While I was skeptical at first – having frustratingly seen the media’s attention come and go over the years – it is clear now that when that final history is written, Santa Anita will go down as the tipping point, the moment when Racing truly began its inexorable slide toward oblivion. Here are three of the latest indications of that slide…
In a board editorial last Thursday from the Los Angeles Times – a paper that hasn’t exactly been sympathetic to our cause – this:
“A total of 38 horses died at Santa Anita in the past year [it’s actually 44, as the paper conveniently ignored the six who perished back in their stalls]. Even with more vigilance and more veterinarians on site and the new drug reforms instituted during the course of the year, the deaths continued. … If things don’t change [which, of course, they won’t] …if death from racing cannot be made rare, the question that will loom large is whether the sport should continue at all.”
Same day, from the pro-racing publication Horse Racing Nation:
“[ESPN] once went all-out on horse racing, too, especially when [it] aired major races plus a half-hour weekly recap with interviews and replays.” But now, “ESPN afforded horse racing all of five good seconds, give or take, in a highlights package from the sports decade just ended.” And then this: “It’s not good when the only horse-racing item crawling across your TV set concerns equine fatalities, fueling the fire of the Carry Nations [had to look that up!] who would shut down the sport.”
And finally, in an open letter the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association complains bitterly about Churchill Downs (the corporation, not the track) showing dwindling interest in horseracing. Preferring the much-more-lucrative casino gaming – Churchill is, after all, a publicly traded company – the future of Churchill-owned Arlington Park is very much in question; hence, the handwringing:
“[In] Illinois – as elsewhere in the country, from Hollywood Park to Calder Race Course – Churchill is rapidly abandoning any meaningful commitment to racing. Churchill, in its unconditional pursuit of corporate profit, has worked methodically to reduce the scope of live racing, diminish overnight purses and undermine the efforts of thoroughbred owners and trainers….”
Progress. Every day.