Horses, the apologists say, are born to run, love to run; the modern Thoroughbred is the most exquisite of athletes, sleek and powerful, with, most importantly, an instinctive will to compete. Ignore, they continue, the diminutive humans perched atop, for both the jocks and their snapping appendages serve merely as guides. In short, you can’t force a racehorse (or any horse) to do something he doesn’t wish to do.
It matters not whether the above springs from conditioned naivete or deliberate dishonesty. It’s pure, unadulterated bunk. Of course horses are compelled to race, a compulsion that often ends in calamity. Witness Sunday’s 1st race at Fair Grounds, when a 3-year-old named Sweet Basil suffered the following under the guiding Richard Eramia:
After gaining “under a right-handed whip in upper stretch, [she was] switched to a left-handed whip outside the sixteenth-pole, drew alongside the winner late and just missed then pulled up in heat distress and was vanned off.” Whipped with both hands, heat distress, ambulanced off. Chasing – for her jockey and “connections” – a $41,000 purse. The athlete as slave. That is the racehorse.