Racism is built into KY horse racing’s history

Is industry ready to address injustice?

Via Kentucky.com. OP ED. By Lynda Blackford. 8 Jul. 2020

If you want to see just how quickly U.S. society appears to be changing, check out the speed with which the horse racing industry condemned the atrocious racist remarks of horseman Tom VanMeter on social media.

Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, the Daily Racing News, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, all quickly jumped to social media to distance themselves. On Wednesday, Keeneland announced plans to ban VanMeter from the track and sales pavilion. The haste surprised insiders like Evan Hammonds, the executive editor of the Blood Horse Magazine.

“The industry is not known for being groundbreaking in the situation going on these days, but it was pretty amazing how fast this came together,” Hammonds noted.

When Wall arrived in Kentucky in the 1960s to go to UK and cover racing for the Herald-Leader, the plantation image was still prominent. “That’s changed,” she said. “The plantation is out but the industry is still based on cheap labor.”

If the top levels of a sport are limited to the top .01 richest Americans, it’s hard to see how much diversity can be attained, even in the fan base.

A few months ago, the sport horse world reacted with both support and disdain to an article in the Chronicle of the Horse by a very wealthy 17-year-old, who bemoaned the lack of support for Black Lives Matter protests. Bless her heart, as we say, but the Venn diagram of people who spend millions of dollars to jump over fences and those marching for weeks straight to protest police brutality is a pretty slender sliver.

So what will be interesting to see is if the racing industry does indeed try to make substantive changes. As Joe Nevills, bloodstock editor for the Paulick Report noted, the industry has a short memory. “If a VanMeter horse comes up and it’s a star, do you think no one will buy it? It’s hard to put on buyers: Do you deny business to someone who did this reprehensible thing or do you try to win?”

And if you’re trying to win, how much do you care about changes that lead to a more just society? Starting tomorrow, the trainers that employ track backside workers could pay them better wages and provide healthcare to them all, then pass those costs onto the billionaires they work for. But that would take a lot of money and hard work.

Horseracing has become more sensitive to society’s whims and foibles, such as a dislike of watching horses die on the track. The industry definitely passed the test of its first post-George Floyd-Breonna Taylor crisis, but like all of U.S. society, it’s a long way from getting an A.


Dear Readers,

We were not going to post Blackford’s article, but after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we agreed and went ahead, also deciding that giving you simply an excerpt would not give you the full feel of the article.

We feel pretty certain that Blackford has not a clue just how arrogant or entitled some of her statements sound. Are we looking for trouble where there is none? We do not think so. However, we agree to consider that we have a heightened sensitivity considering what the country has been through the past several months.

In the meantime, let’s put aside for a moment what human lives matter. We know racehorses’ lives do not matter. Look at this.

Horseracing has become more sensitive to society’s whims and foibles, such as a dislike of watching horses die on the track.

So it is a whim or foible to dislike watching horses die? Oh, my. It’s July . . . not April right?

What say you? — TUESDAY’S HORSE

Related Reading

Keeneland announces ban on Lexington horseman who made racist comments, Lexington Herald-Leader, 8 Jul. 2020

Featured Image: Photographer Not Cited.

Fund for Horses Logo

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s