The killing fields of Churchill Downs and horse racing

Historic twin spires of Churchill Downs where racehorses are routinely killed. Photo by Abbie Myers.

Tim Sullivan, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal states:

Of the 25 racetracks that share their casualty counts with the public, only one was more deadly last year than Churchill Downs.

And despite its recent rash of gloomy headlines, it wasn’t Santa Anita.

Only Illinois’ Hawthorne Race Course lost horses at a faster pace than Churchill Downs did in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.

Over the past three years, only the boutique meet conducted at California’s Sonoma County Fair exceeded Churchill’s race-related mortality rate.

Unlike its Kentucky colleagues at Keeneland and Turfway Park, Churchill Downs does not publicly disclose its racing fatalities, but a spokesman for the track confirmed figures obtained through a public records request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Those records show the home of the Kentucky Derby has lost 43 thoroughbreds to racing injuries since 2016, a 2.42 per 1,000-start average that was 50 percent higher than the national average during the same three-year span.

Last year, with 16 fatalities in 5,856 starts, Churchill’s death rate was higher still: 2.73 per 1,000.

Source: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/sports/horses/horse-racing/2019/03/27/churchill-downs-horse-fatalities/3284846002/

Safety of Racehorses Comes in Dead Last

Ruben Hernandez, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal on this year’s Run for the Roses observes:

To argue that other horses were put danger is an issue that should be taken up with the management of Churchill Downs because 20 horses don’t enter themselves into the race. Based on this logic, one would have to conclude that a field of this size is put in danger once the gates open.

Source: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/05/10/reader-supports-maximum-security-kentucky-derby-win/1163058001/


Our View

There is no “fix”. Certainly not one that can be done quickly with any type of regulation. The horse has “bolted” so to speak. It will take years of clean breeding to return racehorses to the durability and robustness required. In saying that, it very well may be too late for American bred horses.

US racehorses are suffering catastrophic breakdowns and deaths because of decades long chemical abuse. They are administered a virtual unending list of drugs from the time they are foaled until they reach a racecourse — if they ever arrive there. This over zealous drugging has a debilitating impact which is being passed on from offspring to offspring. Weakness and unsoundness are being bred in.

We are right on the money, but don’t take our word for it. Consider these words:

“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.”

– Arthur Hancock
Breeder of Three Kentucky Derby Winners

Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby in 2008. Image: Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs.
Big Brown wins the Kentucky Derby in 2008. Image: Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs.

2008 US Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown, seen winning the Kentucky Derby above, received regularly monthly treatments of Winstrol, an anabolic steroid banned in 10 states—yet in none of the states where the Triple Crown horse races are contested.

Jane Allin writes:

The current state of horse racing in North America is best described as a volatile cocktail fueled by economic greed together with increasingly fragile horses and pervasive drug administration that has transformed this once distinguished “Sport of Kings” into a controversial, much maligned commercial industry rife with abuse and disregard for its athletes.

It all just needs to stop.

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Related Reading

Time Magazine
http://time.com/5582343/horse-deaths-kentucky-derby/ »

The Horse Fund
https://horsefund.org/the-chemical-horse-part-1.php »

Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses?

Horse in profile silhouetted against a night sky. Unattributed Google search image.

LOUISVILLE, KY — Why do Kentucky lawmakers appear to despise horses? It’s not simply having little to no regard for horses. These people seem to out and out despise them and want nothing to do with helping them in any way. How can this be?

Kentucky Lawmakers in Washington D.C.

The first politician’s name that springs to mind when it comes to horse hating lawmakers from Kentucky is of course U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who is also Senate Majority Leader and a huge power broker in the nation’s capital.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images via Politico.com.

From where we stand McConnell is top of the list in terms of intensity of destructiveness concerning our nation’s horses and their wellbeing.

Whether it’s interfering with legislation and other federal measures that would virtually eliminate horse soring and Big Lick animal cruelty, or his reported holds on bills session after session that would protect horses from slaughter at home and abroad, McConnell has proven to be a vicious enemy to horses.

Cruelty, horse soring and horse slaughter are intrinsically linked. The scale of the pain and torment meted out to horses by  sorers and slaughterers is extensive and horrific. It is truly unconscionable. McConnell not only supports but also uses his power to maintain both the soring and slaughter of horses.

Why? It may be as simple as this — McConnell loves the money he gets for working on behalf of those who spitefully use and perpetrate cruelty against horses, and peddle their flesh for profit. McConnell probably doesn’t give a thought to the horses at all.

What about the rest of the legislators representing Kentuckians in Washington?

Since legislation addressing horse soring and horse slaughter are pending in the U.S. House alone at the moment, so we will focus on the Kentucky lawmakers there.

Plus, we do not think it any mystery how Kentucky Senators McConnell and Paul will act when the companion bills are introduced in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. House Members for Kentucky

• Rep. James Comer (R-KY-1) https://comer.house.gov/, 202-225-3115
Committees: Agriculture; Oversight and Government; Small Business

• Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2) https://guthrie.house.gov/, 202-225-3501
Committees: Education and the Workforce; Energy and Commerce

• Rep. John A. Yarmuth (D-KY-3) https://yarmuth.house.gov/, 202-225-5401
Committees: The Budget

• Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY-4) https://massie.house.gov/, 202-225-3465
Committees: Oversight and Government; Science, Space, and Technology; Transportation

• Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY-5) https://halrogers.house.gov/, 202-225-4601
Committees: Appropriations

• Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY-6) https://barr.house.gov/ , 202-225-4706
Committees: Financial Services

(Source: http://www.house.gov/representatives/)

Let’s do a little exercise. Let’s see if any House members representing the good folks of Kentucky have co-sponsored either H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) introduced on January 3, 2017 or H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) introduced on March 30, 2017.

H.R. 113 — H.R. 113 (the SAFE Act) currently has 86 co-sponsors. Not a single co-sponsor from Kentucky as of yet banning horse slaughter.

H.R. 1847 — H.R. 1847 (the PAST Act) currently has 220 co-sponsors. We see a glimmer of hope. Rep. John Yarmuth is an originating co-sponsor of the anti soring bill called the PAST Act. Other than Yarmuth, no one from Kentucky has co-sponsored H.R. 1847.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) representing the 3rd District, home to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Image: KET.

Rep. Yarmuth and Rep. Ed Whitfield were the only two Kentucky members in the U.S. House who co-sponsored the SAFE Act’s previous incarnation, H.R. 1942, in the previous or 114th Congress. So we expect Rep. Yarmuth will do the same for H.R. 113 this time around in the 115th.

What can we say about Rep. Hal Rogers?

In July 2015, Rep. Hal Rogers, did not use his powerful position to protect horses from slaughter.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee failed to adopt an amendment to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. The amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Rep. Sam Farr, D – Calif., resulted in a tie vote, with the Chair of the Committee, Hal Rogers, ultimately failing to adopt the provision.

(Source: HSUS)

At the end of the day Rogers’ betrayal did not matter.

In December 2015, H.R. 2029, the U.S. Omnibus Bill for FYE 2016 budget, became Public Law No. 114-113 effectively preventing the return of horse slaughter on U.S. soil until September 30, 2016.

Note: A subsequent spending bill for FYE 2017 became Public Law No. 114-259 continuing the defunding of horse meat inspections necessary to slaughter horses in the U.S. until September 30, 2017.

H.R. 1338

In the meantime, the following four U.S. House members of Kentucky, together with Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and five others (four also from Tennessee; the other from Mississippi), are originating co-sponsors of H.R. 1338, filed March 2, 2017:

Rep. Andy Barr
Rep. James Comer
Rep. Brett Guthrie
Rep. Harold Rogers

H.R. 1338 is another horse soring bill, however this one intends to help horse sorers, not eradicate them.

H.R. 1338 seeks a new inspection system set up by the USDA by establishing a single horse industry organization (HIO). “The Commissioners of Agriculture for Tennessee and Kentucky must appoint individuals to the HIO. Those individuals must appoint individuals” representing the Tennessee Walking Horse industry”.

This is a horrible piece of horse related legislation for Kentucky lawmakers to be involved with.

We oppose H.R. 1338. This is nothing more than a renewed legislative attempt at getting a “fox guarding the hen house” inspection system into place where anything goes for the continued horrific abuse of these gentle horses.

No horsing around for Rep. Massie

This leaves Rep. Thomas Massie who Politico named “Mr. No”.  Massie voted “no” at least 324 times in the 113th Congress – opposing one of every three measures that came to the House floor. This year he co-sponsored a bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. He doesn’t seem to be for or against bills good or bad for horses. That’s something I guess.

Kentucky Lawmakers at Home

What about politicians at the State level in Kentucky? In our view, they have taken total lack of care concerning Kentucky’s horses to a baser level.

In March, a Kentucky State bill (SB 139) reclassifying horses as livestock instead of as a domestic animal was introduced and pushed through by a lawmaker with a documented history of horse cruelty.

Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.
Sen. Robin Webb. Source: The Paulick Report.

This lawmaker whom the USDA slapped horse soring violations on is none other that Robin Webb (above), a member of the Kentucky State Senate.

Webb’s horse trainer Donald Stamper was also ticketed for multiple violations.

If that’s not enough here’s more.

The gaited horse industry came under scrutiny after undercover video of Jackie McConnell hit the national airwaves showing him soring, beating, and shocking horses with a cattle prod. McConnell pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of conspiring to violate the HPA. His first violation was in 1979.

Webb told the Herald-Leader that the Tennessee walking horse industry has been “demonized,” in light of that video. “You don’t know what happened five minutes before or five minutes after. … These are animals that are very dangerous,” Webb said.

In other words Ms. Webb views horses trying to evade or protect themselves from abuse as dangerous and deserving of being cornered and mercilessly beaten into submission.

This individual’s bill no doubt calculatingly conceived, reduced their status to livestock, putting Kentucky horses further in harm’s way by removing what few protections they had, and they weren’t much to start with.

At the same time Webb’s bill opens the door to horse slaughter in Kentucky whether intentional or not.

Sadly, despite protests from Kentuckians not a single Kentucky legislator cast a vote against Webb’s bill. SB 139 had unanimous support throughout the entire process.

Governor Matt Bevin then signed it into law.

What does this say about Kentucky lawmakers?

Sen. Robin Webb’s horse soring violations made big headlines. How could any Kentucky State lawmaker fail to be suspicious of a bill concerning horses pushed through the way it was by someone like Webb?

See also http://www.chattanoogan.com/2013/1/23/242756/Roy-Exum-Senator-Just-Like-Lance.aspx

Kentucky Livestock Derby

It won’t be long now until the eyes of millions will be on Louisville, Kentucky and millions of dollars will be wagered on what is called the “Two Most Exciting Minutes in Sports”, a sport by the way where they think it’s funny to name racehorses Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut.

Here’s a joke for those folks.

Perhaps they should name it the Kentucky Livestock Derby. After all, they are not racing anything special — just a bunch of livestock, usable, replaceable, dispensable. And anyway, what’s in a name?

Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.
Gourmet Dinner earned more than $1 million before retiring to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption this week. The gelding will be given a big rest before training for a second career. Image: Off Track Thoroughbreds.

As of 2014 Prime Cut seems to have been taken care of following his retirement too. We hope so. See OTTB Spotlight: Prime Cut. We are trying to get an update on both.

TAKE ACTION EVERYBODY

Support federal bills H.R. 113 and H.R. 1847. Guarantee your voice is counted at PopVox.com »

See also Take action against horse slaughter in the Nation’s Capital with HR 113 »

Tip: Don’t bother with pre-prepared, automated messages. They have very little if any impact at all and often not counted.

RELATED READING

• Supporters of Kentucky SB 139 respond to their critics in Blood-Horse article »

So happy together — Supporters of Kentucky State bill SB139 reducing horses to livestock status »

• Off the Menu: Gourmet Dinner and Prime Cut survive Thoroughbred racing »

• Despite a Triple Crown all that glitters is not gold in American horse racing (Part 3) »

FEATURED IMAGE
Horse in silhouette. Unattributed Google search result.

 

 

Five horsey things you didn’t know about Jennifer Lawrence

Oscar-winning actress has a passion for horses. Image from Horse Nation.
Oscar-winning actress has a passion for horses. Image from Horse Nation.
Oscar-winning actress has a passion for horses. Image from Horse Nation.

Horse Nation have a fun piece on their site about 22 year-old Oscar winning actress Jennifer Lawrence who hails from Louisville, Kentucky (yea!) and grew up on a horse farm.

Well, I have given away the first one.

Here’s another. Jennifer grew up riding horses — bareback on untrained horses — and has the scars to prove it.

Find out why when she visits David Letterman which you can view below. Or jump here to learn and view more.

Blind horse rescued after fall into sinkhole

Horse Rescue Ahead sign. Tuesday's Horse graphic.

Horse Rescue Ahead sign. Tuesday's Horse graphic.

by J.J. KINDRED

Cross-posted from The Daily Times

LOUISVILLE, TN — A blind horse that was rescued after she fell into a sinkhole and was freed by Blount County firefighters and other rescuers Sunday evening remains stable at the Countryside Veterinarian Services in Louisville.

Star, a quarter horse mare owned by Jack and Jennifer Estep, of 3881 Quarry Road in Louisville, fell into the sinkhole on property next to theirs at about 4 p.m.

According to Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan, the fire department received a call about the horse at about 4:30 p.m.

She was pulled from the hole about four hours later by rescue workers and four veterinarians, two from the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center and the others from Countryside Veterinary Services.

McClanahan said everyone was ecstatic when Star was rescued alive and standing on her own.

“She was terrified, but I think the whole team that responded worked very well together,” he said. “The owners were very encouraging and very helpful throughout the rescue. It was a good, lucky day that she didn’t kill herself or break something, because it was a tremendous fall.

“Even though this was the first extrication, everything fell into place,” McClanahan continued. “This is a horse, but yes, this could be a person, too. We did it as swiftly as possible, and the tension was high. The horse took a deep breath when she was rescued, and I said, ‘Me too, honey.’”

Read full story here >>