Yes, We’re Winning: Attendance at the Preakness Has Been Plummeting

Beyond the obvious sadness involved, animal activism can be, to say the least, extremely frustrating work. Change, while it does happen, never comes quite fast enough. But I’m here to say that on this issue, while we obviously still have to kill the subsidies, in the war for hearts and minds (which must come first), we are winning. No question about it.

One need not follow horseracing (or this site) to know that the killing, which I remind is inherent to the industry, has been national news for almost a month now, even more so than it was during the Santa Anita spring of 2019. Literally a day has not gone by since the week of the Derby without a mainstream media piece on dead horses. Now, as expected the coverage is not always ideal. For example, in this PBS News Weekend segment, although our data is mentioned, the AP “journalist” who is interviewed reveals herself as not only ignorant – which, to my mind, is unforgivable in her profession – but, in fact, to be a simple shill for the racing industry. Still, the cruelty and killing has been squarely in the national conversation. And that’s good.

Relatedly, there’s this. A Baltimore Sun piece – “Even with Bruno Mars boost, attendance lagged far behind pre-pandemic turnout” – in the aftermath of Saturday’s Preakness notes the following: “1/ST Racing, owners of Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland Jockey Club, said Sunday in a news release that a combined 65,000 people attended Friday, which was Black-Eyed Susan Day, and Saturday. By comparison, roughly 182,000 attended the events over two days in 2019, meaning turnout this year was a little more than a third of the total for the last Preakness before the pandemic.”

2019 attendance: 182,000
2023 attendance: 65,000

The article continued:

“Some racing fans said Saturday that the small crowd concerned them as it relates to the future of horse racing. The industry has downsized for years — nationally, more than 40 tracks have closed since 2000 [this stat, by the way, comes from Horseracing Wrongs] — and a number of equine deaths recently has cast a shadow over the sport. A 3-year-old colt, Havnameltdown, broke down Saturday during the day’s sixth race with an injured leg. Black screens were brought onto the track to conceal the horse from the crowd, and he was euthanized as dance music continued to blast from the infield.”

And it’s probably even worse for the industry, for as the article points out, most of the younger people were there just to see Bruno Mars. When you have to resort to gimmicks, you know you’re in trouble. Finally, while the article does note that the handle (total amount wagered) was only slightly down from last year, it is in fact down significantly from 15 years ago (when adjusted for inflation). All this is to say, progress.

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  1. The truth is one of the TVG sport casters was interviewing people in the standing room areas(don’t know how else to put it). The people he interviewed were visibly inebriated at 12:30 and looking forward to the music and concerts scheduled..not the races or horses. And to me a disgrace having music blaring while the ambulance had to put the beautiful horse off the track.

  2. All I saw on the NBC feed was a bunch of drunks acting a fool. In fact, I noticed that not many of them were looking at the track at all-they were dancing, waving their drinks around, jumping on each other, and completely oblivious to the fact there were any races.
    On a good note, I saw Yahoo posted an article about Havnameltdown, and at last glance, there were 2131 comments, and I would have to say, of the hundreds I looked at, 99% were calling for the end of racing! Definitely progress!

  3. The war on horses will never be over until we end horse slaughter. Until then, it’s all in vain. To “save” horses from one cruelty only to condemn them to a worse fate is insanity.

  4. Karen Christine Sweatman,

    Horseracing is being propped up by government subsidies and government-directed benefits including tax write-offs and tax exemptions.
    Horse racing has lost a lot of popularity since 1986. Fewer and fewer people want to bet on horse races since 1986. The population of new Thoroughbred foals has declined each year since 1986.
    In 1986, the annual foal crop of Jockey Club registered Thoroughbreds was over 50,000 new foals. In the last few years in the 2020s, the annual number of new Thoroughbred foals is less than 20,000 and the last time I checked it was estimated to be less than 18,000. (That is over 30,000 FEWER Thoroughbreds to be eventually killed by racing and wagering and/or shipped to the slaughterhouses.)
    The most recent years of new foal crop numbers are estimated because it takes approximately two years for the paperwork and registration process of each foal to be completed in order for the actual number to be known. But keep in mind that some of the foals would have been stillborn and some of them would have been killed in some other way or died from some other cause and some of them would have been kept as “grade” or simply not registered by their owners or breeders.
    Every effort to stop the government funding, in other words, the unearned income to this abusive industry is not insane but rather a very worthwhile pursuit.
    This industry should not be propped up by our government. Our society should not be paying for the abuse, brutality, CRUELTY and death to horses on race tracks, breeding farms or training tracks. The people involved in this egregious cruelty to horses should be punished! They should not be rewarded! These die-hard horse-killers should not be put on a pedestal such as the Hall of Fame, which most of us here think of as the Hall of Shame, for the obvious reason that it is a shame to exploit horses to literal death for ones own “fame and fortune” (in any country).

    These die-hard horse-killers should not be getting any government funding of any kind to enable them to continue to breed more horses that they exploit abusively by enslaving them for racing and wagering and eventually dumping them into the slaughter pipeline. By subsidizing the racing industry, the slaughter pipeline gets more horses than they would get without government subsidies and government-directed benefits including tax write-offs and tax exemptions to horseracing.

    The Stronach Group should not be allowed to benefit from the government subsidies to horse racing! If you open your eyes to the whole picture, it makes perfect sense to do activism to stop these atrocities.
    In some ways, horse racing and horse slaughter is like gum disease; you can’t stop it completely but you can slow it down and it makes perfect sense to do whatever it takes to slow it down.
    Of course, it should be stopped but slowing it down is kind of necessary in order to get to that place where it could eventually be stopped.

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