The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) passed a ban Monday on the race-day administration of the drug Lasix in horses. 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 an eye toward bolstering safety in the sport.
The move came two weeks after the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council approved the Lasix recommendation
The calls for the ban come after more than three dozen horses perished at Santa Anita over a 10-month span. While there have been concerned about track conditions at the California track, it’s also led to a discussion among racing officials bout other steps that could be taken to prevent injuries and fatalities.
Last month, Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc., TSG [The Stronach Group], the New York Racing Association, and others announced the formation of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. The purpose behind the coalition is to increase transparency and create a unified set of regulations, such as the drug laws passed Monday by the KHRC.
“Today, the KY Horse Racing Commission adopted new medication reforms, including ones that double the pre-race withdrawal time for corticosteroids & NSAIDS and eliminate the use of bisphosphonates,” Lexington, Ky-based Keeneland Association, another coalition member, posted on Twitter Monday.” We applaud these efforts & will continue work to make our sport safer.”
It sounds encouraging doesn’t it? We want to feel encouraged. However, American horse racing is running scared. They should be. Yet, they would not be doing any of this if Santa Anita had not killed all those horses for God and everyone to see culminating in the death of Mongolian Groom on the final day of the Breeders’ Cup.
So horse racing will pledge all sorts of changes and reforms but the carnage will continue. It will continue. Because we know what really needs to be done. And if we know it, they know it. Horse racing’s problems begin in the shed. Its breeding practices have brought them to these gut-wrenchingly deadly times. And where in America would they know this better than in Kentucky?
FEATURED IMAGE: Mongolian Groom (Sports Illustrated)
We call for an end to U.S. horse racing because it is past reforming. The horse has bolted.
Additionally, there appears to be no one in American horse racing genuinely interested in, or knowledgeable and capable of, reforming it. If we are wrong then show us who they are, what they purport to do and when they are going to start doing it.
In the meantime horse racing apologists, please do not trot out that piece of feeble legislation, The Horse Racing Integrity Act, as an example. It will not remedy the problems it is chiefly designed for in the long term. Once the drug authority comes in and sets it all up, it puts U.S. horse racing back in charge. The Horse Racing Integrity Act is a fox guarding the henhouse piece of legislation. It is a smoke and mirrors tactic designed to give the appearance of reform.
Then there is the breeding aspect of horse racing where all of this really begins.
Modern American racehorses are bred to breakdown, and as a result are constantly breaking down. They will continue to do so until the American racehorse has been bred to restore balance and durability. Trying to get and keep racehorses on the racecourse the way they are bred now is the major contributing factor for the drugging, doping and debilitating “therapies” practiced on them.
How about the tens of thousands of racehorses who are sent to a grisly and terrifying death by slaughter. What about them? And what about the persistent rumors of horse racing employed lobbyists buying off politicians in Washington DC to keep the SAFE Act banning horse slaughter from passing.
How does American horse racing stay in business? Gambling, baby, gambling. Oh, and let’s not forget those tasty millions of State governmental subsidies. Your tax dollars at work.
We conclude with this. The only way to protect racehorses from the cruel and fatal practices of American horse racing is to end horse racing. What else is there?
We didn’t invite ourselves to this day. Horse racing has brought us here.
“The horse has bolted” is an English expression which means someone trying to prevent something from happening, but have done so too late to prevent damage from being done.
My Dad was a single parent. He took me with him everywhere. One of those places was Las Vegas.
There wasn’t a lot for a 15 year old to do in Las Vegas. So when I asked him what I was going to do while we were there, he said something like, “You’re a smart kid. Find something. Just stay out of trouble.” So I went for a walk, looking for something that didn’t look like trouble.
I came across a sort of caravan, flea bitten looking mini bus sort of thing, with a handwritten cardboard sign that said “Wild Horse Tours”. There was an older gentleman standing nearby. I asked him about it and he told me for $5 he takes people out to see the wild horses. Having grown up with horses literally from birth, I was immediately fascinated by the idea, and knew I just had to go. So I eagerly gave him the $5 and climbed aboard.
As soon as he had enough people, we took off. We drove for some time. I started getting a bit nervous. We were in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.
Then our guide pulled over, parked and told us to get out and make ourselves comfortable. On some boulders. We sat there for a good long while. I am not sure how long now, but to a teen it seemed like an eternity. Suddenly, getting up he gruffly said, “I don’t think we’re going to see anything today”. As we got up and started dusting ourselves off, he whirled around and started shouting excitedly, “Wait. Do you feel that? Do you feel that?”
I didn’t discern anything at first, but then I began feeling what the old gentleman did. The ground had begun to move, to shake, ever so subtly. I asked myself, am I imagining this because of what he just said, or . . . ? Then it became stronger and more perceptible. “There”, he shouted, excitedly pointing to what look like dust clouds on the ground way off in the distance. I was transfixed. My breathing became shallow, my spine started tingling and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
Next we heard the unmistakable sound of hooves, distant but there, as the dust clouds got nearer. It seemed to go on forever. Then suddenly out of those clouds we saw emerging a band of Mustangs.
I took in a sharp intake of breath as I caught sight of them. It was electrifying. Remarkably, as far off as they were, we could not only see them but also hear them, their leader calling and his band responding.
Then for a moment they slowed down, then stopped for the briefest of moments, the lead horse angling his head around, listening intently and sniffing the air. My heart seemed to stop with them. Next the stallion pounded the earth with his front hooves, his magnificent neck arched toward it, and reared up and pawed the air. It was as majestic a sight as you could ever hope to see.
Before I could really take it all in, the stallion and his band took off again quickly beginning to disappear into the vastness and out of sight. Breathlessly watching them I remember saying to myself, “That’s what freedom looks like”. I looked around at our group to see their reaction and many were in tears, including our guide. He wiped his face and eyes with the back of his hand and said, “Dang. They never fail to get to me every time.”
It was an indelible experience. In that splendid capsule of time I witnessed and felt with all my being how it truly must feel to be free, truly free.
I learned something else that day in Nevada. The desire to live freely and unmolested is universal. All creatures share it. And that freedom is yearned for and longed for by every horse, whether domestic or in the wild. This has strongly impacted my beliefs about all horses.
When I started my horse protection organization decades later — to combat horse slaughter to begin with — I became acquainted with the many cruelties carried out against horses. Learning about the plight of America’s wild horses and burros left me stunned and heartbroken, witnessing humans robbing our Mustangs of what is rightfully theirs.
When racehorse Bodexpress dumped his jockey in this year’s Preakness, leaving him on the ground in the starting gate and galloping riderless down the track, I knew exactly what the horse was feeling. Freedom. You could see his elation. The commentators of course didn’t see it that way at all. Predictably, they said the horse was simply completing the race because that’s what racehorses do. They have no clue because racehorses are a means to an end. Their end.
Our Mustangs are also in terrible trouble, perhaps more than ever, and that’s saying something given their tragic history at the hands of man. My hope is that you will take an even stronger stand on their behalf and defend their right to roam, untouched and free.
Everyone who knows us knows we are no fans of Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert. He is a cheater, a liar and a doper.
I had written a dear colleague a day or so ago stating it is my opinion that when all is said and done, Baffert’s Triple Crown Winner, Justify, would go down in history with an asterisk by his name, marking that the horse had won during the Chemical Age, and his victory would count for little. The next day she wrote back saying, did you see this . . . . ?
“On June 9, 2018, a colt named Justify thundered home to the full-throated cheers of a capacity crowd to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes and claim horse racing’s Triple Crown, one of the most storied achievements in sports.
“It was the perfect ending to an improbable journey for a talented horse, his eclectic ownership group, and his Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert.
“Only a few people, however, knew the secret that Baffert carried with him into the winner’s circle that day: 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 of the failed drug test causing a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. Then, instead of filing a public complaint as it usually does, the board made a series of decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for any horse found to have the banned substance that Justify tested positive for in its system.
“Only a handful of racing officials and people connected to Justify knew about the failed drug test, which occurred April 7, 2018, after Justify won the Santa Anita Derby. He tested positive for the drug scopolamine, a banned substance that veterinarians say can enhance performance, especially in the amount that was found in the horse.
“Justify was undefeated at the time, but he still needed to finish first or second in the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, on May 5. While the colt won at Santa Anita, the failed drug test would mean disqualification and forfeiture of both the prize money and the entry into the Kentucky Derby that came with the victory.”
“None of that happened, though.
“Test results, emails and internal memorandums in the Justify case show how California regulators waited nearly three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify Baffert that his Derby favorite had failed a doping test.”
The rest of the article talks about the actions the California Horse Racing Board took, or perhaps I should say didn’t take. Interestingly, “The chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, Chuck Winner, owns an interest in horses trained by Baffert. Two other board members employ trainers and jockeys they regulate.” It is an incestuous business.
Insofar as the drug itself, “Scopolamine cases have resulted in disqualifications, purse reimbursements, fines and suspensions over the decades.” Not it seems, however, if it is used by Bob Baffert.
Justify was “retired” almost immediately following the Triple Crown and shipped off to stud. What about Justify’s Triple Crown? Bring on the asterisk.
In the meantime. . . .
Horse racing is gambled on. Horse doping is race fixing. How this so called “sport” is still running is criminal in every sense of the word in my view and should be banned from being gambled on, which would sink the industry. More on that in another post.