight or nine annual medication violations and not face any additional punishment — meaning he or she can repeat the same behavior year after year.

For those that don’t understand the power of some of these so called “therapeutic” drugs, such as Bute, most of these class 4 drugs only carry a half a point. Additional penalties begin when a trainer reaches five points. So, a trainer could have nine positive tests in a year for these common drugs (4.5 points) and serve no additional time.  Change is overdue. 

Del Mar starts its summer meet with two kills

July 18, 2019

Two horses suffered fatal injuries Thursday morning after colliding in an accident during training hours at Del Mar racetrack in California, which just opened its Summer Season of racing on July 17.

Charge a Bunch, an unraced 2-year-old colt trained by Carla Gaines, threw rider Giovanni Franco and ran the wrong way down the track. Charge a Bunch then collided with Carson Valley, an unraced 3-year-old gelding trained by Bob Baffert who was working in the opposite direction.

Del Mar claimed that the horses were euthanized shortly after the accident but later clarified that the horses were killed in the collision, as verified by Dr. Rick Arthur, a veterinarian with the California Racing Board. Arthur stated that the clinical examination of the horses showed that both suffered cervical fractures and were both dead on the racetrack.


Ready for Change: Top Thoroughbred trainers voice support for Horseracing Integrity Act

August 29, 2010

The events at venerable Santa Anita Park have led to calls from the public and government authorities for major reform. Sixteen top Thoroughbred trainers voiced their support for the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 (HIA), introduced on a bipartisan basis in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not only do they support medication reform but also support initiatives to standardize and improve the quality and consistency of racing surfaces. The trainers can be found here: (

That said, of the top 20 trainers by purse earnings in North America in 2019, 17 of them are in effect opposed to improving testing integrity. Here they are, some of the usual suspects, shame them: Chad C. Brown, Steve Asmussen, Mark Casse, Brad Cox, Bill Mott, Jason Servis, Bob Baffert, Karl Broberg, Mike Maker, Mike McCarthy, Doug O’Neill, Linda Rice, Richard Baltas, Jorge Navarro, Robertino Diodoro, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Tom Amoss.  You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.

4th horse killed at Del Mar

August 18, 2019

A 3-year-old racehorse was euthanized after a training injury in Del Mar. The 3-year-old filly, Bri Bri, suffered a serious pelvis injury, but they did not immediately clarify when the injury occurred.

She was the 4th horse killed in during Del Mar’s summer season.

Two horses were killed July 18 in what was termed a freak accident by the track when a two-year old threw his rider and collided head-on with a three-year old, also during a morning workout. On July 29, a three-year old filly broke down during training after a leg injury and subsequently euthanized.


Bob Baffert, Justify and the Triple Crown

September 12, 2019

Having spent the first six months of the year under intense media scrutiny as 30 horses died either racing or training at Santa Anita, U.S. racing suffered another immense blow to its reputation when it emerged that Justify, last year’s Triple Crown winner, tested positive for a banned substance after winning the Santa Anita Derby, the race in which he qualified to run in the Kentucky Derby.

The horse tested positive for a potentially performance-enhancing drug after winning the Santa Anita Derby. Justify went on to win the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont to become Bob Baffert’s second Triple Crown winner in four seasons. 

But without the win at Santa Anita, there would have been no Kentucky Derby for Justify, and thus no Triple Crown. Baffert knew this, as others did, but “mums the word” so to say.

Accidental contamination is a possible explanation for Justify’s positive, however the level of scopolamine in his system was well above the threshold level and, according to a vet quoted by the NYT, suggestive of “intentional intervention”. 

Baffert requested a second test to confirm, but results came back after the Derby, again showing the high level of scopolamine. At this point, the CHRB’s disciplinary system should have stepped in. But no charge was ever laid against Baffert. 

Only a few people knew the secret that Baffert carried with him into the winner’s circle the day he won the Belmont – Justify had failed a drug test weeks before the first race in the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. That meant Justify should not have run in the Derby, if the sport’s rules were followed.”

“. . . . if the sport’s rules were followed.” But they don’t follow the rules, do they? And in the case of Justify’s doping prior to the Derby, documents reviewed by The New York Times show they did not enforce the rules in the case of Baffert and his horse.

Instead, a month after Justify became the first Triple Crown winner to retire undefeated, a closed meeting of the CHRB committee – chaired by Chuck Winner, who has shares in Baffert-trained horses – effectively voted to simply forget it ever happened.

The CHRB decision was both cowardly and reckless – caught in an apparent cover-up. And look whose horse it was – speaks volumes. 

Racehorse found dumped at landfill

September 27, 2019

After receiving disturbing information and photographs from a concerned whistleblower, PETA is calling for an immediate criminal investigation into the death of a horse whose body was found dumped atop a heap of trash at Brooke County Landfill in West Virginia on September 27.

PeTA image.
Image courtesy of PETA.

PETA suspects that the horse is an 8-year-old Thoroughbred mare named Bridget Moloney. Markings on the dead horse as well as the racing leg wraps on her body match those worn by Bridget Moloney during her last race at the nearby Mountaineer Casino Racetrack.

Bridget Moloney was “vanned off” during a race on the Mountaineer track on September 25, according to notes from Equibase, a racing industry website. Removal from the track via a transport van usually means that the horse was seriously injured.

A Mountaineer representative told the whistleblower that prior to her death, the horse dumped at the landfill was severely agitated and acted erratically and that she had slammed her head against the stall walls, sustaining a fatal head injury. A PETA staff member called the track to confirm this but was not given any additional information.


CHRB suspends trainer John Martin after 3 horses test positive

October 2, 2019

Southern California owner/trainer John Martin of Marina del Ray was suspended by the CHRB for one year by Golden Gate Fields stewards after three horses in his care tested positive for a banned drug. Half of the suspension was stayed as long as no other serious medication violations are committed by Martin.

Martin, who has 1,941 victories in 7,631 starts, according to Equibase, also was fined $20,000.

Three horses Martin ran at Golden Gate Fields in Albany and the Big Fresno Fair tested positive for ergoloid mesylates, state officials said. Ergoloid mesylates are used to treat Alzheimer’s and certain mood disorders in humans, and are thought to be used in racing as an anti-bleeding treatment.

Illegal horse racing track busted in Parker County, Texas

October 9, 2019

Ten people were arrested at an illegal horse-racing track in Parker County. The Texas Department of Public Safety, Parker County Sheriff’s Department and several other agencies took part in the operation where they found drugs, large syringes, drug paraphernalia and shocking devices.

The large syringes were being tested for illegal performance-enhancing substances that allow horses to be pushed to their limits, but also cause serious health conditions and often death. 

The bust followed several weeks of investigation.

Australian racehorse slaughter allegations prompt investigation

October 18, 2019

Australian authorities have launched an investigation into suspected animal cruelty after a TV report revealed the alleged mass slaughter of racehorses. Footage of horses allegedly being mistreated at an abattoir in Queensland caused widespread anger when it was aired on broadcaster ABC.

Queensland authorities sent inspectors to one of the abattoirs named by ABC’s 7.30 programme. The report alleged that 300 racehorses were killed there over a 22-day period. It also broadcast covertly taken footage which appeared to show horses being beaten and mistreated in other ways.


Breeders Cup Classic: Mongolian Groom the 37th racehorse to die at Santa Anita since last December

November 2, 2019

Mongolian Groom — a heavily raced 4-year old gelding — is the 37th horse to die at the Santa Anita racecourse since December amid mounting outrage and concern over horse safety at the track.

After breaking down in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and suffering a catastrophic injury to his left hind leg, Mongolian Groom was vanned off and euthanized shortly thereafter at the equine hospital at Santa Anita Park.

During their evaluation at the equine hospital at Santa Anita, they observed a serious fracture to his left hind limb. Radiographs were taken and a complete evaluation was performed.

“Given the extent of the injury, Dr. Carpenter, in consultation with Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, veterinary surgeon and professor emeritus at Colorado State University; Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board; and attending veterinarian Dr. Vince Baker, recommended humane euthanasia of Mongolian Groom.”

California trainers struggle with what lies ahead

November 3, 2019

In the aftermath of the death of Mongolian Groom after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, anxieties within the racing community deepened — especially in Southern California, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein issued a challenge to the sport before the Breeders’ Cup to keep the races fatality free. On the Sunday after the Breeders’ Cup, the trainers who call Santa Anita home voiced concern and determination for the sport’s future.

Since then, trainer Anna Meah has moved her horses out of the state, rider Kent Desormeaux has chosen to winter in Louisiana, Peter Miller has begun basing part of this stable in Kentucky, and trainer Doug O’Neill has sent a greater number of runners to Dubai. 

Feinstein renews call for racing to be suspended at Santa Anita Park

November 4, 2019

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement after Mongolian Groom was euthanized due to injuries sustained while racing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

“It breaks my heart to hear that another horse died because of injuries sustained during the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Racetrack. This year, 37 horses have died at Santa Anita, seven of those since racing resumed in September. That’s simply unacceptable. This problem is not unique to Santa Anita. More than 3,000 horses have died at California racetracks in the past two decades, and thousands more at racetracks throughout the country. Unfortunately, most states lack sufficient reporting requirements, so we may never know the exact numbers of horses that die nation-wide as part of the horse racing industry. This is a gap that should be closed.” Read more:

Citing the death of Mongolian Groom at the Breeders Cup, she renewed her call for horse racing to be suspended at Santa Anita.

“With continued racetrack deaths, it’s clear that not enough has changed, so I renew that call.’’ 

Veterinarian Allday: Breeders’ Cup made a mistake with Mongolian Groom

November 13, 2019

By the time Dr. Steve Allday was interviewed by radio host Steve Byk, concerns had already surfaced about the condition of Breeders’ Cup Classic contestant Mongolian Groom before the race

Mongolian Groom pulled up with multiple fractures in his left hind leg at the top of the Santa Anita stretch. He was later euthanized after veterinarians determined those injuries could not be repaired. 

In the hours and days after the race, videos on social media and XBTV attracted attention, as they appeared to show the horse taking uneven steps off the left hind during morning training throughout the week. 

The Breeders’ Cup, which had a team of 30 veterinarians on site to augment the pre-race exam process, has declined to provide details on the horse’s exam history or specify whether he had been flagged by veterinarians. The California Horse Racing Board also declined to comment.

RMTC approves new restrictions on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories

November 20, 2019

The Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) board approved further regulations and stacking prohibitions, as well as corresponding threshold and penalty recommendations, for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and intra-articular (IA) injections. 

The RMTC board has recommend a 48-hour Restricted Administration Time policy for all NSAIDs. Currently, the administration of one NSAID is permitted between 24 and 48 hours prior to a race, with all others discontinued by 48 hours. The board also voted that the detection of more than one NSAID would constitute a “stacking” violation, in addition to the violation associated with the detection of each additional NSAID.

California Chrome is off to Japan

November 22, 2019

The California Chrome Syndicate reached an agreement with the JS Company of Japan to purchase California Chrome.

The two-time Horse of the Year and 8-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit will stand at Arrow Stud on Hokkaido. Arrow Stud also stands U.S. champion Shanghai Bobby and U.S. classic-placed group 2 winner Lani.

As part of the agreement, the California Chrome Syndicate has the first right of refusal if the stallion is ever sold. Upon retirement from breeding, he can live out the remainder of his life at Taylor Made. Owners Perry and Denise Martin plan to continue to participate in California Chrome’s breeding career in Japan.

Grayson Project: Lasix 24 hours out shows ‘great promise’ to replace race-day medication

November 24, 2019

The debate of race-day furosemide is once again in the news. Trainers always say how inhumane it would be to not allow a horse that has experienced exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) to receive furosemide (Lasix). The public does not understand why we tell them that horses love to run on their own, yet we give more than 95% of horses a drug on race day that certain groups claim that horses need to be able to run.

Earlier this year the second of two projects funded by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation that examined furosemide administration at 24 hours prior to a race was published in the Journal of Veterinarian Internal Medicine, and Grayson believes there is a way forward.

Results from the simulated races show that for horses that are known bleeders, the low-dose furosemide administered at 24 hours prior to post with maintenance water has great promise as a replacement to the current four-hour administration of furosemide.
These findings are encouraging and indicate that Lasix is capable of attenuating EIPH for a longer duration than traditionally believed.

Former British Trainer: Too many things in U.S. racing ‘seemingly designed to harm the horse’

November 26, 2019

At a Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, former British racehorse trainer Patrick Gilligan took a dim view of the current approach in U.S. racing. First and foremost, Gilligan notes that nearly everything that’s done in U.S. racing is “seemingly designed to harm the horse in some way”.

He sites the strict left-hand galloping, day after day, after day given that horses are designed to run in straight lines and are likely to be harmed by the repetitive, galloping left-handed on a daily basis that paces more torsional stress on the pastern and cannon bone. 

He also criticizes dirt tracks and is in favor of synthetic surfaces and claims that if a horse bleeds to an extent it negatively impacts performance, that the animal is not fit for purpose. “Retire it, find it another life. Do not breed from it. The old adage is breed the best to the best and hope for the best — not breed the unsound bleeder to the unsound bleeder and find some stronger meds.”


RSPCA NSW admits it sends racehorses to slaughter

December 6, 2019

The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – AU) has admitted for the first time it sends broken-down racehorses to slaughterhouses in New South Wales where their carcasses are processed into pet food.

The animal welfare body has been one of the strongest critics of thoroughbreds being sent to abattoirs and knackeries once they are retired from the racing industry.

RSPCA New South Wales told Daily Mail Australia it sometimes sent stock including thoroughbreds for commercial slaughter if no other option was available.

Kentucky horse racing passes raceday Lasix ban and more

December 10, 2019

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) passed a ban on the race-day administration of Lasix. Calls for the ban come after more than three dozen horses perished at Santa Anita over a 10-month span.

The ban takes effect in 2020 for all 2-year-old horses and in 2021 any horse in a stakes race cannot receive the drug the day of the competition. The newly approved medication reforms were backed by a number of industry stakeholders nationwide with the prospect of improving safety in the sport.

More illegal horse racing discovered in Texas

December 19, 2019

Nine people were indicted on Dec. 19 by a Parker County grand jury for operating an illegal horse racing meet in Springtown, Texas, located 30 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

The Parker County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division, Texas Racing Commission and other agencies discovered the illegal horse racing in October. 

Dozens of horses were involved, some racing more than twice during the same weekend. Police confiscated an unspecified amount of cash and also recovered a number of syringes, drug paraphernalia and electrical shocking devices used to stimulate horses to run faster.

California prosecutor finds no crime in Santa Anita horse racing deaths

December 21, 2019

A California prosecutor found no evidence of animal cruelty or other crimes during an investigation into a spike in horse deaths at Santa Anita Park racetrack over the past year. There was no evidence that owners, trainers or jockeys intentionally made an injured horse race or that the track had pressured jockeys or trainers to race when there were concerns about weather or the track condition. However, eight drugs were found in several of the horses that died, but none was illegal and quantities didn’t exceed legal limits.

A task force formed by the Los Angeles district attorney looked at a decade’s worth of data and found that 49 horses died at Santa Anita Park during the 12-month period ending in June, fewer than the 71 who perished in 2011-12 but more than the 37 who died in 2010-11. 

The investigation was one of several actions taken after 23 horse deaths at the California track during the winter-spring season from Dec. 30 to March 31 caused an outcry that included calls to shut down horse racing in the state, regulatory changes and proposed legislation.

Many however, are not satisfied by the state of racing in the U.S. and the pervasive use of drugs, whether they be therapeutic or not. 

“Political action committee Animal Wellness Action said it was encouraged no criminal wrongdoing was found and applauded Lacey’s recommendations.

“But doping remains legal in California, and across the U.S., and American horse racing is addicted to drugs,” said executive director Marty Irby. “It’s time for an intervention, and Congress must soon pass the Horseracing Integrity Act to reform the industry or the public sentiment will continue to shift away from merely eliminating doping in horse racing to eliminating horse racing itself.”

62% of Americans think less favorably of racing after 2019

December 26, 2019

After a tumulutuous year in NA racing, a survey conducted by Ispos, a leading market research firm, concluded that widely publicized rachorse deaths left 62% of respondents with at least a “somewhat less favorable” impression of horse racing in 2019.  

The survey “found that when horses die from race-related injuries,” 34% of respondents were left with “a lot less favorable” view of the sport, while 28% had a “somewhat less favorable” impression.” Another 37% indicated the deaths did not change their opinion of racing.

Also polled about government involvement in racing, more than 53% of respondents said they support federal legislation to regulate drugs, with that a positive for the Horseracing Integrity Act that has gained bi-partisan backing in the U.S. House of Representatives. 31% of respondents said they weren’t sure about federal legislation, while 16% opposed it.

Peter Moody proposes industry ‘knackery’ for Ozs racehorses

December 31, 2019

Victoria’s former top trainer Peter Moody believes the racing industry should consider operating its own facility to humanely manage the end of life process for retired racehorses that cannot be rehomed.

“Let’s be realistic. Not all horses can be rehomed or train to different disciplines. Why not have an industry knackery for want of a better description to manage and handle horse’s welfare as humanly as possible. RSPCA puts down thousands of animals each year.”

Why not have an industry knackery? Humane and knackery in the same sentence? This is racing. Enough said. 

Written and Researched by JANE ALLIN

FEATURED IMAGE: Mongolian Groom. Sports Illustrated.

1 thought on “Horse Racing 2019 Year in Review”

  1. Thank you, Jane Allin for this review on horse racing for last year. Gut wrenching at the time of these events and even more gut wrenching when one reads the whole year!
    There needs to be an independent inquiry conducted into the welfare of the racehorse. And it should be an international inquiry, in my view. The horses globally are suffering death, injuries, doping, whipping, confinement, discarded, neglected, slaughtered and the list goes on. My heart breaks for these horses and I find it utterly unacceptable that the horse racing industry is allowed to continue operating when the welfare of these magnificent equines is clearly not being addressed – the horses continue to die on the tracks. Only yesterday in Melbourne, Australia the horse Manuel broke down in a big race and by all reports it appears careless riding was a factor, racing tight and he was forced into a spot where there was no room for him, a broken shoulder, which, in my experience, is quite a common cause of death when a horse travelling at fast speed loses his balance when he comes into contact with another horse in a race, as happened in this case. Murdered, as one commenter wrote on a pro-racing site here.
    Thanks again, Jane for this damning review of a year in horse racing.

    Liked by 1 person

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