The Horseracing Integrity Act and the future of horse racing

Historic twin spires of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Abbie Myers.

The Bloodhorse magazine reports:

The Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754), introduced in March by Congressman Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, and Congressman Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat, has gained additional support from the House of Representatives, with 226 members now co-sponsoring the legislation.

The bill received co-sponsorship from a majority of the House in mid-December.

That sounds encouraging doesn’t it? But wait. Nothing about horse racing is ever quite as it sounds.

This is new. Those supporting the Act are talking about it in slightly more open terms concerning what it will actually do and who will be doing it. Look.

The Horseracing Integrity Act authorizes the creation of a non-governmental anti-doping authority governed by representatives of all major constituencies of the industry and responsible for implementing a national uniform medication program for the entire horse racing industry.

” . . . governed by representatives of all major constituencies of the industry and responsible for implementing a national uniform medication program for the entire horse racing industry.”

That begs the following question. If these people are already capable of implementing a uniform medication program, why aren’t they doing it right now across their own jurisdictions, which they are so obviously loathe to give up control of? Not one of them truly wants to operate under a single all encompassing umbrella.

A Group with a View

While all of this is going on, word is Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) does not look on the Horseracing Integrity Act with a friendly eye. They have reportedly given Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell his marching orders regarding bill, which he will no doubt carry out. This means of course that the bill has absolutely no hope of becoming law, unless CDI suddenly changes their mind. And why would they?

CDI knows that most of the various racing jurisdictions across the country, left to their own devices, will eventually self-destruct (i.e. California which may go completely away this year via Referendum) or become ripe for takeover, eventually leaving CDI in complete control of all the venues it wants, and get rid of the ones it doesn’t.

Imagine. A portfolio of historically significant racetracks under the management of a single corporate entity such as CDI. Horse racing would be in a strong position to be managed properly and perhaps even ethically to the benefit of all concerned, especially the horses, with a view of restoring the breed — perhaps even improving it and making it the envy of the world.

And if they fail the horses, which are truly our only concern? Horse racing will be much easier to take down when operating under one roof, no matter how rich and powerful an entity it has become.

Santa Anita Vets missed chances to remove Mongolian Groom

Mongolian Groom. Sports Illustrated image.

Notice the post’s title says missed chances — plural — referring to the lack of supervision and action leading to the death of Mongolian Groom at the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.

KTLA reports:

“A report on the death of Mongolian Groom in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita says veterinarians missed opportunities to remove the gelding from the $6 million race because of time constraints or deficiencies in the process used to evaluate horses.

In the 20-page report issued Wednesday, Dr. Larry Bramlage identified six suggested improvements aimed at refining safety and evaluation protocols for future events.

Mongolian Groom, a 4-year-old gelding, suffered what Cup officials described as ‘a serious fracture’ of his left hind leg in the late stages of the Classic last November, which was shown on national television. Four vets recommended that he be euthanized.”

Check out this statement by Bramlage:

“It is hard to fault a process that had a 99.6% accuracy rate,” Bramlage said, noting that of the 229 horses that competed in last year’s [2019] world championships, Mongolian Groom was the only one to be injured.

Wait a minute. Mongolian Groom was not simply injured; he was fatally injured. Who knows what horses went home lame?

Then there is this.

What about when Mongolian Groom was warming up on the track? Numerous people saw him and noticed he was favoring his left (or near) hind. What about Mongolian Groom’s jockey? How is it, as sensitive as jockeys are to their mounts, that he did not notice anything?

In our opinion, Mongolian Groom’s life may easily have been saved if someone, anyone, had given a damn about the safety of this horse. As it turns out, he is just another statistic . . . a fatal one.

Someone on a message board wrote, “. . . yeah, well, that’s real sad and everything but it’s better than going to slaughter, isn’t it?” *

This is horse racing.

Read Bramlage’s six points »

*The referenced comment has now been deleted.

Two Quarter Horses die at Louisiana Downs

Quarter Horse standing in pasture. iStock photo.

We do not post much about Quarter Horse racing fatalities. Shame on us for not doing so.

“Lrh Fast as Oak” and “Perry Train”

According to Equibase, two “fell and were euthanzied” on opening day of Louisiana Downs’ Quarter Horse race meeting.

Their names were “Lrh Fast as Oak” and “Perry Train”. They were only two years old.

About Quarter Horse racing

Quarter Horse racing competes horses at great speed for short distances on a straightaway course, originally a quarter of a mile, hence the name. Quarter Horse racing was begun by the early settlers in Virginia shortly after Jamestown was established in 1607.

Long recognized as a distinct type, Quarter Horses are known for their ability to start quickly and sprint swiftly, producing close contests with many photo finishes. The breed originated in Virginia from a Thoroughbred stallion, Janus, and native mares.

There are currently more than 5 million registered Quarter Horses.

US Racing: Santa Anita kicks off 2020 killing yet another racehorse

A rider on the training track at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, Calif. on March 8. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

ARCADIA, California (Jan. 1, 2020) — Golden Birthday took a bad step in the stretch at Santa Anita, unseating his jockey who was trying to pull the horse up. Veterinarians recommended that the four year old gelding be euthanized, although it wasn’t immediately clear what his injury was.

Santa Anita killed a reported 37 horses in 2019.


You may have noticed that racehorse death reports at the end of last year were slipping in references to last December’s investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office which reportedly found there is no indication of animal cruelty or criminal activity in the Santa Anita horse deaths. Well, no. Of course not.

Can American horse racing — especially in California — get any more obnoxious?

Horse racing needs to be banned outright. There is no way to reform an industry full of individuals with the sort of mentality they consistently display. Sadly American racehorses are hardly alone. This same sort of thinking and gruesome practices is show up across horse racing around the world.

In the meantime, California Governor Newsome has done a disappearing act. How many horses do they need to kill at Santa Anita before someone, anyone, puts a stop to it?


•  Santa Anita race track has 1st horse death of the new year after a deadly 2019; CBS News; Jan. 2, 2020

•  Two horses have died at Santa Anita since Dec. 26; LA Times;  Jan. 2, 2020 »

•  Investigation into horse deaths at Santa Anita finds no unlawful conduct; LA Times; Dec. 19, 2019

•  Op-Ed: Jane Smiley: The deaths of Santa Anita remind me why I don’t miss horse racing; LA Times; Mar. 10, 2019

A rider on the training track at Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, Calif. on March 8, 2019. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times).