Indicting Themselves

Various direct quotes from those within and around the racing industry:

“Let’s face it: You got a 1,200-pound horse and his legs – the bone in his leg is not that much bigger than the bone in your leg. We need to have as much safety-minded rules as possible. But you are never going to end the catastrophic breakdowns.” – high-profile trainer Gary Contessa (Scripps News, 10/25/23)

“She’s fine and she’s sound. But…rather than try to get her back together we decided to just go ahead and sell her.” – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas on dumping $2.5M-earner Secret Oath (Thoroughbred Daily News, 10/6/23)

“What percentages of the horses win a race or even make it to the races? Those numbers aren’t good. That’s how I explain our business. We drill oil wells and we get a lot of dry wells and hope we get a couple of other ones that will pay for the failures.” – breeder Craig Bandoroff (Thoroughbred Daily News, 10/2/23)

“Purses are going up but not because people are betting on horses. I hope we don’t lull ourselves into a false sense of security because we all know what the government giveth the government can take away.” – breeder Craig Bandoroff (Thoroughbred Daily News, 10/2/23)

“Racing and breeding have become so commercialized that horses are now almost exclusively bred, raised, sold, resold, resold again, trained, run and maybe resold yet again, not as athletes but as financial commodities and nearly everybody is playing the numbers game.” – breeder Eric Ward (Thoroughbred Daily News, 9/2/23)

“It is what we all dread. … We had friends with us and you try to explain to them that you are always relieved when the race is over and then you are looking to see them come back.” – trainer Graham Motion, after one of his horses was killed (BloodHorse, 8/4/23)

“The number (of deaths) will never be zero and bad timing is always going to offset even the biggest of improvements.” – retired trainer Charles Simon (BloodHorse, 6/12/23)

“Unfortunately, speed hurts horses, be [it] during training or racing.” – trainer Leonard Powell (Thoroughbred Daily News, 6/7/23)

“People don’t understand the number of deaths we (prevent) as a horse-racing industry. Horses are very fragile types of animals. They have a poor digestive system. They have very small legs they live on. They can die from pneumonia, heart attacks. (People) don’t see all the things we stopped the deaths of.” – trainer Dale Romans (Horse Racing Nation, 6/2/23)

“There are a lot of people who count on racing to survive for their livelihood.” – HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus, on her reluctance to shut down Churchill or any other track experiencing an inordinate amount of deaths (BloodHorse, 5/30/23)

“If you took the casino subsidy away, it would cripple the industry.” – Alan Foreman, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (The Baltimore Sun, 5/13/23)

“Horse racing needs to stop pretending and just be what it is. … Cheating is part of it. Death is part of it. Losing is part of it. Winning makes it all worth while.” – Ken Rudulph, TVG host, analyst, handicapper (Twitter, 5/15/23)

“I feel sorry for horses sometimes because they’re in their stalls for 23 hours a day.” – Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally (SD Union Tribune, 8/26/22)

“We can always replace a horse but we can’t replace drivers.” – Laurie Dudka, co-owner of a horse who broke her neck in a race at Saratoga Harness, Apr 2022

“We just had a couple unfortunate incidents, and I’m hoping to get past that soon.” – Mike Weiss, Rillito Park GM, in the wake of his track’s four kills in two days, Mar 2022

“He’s a nice, solid horse – he’s been like a piggybank for everyone who has had him.” – trainer Rudy Rodriguez on one of his assets (NYRA press release, 2/27/22)

“Whether it be the USTA turning a blind eye to the thousands of horses who are ending up in kill pens [or] moving to eliminate Freezebrands to make the horses unidentifiable, [the USTA’s] arrogance and disregard for the issues in racing is telling.” – Adrienne Hall, harness owner (Paulick Report, 2/16/22)

“Horses that have to be loaded wearing a hood shouldn’t race. I know this comes out of nowhere, but if a horse is so difficult to enter the racing gate without being blindfolded, then maybe it just shouldn’t be a race horse. Injecting such stress into any creature isn’t fair.” – John Cherwa, pro-racing writer (LA Times, 6/20/21)

“It becomes like a rent-a-horse and some people don’t take care of the horses because they know they will get claimed next week.” – Scott Davidson, trainer (Daily Racing Form, 4/20/21)

“As long as I have him [one of his horses], he won’t end up in a bad spot, but sometimes that does happen and I’d hate to see that happen to him.” – Scott Davidson, trainer (Daily Racing Form, 4/20/21)

“Unfortunately, some [racing] people just won’t take care of them and then the horse is going to be the one who’s going to suffer…. [U]nfortunately these horses, in some circumstances, people are not going to care for their horses.” – Todd Fincher, trainer, on what will happen if New Mexico tracks close (KTSM, 12/24/20)

“Those efforts [reforms] seem to be paying off as the breakdown rate, which soared earlier this year at Santa Anita, has returned to more normal numbers [emphasis added].” – Bill Finley, pro-racing writer (Harness Racing Update, 12/6/19)

“The horseracing industry runs on a pack of lies, a bunch of swindles, hidden information, and many corrupt and illegal activities for the love of money, not for love of the horse.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“I will no longer support a fractured industry of disparate alphabet organizations now guided by greed. You have killed the game for me.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“It does not matter if you knew Mongolian Groom. I did not. But I did know horses now buried in infields of racetracks and in Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. I walked shedrows and I pet them on their heads. Now they are dead. It has happened a thousand times before and will again.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“It happened slowly over the past few years as I wrote about rescue, slaughter and drugs. What put me off most is the great number of industry people who favor the latter two.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“The game is rigged at every level, with rampant cheating its finest art form.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 12/3/19)

“Trust me, there are horses I’ve won on that if I hadn’t used the whip, I wouldn’t have finished in the top three.” – Joe Talamo, jockey (The San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/17/19)

“Is it possible to reduce the number of racehorse deaths? It is…but some death is inevitable.” – Peter Fornatale, host of horseplayer podcast (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/19)

“[I]t’s reached a point where I’d like my people and me to be in the business as full-time professionals. So the idea is to buy a horse after a start or two, which we have been doing, develop them, and then either sell half of them or all of them for a profit. I’ve now told people up front that going forward if you want to participate in these partnerships with me that our goal is to sell them and make money. That’s the bottom line.” – Barry Irwin, owner/breeder (BloodHorse, 11/13/19)

“Talk Veuve to Me still has a lot of racing in her, but we had some fun with her, made some money, and it was time to sell her so we can do it again with another horse.” – Barry Irwin, owner/breeder (BloodHorse, 11/13/19)

“Part of the problem in horse racing is, we have commoditized horses, and when you commoditize horses, you treat them like livestock because they have a value. As one trainer told me, ‘I don’t like to leave any money on the table.’ But the other side of that is not good, because that means you want to get the last pound of flesh out of that particular animal.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (Town & Country, 10/27/19)

“The status quo is not good enough…horse safety…must be our number one priority, even before winning.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director, admitting, of course, that heretofore “horse safety” hasn’t been their number one priority (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

“Worldwide, that [fatalities] is a very large number of horses. Many of you in this room, and this isn’t a criticism, are a step away from the flesh and blood of these fatalities. I’ve been there. Many of these fatalities are ugly, very ugly.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

“The result [of claiming races] is a culture where horses tend to be treated as commodities…the U.S. racing business model amplifies that.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

“[During Santa Anita] the racing press understood that there is a normal fatality rate [emphasis added] in horseracing; the non-racing press and public did not.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

“There are those who argue that whipping doesn’t hurt horses, but that’s nonsense, and we all know that. Whips are noxious stimuli; they hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (International Conference of Horseracing Authorities, 10/7/19)

“[The Jockey Club] will not support a slaughter-free industry because it will cost $120 million per year to fund the care of the 20,000+ horses bred each year.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 8/22/19)

“These aren’t pets. These are machines. People spend a lot of money on these horses to win.” – Synthia Campos, horseplayer at Santa Anita Park (Yahoo Sports, 6/16/19)

“A lot of people who otherwise don’t pay any attention to this sport are paying attention to its most horrific aspect. And they are asking for answers that don’t exist. The hard truth: Horse racing can’t stop these catastrophic injuries from happening. [F]atal injuries aren’t going away.” – Gentry Estes, pro-racing writer (Louisville Courier-Journal, 6/13/19)

“A couple of years ago, a friend from Georgia attended Keeneland for the first time. Her family enjoyed the experience. One thing bothered them, my friend told me. The whips. Why did the jockeys have to hit the horses with those whips? That might seem minor for those of us who grew up with the sport. It’s an accepted practice. We barely notice it. But in a society less Agrarian and more urban, using a whip to hit a defenseless animal stands out. People might not be able to see the drugs, or what goes on in the barns, but they can sure see those whips.” – John Clay, pro-racing columnist (Lexington Herald Leader, 6/11/19)

“Covering this game, you’d think you’d get desensitized to the breakdowns over time. It’s a reality of the business, I know. But if I’m being entirely honest, I think it’s getting harder to deal with each time. It’s just crushing.” – Jeremy Balan, BloodHorse writer, Feb 2019

“I look at each horse I own as an individual investment. But I look at all the horses I own as a stock portfolio. Underperformers are moved along; there is a constant push to upgrade the portfolio.” owner Michael Dubb (NYRA website, 2018)

“A condylar fracture is a disease of speed. A fracture to the left lateral forelimb is most common in racehorses as they turn the track on a weakened bone and increased loading on the lateral condyle.” – Dr. Robert Brusie, Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Jul 2018

“It’s hard to win an argument that should we spend this money [casino revenue] supporting the horseracing industry or should we pay our teachers and give them school supplies or fix roads and build hospitals…it’s kind of a no-brainer; we’re not going to win that argument.” – Ray Paulick, pro-racing writer (Paulick Report, 4/13/18)

“Since the Thoroughbred industry has not significantly corrected this situation, the same percentages – 20% of all horses sent to slaughter from the US are Thoroughbreds – are safely assumed to be correct present day.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 3/28/18)

“A sport that once was the pastime of the billionaire class has devolved over time into a sport in which an overwhelming number of its athletes are slaughtered to become a portion of some animal’s dinner.” – Mark Berner, pro-racing writer (HorseRaceInsider, 3/28/18)

“We will continue to try to locate these New York thoroughbred horses; however, the fact that in two years we have only found about half of the horses speaks volumes about the challenges of just how many retired race horses there are out there.” – Ron Ochrym, NYS Gaming Commission executive director (The Daily Gazette, 8/29/17)

“We breed 20,000 a year, so if we don’t fund the exit plan, we can’t control the arteries from bleeding out.” – Stacie Clark, operations consultant for the pro-racing Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (The Daily Gazette, 8/29/17)

“Did I ever ask them to, no. Does it happen at every racetrack, yes.” – Stephanie Beattie, trainer, on jockeys using electrical devices to shock horses to run faster (Paulick Report, 6/28/17)

“Almost everybody did [illegally drug their horses on raceday]. Ninety-five to 98%. It was a known practice. We wanted to win.” – Stephanie Beattie, trainer (Paulick Report, 6/28/17)

“Goodness knows in society there are problems that are unsolvable; this may be one of them.” – Cliff Goodrich, former president of Santa Anita, on Del Mar’s dead horses (The San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/25/16)

“The anti-slaughter policies, they’re worthless. The track policies are not going to do anything at all. I’m not an extremist, I just love horses, and I have seen what is truly happening to our racehorses. What is happening is what no one wants to talk about. I have sat down with the head of The Jockey Club; I have sat down with some of the biggest owners and trainers in the country. I start talking and I promise you, they start staring at the ground. They do not want to hear it.” – Maggi Moss, owner (Paulick Report, Aug 2016)

“We accept the risk that comes with it…but that’s part of it. Where you have livestock, you have dead stock.” – John Wheeler, trainer, after three horses were killed in a single day at a New Zealand track (New Zealand Herald, 6/8/16)

“He [an official who argues that the new more-liberal California whip rule is not abuse] might want to bring that up with my 15-year-old daughter. Brought up in a family where both parents work in the racing industry, she has zero interest in the sport and when asked why said it is because she doesn’t like to watch the jockeys beating the horses.” – Bill Finley, pro-racing writer (Thoroughbred Daily News, 5/27/16)

“The public has changed. We’re using animals for entertainment here. And all you have to do is look at the circus where they’ve eliminated elephants from the show…look at SeaWorld. [W]e’re using them for entertainment. That’s the bottom line.” – Ray Paulick, pro-racing writer (Paulick Report, 5/27/16)

“If you and I were in one of those stalls 22 hours a day, we’d have COPD so bad and emphysema. You know, you probably couldn’t even breathe.” Mark Chaney, equine vet (WEKU, 4/29/15)

“We’ve all heard about the ‘bad step.’ It isn’t true.” – Dr. Lisa Hanelt, track vet (BloodHorse, 7/8/14)

“That horse raced and was pulled up with a broken leg, with his leg dangling, and had to be euthanized on the racetrack. It was crushing, because I felt like I had notified people [of a stress fracture]…and no one seemed to care. Nobody cared and that horse died because of it.” Dr. Kathryn Papp, track vet (NBC, 5/15/14)

“Everything that’s given to the horse is with the main goal in mind, which is having them run well, win races, pay well to the owners and to the trainers. And anything that they can give the horses – whether it be legal, illegal, even non-necessary substances – they will do…in an attempt to have a winner….” – Dr. Kathryn Papp, track vet (NBC, 5/15/14)

“Every day, I almost quit. Every day, I decide I don’t want to see 2-year-olds that haven’t even run yet be euthanized in a dirt pit at the back of the racetrack because somebody trained them too hard, medicated them too much, pushed them too far.” – Dr. Kathryn Papp, track vet (NBC, 5/15/14)

“Our industry is permeated with those who have no regard for the welfare of the horse. The horse becomes only a tool for fulfilling their own agendas of WIN AT ALL COSTS. Most trainers have little or no investment in the horses they train, whether it is financial or emotional. They will run red light after red light in pushing that horse until it fails and then they will call the owner and spin him a story. [T]hose trainers will tell the owner that the horse ‘just took a bad step’ and ‘that’s horse racing.'” – Bill Casner, owner (Thoroughbred Daily News, Mar 2014)

“Sadly, the federal government’s compassion shown for pitbull dogs [speaking of the prosecution of Michael Vick] has been absent in the terrible mistreatment of Thoroughbred horses that is occurring daily at racetracks across America.” – Arthur Hancock III, owner/breeder (Paulick Report, 11/23/13)

“The economics of horse racing does not allow for that. Horse racing is on the decline. If a horse needed a year to heal up, they would go to the killers up in Canada or Mexico [slaughterhouses].” – Dr. Phillip Kapraun, track vet, on his liberal use of illegal “snake venom” (The New York Times, 9/21/12)

“It’s getting much easier for me to run my horses out East so that I don’t get so personally attached to them. This is a business.” – Maggi Moss, owner, on running “claimers” (The Iowan, Jul 2012)

“Everybody just wants a horse, and they want him now to race in 10 days. I want a horse today and I don’t want it tomorrow. I’m a businessman. If somebody takes my bad horses, it’s good. This is a game, and we have to know how to play.” – Juan Serey, trainer, on “claiming races” (The New York Times, 4/30/12)

“If horses don’t win, people just get rid of them.” – Maggi Moss, owner (The New York Times, 4/30/12)

“It’s [the racino/claiming equation] strictly self-centered greed of not thinking about the horse but thinking about maybe I can get one more race out of him and get a piece of the game.” – Dr. Tom David, former chief vet, Louisiana Racing Commission (The New York Times, 4/30/12)

“It’s hard to watch these poor animals running for their lives for people who could really care less if they live.” – Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, track vet (The New York Times, 3/24/12)

“It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, CHRB medical director (The New York Times, 3/24/12)

“We could race draft horses over most any surface, and their bones are strong enough it wouldn’t matter. But, the thoroughbred maintains only the minimum skeleton that is sufficient to carry them around the track. Excess skeleton is added weight and penalized the horse’s speed. So, the light skeleton is a speed advantage, unless it gets too light to carry its owner, and then it fails. This is why we will never eliminate injuries totally. Success is predicated on the fact that our athletes carry the minimum skeleton necessary. They run right on the edge of their physiology.” – Dr. Larry Bramlage, a pro-racing equine orthopedic surgeon (BloodHorse, 2007)