EVEN IN SARATOGA, PEOPLE HAVE SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT CURRENT EQUINE CRISIS

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?  

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17 Responses

  1. JP–
    As another resident of Saratoga, I agree with your friend that the tide seemingly has turned–and the racing industry doesn’t seem to get it. And it is not only in Saratoga, Santa Anita or even in America. I was stunned to see the number of protesters at this year’s Melbourne Cup–and they certainly got considerable attention on a racing day that is a state holiday in Victoria.
    Having spent a career in government, I can attest to the sympathy there is a statehouses across the country for animal rights–and greyhound racing has recently become a thing of the past as a result–and thoroughbred racing is not immune.
    As underscored by the terrible publicity that thoroughbred racing received as a result of Mongolian Groom’s tragic death in the featured race of the featured day of the featured event on the 2019 thoroughbred racing calendar, the media will continue to fan the flames of the equine death issue at Santa Anita and elsewhere. And no one can argue that it is “fake news”……

    Chuck from Saratoga

  2. Yes, Chuck, that’s an observation that most lovers of the game agree on–that the industry doesn’t get it.

    It’s not that they don’t know; they are well aware, but horsemen, despite the platitudes, are immovable on raceday Lasix, the key stumbling block.

    Can you imagine that weeks ago, when the Commonwealth of Kentucky, wanted to take a step toward enhanced safely protocols, 600 members of the Kentucky HBPA agreed to say YES to continued raceday Lasix.

    They are, literally, invested in the status quo, and will take out as much money as they can for as long as they can until the states or feds shut them down.

    Public perception must be changed.

    The only way to go forward is a model based on the enhanced protocols at Santa for BCup–and still, tragedy could not be averted–with independent federal oversight–not control, but oversight of independent, centralized testing and rules enforcement .

    A Commissioner appointed by the industry is a dog that will never be able to hunt.

    Chuck, thanks for the comment. The industry should know that two horse lovers, born and bred Saratogians, are deeply concerned that horse racing might be slipping away from us all.

    1. JP, bad weekend at Del Mar, “Where the turf meets the surf.” Is CA jinxed with these breakdowns? Again, I know little about the incidents but on the heels of MG in Classic this development is not good. I never hear about this happening at Golden Gate Fields but that may be because the track is not as big league as SA and DM. Seems odd, huh?

  3. TTT

    JP, I truly believe that if they ban Lasix and all race-day medication, not only would only sound horses run, but these crazy lunatics would have little to complain about. I can only hope that they finally cave on this, and stop attempting the ridiculous arguments as to why these breakdowns are happening, to wit: whips, track surface, wet surface, etc. These horse people are shooting themselves in the foot. All they could get is 600 people? What does that tell you. Steve Asmussen, the poster boy for keeping Lasix. That says it all!!!!

    Ban Lasix now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. TTT

    The pharmaceutical company is like a Mexican drug cartel, the veterinarians are the pushers, getting what is it $40 or more per injection? Therapy? Good therapy for their wallets and bottom line. For all you Lasix fence sitters out there, it’s time you jump off and take a side, any side and stand up against this drastic injustice.

    1. I am a huge fan of Seattle Slew and read online that he sustained a serious injury when an injection of Bute missed the vein. Not to be trifled with these super horses and, to be fair, all horses. I know nothing about racing horses, ‘tho, so anything I write is to be considered wild specultation. You seem passionate about meds and will try and understand the debate more. Seems like this stuff is akin to STP for what was once termed, “The Racer’s Edge.”

  5. Mal, was pretty close to the Slew scene. I remember he colicked seriously one winter when stabled at Hialeah, and there was serious concern about his health.

    Not only did he pull through but had a sensational season immediately thereafter. He did have an occluded vein prior to the Marlboro, which we won over Affirmed, but don’t recall it had anything to do with Bute injection.

    Will stand corrected–informed–if any of the HRI Faithful know something about this, please share…

  6. Ted, can’t say it’s the fence sitters that are the problem. Those who recognize the problem support federal intervention and end of raceday meds. The opponents WANT/NEED their performance-enhancer/system flusher. A true horseman doesn’t need raceday meds…

  7. JP, I apologize but I went to horseracingwrongs.org to see what was being “said” and saw an article directed at Teresa Gennaro. You may want to take a look, if you can avoid the comments section. Vitriol is being kind.

  8. Testosterone Teddy

    JP, there is a horse running today in the 14th from Valparaiso, Chile, 9th Gulfstream Park West, 3-Jonasito, making his 241st start, an 8-year old Scat Daddy. If this isn’t a case against Lasix, don’t know what is. Will be one of my rare justice/moral outrage plays. It’s only money you know.

  9. John: Lasix has got to go. I haven’t trusted the arguments for Lasix since the 87 Belmont. We have heard alot of excuses from McCarron and Jack Van Berg, may he rest in peace, but I have always been convinced that Lasix beat Bet Twice and not Alysheba. In any event, just last week, Jerry Brown wrote an op-ed, in the TDN, severely criticizing Bill Finley’s opposition to Lasix. I have also heard Andy Beyer, this year, openly mock any discussion of banning Lasix. It is not just the Kentucky horsemen, when the Jerry Browns and Andy Beyers, of this world, refer to anti-lasix people as if they are from the flat-earth society. Lasix may not be the cause of all of the injuries in racing, but the introduction of Lasix, some 40 years ago, has definitely diminished the soundness of the thoroughbred breed. Ban Lasix now!!

  10. Framarco,

    I suppose the difference philosophically is betting pragmatism in the short term vs. the future health of the breed. We effort trying to insure that the sport has a future, no longer a given.

    Thanks for weighing in; it’s great to hear from our regular, everyday horse players who also care about continuing to breed inherent unsoundness into our equine athletes. Hardier stock would still suffer fatal injury but we can improve on the number of them.

    Our priorities will always err on the side of the horse and love of the game.

  11. Mongolian Groom’s death was preventable in that he should have been scratched.

    He was lame according to Dr Steve Allday – hear what he says on Steve Byk show Tuesday this week. It’s archived. The doc doesn’t pull a single punch.

    My lingering question – did the $200k supplemental payment have something to do with his having to run?

  12. D,

    Have already addressed the $200 K issue.

    Dr. Steven Allday is an acknowledged genius at what he does, but his reputation is that of dubious character, so I wouldn’t necessarily hang my hat on his every word.

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