Dashing Nic, two, was killed after finishing 8th in last evening’s 5th race (his fourth career start) at Evangeline Downs. The gelding was ridden by David Alvarez, trained by Robert Touchet, and owned by Clark Wayne Stout. Later in the Evangeline night, Jess Spicey, yet another 2-year-old running for the fourth time, was vanned off after winning her race.
Equine veterinarian Kraig Kulikowski (statement to the New York State Humane Association):
“A two year old horse is the equivalent to a six year old human. Neither species is mentally or physically mature at this age. Asking a six year old human to be exploited as a professional athlete for economic gain would be considered inhumane. Exploiting juvenile horses for economic gain is equally inhumane. They are subject to permanent mental and physical trauma that, in too many cases, is catastrophic and even fatal.”
This site is occasionally rebuked – by the racers, of course – for almost exclusively focusing on “bad news.” To which, I ask, have they read our “about” statement? In any event, I am not at all interested in hearing about kind, hard-working, or reform-minded horsemen. If they’re in racing, they’re exploiting animals for personal gain. Period.
Today, though, I do present some happier tidings – according to me, of course. From the Paulick Report (11/20/13): “As it engages ongoing competitive challenges that include gaming-enhanced purses at other racetracks and continued growth of casino competition in its home region, Churchill Downs Racetrack (‘CDRT’) has announced a reduction in purses that will affect four races scheduled during the eight days remaining in the 25-day Fall Meet that continues through Saturday, Nov. 30.”
Two stakes races will have reduced purses, and two other races will be eliminated entirely. Now, is this a case of one state’s loss is another’s gain? Perhaps. But if the Indiana horse people are doing well, it is only through state largess – the racino structure funnels millions of unearned, non-racing, life-sustaining dollars into the hands of happy horsemen. This, the Kentucky people say, is exactly what we need. Irony, yet again: Currently, Indiana racing has an unfair advantage, but if Kentucky succeeds in securing its own subsidies, it too would have an unfair advantage – over other entertainment venues. For now, though, I choose to file less money, less racing at Churchill Downs in the “good news” department.
Two Thoroughbreds broke down Thursday: 7-year-old Hammurabi in a claiming race at Golden Gate Fields and 4-year-old Cat Tail Cutie in a claiming race at Remington Park.
Earlier in the week, at Monticello Raceway, Standardbred John Henry broke a leg (in a non-racing fall) and was killed. This is Monticello’s 2nd death of the year (Standardbreds break down far less frequently than their Thoroughbred cousins), and NY’s 109th overall.
Racing’s biggest problem, according to the racers themselves, is the perception of a pervasive drug culture. They fret on this for good reason: The New York Times says (10/31/13), “Nearly four in five bettors — 79 percent — factored in the possibility of illegal drug use when handicapping races at certain tracks or in certain states. By a 9-to-1 margin, bettors said they bet less, not more, as a result.” For years, especially since Eight Belles, the industry has reassured the (betting) public of its commitment to cleaning house. Yet this morning, a Congressional panel meets (again) to discuss an intervention.
Beyond the absurdity of Congress, yes Congress, threatening to parent American horsemen, the larger questions are why: Why does government think it within its charter to save a second-rate, ever-so-slowly-dying “sport”? Aren’t the patently unfair racino subsidies enough? And why can’t (hasn’t) a 150-year-old industry police(d) itself?
I submit that American racing isn’t overly concerned about a higher-than-most breakdown rate – it’s just the cost of doing business. Nor is it too dismayed that, as The Times reports, 19 of this year’s top 20 trainers (in cash) have at least one career drug violation – the rules and regulators, you see, are inane. What it does care about, and all that matters in the end, is what the gamblers think.
In this, there is wonderful irony. To restore confidence – save itself, really – in the wake of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, baseball imposed draconian penalties on players who fraternized with society’s “seedier elements.” The gambler’s stain on baseball had to be removed. Today, racing, facing its own (unique) “integrity” crisis, considers harsher drugging rules in a desperate attempt to keep – or woo back, as the case may be – those very same elements exiled from baseball so many years ago. One sport’s pariah is another’s lifeblood.