It’s Time the Media Stops Giving Horseracing a Platform to Deceive and Lie

We and our work were featured in a recent Journal News (USA Today Network) piece on the killing at Belmont (53 dead horses last year) and beyond. (The article is on the paper’s subscription-only page, but here is a pdf: Belmont Article.) To clarify, when I say our work I simply mean exposing the truth – reporting the facts. As is its wont, when confronted with these facts the New York Racing Association dissembles, distracts, deflects, and deceives. Like no one else. The article opens:

“Last year was the first in the decade since 2010 that the death toll topped 50 at the Elmont, Long Island, park, best known for hosting the Belmont Stakes. And 2020’s total was seven more than the number of horses that died at Belmont in 2019 – even though COVID-19 stopped racing for over two months last year.”

Racing down, killing up. So how did NYRA respond? Spokesman Patrick McKenna: “This was an unprecedented interruption and we are still analyzing the full scope of its impact, especially as it relates to younger horses.” More horses were killed – because of covid. Now that is really getting creative.

Later, whipping is broached. As the Gaming Commission considers rules changes, McKenna makes clear NYRA will not support a ban, saying: “Skilled and experienced riders do utilize the crop as a primary mode of communication in training and competition, and any new rule should acknowledge that reality in a way that protects riders and preserves the integrity of the sport.”

The whip as “a primary mode of communication”? Why yes, but certainly not in the way McKenna means. Not that this should be necessary, but here is Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director of the California Horse Racing Board and no one’s definition of anti-racing, explaining how that “communication” works: “There are those who argue that whipping doesn’t hurt horses, but that’s nonsense, and we all know that. Whips are noxious stimuli; they hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.” Which, of course, is something only the ignorant or mendacious would deny.

The News followed with an update Tuesday. Belmont, the paper explains, actually killed more than what was originally reported, as one horse was “temporarily left off” the Commission database. (This, by the way, came from me, as I tipped the writer, Mark Lungariello, that Blackjack appeared then disappeared back in October; told that I had independently confirmed the death, he then pressed the Commission.) And while this latest piece notes that “the number of deaths at all three NYRA tracks combined also hit a 10-year high in 2020,” it still gives McKenna and NYRA the last (specious) word: “As always, NYRA continuously evaluates all aspects of the operation to ensure that we are providing the safest possible environment for training and racing; [the health and welfare of the horses] stands above all other considerations.”

Look, I get why the racing people say what they say. To paraphrase an old legal adage, when the facts are bad – your (gambling) business kills innocent animals as a matter of course – pound the table and yell like hell (dissemble, distract, deceive). But I’ve grown quite weary of the coverage racing receives. Because of our work, the truth is there for all to see, yet the media – with a few notable exceptions – continues to give this industry the benefit of the doubt, allowing the slick and polished Patrick McKennas of the racing world to, for the most part, control the narrative. Well, enough. It’s high time the media starts calling horseracing what it is: animal exploitation, animal cruelty, animal killing – not a whit different than its cousin, dogracing, which has been outright prohibited on moral grounds in 41 states. It is absolutely bewildering to me how this is not crystal clear and, more to the point, why it is not reported as such.

13 Comments

  1. Thank you, Patrick Battuello, for your diligence and fortitude in fighting organized crime in the form of horseracing and gambling, or wagering on horses as gambling chips. Not everyone has gotten the message yet, in my opinion. Keep up the good work.

  2. She lost rider, but, still don’t know if she’s ok,hopefully she is ok. Sounded bad for jockey,taken to hospital I believe.

    • She might be alive, because the chart says the second-to-last filly had to avoid her as a “loose horse” and not a “fallen foe.” Then again, she might be dead, because Golden Gate COVID-Spreading Fields has apparently removed that race from their YouTube channel.
      Either way, Patrick won’t get an answer from the CHRB until at least Monday, because that’s how they roll with their up-to-the-minute technology and so-called “transparency.”

      • Thank you Kelly, I didn’t see it, I heard it in my kitchen while I was cutting veggies. I thought dear god,not ANOTHER 2yr old. I’ll tell you,that poor filly last night…has made my heart ache.

  3. Thanks to Patrick, et al., at some point in the very near future, EVERY real sports and news media outlet will inform the public what the racing press will never concede: Fewer horses are being bred/raced/dumped, but MORE are being injured/broken-down/euthed. It’s the most damning indictment the Jockey Club faces; their very existence is predicated on making the public believe that racehorse deaths are dropping year over year, when in fact, statistically THEY ARE RISING. As stated, above: “Racing down, killing up.”
    Sure, there’s been advances in track surface technology, equine veterinary diagnostics and post-injury care. But these can’t begin to touch (much less overcome) the fundamental and progressive unsoundness and outright fragility of these man-made animals. Couple that with all the drugs (Oops, I mean, “medications”) that racing creeps foist upon their very-short-term investments, and, there you have it: an Animal Abuse Horror Show that would put the Ringling Bros. to shame.
    Horse racing cruelty and carnage is only getting more gruesome, more sickening, more horrific, and more criminal, year after bloody year. But it won’t continue for much longer, as it’s about to “Go Greyhound.”

    • You mean glamorous, high-end, “Hollywood” Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia? Home to one of the Kings of Dead-Horse-Beating, Christian Hiraldo? The same luxurious facility that killed off another young racehorse JUST LAST NIGHT? In the only state to still host the aforementioned, and also hideously cruel, dog racing? That’s just hard to believe, Nancy:(

  4. How I loathe those who STILL think HORSERACING is OK — after all the information imparted to the world, how could anyone in their right mind continue with anything regarding this HORRIFIC pastime — You should be spreading the truth about this EVIL industry — STOP supporting this immoral, heinous, vile and hateful RACKET — it’s beyond DEPRAVED, SADISTIC, SHAMEFUL and COWARDLY — we must SHUT DOWN Horseracing FOREVER.

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