When it rains… In Wednesday’s Louisville Courier Journal, Tim Sullivan writes, “Of the 25 racetracks that share their casualty counts with the public, only one [Hawthorne] was more deadly last year than Churchill Downs. Over the past three years, only the [Sonoma County Fair] exceeded Churchill’s race-related mortality rate.” Yes, that Churchill Downs, the world-famous home of the Kentucky Derby. The timing of this article, of course, could hardly be any worse what with the goings-on at Santa Anita and “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” just around the bend.
In addition to me being interviewed and subsequently quoted, this article was also a boon for who else was quoted – or more to the point, what he said. Dr. Mick Peterson, the industry’s go-to track expert, likened this moment in horseracing to the Sputnik crisis of the 1950s (really, I’m not kidding), saying: “It really is one of those moments where we need to step back and say we’ve got to do this better, and we’ve got to change how we’re doing it. Because otherwise the industry is not going to survive. People don’t accept (racing fatalities) the way they did.”
Then: “It takes exactly one horse to change the narrative: Battle of Midway at Santa Anita, Eight Belles. People aren’t always watching, but when they are, it matters.”
“People don’t accept (racing fatalities) the way they did. People aren’t always watching, but when they are, it matters.” Imagine that. In an industry that churns out self-indicting statements regularly, this level of temerity may just be unsurpassed. One correction, though: People – the masses – didn’t know enough about the carnage to make a decision on “acceptability” or whether it “mattered.” This, attention on the kills, is a relatively recent phenomenon (my first Killed List was published in 2014).
But back to Peterson’s message to the industry:
Where was this sense of urgency, why did it not matter when 2,000 horses were being killed across the country last year?
Where was this sense of urgency, why did it not matter as I documented death after death after death on this website (to date, over 5,000 confirmed)?
Where is this sense of urgency, why does it not matter as 12,000-15,000 “retired” Thoroughbreds are being shackled, hung, slashed, bled-out, and butchered at Canadian and Mexican abattoirs this and every year?
Short answer: Nowhere to be found because they, the industry, simply didn’t and don’t care – not about the horses. To them, those animals are simple assets, Horseracing a mere business. That business, their money, is now under siege. Hence, the urgency of which Mr. Peterson speaks. America, you’re being hoodwinked.