New Mexico is a racino state, meaning its five racetracks are utterly dependent on the subsidies flowing in from slot machines. Because of this, covid casino-closures take on added importance. While racing has continued in New Mexico during the pandemic, purse funding is quickly drying up without slots revenue. (That’s right, New Mexico racing cannot subsist on its product alone, as measured by handle and attendance.) And the industry is sounding the alarm. In a recent article from KTSM, Todd Fincher, a hugely successful trainer with over $30 million in career earnings, says: “I beg the governor to open the casinos; I mean it’s killing the No. 3 industry in the state, which might never recover.” (As is their wont, the racing people wildly exaggerate the economic impact of their industry, seemingly plucking numbers out of thin air. So take “No. 3 industry in the state” with a grain of salt.)
But it’s the potential effect on the horses that really caught my attention. Fincher, the station says, is worried that “bad things will happen” if horsemen have no place to bring their horses (should tracks close). He says:
“Unfortunately, some people just won’t take care of them and then the horse is going to be the one who’s going to suffer…. [U]nfortunately these horses, in some circumstances, people are not going to care for their horses.”
So here we have a prominent racer freely admitting that unless his industry’s corporate welfare is restored, horses will die, likely in the most horrific of ways (e.g., neglect, starvation, slaughter). “Pampered athletes”? “Beloved members of the family”? Not when push comes to shove. Then, when the horse people’s livelihoods are tanking, the horses become just another financial albatross that need discarding. Honest? Sure, we’ll give him that. But this is also among the most damning self-indictments of the American horseracing industry that I can recall.