Part of the reason so many young racehorses die is because of a lack of regulation on drugs administered to the animals, according to Vivian Grant Farrell, founder and president of The Horse Fund, an organization that promotes horse welfare. Farrell said that horses are commonly given drugs to mask preexisting injuries so that they can “run through the pain,” and this compromises their safety.
“Man and animal alike love to do what they were created to. Racehorses love to run. But some even go so far as to believe that racehorses love to compete. Perhaps, but not in the way a human being does. In the instance of horse racing, too often humans project insatiable appetites for money and glory onto the performance of these magnificent animals,” Farrell told The Dodo after a young horse died at the Belmont Stakes in 2015. And little has changed since that death, and so many others.
“Horses continue to die unnecessarily on America’s racetracks,” Jane Allin, research writer for The Horse Fund, told The Dodo.
One of the most memorable deaths on the track was a horse named Eight Belles, who was euthanized at the Kentucky Derby after getting injured on May 3, 2008. “It was her tragic death that spurred a major undertaking to address the pervasive use of drugs — both therapeutic and performance-enhancing — in every division of horse racing occurring on the tracks across the U.S.,” Allin said. “Since this time, has anything really changed?”
In terms of drug use, nothing has changed, according to Allin. “Year after year, the racing industry meets to discuss and argue about developing new regulations … but the industry itself is divided and so the ideas of many well-intentioned individuals are mired in disagreement,” she said.
Allin pointed out that Saratoga, like other tracks across the nation, has a history of death. “With the rampant use of drugs in North America, unlike other jurisdictions in the world, there is certainty that horses are compromised, leading to a greater number of fatalities on the track, reported or not,” Allin said. “It seems no horse is immune to these abhorrent practices… Horse racing in North America is a sham. Until real changes [take place], racing here will continue down the ugly path of deceit and death.”
Even if better regulations pass, there are other problems that cast a dark cloud over the industry. “There are some horse racing jurisdictions that are highly praised such as Hong Kong where drug abuse is virtually nonexistent. However, gambling is the heartbeat of horse racing and it has much more to do with running ‘clean’ races, which bettors in their culture demand, than any consideration for the racehorse,” Farrell told The Dodo. For instance, it is not uncommon for ex-racehorses to be shipped to slaughter or die of neglect. “How can you make an industry humane that for decades has been dumping racehorses of no further use to them in slaughterhouses?” Farrell said.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) issued the following press release yesterday. It is of course important to demand it. It is another to actually introduce a bill, push it through and get it done. Udall is plucky and has the determination necessary to succeed.
Sen. Udall is of course keenly aware of racehorse doping as some of the most egregious abuses happen at New Mexico tracks, both in Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing.
Let’s not spare today’s dopers doing business as usual at Churchill Downs.
As a colleague just stated about today’s Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming:
Pletcher had 3 horses in including Patch, the one-eyed horse. And if you look at the list, it’s always the same trainers. Most of whom are drug lords.
MAY 05, 2017 Ahead of Kentucky Derby, Udall Demands an End to Doping of Race Horses Special gambling laws and subsidies support horse racing, even as egregious doping abuse plagues the sport
WASHINGTON – Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, U.S. Senator Tom Udall released the following statement reiterating his persistent calls for the horse racing industry to end its widespread abuse of performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers used on horses. Udall called for reform or the repeal of the federal law that makes horse racing the only sport specially permitted to offer online gambling and interstate betting:
“As long as we continue to reward the horse racing industry for its inhumane doping violations with sweetheart gambling privileges and millions in casino slots subsidies, these shameful abuses will continue. It is long past time for Congress to act to reform or repeal horse racing’s unique federal gambling law, to force the industry to look out for the safety of horses and jockeys, and to restore integrity to this once-dignified sport.
“This weekend, outside of the view of fans in the grandstand, horses competing in the Kentucky Derby will be injected before being loaded into the starting gate. As deaths and injuries pile up, it has become abundantly clear that there is no doping or corruption scandal outrageous enough to shame the horse racing industry into rooting out abuse.
“One harness trainer racked up more than 1,700 medication violations. Four track veterinarians — tasked with ensuring the health and safety of these animals – pled guilty to unlawfully and repeatedly administering performance enhancing drugs in Pennsylvania. No one caught giving racehorses dermorphin, a painkiller 40 times more powerful than morphine, has been permanently kicked out of the sport.
“New Mexico racetracks have some of the highest rates of horse fatalities and injuries in the country, yet the state has paid $682 million into horse racing purse prizes since 1999. Our state should not be subsidizing an industry that remains so shockingly indifferent to egregious doping abuses.
“A horse that needs to be injected to race should not be forced to compete. Unless we take meaningful action to insist upon real reform, Congress and the states that subsidize the horse racing industry will continue to be willful accomplices to the abuse of these iconic animals.”
Chronic abuse of performance-enhancing drugs is commonplace in horseracing. Almost every horse is given race-day medication — banned in other countries — and no uniform medication rules or doping penalties exist across the states.
As the New York Times reported in 2012, doping undermines the safety and viability of the sport, and 24 horses die each week from racing injuries — an alarming fatality rate likely caused by the misuse of permitted medication and abuse of illegal drugs.
Udall has fought for years to reform the horse racing industry. In 2015, Udall and former Representative Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) introduced legislation to eliminate most wagering on horse racing to encourage the sport to end doping and crack down on cheaters.
Yes, horse racing must rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs. More importantly, it must rid itself of injury masking drugs, the most hideous of all of racing’s doping evils.
Injury masking drugs are what destroys racehorses resulting in their death at racetracks and their health and soundness overall to the point owners and trainers dump them making them vulnerable to the meat man.
Sen. Udall sums it up this way: “A horse that needs to be injected to race should not be forced to compete.”
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) – The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has handed down punishments to seven harness-racing drivers and owners accused of providing a banned substance to horses.
WCSH-TV reports all seven were convicted of providing cobalt to their hoses.
Cobalt is a banned substance that can boost the performance of horses. The substance can be harmful to a horse’s health, sometimes leading to death.
The punishments were a $2,250 fine and 450-day suspension for four people and a $1,250 fine and 270-day suspension for a fifth. Two others were fined.