We hope you got to watch or listen to the Subcommittee Hearing just conducted on the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754), chaired by Congresswoman Janice D. Schakowsky.
The Hearing began at 10:30 a.m. and concluded at 12:45 p.m.
It was riveting, demonstrating how far apart most of racing is regarding the state of its industry. This is how racehorses continue to be compromised and killed on U.S. racetracks, competing and in training.
The Hearing is already available on YouTube.
Here are the written statements from each of the witnesses which were read into the record at the start of the Hearing in pdf format.
Most of the discussion was focused on and by Thoroughbred racing, but this legislation includes Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing.
What are your thoughts? Too little too late? Can it be reformed and the industry saved? Or should it all just go away?
A recurring theme is how the industry’s handle (the amount bet) has declined and continues to decline. In other words they are losing betting customers. You see, gambling is the backbone of the industry; what feeds it — keeps it alive.
FEATURED IMAGE: Horses jump out the gate at Del Mar racetrack in California. Unattributed Google search result.
The Jockey Club reported Oct. 3 that 1,630 stallions covered 32,508 mares in North America during 2018, according to statistics compiled through Sept. 26, 2019. These breedings have resulted in 20,363 live foals of 2019 being reported to The Jockey Club on Live Foal Reports.
The Jockey Club estimates the number of live foals reported so far is approximately 90% complete. The reporting of live foals is down 3.6% from last year at this time when The Jockey Club received reports for 21,130 live foals of 2018.
In addition to the live foals of 2019, The Jockey Club also received 2,405 No Foal Reports for the 2019 foaling season. Ultimately, the 2019 registered foal crop is projected to reach 20,800. A crop of 20,800 would mark a fourth straight year the crop has declined in numbers, and it would be the smallest crop since 1966 (20,228).
The number of stallions in 2018 declined 8.3% from the 1,778 reported for 2017 at this time last year, and the number of mares bred declined 5.2% from the 34,288 reported for 2017. Read more »
Last week, The Jockey Club gleefully boasted of progress on the “breakdown” front: “An analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database…has shown a 14 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal injury…from 1.89 per 1,000 starts in 2014 to 1.62 per 1,000 starts in 2015…the lowest since the EID started publishing…in 2009.”
Well – time to deconstruct the oft-cited, much ballyhooed “Equine Injury Database” . . .
To start, the wording is (intentionally, I have to believe) misleading: Presented as deaths per 1,000 starts, it reads, at least to the untrained eye, deaths per 1,000 horses. But the typical racehorse logs many starts (up to 25) each year, making the death rate per 1,000 horses much higher – certainly not one they’d want to publicize.
The database is completely voluntary: While many tracks participate, some do not. Besides that, no third party – not the JC, not a government agency, no one – verifies the submitted data. At the risk of stating the obvious, dead horses are bad for business. So, not only is there no compelling reason for tracks (trainers, owners, etc.) to give a complete reckoning, there is a vested interest to not. Self-reporting – an honor system – the casualties that they are directly responsible for? Please.
The database is anonymous: No names, no dates, (mostly) no locations. Not only does this make it impossible for someone like me to cross-confirm, it keeps the names and faces of the dead safely secreted away. Messy carcasses converted to sterile ratios.
The database has acknowledged restrictions: Only those who perish “as a direct result of injuries sustained participating in a race” are counted. In other words, the 3-year-old (an adolescent, by the way) who keels and dies of what is commonly dismissed as a “cardiac event” is excluded, not to mention all training deaths, which are at least as common as those occurring in-race. And, the death must come “within 72 hours of [the] race,” leaving the many who are euthanized back at the farm, post unsuccessful surgery, or after being acquired by a rescue unaccounted for. More hidden carnage.
In the end, The Jockey Club is American Thoroughbred racing, impossible to separate from the other interested parties. How can anything it says regarding the more unseemly aspects (dead horses) of its own industry be taken seriously?
Truth is, the “Equine Injury Database” is but a marketing tool, created in the wake of Eight Belles and all the bad press that ensued, existing solely to quell an increasingly unsettled public with an empty promise of “we’re on this, we care.” They’re not and they don’t.
20+ Yr Insider commented: “When a horse breaks down or is pulled up due to injury in a race, they will at all means transport the horse off the track, and put it down in the barn area. By doing this they don’t have to report the death of said horse as a racing death. This makes the statistics look better, while covering up the truth.”
Declines in the number of foals and registered horses have created challenges for the equine industry at large, though the situation has raised another major question: Where have all the owners gone?
This year’s American Horse Council National Issues Forum was titled, “Where Have All the Horses Gone?”
During the June 24 forum in Washington, D.C., the question was answered on several levels, but the data also led to more questions.
Breed registries have largely the same story to tell, and it’s one about fewer horses either through declines in the number of mares bred or the fact horses aren’t registered.
In any event, racing and other disciplines are feeling the impact that comes from fewer people participating in horse ownership.
For instance, the Thoroughbred foal crop was more than 51,000, an all-time high, in 1986, but The Jockey Club projects it will fall to about 22,000 in 2014. In turn, the number of individual race starters is projected to drop from 59,300 last year to 44,500 in 2017.
The people who run horse racing in the U.S. continue to come across as blinkered as usual to the legion of wrongs.
But let’s look at this from a purely business sense. If people don’t want your product, make a better product.
Who wants to buy a horse who hasn’t the stamina for training and likely to break down before he or she even makes it into a race. Drugs and other “therapies” only get these horses so far as we have seen. And it is getting worse. Now the two-year olds aimed at the Kentucky Derby and beyond don’t make it to their three-year old seasons.
As Arthur Hancock, the breeder of three Kentucky Derby winners points out: “Chemical horses produce chemical babies. Performance-enhancing drugs must be banned if we are going to survive as an industry and if thoroughbreds are going to survive as a robust breed.”
Many individuals complain that the cost of owning and racing a horse is way over the top.
How about the veterinary bills and expenses for the huge amounts of drugs these horses are reportedly given? Eliminating that pervasive problem would surely begin to restore the health, stamina and longevity of the racehorse and help this flagging industry.
Horse racing still thinks marketing it saying, hey, everything’s okay, horse racing’s still great, is the way to go. Really? You have been saying this for years yet there is no change. Your industry is dying on the vine. Take a look.
Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Jim Gagliano said. “It’s abundantly clear what we need to do.”
Gagliano outlined seven things The Jockey Club believes the industry must do: thoughtfully reduce the number of racing days; promote the best races and events; improve use of new marketing tools such as social media; focus on a younger demographic to introduce people to horse racing; increase the value of Thoroughbreds in part by proving their value outside of racing; developing new owners; and reducing risks such as medication abuse or horse neglect that damage the Thoroughbred brand.
How can you promote the value of Thoroughbreds outside of racing when you ruin so many of them? What about the ones who cannot go on to second careers because of what they suffered in their racing careers?
There is a slight glimmer of hope although it is worded in a way that is not particularly encouraging, and that is the last of these mentioned by Gagliano – reducing risks such as medication abuse or horse neglect that damage the Thoroughbred brand.
If they were more concerned about the humane and respectful treatment of racehorses, they wouldn’t have to be so concerned about their brand.
A good start would be to stop ignoring the abuses exposed such as the Peta Asmussen report, facing them and dealing with them. Do they really think that nobody has noticed the horseracing industry has swept this under the carpet?
And here is another aspect of horse racing they continue to ignore: slaughter. One individual commenting on this article by the name of TerryM stated, “Considering how many horses are sent to slaughter every year, surely the drop in numbers is good“.
Guess what the American Horse Council’s stand on horse slaughter is.