I received this email from a friend, a local from Saratoga Springs, who long has been associated with Thoroughbred racing. I have gotten permission to share the following thoughts with the HRI Faithful. The text has been edited for context and brevity.
“Horses are dying. We all should be uncomfortable about that. Thoroughbred racing is worth saving and the game that you and I grew up loving was noble. But if we don’t face this thing down…
So far, those I have talked to seem not to be willing to face this.
This past Derby Day, approximately 50 protestors were on hand at the Oklahoma Training Track, just down from the East Avenue entrance. They later moved to the front of the National Museum of Racing.
The number of protesters at the gate, and at the Museum, grows annually.
I have been struck in recent months about when I am stopped by someone when it comes to racing and this issue. It is in church, the supermarket check-out line, or the deli newsroom where I get my papers each morning.
My spouse is president of a charity at a Roman Catholic Church and is the youngest member of this organization of caring older people.
After two recent monthly meetings the question asked of me was “what about those horse deaths at Saratoga [this year]?” These people barely know where Saratoga Race Course is located. Okay?
But they are getting the message and forming an opinion.
This game has got to step back and take a deep breath and make some truly hard decisions about where it wants to go. Because if government makes that decision as a result of popular pressure [animal abuse is an automatic vote-getter], it is not going to be pretty.
Hallowed Saratoga is NOT immune to this and most of our civic leaders don’t get that. For a far less harmful situation than horse deaths — opposition to gambling — New York outlawed thoroughbred racing in 1911 and 1912.
This issue has prompted me to think of the whole industry, from matings, selections thereof, yearling and juvenile sales, and the quality of contemporary horsemanship and ownership.
I truly love [the game] and have first-hand knowledge of what it can be. I honestly think we are in crisis and are unwilling to confront that. I hope I am wrong.”
Can stakeholders doubt there’s a crisis when residents of the town that is home to one of “America’s Top 10 Sporting Venues”–where horse racing has been part of the fabric for over a century and a half–begins to question why so many horses are dying?