Horse racing off and on

Horses jump out the gate at Penn National racecourse.

Horse racing is continuing in many parts of the world despite the Coronavirus threat. However, more race venues are beginning to cease racing. While these track closures continue, there is great concern about what racehorse owners will do with horses who are not racing. It is a costly enterprise maintaining a racehorse, and no one has a clue how long this will go on.

Here’s news of a recent racecourse closure. The Guardian reports:

Fears for animal welfare as first Australian state bans horse and dog racing amid coronavirus crisis

Tasmania has banned horse and greyhound racing “effective immediately” in the latest wave of shutdowns intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus, while the racing industry in other states is quietly trying to make arrangements to house thousands of furloughed racehorses should the ban become national.

Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein announced the ban on Thursday, cancelling all race meetings for four weeks but allowing training facilities and people responsible for the care and wellbeing of the animals to continue operating.

Explaining the decision, which followed an outbreak of Covid-19 in the regional hub of Devonport, Gutwein said he was concerned that large groups of people were continuing to gather at the races, even though spectators have been banned.

New South Wales Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has called on other states to follow Tasmania’s lead, saying it was “absolutely crazy that greyhound and horse racing is continuing in the middle of a global pandemic”.

Other Cancellations

 Ireland shut down racing last week, following the United Kingdom. Hong Kong and Japan are still running.

Racing Victoria said it would continue racing after Victoria introduced tough stage-three social distancing laws this week. Jamie Stier, the executive general manager of integrity services, said the industry was “continually reviewing our biosecurity protocols” and “learning from our collective experiences over the past three weeks”.

Both thoroughbred and harness racing was suspended last week due to coronavirus scares, but the sport resumed when tests were returned negative.

Churchill Downs’ blog,, published the following on Mar. 12:

“A number of jurisdictions are conducting racing without spectators, including Hong Kong, Australia*, and Japan.

“Live racing has been canceled in South Korea (through April 5), France (at least through April 15), Ireland (through April 19)**, New Zealand (through April 21), South Africa (through April 17), India (all tracks for an indefinite period), South America (Uruguay indefinitely), and Mexico (indefinitely)”.

*Except Tasmania. **Shut down last week (see above). Our notes.


There are 35 active racetracks in the USA. It is hard to keep up, but there are some running. Most of those are racing without spectators. Santa Anita was recently shut down by the Los Angeles County Health Department. Other racing in California continues.

Racehorses in peril

RSPCA chief scientist Bidda Jones said it was “inevitable” that horse racing would be suspended in Australia.

“Nobody quite knows what the capacity is for farms to take horses leaving racing because we’ve never been in a position whereby, if there was a shutdown of racing, so many would be leaving at one time,” he said.

Jones added however that a shutdown posed “a huge risk” to horse welfare and the industry needed to prepare so it was not attempting to retire a large number of horses at once.

Julie Fiedler from Horse SA said that widespread job losses caused by the shutdown of the hospitality industry and other coronavirus control measures would cause a “silent animal welfare tsunami” as people became unable to afford to care for their horses. Major saleyards such as Echuca and Pakenham in Victoria have suspended their horse sales, leaving knackeries the only option for a quick sale.

“If it goes on for an extended period of time, people are going to have to reevaluate the cost of keeping a horse,” she said.

At the mercy of racing

So what should and what will horse racing do about the horses? Here racehorses are, yet again, in peril, and at the mercy of racing.

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Related Reading

» Despite coronavirus lockdown, horses were still racing at Sacramento’s Cal Expo. Until now. Sacramento Bee. 1 April 20.

More fairy stories from Calif Horse Racing Board

Mongolian Groom. Sports Illustrated image.

No illegal medications or procedures were uncovered, mirroring an independent report of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing”.

What? These people are (fill in the blank) unbelievable. Read on (if you have the stomach for it).

The Paulick Report tell us:

Open Quote

The California Horse Racing Board has issued its report on the 23 fatalities that occurred during the Santa Anita race meet between Dec. 26, 2018 and March 31, 2019. The report was compiled by veterinarians and scientists, CHRB investigators, safety stewards and CHRB staff.

The report examined in depth each of the fatalities, published key findings and recommendations in various areas, including track maintenance; management of the racing office; training practices; private veterinary practitioners and practices; horse safety and welfare; regulatory veterinary procedures and practices; and at the CHRB level.

No illegal medications or procedures were uncovered, mirroring an independent report of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing.

The report found that 21 of the 22 catastrophic  musculoskeletal injuries examined in post-mortem necropsies were in horses showing evidence of pre-existing pathology “presumed to be associated with high exercise intensity, which predisposed these horses to catastrophic injury.”

Read it all at »

California horse racing has to go. The Governor et al have left the building. But we haven’t. Bring on the Referendum. Or better yet — the Feds. That way these cheating, abusive criminals won’t simply walk away; they will go to jail. They are so arrogant they obviously feel they are somehow immune, and can’t be “taken down”.*

Featured Image: Mongolian Groom. We Remember You.

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* UPDATE: We see in a Blood-Horse article that, “The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream Park West and the Palm Meadows Training Center, said it complied fully with search warrants that were executed by federal authorities Monday morning at those facilities”. Doesn’t matter. This is only the beginning.

We HATE HATE HATE that Maximum Security (above) has gone to Bob Baffert’s barn. This horse cannot catch a break.

Related Reading

The Sting that is so stinging to U.S. horse racing, Tuesday’s Horse, 11 March 2020.

NYT: More than 2 dozen charged in horse racing doping scheme, Tuesday’s Horse, 9 March 2020.

Frolicking filly by Justify

Justify works out at Belmont in preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown. Image by Julie Jacobson / AP

It is virtually impossible not to be very concerned for this precious little filly’s future, especially viewing her sweet innocence which all purpose bred racehorses begin their lives with.

Propagandists for the industry would say that without horse racing she would not have been born, and that racehorses love to race and live pampered lives. We find that virtually impossible to believe.

See Racing Babies: Are Two Year Olds Too Young? See all Horse Racing Reports at the Fund for Horses website.

Featured Image: Justify works out at Belmont in preparation for the final leg of the Triple Crown. Image by Julie Jacobson / AP.

After 84 Years, Suffolk Downs Says Goodbye To Live Horse Racing

Suffolk Downs. Turf course. Chip Bott Photography.

Tori Bedford writing on May 20, 2019, for WGBH News in Boston reports:

Suffolk Downs is retiring horse racing — at least on this historic track, which is slated to be turned into apartments and retail shops.

Suffolk Downs has before faced shutdowns, changes in ownership, and a casino bid that ended in failure. [CEO Chip] Tuttle says this time, it’s for real.

And in the meantime, the races will continue through June, preparing for the final goodbye.

The track opened in 1935 after being built by Joseph A. Tomasello for a cost of $2 million. A number of famous horses raced at the track, including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Funny Cide, and Cigar.

Many horses have died at Suffolk Downs. And there are always more than are reported.

• To see a list of racehorses killed at Suffolk Downs and how they died, please see Horse Racing Wrongs here »