Back in June, Oregon State Senator Peter Courtney introduced a bill to ban horseracing in that state. While it has yet to gain traction, we certainly applaud the senator’s bold, courageous action – to my knowledge, the first of its kind in the nation. In any event, as fully expected, the racing people and their apologists are none too pleased. And, as fully expected, they are punching back with disinformation. But the commissioners of Josephine County – the site of Oregon’s sole commercial track, Grants Pass – have scaled new, risible heights.

The following letter was sent to the Oregon Senate. Enjoy.

June 9, 2021
To: Senate Rules Committee
Re: Josephine County Objects to SB871 (Horse Racing Ban)

Josephine County, as the owner of the racing facility that hosts Grants Pass Downs, objects to SB 871.

Because of horse racing, racehorses generally lead good lives. Race horses nurse from healthy mothers, sleep in secure and comfortable settings, play with each other and people, eat well-balanced diets, get expert veterinary and dental care, and receive copious human love. Racehorses love to run and to participate in a structured routine at which they are the center of attention. Beyond that, it is impossible to overstate how much horse people love their racehorses.

It is true that horse racing involves risk. But the benefit that horse racing provides to both horses and people far outweighs that risk. Horse racing is highly regulated by both the Oregon Racing Commission and by its own industry participants. A ban on horse racing would not improve the lives of the horses who obviously love the sport, or of the people who love racehorses.

Please enter this letter into the legislative record for SB 871 and all other proposed legislation that pertains to horse racing.

[signed by the three commissioners]

In Delaware, an animal-cruelty suspension for trainer Amber Cobb has been reduced by the Racing Commission from two years to two months (she still has to complete “anger management” though). While I do not know the specific abuse(s) – the stewards simply said that Cobb “demonstrated cruelty to a horse in her care” (I’ve heard it was physical) – the mere fact that she was originally suspended for two years, which for racing is akin to capital punishment, means it must have been pretty bad.

While some are (might be) outraged over the commutation, I believe this is missing the forest for the trees. The issue is not the term; rather, that there is a term. That anyone “convicted” of cruelty to horses would ever be allowed back in – whether in two months, two years, or a decade hence – is as powerful an indictment of this vile industry as I’ve seen.

On another note, I’m often asked why miscreants like Cobb can’t be charged under state cruelty statutes. Well first, as is the case with most every other industry that uses animals, the law typically defers to what’s called “common industry practice.” This is why a person whipping his dog in the park would (hopefully) be arrested, while a jockey whipping his horse is cheered. Also, with racing, the policing is left to the industry itself, masquerading as state racing commissions. In other words, don’t look to laws and courts for remedy; the only way to truly curb the Amber Cobbs of the world is to shut this thing down completely.

The following picture was posted by “Eddie C,” horseracing guy:

Two days after this picture was snapped, Pleasure Luck was mortally injured in a race at Saratoga; she was euthanized a day later. So I wonder, Eddie, did you arrange an opportunity for your nephew to view the lifeless body? A chance to stroke the mane of the athlete-turned-carcass? Did you explain that this scene plays out almost six times on American tracks every single day? No, didn’t think so.

John Cherwa’s “Racing!” newsletter in the LA Times has come to an end (“business decision,” he’s calling it). In the penultimate edition, he offered his opinion on what needs fixing in racing. Included among things like “get rid of the Rainbow Six,” “free parking at all race tracks all the time,” and “the press box elevator at Del Mar [needs] to work on opening day,” is this:

“Horse racing needs to take a stand against Saudi money. The influence of Saudi money is huge in this sport, but racing doesn’t seem to care about the human rights issues that engulf the region. Lest you forget, they kill journalists and, according to a British court, kidnap and silence family members who speak out. Despite the $20-million price tag, I will never cover the Saudi Cup, even if assigned. Don’t you wish someone in racing would take a stand and say human rights’ principles are more important than a big payday.”

Yes, “take a stand” against the Saudis for human-rights violations, but utterly ignore the fact that the rest of your vile industry abuses other sentient beings as a matter of course – confinement, isolation, drugging, doping, whipping, etc. – and kills by the boatload: between on-track, stall, and the slaughterhouse, we’re talking some 15,000 American racehorses every single year. But by all means, go after the Saudis, Mr. Cherwa. What a (bad) joke.

I’ve often said that the likes of John Cherwa and Joe Drape (NY Times) are more dangerous (to horses, that is) than the Bob Bafferts of the world. Cherwa and Drape are accomplished journalists writing for major publications; they lend respectability to horseracing. What’s more, by being frequent critics of the industry that they in no way wish to see end, they convey to the masses that all that’s needed is a bit of tidying up – that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with breeding, exploiting, and killing horses for gambling. So, good riddance to “Racing!” and bravo to the Times for (though long overdue) bringing this blot to a close.