My Answer to The Jockey Club

In a recent letter to the editor of The Washington Post, Jim Gagliano, president of The Jockey Club, the most powerful organization in racing, and Shawn Smeallie, executive director of the oxymoronically-named Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, took issue with my recent op-ed in that same paper. I reproduce it in its entirety:

In his Oct. 9 Wednesday Opinion essay, “The staggering toll of horse racing,” Patrick Battuello of Horseracing Wrongs made a flawed case against horse racing, calling it “a cruel pastime,” which demonizes horse racing’s veterinarians, workers, trainers, breeders and owners. This is an example of the group’s agenda to ban any domesticated animals, including food animals and pets.

Horseracing Wrongs seeks to capitalize on the horse fatalities spike at Santa Anita racetrack. No one knows why 30 horses died. Each incident was multifactorial and could have been influenced by preexisting health conditions, extraordinary amounts of winter/spring rain, the misuse of drugs or other factors.

But the industry has taken significant steps to reduce fatalities. Santa Anita has instituted changes, including a new track drainage system, prerace veterinary inspections, strict medication rules and enhanced training protocols. After the new rules took effect in March, the number of fatalities fell by 58 percent.

Thoroughbred racehorses receive the most extensive medical care of any domesticated animal, but more can be done. The industry has responded, including support for the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would reform medication use and establish a national anti-doping authority overseen by independent equine experts and the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the group governing medications for America’s Olympians.

Horse racing can become safer, but Horseracing Wrongs’ agenda does nothing to address real-world issues affecting equine health.

It would appear we’ve got their attention, and as well we should as our movement gets stronger every day. As to their “points,” well:

“A flawed case against horse racing.” Facts, good sirs, are stubborn things. Are 2,000 horses not being killed on American tracks each year? Are hundreds more not dying back in their stalls? Are the majority of spent or simply no-longer-wanted racehorses – multiple thousands annually – not brutally and violently bled-out and butchered at racing’s singular “retirement” facility, the slaughterhouse? Facts. Facts. Facts. And yes, all those industry folks you reference are absolutely complicit in each and every kill.

“Horseracing Wrongs seeks to capitalize on the horse fatalities spike at Santa Anita.” First, for you to claim that any animal activist is “seeking to capitalize” on the suffering and death of exploited animals is, in a word, obscene. You ought to be ashamed, though I’m sure that by this point you are impervious to that emotion. Second, ’twas no “spike” at Santa Anita – and you very well know it: Santa Anita averages 50 dead horses annually; in just the past three years (not including this one), 148 horses have been killed on (racing or training) the SA track.

“No one knows why 30 horses died.” Please. From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs); to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until 6; the typical racehorse begins training at 18 months); to the incessant grinding of those bodies (if they’re not racing, they’re not earning); to forcing them to “race” at an unnatural rate (breakneck), in an unnatural way (always counter-clockwise), through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans); to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold several times over the course of his “career,” making his long-term well-being of no concern to his current people) – horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees. And again, you know that.

“But the industry has taken significant steps to reduce fatalities.” This is the same worn drivel we hear each and every time the industry gets hammered with negative coverage. Whether it’s Del Mar, Saratoga, Churchill, Turf, Santa Anita, or now, Belmont, it’s always the same: We’re working diligently on this; no stone is being left unturned. Which of course raises the question: Where was this zeal when no one was paying attention and dead horses were piling up year after year after year?

As Mark Twain said, facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable. Any track, any state, any industry organization can cherry-pick time frames to “demonstrate” improvement (or they can simply lie). But here’s the thing: Horseracing is a single entity; you can’t separate out the various tracks. A horse can be raced into the ground at one, moved to another and “break down,” and the kill only counts against the latter. Bottom line, while the numbers will fluctuate from meet to meet, track to track, state to state, death for the industry in the aggregate is unfailingly constant and, more or less, consistent (see our annual killed lists). A single entity, one league, so to speak.

“Thoroughbred racehorses receive the most extensive medical care of any domesticated animal.” So what? “Extensive medical care” means nothing to a naturally autonomous being who has had all of his autonomy stripped away – lip tattoos, cribbing collars, nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, whips, extreme and unrelenting confinement and isolation, commodification, etc. No socialization for innately social animals. No free movement for inherently mobile beings. No simple grazing for creatures who love to graze. Nothing, but negation.

And what good is being up on all your shots when you are lying in the dirt with your cannon bone protruding through your blood-soaked skin? What will it matter if your body is a finely-tuned machine, if you are a “world-class athlete,” when you are hanging upside down by a chain awaiting the butcher’s knife?

“Horse racing can become safer, but Horseracing Wrongs’ agenda does nothing to address real-world issues affecting equine health.” Horseracing will only be safe when that last betting window closes – and once again, you know it. As to our agenda, it is we, not you, who are the true equine advocates, for we advocate from mercy and compassion, you from your wallet. As the old saying goes, America, follow the money.

43 Comments

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  1. “This is an example of the group’s agenda to ban any domesticated animals, including food animals and pets.”

    I was very surprised to hear this from the industry’s upper level. I have come to expect these moronic statements from the anonymous posters. Smeallie and Gagliono have just shown their true selves by posting such an asinine comment. I could go on but Mr. Butteullo has pretty much covered it.

  2. Is sad to know what these people say “Extensive medical care” when the only thing they think about is their wallets. What about instead of spending your money in “Extensive medical care” let these creatures live an autonomous life, they don’t need anyone’s money. They need to be free of these horse racing misery.

  3. You hit every point! Beautifully said. I was a little girl going to the training track watching the early morning workouts. So much has changed and as you clearly stated, follow the trail to the money.

    • 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 Your responses were spot on, Mr Battuello. Thank you for your dedication to ending this animal abusing/killing industry!

  4. The argument that Horseracing Wrongs is seeking to “capitalize” on the spike of fatalities at Santa Anita is similar to accusations made by those who resist any restrictions on gun ownership that groups in support of gun control measures somehow take advantage of or derive benefit from mass shootings as an opportunity to push their “agenda.” Both are particularly disgusting attempts to portray compassionate people advocating for the safety of both humans and animals as motivated by selfish aims. Perhaps the people making these twisted arguments can’t even conceive of being motivated by compassion.

  5. Numbers were down in Del Mar this year, hopefully the public continues to evolve on this issue. Thank you for your work to educate people about the truth. I am finding many people, even those involved in the industry, don’t know the truth. I was told by one woman who is very connected to racing that when horses retire they are all sent to farms where they live out their days in a pasture. I tried telling her the truth about what happens after retirement and how so many are sent to slaughterhouses but she simply doesn’t want to believe it. However, the more times people like her are confronted with the truth in clear facts the more they will not be able to turn away from it.

    • The USDA publishes statistics on horses exported for slaughter. I doubt she doesn’t believe it, she knows what happens if she’s ever been on the backstretch.

  6. Patrick thanks for exposing these irrational and fictitious claims on all accounts.
    Nevertheless, out of sheer frustration and caring for the racehorses I’m going to respond as well starting with the claim that we are “demonizing” horse racing people.
    Yes, I do.
    I freely admit that I find the vile world of horse racing and the vile people in it to be rotten to the core.
    There are so many examples of this that it would take volumes, but this example alone:
    https://horseracingwrongs.org/2017/12/11/horse-left-in-stall-with-broken-leg-for-almost-a-month-trainers-wrist-is-just-fine/

    Yes folks, the “caring” people of horse racing permitted a racehorse SILENT RULER an 8 y.o gelding who made over $100,000 to suffer in his stall with a BROKEN LEG FOR OVER ONE MONTH!
    This is cruelty, bar none, and inhumane treatment of a racehorse.
    So who and where were all the grooms, the vets, the racing people who would be walking by this racehorse’s stall daily and not report this??
    The stable area is a small enclosed area where everybody keeps up on everybody else so to claim that nobody knew or saw this is hogwash.
    So much for all of the “caring” people right?
    Vet Kathryn Papp was inadvertently guiding a prospective buyer of SILENT RULER to his stall since he was put on a website “up for sale.”
    Anyways, just read the article above and it’s sickening to think about the unnecessary suffering that this racehorse went through.
    In his last race on 8/26/2017?
    Finished 2nd last by 30+ lengths, but it’s important to note that the racehorse who finished last, TERZETTO, “stopped” and didn’t even finish the race.
    This horse didn’t even receive vet care of any kind, and it wasn’t until this was discovered that the x-rays revealed he had been running with this, in some capacity for some time, which his last race indicates.
    This is directly due to the insistence of horse racing people to keep their doping/vet records SECRET and there’s a reason for that because it covers-up the fact that many racehorses are running with very serious issues that tend to be chronic and are never addressed as they go from barn to barn, state to state carrying this with them.
    Horse racing, to this day, continues to keep these records secret knowing that it endorses, condones, and facilitates the barbaric, vicious, inhumane treatment of racehorses without any neutral oversight.
    If this isn’t a definition of demonic people than I don’t know what is.

    • Sorry for the link but it tells the story https://www.paulickreport.com/news/the-biz/inconsistent-best-interests-racing-ownertrainer-rodriguez-pennsylvania-license-revoked/….i will add rodriguez was kimberly gracis go to guy to give her horses too when they couldnt cut the mustard for her any longer…lees south broke down training almost killed the jock albright. Public outrage is the reason, and the only reason this guys license was revoked. Glad ive never seen this guy around to say the least.

    • Gina, this was my comment from the article and what pa law states, another example of horse racings lack of caring

      Hb 1238 now act 10: an extension of libres law reads:Animal Cruelty:

      Rather than a single section (5511(C)) lumping together every form of cruelty, the legislation breaks down the penalties for different grades of cruelty and different penalties based on the egregiousness of the conduct and how many prior offenses there have been. Here is a quick breakdown:

      Section 5532 Neglect of an animal – failure to provide necessary food, water, shelter or veterinary care
      Penalty: Summary offense – up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
      Penalty: if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk of serious bodily injury – Misdemeanor of the second or third degree – up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine.
      Section 5533 Animal cruelty – intentionally, knowingly or recklessly illtreats, overloads, beats, abandons or abuses and animal and the treatment causes bodily harm to the animal.
      Penalty: Summary offense – up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine.
      Penalty: if neglect causes bodily injury or places the animal at imminent risk of serious bodily injury – Misdemeanor of the second degree – up to 1 year in jail and/or $2,000 fine.
      Section 5534 Aggravated cruelty – torturing an animal or violating either of the above sections and causing serious bodily injury or death of an animal.
      Penalty: Felony of the third degree – up to 7 years in jail and/or a $15,000 fine……IT IS UP TO US THE PEOPLE LIBRES LAW WAS MADE FOR ONE REASON PUBLIC OUTRAGE DO NOT LET THIS GUY WALK

  7. In my opinion, racehorses are the victims of a multibillion dollar industry that is rifle with drug abuse, injuries, death and slaughter. As long as mankind demands these magnificent creatures to run doped, running with nails driven in their ankles, stress beyond what we could ever imagine-horses will die and some will be slaughtered to fuel man’s insatiable desire for the WIN and the Money. This should not be and in the end someone will be held accountable for their lives.

  8. It’s interesting how people who believe that racehorses should be treated with care and dignity are “zeolots”, ” extreme activists”, and “terrorists” but the people who confine and isolate horses, who drug and dope them, who whip them, and who abuse them and finally send them to slaughter are supposed to be normal and mainstream. They can’t even refute the information being presented – it’s just the same old rhetoric of “we love our horses, blah, blah” and “welfare of our horses is top priority, blah, blah” and “accidents will happen we don’t know why, blah, blah”. Why don’t they prove with open vet records that there’s no illegal drugging, or show with detailed stats how fatalities are down, or give verifiable proof that thousands of their horses aren’t really going to slaughter? Because they CAN’T! They know the hideous truth, but they’re so desperate to hold onto their blood money for as long as possible that all they can do is keep throwing up verbal smoke screens that sound good in an interview but have no foundation of proof.
    We don’t have to end horse racing. The truth about horse racing will be what brings it down.

  9. I love that they raise the ridiculous argument that racehorses receive “the most intensive medical care of any domesticated animal”. What they’re calling “medical care” is actually medical INTERVENTION to ensure injured horses keep running on deteriorating joints and torn ligaments and tendons or bleed from pulmonary hemorrhage. Shock wave, joint injections, daily bute, lasix and who knows what other “treatments” (milkshake, anyone or how about a nice blistering or pin firing?) Serve only the people who stand to make money. Post-injury surgical procedures like what was endured by poor Magnum Moon in the failed attempt to save him for stud duty are not some fairy tale of love, but cruelty and exploitation at the highest level. Under normal circumstances “medical care” is rarely needed other than routine teeth floating and vaccinations. As Judge Judy once said, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

  10. Thank you Patrick!

    And when Mr.Gagliano speaks of horses receiving “the most extensive medical care of any domesticated animal” obviously is he is speaking of the “big horses” in the “elite” barns”, the big investment runners in the prestigious races. The extensive medical care is a means to an end – keep the horse (the investment) competitive in hope of a return on the investment. Further. I guess Mr. Gagliano includes the many drugs these horses receive as part of the extensive care, therapeutic or not. As an aside, I would like to ask why young healthy horses need such extensive medical care?

    He knows full well that low level claimers, the overworked horses that are far more numerous and are the backbone of this gambling industry receive minimal medical care, mainly the few vaccinations and such to keep them legal.

    Any further “care” is geared to disguising chronic injuries so they can keep racing them. And it is highly unlikely that “care” is administered by a veterinarian. Many of the people running the claimers can’t afford the costs and still others just don’t care.

  11. Thank you for bringing it home, again — they do NOT want to get it — let’s KEEP TELLING the world the truth about this VILE Industry.

  12. Damn Patrick, you have nailed it. Your writing is clear and impassioned. Horses trapped in stalls around the nation have no better advocate than you. Keep up the good fight!

    The arc of the moral universe may be long but it bends toward justice.

  13. Go find another crusade pal. How about Football? How many people are permanently injured (short-term or long-term) by this game? You want facts…find the facts on the number of people injured or killed (longer term brain trauma). How about boxing? Show me some data on boxing as well. Once you compare the 3 sports then come back to me and tell me why it is SO IMPORTANT to end horse racing.

    I am a fan of horse racing and have seen the tragedies right in front of me at the track. However, weighing all of the good/bad I choose too support it. There are a lot more harmful sports or activities than horse racing. Get off your pulpit and into real life. Later

    • Outstanding, as always. You should submit your follow-up response to their asinine reply to your op-ed and show them TWICE for the massive hypocrits and liars they truly are.

      • For some reason, my comment appeared in the wrong place and there is no way to remove it. This was meant to be at the top as a separate comment to Patrick’s excellent answer to The Jockey Club.

    • Bubba, your comment is proof positive that anyone who goes by the name of “Bubba” deserves the reputation of inbred moron. In fact, you sound so completely asinine that your only other excuse for your rampant stupidity is that you must have personally experienced a few too many football and boxing head traumas yourself.

      But what violence and injury stupid humans choose to be involved in is, as stated by someone far more intelligent than you, “informed consent.” You’re too dull-witted to know what that means. It means humans are capable of deciding and agreeing to the brutality and injuries they wish to endure in sports. Animals do not have this choice. And that is why it is so important to end horse racing.

      I’m sure you hunt and kill all sorts of helpless creatures, so you are no doubt on multiple shit-lists of evolved people while you drag your knuckles and paint your face local colors for your football team and yell yourself hoarse watching your fellow humans punch each other bloody in boxing. When you smoke yourself into an early grave or pick the wrong person to cut out on the road in your pickup truck, no one will miss your sorry ugly ass.
      Sooner would be better than later.

    • Really? Your argument hinges on human injuries in comparison? Alright, “Bubba” because I’m sure that’s your real name, let’s try incorporating a bit of rational thinking. Human athletes CHOOSE to participate in said sports – they sign contracts and get paid. Horses are kept locked in stalls, taken out with stud chains, and hit with whips to make them run. And don’t try saying that the horses are fed and that’s their payment for racing. Humans do not participate in said sports as still-developing toddlers, which is what the equivalent of what these horses are forced into training as. When humans are injured in said sports, they get time off and physical therapy. Horses get drugs or nerve damaging therapy to keep them running through their injuries, because a horse that isn’t racing isn’t earning
      money.
      And finally, to address the irrelevant point about brain injuries in human athletes, it’s obvious from reading your post that the majority of humans are able to function in life without engaging any kind of brain activity anyway. So no worries.
      Later.

    • Are you serious? — I’ll keep this as brief as possible — You don’t see the difference between other sports and the racket we call Horse-Racing? — FACT #1 — The Horses do NOT sign contracts allowing others to cruelly abuse & brutally exploit them — FACT #2 : The Humans in all sports sign off on PARTICIPATING in that particular sport, warts and all — they take the good with the bad — these Humans KNOW what they’re getting into and have no one to blame but themselves when things get awry — WHO protects the Horses? — with all their injuries, with their intake of all kinds of drugs, WHO protects the Horses? — the HORSES — for sure — did NOT sign any contract allowing this — WHO speaks for the Horses?

  14. Horse racing should be banned in all states. Its a cruel and inhumane sport. These horses are forced to run in these brutal races. There is no enjoyment in watching these horses kill themselves.

  15. Go figure. Another at Keeneland today. Got to love how they fall all over themselves to pretend it’s not happening. Seems they’re vying for the coveted title of Santa Anita East.

  16. Thank you jockey club and coalition for horse racing integrity showing what ignorance and stupidity these organizations truely have. And thank you patrick for simply telling the truth.

  17. Patrick – Outstanding, as always. You should submit your follow-up response to their asinine reply to your op-ed and show them TWICE for the massive hypocrits and liars they truly are. The Jockey Club…..snort. The Jerk-Off Club is more like it.

  18. Horseracing will see its demise, as did greyhound racing and other ridiculous animal acts once perpetuated by greed and ignorance. Nothing ever got accomplished in this world with half a heart. Patrick works zealously with facts. Carry on, Patrick.

  19. As my friend’s Dad once said…”People are no damn good.” Hard to argue with that when you see what “people” have done to this planet, our animals and many of their fellow humans as well. It is ongoing. It is despicable and unconscionable. And now, from his bully pulpit, our fearless “leader” thinks it’s all “fake” or “fine” or whatever other idiocy comes out of his mouth on any given day. Corporate America has a LOT to answer for, and you can bet that horse racing is just another “industry”. It is indefensible and cruel. It is not “sport”. It is abuse. The horses are not having “fun”, they are slaves to hideous masters who care nothing for their wellbeing. Anyone who bets on, or visits a racetrack is complicit in all of this torture and death. Keep up the pressure, and maybe one day this will end…I pray.

  20. Thank you Patrick. I don’t know how you never grow weary of addressing the absurd! I hope the end of horseracing is near!

  21. Hat’s off to you Patrick for once again going all in with facts, facts, facts . Come back by comeback , you so eloquently addressed each derogatory comment thrown at you as the finger pointing was turned right back around with the indisputable facts of horse racing wrongs. Oh, their running shared alright and it’s about time society rid itself of the shameless greed and blatant cruelty of an industry riddled in lies, bloodshed and untimely deaths of young horses!
    Thank you !

  22. So well said. I commend Horse Racing Wrongs” for the work you do and the unflinching guts it takes to speak truth. The barn that I board my previously abused Arabian is also home to several “used up” thoroughbreds who can no longer think about running and so spent years as broodmares. It’s a terrible business all around. A friend who participates in the race world once told me I wasn’t a “horse person” when I asked how her daughter could so casually “flip” horses. I now realize she paid me a compliment. Those of us who deal with the side of caring for the horses who do survive this industry thank you!

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