Arizona Racing Commissioner: “The breakdowns were horrific, disturbing, and not something I will ever be able to erase from my memory.”

Excerpts from an op-ed by Rory Goreé, vice chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission, in Wednesday’s Tucson Sentinel:

On Saturday I was at Rillito Racetrack in Tucson, watching the races. There were two horses that suffered life-ending injuries on opening day. I did something I have not done in the past – I walked out to observe both situations. I went behind the curtain. The breakdowns were horrific, disturbing, and not something I will ever be able to erase from my memory. I witnessed the horse’s leg dangling by skin with the broken bone protruding out.

On Sunday, Rillito had two more dead horses. One during racing and another during an incident in the paddock.

Something is not right in Arizona. … I was told that due to staff shortage at Turf, there is no one able to perform pre-race exams on all horses. We are also unable to pay for staff to review racing records…to determine which horse is at risk or which horse needs more scrutiny or which horse should be scratched. As it currently stands, the state of Arizona has no ability to stop an at-risk horse racing to its death.

It sickens me to know we continue to kill horses at an unprecedented rate…. Arizona horse tracks are a killing field. At this current pace, Arizona racing is facing a one to two-year window until its demise…. I personally would welcome a moratorium on racing until proper funding is enacted by the legislative bodies and proper rules are implemented. … We can change course, or we can go the way of greyhound racing, continuing to not accept responsibility for our mistakes and take corrective action.

11 Comments

  1. Yesterday,, the truck at Turf Paradise broke down that was hauling the gate, so they had to cancel most of their races. I saw one comment on Twitter that said, “good, at least no horses will die racing today.” But the others, from pro- racing people, were Interesting. One said something to the effect that if they can’t even keep one of the most necessary pieces of equipment needed to run races, they shouldn’t be running! Another said, “good maybe you should shut down forever!” And one said he quit betting there after he saw the broken down crippled horses they were allowing to run there (assuming after the Creative Plan story came to light). Even the pro racing folks are getting fed up with that place and how much of a horrible look it’s creating for racing.

  2. There must be some way to shut these tracks down for good. Repurposing the properties and cutting off subsidies simply make sense, not to mention no more horses suffering so that a bet can be placed.

  3. Racehorses, in many cases, are going untreated for serious injuries due to lack of vets and payments for services and it was rampant even back in 2010 when I left the business.
    The most horrific part of this entire scenario is that horse racing operates with virtual impunity and has been for years.
    Even though they are supposed to have adequate medical staff in the stable area during training hours and during races this is happening less and less at the detriment of the racehorses.
    This is mostly due to changes in attitudes towards racing, but mostly due to the fact that many vets don’t get paid for their services or must wait, on average, 90 days to get paid.
    Try waiting 90 days to pay your domestic pet bill and see how that goes – you get what I’m saying.
    Of course their secret vet treatment records deliberately covers-up the suffering that these poor racehorses are forced to endure leaving no paper trail to recount or hold anybody responsible for their actions or lack thereof.
    In any other setting in this country Arizona racetracks would be shuttered immediately simply based on the animal cruelty going on there, but not horse racing.
    Horse racing has the unusual position of “policing themselves” with no neutral oversight and nothing can or will change under this arrangement.
    They know that neutral oversight will shut it down as it should.
    This also goes on in racing jurisdictions that are heavily supported by taxpayer funded subsidies that no other business in this country is afforded.
    It’s past due to hand horse racing their “shutter card,” because it’s the only way to stop racehorses from suffering and dying.

  4. Wow. I am surprised by this honesty. And yes, horseracing SHOULD meet the same fate as greyhound racing. Immediately.
    While Arizona may be the worst, they’re ALL terrible.

  5. It’s odd that this person, Rory Goree, didn’t have enough knowledge and experience with horses, race horses in particular, to know what a life-ending breakdown can look like and get to be vice chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission. Okay, so I admit I don’t know what qualifies any person to be a member of a Racing Association or Commission when it comes to first-hand knowledge and experience with horses. I am guessing that you have to be reasonably wealthy and have some sort of influence over other people, plus what else?
    It’s weird that this vice-chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission is admitting to the horror that is inherent to horse racing and has been happening for enough years that they knew that they needed a “screen” to hide behind while a horse is struggling in excruciating pain, fear and trauma. There were people before Rory Goree that knew what goes on behind the “screen” and they evidently did not disclose the horror behind the screen; the horror of what they do every day at the race tracks in Arizona or anywhere else.
    I’m not clear on what number of horses killed for racing and Pari-Mutuel gambling “entertainment” defines the atrocities as being unprecedented. Horses have been doped to fix races in addition to the other stupid things that people do to exploit horses as gambling chips, for decades, even centuries, that predictably cause life-ending injuries to horses.

  6. Beyond unconscionable. Why would the owners run these horses without demanding the prerace check?
    These low lifes are demonic and I believe the will be held accountable, if not on this side, then most certainly on the other side.

    • Many wouldn’t want a check! They know they are running sore, crippled, cobbled together horses whose pain and unsoundness may or may not be masked by the drugs they are allowed to give them.
      A great example of this is Rodney Moyers, he is banned from racing as of now. Some of the long time folks on this site may remember him because of Lady Of Rivendell, who a group of ladies that support this site got together and claimed for a well-deserved retirement.
      Well, good ol Rodney sent a horse to the paddock for a race with the usual leg bandages on. Some savvy folks in the paddock happened to notice blood seeping though, and the vet ordered the bandages removed. What was underneath was hideous. The horse had an open gash on its leg that should have been seen by a vet and sutured, but he figured he would hide it and have the horse run anyhow.
      The story of Creative Plan is another example of a horse that no one wanted to have inspected closely pre-race, and well, sadly we see how that ended. These are just a couple of the majority.

      • Thank you, Marie. There has been a lot of discussion about pre-race checks on this site and in the 25-page MongolianGroomEvaluation.pdf. I agree that the whole thing can be summed up as Pam said: demonic!
        The track veterinarians, in so many cases, are paid by the racetrack owners/operators to pass horses on purpose in order to fill races based on the gambling revenue to be made off of the horses regardless of whether they are able to run without having their bones break or anything else that constitutes a breakdown. It’s the almighty gambling and corporate welfare dollar that reigns supreme in racing horses.

    • Pam FYI a pre-race check means nothing although it’s better than nothing.
      Many state vets, who are employed by the respective geographical track racing commissions are the ones who conduct the pre-race checks, are under a tremendous amount of pressure to pass sore and lame racehorses.
      One of the most significant points is that vet treatment records DON’T FOLLOW THE RACEHORSES.
      What’s the first thing your domestic pet vet does when you move or decide on another vet?
      Well your new vet has you fill-out a medical questionnaire and a Consent Form to have your pet’s medical files faxed over for continuity of care and for the health and welfare of your pet.
      NOT HORSE RACING – they do the opposite.
      They deliberately deny vet treatment records for the racehorses under their care.
      In fact, when I was a former Associate we tried HARD to change this and the private vets like Dr. Baker (Bob Baffert’s vet) and Dr. Blea threatened to sue us claiming that the records were private.
      We wanted a system in place where the vets submit their treatment records to the state vet so we could see what was going on with any given racehorse and keep the records on file.
      NEVER HAPPENED.
      SO while 90% of racehorses end up in the claiming ranks they move from barn to barn, trainer to trainer, owner to owner with a ton of pre-existing serious conditions that would necessitate retirement, but instead are denied even this most basic protection afforded to millions of domestic pets in this country.
      The system is set-up to fail the racehorses every step of the way and that’s why dead bodies are piling up every single year and that’s also why every single racehorse is forced into a game of Russian Roulette.
      Back to private vets although our main motivation was for the racehorse this system would also permit greater transparency to hold a private vet and trainer accountable when there are doping positives.
      There would be a paper trail.
      The debacle involving MEDINA SPIRIT and Bob Baffert could have been immediately known had the state vet been in possession of Dr. Baker’s, treatment records and they would not have been able to alter any records that didn’t exist after they were caught (if they did) claiming that it was topical and not injectable.
      We would have also been in possession of the vet treatment records leading up to the unresolved death of MEDINA SPIRIT which could have matched necropsy records.
      Without those critical documents these private vets, their trainers and owners can do just about anything to a racehorse and get away with it in court because there’s no paperwork to prove otherwise.
      Just the way they want it and this example alone clearly shows an industry that doesn’t give a damn about their racehorses, the abuse of medication, and whether they drop dead or not.

  7. Do any jockey organizations want the health records to follow the horses? If I were a jockey, I’d want to know, if a horse had been treated for any leg and hoof conditions or injuries, no matter how minor. I’d demand this information, in fact, if I was going to get on an animal that is capable of speeds of up to 45 mph. And, since that animal is going to be racing against other such animals, if my horse breaks down, the chances of being dumped on the track in front of or among horses who can’t exactly stop on a dime when going so fast, or have room to even swerve to avoid me, yeah, I’d demand to know if my ride has been treated for laminitis, arthritis, stress fractures, tendon problems, any of these problems and more, with or without surgery. I’d want to also know, if a track vet or steward has ever scratched a horse, just before a race, and why.
    So, maybe if the jockeys’ organizations are contacted, they’d get ahold of their legislators, and bypass the owners and trainers altogether, to get this information.
    I get a horse racing channel on YouTube TV, I can’t remember the name. I was channel surfing one day, and paused, as a horse was being unsaddled in the post parade, well, right before the gate. The horse was scratched, but no one was saying why. As the horse was led off, I didn’t notice any limp, or a cut, nothing to suggest any injury. As none of the other horses were that close to the gate, I think none of them had even begun to enter the starting gate. So, I don’t think the horse had acted up, and couldn’t be forced into the gate. The scratch was by the stewards. If I was a future jockey of this horse, I’d want to know why the steward scratched the horse.

    • Some years ago, there was a news article about a woman jockey (in Washington state) that had broken ribs from the occupational hazards of riding racehorses. The trainer she rode for would not allow her to ride until her ribs were healed, but she said she was ready to ride (in an actual race with broken ribs). She was willing to ride with broken ribs. That’s the mindset of people who ride. You get thrown off and if you’re not dead or in the hospital, you get right back on.

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