Why we call for an end to U.S. horse racing

Racehorse in red hood. The Horse magazine online.

We call for an end to U.S. horse racing because it is past reforming. The horse has bolted.

Additionally, there appears to be no one in American horse racing genuinely interested in, or knowledgeable and capable of, reforming it. If we are wrong then show us who they are, what they purport to do and when they are going to start doing it.

In the meantime horse racing apologists, please do not trot out that piece of feeble legislation, The Horse Racing Integrity Act, as an example. It will not remedy the problems it is chiefly designed for in the long term. Once the drug authority comes in and sets it all up, it puts U.S. horse racing back in charge. The Horse Racing Integrity Act is a fox guarding the henhouse piece of legislation. It is a smoke and mirrors tactic designed to give the appearance of reform.

Then there is the breeding aspect of horse racing where all of this really begins.

Modern American racehorses are bred to breakdown, and as a result are constantly breaking down. They will continue to do so until the American racehorse has been bred to restore balance and durability. Trying to get and keep racehorses on the racecourse the way they are bred now is the major contributing factor for the drugging, doping and debilitating “therapies” practiced on them.

How about the tens of thousands of racehorses who are sent to a grisly and terrifying death by slaughter. What about them? And what about the persistent rumors of horse racing employed lobbyists buying off politicians in Washington DC to keep the SAFE Act banning horse slaughter from passing.

How does American horse racing stay in business? Gambling, baby, gambling. Oh, and let’s not forget those tasty millions of State governmental subsidies. Your tax dollars at work.

We conclude with this. The only way to protect racehorses from the cruel and fatal practices of American horse racing is to end horse racing. What else is there?

We didn’t invite ourselves to this day. Horse racing has brought us here.

“The horse has bolted” is an English expression which means someone trying to prevent something from happening, but have done so too late to prevent damage from being done.

Horse Race Insider’s Note to Racing: No More Mixed Messages

We note a few quotes and write in response to a Horse Race Insider’s article, “Note to Racing: No More Mixed Messages.”

Quote: “Aside from seeing an occasional news broadcast, the public has little to no interest in the game.”

We Say: Because horse racing has little to no interest in the public. This is an insider’s game. Plus — and this may ultimately be the defining factor particularly in the current climate — the public do not want to watch racehorses being killed.

Quote: “None of the people that have signed on to support the HIA [Horseracing Integrity Act] race their stock without drugs, even though they openly oppose it. They do not want to lose the edge from supposedly non performance-enhancing medications. That in itself negates the claim that drugs regularly administered to racehorses are benign.”

We Say: Yes. Correct.

Quote: “It is easy to look good backing a bill with no chance of becoming law.”

We Say: Spot on.

QUOTE: “TJC’s [The Jockey Club] support of DOA [dead on arrival] HIA bill, and not the Racehorse Doping Ban Act of 2019, aka Udall-Wyden, or the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act 2019, makes it seem as if the stewards of racing are moving forward to improve the reputation and integrity of the sport, but not supporting Udall-Wyden and SAFE clearly shows it is a publicity ploy.

“HIA not only lacks the necessary support, it faces the opposition of the National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Kentucky’s Senator Mitch McConnell, who acts on the wishes of Churchill Downs, and has no mechanism to fund itself.

“Supporting a bill that has no chance to become law is the perfect ploy to placate the public and the perceived enemy, animal rights groups.

“HIA not only places the same ineffectual industry leaders in a majority position on a board with government backing, it sets up the United States Anti-Doping Authority for a fall.

“Udall-Wyden and SAFE, which would both be beneficial to the sport are absent of TJC support. SAFE in particular because it outlaws horse slaughter in the US and prohibits the export of horses for slaughter in other countries.”

We Say: Exactly.

Here is where we part company with the Horse Race Insider article.

QUOTE: “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) causes death by blows to the head, yet the National Football League and the National Hockey league are not even remotely worried that society or politicians will banish Football or Ice Hockey.

“Thoroughbred horse racing’s leaders need to wake up to the fact that the industry isn’t an endangered species and get back to competing with sports betting, which is likely to have a much greater negative effect in the industry than horse deaths.

“In one year, the narrative has changed from how to grow the sport to how to save it. The issues of growth have not changed, nor has the chance horse racing will be banished.

“The time has come to take the reins and drive the sport into the future, not shrink from the actions of animal rights activists.”

We Say: The quote in the article that breaks the bank is this, “Thoroughbred horseracing’s leaders need to wake up to the fact that the industry isn’t an endangered species and get back to competing with sports betting, which is likely to have a much greater negative effect in the industry than horse deaths.” More than horse deaths? How do you think horse racing got into its current jam then?

As regards the horses, racehorses aren’t recruited. They don’t sign multi million contracts to train and compete. Neither do they volunteer their services. They are purposely bred, created, not for themselves — but to be hideously used and disposed of by a cruel industry whose concern for their welfare has become virtually non existent. 

Please folks whatever you do, do not try to respond with comments about how much owners and trainers “love” their horses. If so, then their love is the kiss of death. Added to that, they wouldn’t be in this business at all if they gave a flying you know what about the racehorse.

As a sidenote, we are not picking on Horse Race Insider here. We are simply using its article as an example of how a majority, if not all, of horse racing thinks.

As you can see, many in horse racing are still making piously bankrupt remarks about reform, and turning around and contradicting themselves just a few days later. It’s bedlam trying to follow it all. Horse Race Insider just happened to gift us with what we needed all in one place, that’s all.

What it appears in actuality is all that American horse racing truly wants is for the bad publicity, outside interference, proposed federal oversight, anti-doping legislation, suggestions of an independent Commissioner — and oh, yes, those annoying day-to-day racetrack death watches and protests — to go far, far away so they can go back to what they do undisturbed and unperturbed. Who can blame them — if you are of that ilk.

However, that means the continued drugging, abuse and killing of racehorses. Why would anyone who enjoys a flutter want to gamble on such a thing? How can the rest of us turn a blind eye?

Read full article here »

Coverage of Santa Anita carnage rolls on

Jerry Hollendorfer. Sky News.
Jerry Hollendorfer. Sky News.

The drama surrounding Santa Anita, the current poster child for racetrack carnage in America, continues as those in and out of horse racing debate and comment.

Commentators are citing things like the track surface, bad weather, how often horses are being pushed to race to fill cards to meet gambling quotas, as reasons for the high Thoroughbred mortality rate at Santa Anita. These may be contributing factors from time to time but they are not at the root cause of the spectacle of death and disarray that has gone on at Santa Anita. What has gone on there, and worse, is business as usual at U.S. racetracks around the country.

It is the egregious use of drugs in U.S. Thoroughbred racing — whether approved or illicit — that is killing its horses on the racetrack while at the same time threatening the future soundness of the U.S. Thoroughbred as a breed.


Since we last visited the Santa Anita issue, there have been a boatload of articles but only a few bits worth a quick mention.

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was banned by the ownership of Santa Anita after a fourth horse from his stable died. ESPN. Way to go Jerry. This man is a serial abuser of horses. Yet other than animal activists, where’s the hue and cry? We just don’t get it. What’s the difference we ask between Hollendorfer and say, someone who trains for and holds dog fights?

Plus these races are gambled on. Why aren’t trainers who have cheated and doped horses not arrested for race tampering, because that’s what it is.


One day after being notified by The Stronach Group that he was no longer welcome to stable or race at any of the company’s racetracks (Santa Anita and Golden Gate in California, Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland and Gulfstream Park in Florida) Jerry Hollendorfer got the green light from the New York Racing Association to stable and participate at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. PAULICK REPORT.

Shame on you New York Racing Association. This has put you in our headlights yet again. However, forget about us. You’ve brought Mr. Hollendorfer to Patrick Battuello’s backyard. Watch and pray.

Can’t pass on sharing this other unbelievably stupid offer made to Hollendorfer and particularly the comment that goes with it.

“Los Alamitos will gladly provide stalls to Jerry Hollendorfer, a Hall of Fame trainer and an unexcelled horseman,” said Ed Allred, owner and chairman of Los Alamitos. “Unless forbidden by the California Horse Racing Board, we intend to permit entries from Hollendorfer. HORSERACING NATION

Public Opinion

People who love horse racing are appalled. The general public who have never been near a racetrack are appalled. Yes, the death of the Santa Anita 30 is still very much on the public’s mind.

Yet, it appears that U.S. horse racing thinks once again they can ride this sort of thing out. After all, they have done so in the past. This time we believe it is different. We believe that horse racing American style and all the cheating, abuse and death that goes with it has reached tipping point with both horse racing lovers and haters.

H.R. 1754

If you are interested in what’s being done in Congress, there is a bill called The Horse Racing Integrity Act — H.R. 1754 — that deals explicitly with racehorse drugging. It currently has 120 cosponsors and has been assigned to a single Committee.

The summary of H.R. 1754 reads:

This bill establishes the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation with responsibility for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for (1) Thoroughbred, Quarter, and Standardbred horses that participate in horse races; and (2) the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of such horses.

The Federal Trade Commission shall have oversight over the authority. An interstate compact may be established after five years to take over the authority’s duties.


The slow and merciless death of American horse racing, by Vivian Farrell, May 28, 2019

A solution to U.S. racehorse doping: On-track pharmacies?

Cross-posted from The Rail — The New York Times

On-track pharmacies have the potential to restore racing integrity in America. The on-track pharmacy would be the only place drugs are allowed on the racetrack.

Horse tied in stall. Photo credit: HorseRacingKills.com.
On-track pharmacies would restore the medication protocols to be decided by veterinarians rather than trainers. Veterinarians would not be allowed to drive around the backside with truckloads of drugs, as this current practice has led to indiscriminate inappropriate treatments that have led to breakdowns and doping problems.

The attending veterinarian examines a horse and prescribes a treatment.

If medication is determined to be part of the therapy, the veterinarian submits the horse’s name, the diagnosis and requested medication to the racing regulatory body.

The pharmacist and the regulatory veterinarian evaluate the request and dispense the medication.

Everything is recorded; drug, dosage, frequency of administration, expiration date, lot number, brand name, etc.

Veterinarians would not be allowed to drive around the backside with truckloads of drugs, as this current practice has led to indiscriminate inappropriate treatments that have led to breakdowns and doping problems. On-track pharmacies would restore the medication protocols to be decided by veterinarians rather than trainers.

Currently, trainers in large part decide what drugs their horses receive. With an on-track pharmacy policy in place, if a trainer thinks his or her horse needs a certain medication, a veterinarian would be required to assess the horse, arrive at a diagnosis, and then request the medication from the pharmacy, where further vetting would occur.

Rather than being utilized as medication technicians, as attending veterinarians currently are, they would again become doctors practicing veterinary medicine. Instead of being paid for drugs they administer, horse doctors would again be compensated for their medical evaluation of the patient.

The pharmacy is the only place medication could be stored or dispensed on the racetrack, other than with the emergency trauma and colic responders.

Pharmaceutical manipulation to enhance performance would be eliminated.

No drugs would be allowed to come into the track through any other venue.

Every horse would be medicated via this process, with the exception of emergency treatments.

Horse racing in Hong Kong.
Horse racing in Hong Kong is regarded by many as the template for transparency and integrity.

This is the model in Hong Kong, where the breakdown rate is one of the lowest in the world.

This policy effectively prevents doping while providing horses with the necessary therapeutic medications to train and race.

Every treatment is transparent.

The bettors, trainers, owners, and all others are made aware of every treatment for every horse. The result is racing with increased integrity, increased safety, increased public support and increased handle.

Horsemen and veterinarians [in the U.S.] will oppose this, of course, as it is inconvenient, restrictive, and allows total transparency. On-track pharmacies have the potential, nonetheless, to manage doping and restrict the pharmaceutical manipulation of performance.

Read full report »
Sid Gustafson, D.V.M., is a novelist and equine veterinarian specializing in thoroughbred sports medicine and equine behavior. He currently practices regulatory veterinary medicine, representing the safety and welfare of thoroughbred racehorses.