Racehorse reality: Video

Thoroughbred racehorse Nehro. By Rob Carr, Getty Images.

Before you hit the play button be warned there is a lot of swearing, particularly the F bomb.

The content is shocking, then it is not. Hearing about it is one thing. Seeing it is quite another.

In the meantime, backstretch workers have been portrayed since the coronavirus crisis as a bunch of great guys hunkering down with their families at the track, taking care of the horses until better times, trapped heroes. And who’s to say there aren’t some good among them? But we imagine the good ones don’t last long.

This video is sure to open a lot more eyes than any words of ours, or anyone else’s for that matter. Try to watch it all the way through. We know. It’s hard going.

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What racing is like from the horses point of view. Don’t like it, don’t watch.

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Featured Image

Nehro finished 2nd to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, 7 May 2011. Two years later, the 5-year-old horse fell ill the morning of May 4. According to the trainer, his condition “spiraled badly.” Nehro reportedly died of colic on his way to a clinic. Read more »

Related Reading

Asmussen, the torture of racehorses and agonizing death of Nehro, Tuesday’s Horse, 22 March 2014.

Asmussen hires assistant trainer Blassi back, by Joe Drape, New York Times, 20 July 2014.

National uniform medication program gets a push

Thoroughbred racehorse Nehro. By Rob Carr, Getty Images.

TOM LaMARRA, reporting for The Blood-Horse reports:

The National Uniform Medication Program wasn’t on the agenda at the recent American Horse Council convention, but progress on that front was addressed during forums and in conversations among attendees.

State-by-state adoption of model medication rules and the companion multiple medication violation penalty system continues around the country.

During the AHC National Issues Forum June 24 in Washington, D.C., New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Rick Violette said he’s optimistic about the industry despite a declining foal crop and decreases in pari-mutuel handle. He noted the earlier banning of anabolic steroids on race day, as well as progress on racehorse aftercare and the National Uniform Medication Program as reasons for optimism.

“There are really good things going on in racing, but we forget about them or leave them in mid-sentence,” Violette said. “Eighty-eight percent of national handle is committed to (uniform medication rules). There are a few major racing states that need a kick in the butt, but we’re light years ahead of where we were.”

Violette suggested not enough is being done in the industry to show progress on the medication front, and also hinted at the belief by some that individuals in the industry may have helped push the controversial undercover barn investigation performed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last year.

“What has got to stop is this railing against the industry,” Violette said. “We constantly stop to shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s not OK to constantly go out there and aid and abet the enemy. (Industry) leaders need to pull together and march to the same drum.”

Scott Wells, president and general manager of Remington Park Racing & Casino in Oklahoma, said he has spoken to owners who pay $1,800 in veterinary bills every time their horse races. Though the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission has thus far opted not to pursue the National Uniform Medication Program, Wells urged every jurisdiction to do so.

“That’s just a crime,” Wells said of expensive vet bills for pre-race medication. “Owners end up leaving the sport. People will feel better about owning horses when they don’t feel that they are being beaten by cheaters.”

Another forum panelist, American Association of Equine Practitioners president Dr. Jeff Blea, also commented on uniform medication.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been,” he said. “It’s good for the industry and good for the horse.”

These people are incredibly, redundantly unbelievable. We have been listening to this rhetoric for more than a decade. And it was going on long before we started watching them. Meetings. Studies. Databases. Talk and more talk. But no forward movement.

What surprises me is how surprised they are that absolutely no one believes them. Why should we? If you were to handicap this bunch getting a win of any kind in cleaning up the horse racing industry, you would have to pick them as no hopers. If you could even could get a bet on. No doubt they would scratch before they got to the gate. Just like they did with the plan to race two-year olds Lasix free in the Breeders Cup.

We would love to believe them. Have tried to believe them. And have given up.

But light years ahead? Really? Closer than they have ever been? In what way for heaven’s sake?

I am sure the industry would love for people to stop mentioning the Peta/Asmussen horse abuse accusations exposed in the New York Times in March of this year. So, does this mean that horse racing is done with this?

What other horse-related sport would act in such a cavalier fashion in the face of such cruelty, or even a hint of it? Oh, yes. The Tennessee Walking Horse soring folks. They can give horse racing a run for its money.

Remember Nehro.

Featured Image: Nehro, center, the 2011 Derby runner-up, died last year. PETA recorded discussions of his foot problems. Credit Rob Carr/Getty Images

Asmussen, the torture of racehorses and agonizing death of Nehro

Trainer Steve Asmussen at the Rail, Belmont Park, 2011. Image source: Flickr.

Thoroughbred trainers Steve Asmussen and Scott Blasi have been accused of cruelty to racehorses following an undercover investigation conducted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). No surprise there.

I believe that more investigations of this type would unearth equally sinister horrors committed by American Thoroughbred horse trainers and their staff.

The shocking abuses exposed in the Peta video excerpt (see below) sickened me to the point that I had to stop watching.

Among the racehorses involved was Nehro.

In his New York Times article Joe Drape tells us:

On the tapes, Blasi was a profane narrator to the murky goings-on at American racetracks and was often heard bemoaning the lame horses in his barn.

On April 17, 2013, only four days after Nehro finished fifth in an Arkansas race, Blasi and his blacksmith, along with other members of the Asmussen staff, discussed the horse’s tender feet and their efforts to keep them on the racetrack. In the video, the blacksmith pointed to Nehro’s right leg and said that it did not have a pulse and that one barely registered in his left.[1]

Drape reveals more:

The horse was clearly uncomfortable as they poked at what they described as “a hole right through that sore right there.”

“His foot is a little bitty nub,” said the blacksmith, who was identified as “Dave” in the investigation.

On the recording, Blasi acknowledged how much Nehro hurt. Still, the horse continued to train. On the morning of last year’s Kentucky Derby, Nehro got sick on the backside of Churchill Downs. Asmussen later said that the horse died from colic in a van on the way to the hospital. [2]

Owner Ahmed Zayat kisses his favorite horse Nehro. Photo: ESPN.
Owner Ahmed Zayat kisses his favorite horse Nehro. Photo: ESPN.

Blood-Horse Staff reported this about the death of Nehro in May of 2013:

Nehro, Zayat Stables’ runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), died of colic May 4 while en route to a clinic.

In training with Steve Asmussen at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old horse fell ill the morning of May 4. According to the trainer, his condition “spiraled badly.”

“I can’t put into words how much respect I have for Nehro,” Asmussen said. ” He was loved by everyone around the barn. What a cool horse. Quality animal. Just a horrible, horrible deal.”

“I am deeply saddened,” owner Ahmed Zayat said. “Nehro was my favorite horse, whom I had a deep bond with. Everyone who came into contact with this horse loved him. He cannot be replaced, and I’m devastated.”


Along with his second by a three-quarters of a length to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, Nehro finished a close runner-up in the grade I Arkansas Derby, grade II Louisiana Derby, and grade III Pimlico Special Stakes.[3]

From the above you can trace the slow decline of Nehro. Now we know why. It makes one wonder what excuses the Asmussen camp made to Zayat about Nehro’s performances.

Eric Mitchell of the Blood-Horse writes:

Ahmed Zayat, the owner of Nehro—a bay colt [who] died of colic in 2013 after Blasi had admitted to gluing [his] hooves in the video—and 16 other horses in Asmussen’s care, is upset, telling Bossert: “I feel like I was duped. I never knew anything like this was going on.” [4]

Not to be over critical of Mr Zayat who clearly loved Nehro, but isn’t it the responsibility of owners to know what is going on with their horses.

Owners are often overlooked or excluded when trainers and occasionally veterinarians are charged with doping, abusing and causing the death of racehorses. For example, do owners ever take even a cursory look at their training bills and wonder why they are so high in the drug column, or ask about the types of treatments being given?

Zayat is on the alert now. According to an article for the Blood-Horse by Ron Mitchell and Ron LaMarra:

Prominent owner Zayat Stables has directed the scratching of all of the stable’s horses entered for this weekend’s races under the name of trainer Steve Asmussen. [5]

Rachel Alexandra after winning the Lady's Secret in 103 degree heat at Monmouth. She would race one more time. Photo: Flickr.
Rachel Alexandra after winning the Lady’s Secret in 103 degree heat at Monmouth. She would race one more time. Photo by Elaine K on Flickr.

Asmussen also trained Rachel Alexandra. This is an example of how Asmussen handled this beloved and exemplary mare. On July 24, 2010:

Rachel Alexandra did her job. She showed up Saturday, battled the oppressive heat, won the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park and even put a few extra fans in the seats. Despite temperatures that reached 103 degrees on the Jersey Shore, 12,859 turned out for the chance to see one of racing’s most popular horses.

Rachel Alexandra did not deliver the sort of dazzling performance many have come to expect. Nearly a year after she defeated males to win the Haskell Invitational here by six lengths, Rachel Alexandra needed some urging from jockey Calvin Borel to get past the recent allowance winner Queen Martha in the stretch to win the Lady’s Secret by three lengths.

They blamed the racecourse for not cancelling the race because they had lots of tee-shirts promised to paying fans. Incidentally, not far away Philadelphia Park and Delaware Park cancelled their programs because of the heat. [6]

The Lady’s Secret turned out to be Rachel Alexandra’s penultimate race. Her final race was at Saratoga on August 29, 2010 where she finished second in the Personal Ensign Stakes. Rachel was retired the following month on September 28, 2010. She was sent to the shed in 2011 to begin her career as a broodmare.

We rail against the trainers who sore Tennessee Walking Horses, torturing their forelegs and feet in order to accentuate their gait for competition. Witnesses say you can hear them crying and moaning, and some beaten to get them to their feet.

At long last, what goes on in a Thoroughbred racing training barn is now being exposed. But forget about horse racing looking into the Asmussen/Blasi allegations. Look how they handle doping and cheating. Asmussen and Blasi should be arrested, just like any other animal abuser. It makes you want to spew up.

There is something sinfully wrong in any culture that tolerates this type of brutish treatment of innocent animals for the purposes of entertainment or to win prizes and money.

Well, horse racing has taken a baby step in the right direction.

The New York Daily News reports that racing’s Hall of Fame has removed Steve Asumussen from the ballot since the Peta cruelty allegations were reported.

While they are at it, they ought to investigate some of the dopestrong trainers they have already enshrined there. No doubt they would find equally despicable behaviors among them. Do we really need to make a list of them? Here’s a hint. Start in California.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/21/sports/peta-videos-prompt-new-york-and-kentucky-to-investigate-horse-trainers.html
[2] Same as at 1.
[3] http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/78098/nehro-second-in-2011-kentucky-derby-dead#ixzz2wfdtVfKR
[4] http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2001305-horse-trainer-steve-asmussen-under-investigation-after-allegations-of-abuse
[5] https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/83936/zayat-scratches-asmussen-trained-horses
[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/sports/25racing.html