Kentucky horse racing regulators clear trainer Steve Asmussen of abuse allegations

Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen leads Tapiture to the paddock before the Rebel Stakes. Asmussen has been accused of cruelty to race horses by PETA. Photo: Danny Johnston/AP.
Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen leads Tapiture to the paddock before the Rebel Stakes. Asmussen has been accused of cruelty to race horses by PETA.

Kentucky horse racing and horse racing in general in the U.S. should hang their heads in shame. But of course they will not. They are too callous and self-righteous.

U.S. horse racing have demonstrated once again they care absolutely nothing about the safety and welfare of the racehorses they use. Asmussen is just the tip of the iceberg of horse racing’s evildoing.

Think I am exaggerating or know nothing about horse racing. I was raised in it — in Kentucky. I also worked many years as a horse racing photographer. And I was married to an Assistant Trainer who worked in the U.S, England and Ireland.

When he was headhunted in England to work in the U.S., I told my husband he would hate the way racehorses are treated in the U.S. He thought I was exaggerating or being oversensitive. After 3 months he was ready to quit. After 6 months he did, and went back home continuing his career in Ireland until he retired.

Here’s part of the story, as reported by the Star Tribune:

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky regulators have cleared one of horse racing’s winningest trainers of abuse allegations made by an animal-rights group claiming it had videotape evidence that Steve Asmussen mistreated thoroughbreds in his care.

    The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission [KHRC] investigation found nothing to substantiate claims by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commission Chairman Robert Beck said Thursday.

    Outside veterinarians asked by the commission to independently review PETA documents and video also found nothing to support the allegations, he said.

    Kentucky regulators also cleared Asmussen’s assistant trainer, Scott Blasi.

    “No evidence was found to substantiate PETA’s claims that Asmussen and Blasi maintained horses in their care in poor physical condition or subjected any horse to cruel or injurious mistreatment, abuse or neglect,” Beck said in a statement he read after the commission reconvened from closed session.

    “On the contrary, the investigation revealed that Asmussen-trained horses were well cared for as measured by such factors as incidence of injuries and KHRC veterinarian scratches.”

    PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said the outcome of the months-long probe signaled that Kentucky’s racing commission is “uninterested in horse welfare.”

    “If there was nothing wrong in the documentation that PETA found, then something is very wrong with racing in Kentucky,” Guillermo said in a statement.

    “A responsible enforcement agency would have examined the mountains of evidence — including sore horses who were drugged rather than allowed to recover from strained muscles and ligaments and 3-year-old horses who were made sore every day of their lives — and concluded that significant wrongdoing occurred.”

Of course. If the Kentucky Racing Commission said they had found plenty wrong (and there was plenty) with how the horses the subject of the Asmussen investigation were treated, they would have exposed the industry to an avalanche of damaging exposure they can ill afford.

KHRC Chairman Robert Beck described their investigation as “exhaustive, spanning hundreds of hours of commission staff time to analyze the video and other information.” Seriously? And you saw nothing wrong. Nothing?

Self-serving horse racing regulators in Kentucky are clearly using Peta’s reputation to manipulate public opinion and justify their non findings.

Don’t get too comfortable. Your day of reckoning may not have arrived just yet, but it will.

“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.” Count on it.

In the meantime, I have a good name for a Kentucky Thoroughbred racehorse. Liars’ Express.

Read full report >>

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KHRC finds no smoking gun in Peta undercover sting of racehorse trainer Asmussen

Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen leads Tapiture to the paddock before the Rebel Stakes. Asmussen has been accused of cruelty to race horses by PETA. Photo: Danny Johnston/AP.
Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen leads Tapiture to the paddock before the Rebel Stakes. Asmussen has been accused of cruelty to race horses by PETA.

I am not shocked. I am not the least little bit surprised. This is horse racing American style and it stinks to high heaven. You take your big carcasses of cheating and horse cruelty and sweep them under the proverbial rug.

Abusing drugs and cheating. That seems to be a common thread in too many modern day sports. But the athletes in these sports choose to be there and take the actions they take.

Horses are bred for it and may love to race, but they do not choose who owns and trains them.

Horses do not choose whether or not to push past ill considered breeding, injuries and pain to compete to the point of breakdown and death.

Horses do not choose whether or not to take potentially lethal cocktails of drugs or debilitating medical treatments in order to compete at any cost, to get an edge and cheat their fellow athletes.

This is what you can see in US horse racing with or without the help of Peta. But Peta chose to go undercover in an attempt to expose its extent. And they chose one of the biggest winning, money-making high profile trainers in US racing, Steve Asmussen. And they hit pay dirt.

The Blood-Horse reports:

Though People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has submitted a 10-page complaint and a 22-minute video to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission alleging animal abuse last year in trainer Steve Asmussen’s Churchill Downs stable, no smoking gun is evident in a review of the evidence.

That is not to say investigators won’t find rule violations stemming from the video and complaint that centers on the treatment of 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner-up Nehro, but the video does not appear to offer any obvious violations.

Well, horse racing. If people in your industry can do what the Asmussen camp did to Nehro (just one example) and find no obvious violations — no smoking gun — your whole sick business needs to come to an end.

The Blood-Horse got the data they based their detailed article on via a Freedom of Information Act request. Read the entire article here. You may need to super size your barf bag to get through it.

Insofar as the Asmussen circus, the next stop is New York. Thoroughbred racing regulators there are also “investigating”. If Nasalgate is anything to go by, my expectations are equally low.

The mistake Peta likely made is handing over what they found to US horse racing authorities, thinking that it would jar the industry into taking some sort of action to clean itself up and protect the horses they use. So far, no sale.

So horse racing in America. Celebrate your Triple Crown if you get one. It is not a feel good story, should it happen. It will do nothing to put the rosy glow on your sick industry that you think it will.

In the meantime Kentucky, hang your heads in shame.

Regulation to safeguard racehorses hits snag in Ky


Cross-posted from Sacramento Bee

Phenylbutazone anti-inflammatory molecule. Science Photo Library image.
Phenylbutazone anti-inflammatory molecule. Science Photo Library image.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A proposed regulation that would allow only government veterinarians to administer race-day drugs to horses has hit a snag in Kentucky.

Lawmakers refused to give their OK on Monday, citing a disagreement among the thoroughbred industry over the controversial proposal.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had previously approved the regulation that also would set lower limits on the amount of the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone that could be given to horses within days before they race.

Lawmakers will soon consider an even more controversial regulation that would institute a race-day ban on the anti-bleeding drug furosemide in some of the state’s biggest races, including the Kentucky Derby. Read full report >>

So down the slippery stretch to nothingness they come. -ED


Kentucky attempting to reduce racehorse fatalities

Horseracing at Churchill Downs.

Cross-posted from The Blood-Horse


Horseracing at Churchill Downs.
Horseracing at Churchill Downs.

The veterinary staff of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has added some additional protocols to its operations in an effort to cut down on the number of equine fatalities at the state’s tracks.

The changes came about after eight racing fatalities occurred during the month of May at Churchill Downs. Overall, the track had 10 catastrophic injuries during the 38-day spring meet.

Upon noticing the May spike in fatalities, the equine medical staff undertook additional efforts to try to identify horses at greater risk for a serious injury prior to racing. Included in those protocols were adding an additional veterinarian to those who were watching the horses walk back to their barns following a race, providing vets with “real-time” race replays on their iPads so they could immediately review a race to see if any horses appeared distressed during the event, and perusing the past performances of upcoming races farther in advance to look for signs of horses that might be at risk, KHRC executive director John Ward told commissioners during the regulatory body’s Aug. 15 meeting.

Ward said the efforts worked, noting that the number of fatalities fell from eight in May to two in June. Statistics provided by the commission show the number of fatalities at the state’s tracks fell from 40 in 2007 to 27 in 2011. Continue reading >>