The Absurdity – and Danger – of Comparing Horseracing to Football

Thursday, the Albany (NY) Times Union ran an article entitled “What football and horse racing have in common” – football injuries, racehorse deaths (prompted, of course, by the current batch of kills at Saratoga). Inane, sure. But so very dangerous, too. First – and I can’t believe this needs repeating – the obvious (from our website):

If horseracing is a sport, then that word must be redefined, for the competitive racing of horses resembles no other accepted sport on the planet:

In what other sport are the bodies of adolescent athletes pounded into the ground?

In what other sport are the athletes typically kept confined/isolated 23 hours a day?

In what other sport are the athletes condemned to a life as (literal) chattel?

In what other sport are the athletes drugged and doped without consent?

In what other sport are the athletes whipped for motivation?

In what other sport are the athletes regularly dying on the playing field?

In what other sport are most of the retired brutally slaughtered for their meat?

But, as mentioned, there is a (deadly) serious component to all this. The words of Chris Churchill, a respected journalist and author of this piece, carry sway. By even mentioning horseracing in the same breath as football (or any other human-only activity), by calling it a sport five separate times in a relatively short article, Churchill clearly sends the message that there is nothing philosophically objectionable to horseracing; it just needs a little cleaning up (“Get rid of Lasix,” his expert says). This message – shared by the miserable HSUS – will help sentence countless more horses to horrific deaths. It will because no matter what supposed “reforms” come down the pike, horses will continue to die on American racetracks. It’s inevitable.

To be fair, though, Churchill does hit on something by bringing youth football into the discussion. As he notes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parents and schools are putting young brains at risk on American gridirons. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that at some point someone (the state) is going to have to step in and stop it – to speak for and protect children. Or, exactly what domesticated animals require. Therein, the commonality: children and animals, animals and children – the voiceless, the most vulnerable members of our society.

But even at that, there remains one glaring difference. Of even the worst of these parents – the ones forcing their kids to play out of their own egos or insecurities – it can’t be said that their sons are slaves. Not so with racehorses. Throwing around words like “sport” and “athlete” does nothing to change the fact that horses are things to be used, pieces of property to be freely traded on an open market. By definition, property has no rights. Legally, a “horseman” can do virtually whatever he wishes to his horse – even run him into the ground. It (yes, “it”) is his. A practical, workable safety net simply does not, nor can it ever, exist. Property is property.

Mr. Churchill, please don’t confuse and distract the public. Horseracing is not football (or baseball, or soccer, or…). It is the subjugation and exploitation of a weaker species; subjugation and exploitation are necessarily cruel. Take a stand. Please.

(full Times Union article)


  1. i am new to all this . but i am an animal lover and don’t know how or why this is not animal cruelty. it is cruelty of the worst kind and must stop. i wish that i had some $$ to donate to help pass some new laws to outlaw horse racing. some people are just so cruel

  2. I’ve been waiting for an article like this for a long time – thank-you Patrick.
    The apologists constantly come on here and inaccurately compare this deplorable business to sports.
    Hopefully this article will put their delusions to rest, but that’s very hopeful.
    Anyways, these so called journalists usually get some form of financial reward or perks from the horse racing industry to uphold their deception to the ignorant masses.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Churchill got some sort of wagering voucher for Saratoga.
    Of course we will never know that, but the media is very slanted, and this portrayal is inaccurate for the most part as you point out.
    I find it appalling that journalists like Churchill seem to be paid mouthpieces, as well as the HSUS, for horse racing.
    They are enablers of this abuse – no doubt, and it has got to stop.

  3. People are often prone to make obsurd comparisons. Football compared to horse racing —- now that’s obsurd! Helpless animals: drugged; beaten; abused, and then
    dead on the track. If they survive the racing, they are cruelly trucked to a slaughterhouse. Racing horse owners and Racetrack owners must be required to take some of their profits, and put enough away to care for the horses in their retirement years. If this was a mandate, we wouldn’t have so many people deciding to own a racehorse. Just like with other “things” we own, there is responsibility with ownership:
    It seems with racing the only requirement is turning a blind eye to the cruelty, drugging, death and slaughter and sticking a greedy hand out for the money.

  4. For a newspaper, Chris Churchill is either very gullible by repeating lies and hype of the horseracing industry or is being disingenuous and doesn’t believe this tripe either.

  5. I have watched horse racing since I was a little girl simply because I love to watch horses. (No gambling interest). I have had a change of heart since seeing a horse put down behind a screen at Saratoga. We may not be aware of how terrible a situation is until experience lets us see another truth. Society needs to rethink the whole horse racing industry.

    • nohorseslaughter ortiz, I couldn’t agree with you more. Pro-racing apologists support sending their horses onto the track where the horses “put their lives on the line” for human entertainment and gambling and yet these same individuals claim to “love” their horses “just like family.” Liars…every single one of them…..

      • I worked @ the track for quite a few years. Should have known when I started at a cheap barn @ Belmont. Grooms didn’t rub the horses down with rubbing alcohol. Instead they drank it. Then worked for Pascuma who was nice. Then hall of famer Frank Pancho Martin who wooed me in his restaurant. Meantime hung out with jockeys, etc. Cordero & more snorting coke ( which I didn’t do ) They had piles of it & the next day riding horses. Unbelievable when I look back @ my life. I was naïve but that’s not an excuse for me anymore, coming full circle. One was my lover for awhile when I worked @ the Hilton. He snorted a lot. I just drank. Then for sex? He took poppers I think they’re called. The things they put up to your nose when you faint. He’s a Hall of Famer too! I know more about the backstretch than many. Someday someone might ask me to write it all down. But time is short. I used to walk Affirmed, my ex saddled him for the crown. So by the time I arrived at Laz’ barn I forgot about the other horses in the cheap barns. And when I say the cheap barns @ Belmont, can you imagine the horrors in other states? NY is obviously a horror in itself. What isn’t reported in cheap tracks? We have an illegal track just outside of Roswell. 9-12 year old jockeys, horses getting injected in front of the eager crowd. OG. Just hurts saying this but I won’t be silenced until God silences me. They have no voice. I do! Wish someone would listen. Braulio Baeza ( another Hall of Famer, see a pattern ) was a stable mate with my ex. He’s the rider of Foolish Pleasure in the match race with Ruffian :'( He disappeared for weeks from everyone including his wife & children, as he was with his GF. Suspended for 45 days as a trainer. The reason I mention him, he is a steward LOL. I’m ashamed I had anything to do with horse incarceration & maybe worse. I can’t take it back, as I have 2 beautiful sons by my ex. BUT I will 4ever speak up. FOREVER

    • Thanks ortiz for sharing your stories.
      It’s so obvious to me that you are telling the truth because I’ve been on the track too long to know.
      Incidentally, there was the most sickening display of delusional pro-horse racing crap on Bloodhorse.
      The article was addressing the numerous racehorses dying at Saratoga, how emotional the stable workers are because they “love” the horses so much.
      Gag me with a spoon.
      This article clearly shows how demented these people are.

      • I can only speak for myself & my ex. We truly loved every horse. As I said, I was naïve. My ex was the eldest of 21 from Jalisco, Mexico & brought to the US by Lazaro Barrera. He did all of the work, Laz …. none. We would drive 40 minutes at the 1st sign of trouble for Affirmed from Arcadia to Hollywood Park. Affirmed suffered from colic quite often. We’d take turns walking him ALL night into morning. It hurts me that you had to state that I was telling the truth. Patrick knows me. Ask him.

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