Recently, WBAL in Baltimore accompanied area politicians on a tour of the Laurel Park backside – more specifically, the living quarters for the backstretch workers. That they live this way in an industry littered with billionaire owners and millionaire trainers (see below) is, in a word, unconscionable. By the way, the workers “housed” at Laurel and tracks across the country are the same workers those well-heeled industry folks – starting with the despicable Doug O’Neill – are now so shamelessly and blatantly exploiting with their “save their jobs” campaign. Yes, save the jobs that make this kind of living possible…

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Justify failed a drug test after winning a 2018 Santa Anita race – about one month before the Kentucky Derby. Assuming the Times’ information is correct, had the results been expeditiously disclosed and the matter prosecuted according to the rules in place at the time, Justify’s win would have been vacated, and he would not have qualified for the Derby. Hence, no Triple Crown. But things moved at a snail’s pace and eventually – months later – the case was dropped altogether. What’s more, in October of that year, the penalty for the drug in question – scopolamine – was significantly reduced by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), making it appear it wasn’t that bad a violation to begin with.

The above, of course, should come as no surprise, as horseracing is fundamentally incestuous: The CHRB’s chair, Chuck Winner, owns horses trained by Justify’s Bob Baffert; at least two other board members, including vice-chair Madeline Auerbach, are also still very much active in the very industry they’re tasked to regulate. And given Racing’s declining fortunes and desperate need for a media “superstar,” there was little chance the CHRB was going to take any action that would have prevented Justify from running at Churchill – in fact, the full board wasn’t even notified of the positive till after the Kentucky Derby – and zero chance it was going to act in a way that could have stripped Justify of the Triple Crown. Corrupt, to the core.

(full NY Times article)

A “commentary” in Monday’s Paulick Report, presented with my replies in bold…

“Don’t Let Animal Rights ‘Terrorists’ Make Horse Racing Go The Way Of Circus Elephants” – by Alan Pincus, an attorney in Pennsylvania

“I went to work at the track in 1965 because of my abiding love for horses. No one can question my love for the animal.” I can, and I will. You can love horses. You can love horseracing. You can’t love both.

“However, there is a faction of society that does not love our game. These are the animal rights terrorists whose agenda is nothing less than the ending of racing altogether.” If that’s to be the definition of a “terrorist,” then yes, I am a terrorist.

“They don’t want horses to be subjected to the inherently dangerous sport of racing.” Yes. “Instead, horses should be treated as pets.” So – horses shouldn’t be treated as well as our dogs, Mr. Pincus? “They shouldn’t be treated with medication for their aches and pains…” Whence the “aches and pains,” Mr. Pincus? “They shouldn’t be hit with whips…” So, they should be hit with whips, Mr. Pincus? “They should be given a lifetime home when their racing days are over at anybody’s expense but the terrorists.” Of course it is we, the advocates, who should be financially responsible for this multi-billion dollar industry’s refuse. Speechless.

“The animal rights terrorists are not interested in the thousands of jobs that racing provides and the sheer joy that it gives its participants. They believe racing is an anachronism that must be ended.” Yes, yes, yes.

“If they stated the above positions people would not respond to their radical agenda. So they nibble at the edges, getting na├»ve and frightened stakeholders in the industry to slowly accede to their demands. But have no doubt we are on the slippery slope toward the animal rights terrorists’ ultimate goal. These people cannot be placated. They are true believers who are much more dedicated to their goals than the leaders of our industry are to ours. In that sense they are tougher than we are.” No “nibbling at the edges” here at HW; our goal is clear and concise. And yes, we are more dedicated than you – ending cruelty and killing is quite the motivator.

“So we try to calm them down by suggesting that we should use cotton balls instead of whips. We try to get them to stop screaming by stating that one breakdown is unacceptable when we can never guarantee that to be true. …we must admit that there is no way to guarantee that horses will not break down.” Thank you.

“The Stronach Group has presided over the death of California racing. What used to be the crown jewel of racing is now a laughing stock. Congratulations. They tried to appease the animal rights terrorists by implying that Lasix is somehow linked to breakdowns. Are you serious? And now, they have used Jerry Hollendorfer as a sacrificial lamb.” While right on the last two counts, what is Pincus doing here but scapegoating Stronach? Horseracing kills horses, everywhere. In 2018: Turf, 45 dead; Charles Town, 60 dead; Belmont, 29 dead; Gulfstream, 55 dead; Los Alamitos, 40 dead; Prairie, 24 dead; Laurel, 39 dead; Penn, 45 dead; and on and on and on.

“Are there no horseman’s groups willing to defend our game? Are there no industry groups that will defend racing against the onslaught of the animal rights terrorists? Or are we cowering in the corner hoping no other horse breaks down lest we lose the game we love entirely?” Good luck fighting facts, truth, and right.

“Now is the time for people to stop apologizing about the greatest game in the world before it goes the way of elephants in the circus.” I’m sure you love a good bet, Mr. Pincus; care to wager on Racing’s future?

As all familiar with this site know, I estimate that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year. One of the factors affecting my estimate is the missing data on morning training (some states claim that those kills are not reportable events). As if to confirm my assessment, a racing fan whose wife works in the industry took to Twitter a couple weeks back:

Ironically (though other adverbs apply), this guy cautions the industry about these things – dead horses in the morning, that is – going public, publicly. Wow.

In a recent CNN piece that, for the most part, zeroed in on wayward trainers, racehorse owner Scott Herbertson had this exchange with journalist Nick Watt:

Watt: “When Jerry Hollendorfer claims one of your horses?”

Herbertson: “You just cringe.”

Lost, I’m sure, by practically all casual viewers, and further buried by the controversy of Hall of Famer Hollendorfer being banned from Santa Anita the day after CNN first ran the story, is the fact that this whistleblowing would-be good guy had his horses, including the now-dead Kochees, up “For Sale” in the first place, leaving them utterly vulnerable for anyone, including Racing’s current persona non grata, to snatch up. Above all else, it is this, the claiming race – where every horse is on the market prior to, and by far the most common type of race run in the U.S. – that exposes the lie of “they’re like our children.” In other words, there’s no meaningful difference between the Hollendorfers and Herbertsons of the racing world. Exploiters, all.

Last Wednesday, Ray Paulick penned an opinion piece in his eponymous Paulick Report entitled “Horse Racing At The Crossroads: Reform Or Die.” Sounding the alarm (again), Paulick rightly points out that the media is swarming and not letting go.

“We’ve written before about how society has changed, that a public opinion survey in 2018 made animal welfare the No. 1 issue that Americans care the most about. That was before the glare from the mainstream media spotlight on racing fatalities at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., made virtually everyone in this country aware that hundreds of Thoroughbreds are dying each year on American racetracks.”

Fairly straightforward to this point. But then Paulick can’t help but get prickly about the siege in which his beloved “sport” currently finds itself: “The media smells blood, and I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ The piling on is unfair, with graphic and often misleading articles and video segments on horse racing fatalities on everything from Voice of America and National Public Radio to CNN, Fox News and (which referred to Santa Anita as ‘horse hell’). Who ever said life was fair?”

“Unfair,” Mr. Paulick? How dare you talk of inequity toward an industry that has been allowed to exploit and abuse animals for 150 years with, for the vast majority of that time, nary a peep from the mainstream media. “Graphic,” Mr. Paulick? Not hardly enough: This should be in newspapers coast to coast. “Misleading,” Mr. Paulick? Misleading is only mentioning the “hundreds [and actually it’s well over 2,000] of Thoroughbreds dying” on-track while conveniently omitting the hundreds dying back in their stalls or the multiple thousands being strung up and slashed every year.

The Ray Paulicks of the racing world are, in many ways, our greatest enemies – wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sounding intelligent, caring, and thoughtful, their opinions and ideas can, at least to the lay public, be utterly persuasive – you know, all Racing needs is a good housecleaning, a return to its roots, the “Horseracing Integrity Act.” And if they get what they want – and to their everlasting shame – countless more horses will suffer and die for it.