I fell in love with horses as a young child. I instantly sensed the love returned when an animal many times larger than I nestled its nose into my chest. Later in life I learned that there is nothing more beautiful than a Thoroughbred in full gallop. However, horseracing is attempting to rip that love from my heart. I will not allow it.
The horseracing industry runs on a pack of lies, a bunch of swindles, hidden information, and many corrupt and illegal activities for the love of money, not for love of the horse. Bettors who do not consider larceny as a significant handicapping factor are destined to fail.
I will no longer support a fractured industry of disparate alphabet organizations now guided by greed. You have killed the game for me.
Leadership, a term I use very loosely, is hardly ever proactive, always reactive, preferring spin and a broom for sweeping things under a rug.
This is no way to run a sport or business, unless the intent is to run it into the ground.
This column was to run OCT 29, but I have wrestled with it and with my emotions. I walked away from it. I got angry, sad, depressed, ambivalent, and in the end, extremely disappointed by an industry that provided me a livelihood.
I am not walking away from horses, but I am walking away from horseracing.
I was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, home of the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax and the neighborhood that provided the set for Jackie Gleason’s famous TV show, The Honeymooners.
There was no Internet. Grandmothers and great grandmothers ran the social network. They sat and watched from their stoops and always knew what was going on their block. Your mother knew where you were, whom you were with, and what you did before you got home.
Koufax came around more than a decade before I did but we swam and played ball at the same community center. He was a local, a national hero by the time I began to participate. Baseball was king in my Borough of Kings, well before my first encounter with the Sport of Kings.
Motorized vehicles had replaced horses before my childhood in the 1950’s, yet some horse-drawn carts of the icemen, milkmen and knife sharpeners still roamed the streets of Brooklyn.
It was a different era, and the horses were different, too.
Voices repeatedly told viewers during the Breeders’ Cup telecast that breeders are the backbone of the industry. Breeders, in fact, start the problems that face Thoroughbred racing.
These people breed fragile horses because the long, thin-pasterned animal is lighter and prettier to look at than the blocky, sturdy, durable horses of the past.
US breeding stock is mostly comprised of fast animals that do not make it in racing past the ages of two or three because they were not sound. Yes, some are too valuable to race after achieving a degree of greatness, but breeders use the name recognition of flashy young colts, selling speed instead of sustained quality, stamina and the long-term durability necessary for top breeding stock.
It’s fair to ask: Have the Raise A Native’s been ruining the sport since the sixties? Speed is the way to quick money that today’s drive-thru owners seek but it is no way to run a sport or industry for future generations .
It does not matter if you knew Mongolian Groom. I did not. But I did know horses now buried in infields of racetracks and in Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. I walked shedrows and I pet them on their heads. Now they are dead.
It has happened a thousand times before and will again. Modalities must change.
I made the decision to walk away from a 44-year career at the racetrack but not my 47-year association with horses. And this happened before the Breeders’ Cup; Mongolian Groom was not the tipping point.
It happened slowly over the past few years as I wrote about rescue, slaughter and drugs. What put me off most is the great number of industry people who favor the latter two.
Worst of all, first there were 600, then 800, and maybe now over a thousand concerned industry stakeholders who stand steadfast in their support of using drugs daily on racehorses. Their concern is monetary, not equine.
The game is rigged at every level, with rampant cheating its finest art form. It lacks sufficient enforcement because the drug testing labs do not even know what drugs to look for. Racing will always chase pharmacology but it can keep up better with improved rules and better enforcement.
Get the horses off drugs and stop trying to shift the blame. The game doesn’t need artificial racetrack surfaces, it needs real horsemen.
The industry is on life support. Gambling dollars drive this game and the wagering is supposed to be pari-mutuel. However, when huge syndicates are allowed direct access to the pools, they take the mutuel part out of the equation.
Whales kill the game for the average bettor but absent their funds there isn’t enough money wagered to support the game. Without a new business model, meaningful and sensible innovation, this business is doomed.
The industry has a huge image problem, an overpriced product, and is awash in its own sewage of lies. The industry’s ability to enact the slowment of truth is waning and I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.
I have friends with horses at their farms and can hug them anytime. Yes, I’m a horse hugger. Everyone should be. Feel the energy of love and serenity of trading brainwaves and you will know why these sentient beings connect so well with humans, especially the handicapped.
Mahatma Ghandi said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” The measurement for horseracing is how it treats its weakest members, the horses.