by JANE ALLIN
The Kentucky Derby this Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the catastrophic breakdown of Eight Belles. Racing with the boys, she crossed the wire 4 ¾ lengths behind Big Brown, finishing second – the first filly since 1999 to run in the Derby — only to collapse with two shattered ankles and be euthanized on the track.
Memories of Barbaro’s anguishing ordeal, fresh in the minds of racing fans and the death of another horse on Kentucky Oaks day, cast a pall over North America’s most celebrated racing event and raised questions about the safety of horse racing.
Immediately the racing industry responded with the notion that more uniform regulations regarding equine health standards and drug use should be a top priority.
Ten long years and what has improved? Nothing.
Year after year, the industry holds conference after conference claiming that they are moving towards improved safety standards. Sadly, the efforts of the few that do care and want change, are lost to the greed of the rest.
These innocent souls are sacrificed to casino profits, allowance races, graded and graded stakes races and when they fail, relegated to claiming races and the slaughterhouse. It is estimated that 20% of slaughtered horses in North America are thoroughbreds — some picked up by the meat man at the track and sold by unscrupulous trainers and owners after a bad race, without a hope of finding a home. Disposed as garbage. Just throw-away items.
In fact, it seems the opposite to what the racing industry claims has happened.
The transparency, if there ever was any, is gone.
The doping continues, the trainers and veterinarians are one step ahead of the newest drug testing, the records available about trainer infractions are incomplete where serious penalties are hidden from the public, statistics only report deaths if a horse dies during a race, and horses, despite what the industry claims, continue to die in record numbers, all hidden from the public’s view.
All of this is a cover up, blatant lies, to attempt to convince everyone that the industry is above board.
Horse racing is a cruel, predatory business. You bet, they die.
“She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles.” Blaming the breeders and investors, sports writer Sally Jenkins claimed,”thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it.”
“Our horses are sick. Our thoroughbreds are thoroughly inbred. They are locomotives sitting atop toothpicks. They are fragile and friable, designed to run but not to recover from running. And each time they break down or wear out, we chalk it up to an individual horse’s shortcomings, rather than the decades-long decline of the entire breeding industry”. — Barry Petchesky (Deadspin)
“What he liked about horse racing was the minimal investment and the high returns. He didn’t mind horses at all; they were easy on the eyes and exciting to watch.”
“The horse industry in general was a zero-waste proposition: this was one animal you could take from birth, exploit all its qualities – speed, strength, tractability – through breeding, racing, eventing, caléche or companion service, and then profit from its flesh when it had outlived its usefulness.”
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