The Kentucky Derby came and went this weekend, with the deaths of seven horses and the indefinite suspension of one trainer (Saffie Joseph, Jr.) at Churchill Downs in one week. How someone can claim to love horses and still participate in this blood sport is unfathomable. We are failing these horses on a number of different levels.
Wayne Pacelle of Animal Wellness Action has written about how the racing industry has filed lawsuit after lawsuit to stop the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in Congress in 2020. This bill WAS PASSED and should have been implemented months ago, and those protocols could have possibly saved the lives of the horses who died so unnecessarily this week, if not for the unscrupulous industry that puts profits over safety and even life. This bill was pushed to be implemented AFTER the Triple Crown, so none of the horses who would run in any of these races would have any oversight or safety protocols in place to prevent their injury or death. With seven dead horses in a week, we want to ask the FTC how they think that decision worked out.
The Aftermath of The Racing Industry- Auction and Slaughter
While the deaths of the horses at the track are unnecessary and disgraceful, what the Thoroughbred industry really tries to ignore are the tens of thousands of horses who are thrown away every year- some are too slow; some are broken; some are just too old to race anymore. These horses are dumped at the auction and a new crop of babies are born to replace the horses who are no longer convenient.
There definitely are some owners, breeders and trainers who do work to retrain their horses for a second career, and some who will retire their horses and care for them for the remainder of their lives. Those people, however, are the exception, not the norm, for this industry.
There are dozens of Thoroughbreds who are discarded every single week at auctions across the United States. and rescues simply cannot keep up with the level of breeding and dumping that is perpetuated by the Thoroughbred industry. The rising cost of horse ownership is also pushing a number of rescues out of business, and many of the people who started rescues 10 or 20 years ago are starting to get older and unable to continue to physically continue the business- we are not seeing many new horse rescues open recently simply because it’s just too expensive. The Thoroughbred rescues that do seem to be starting up are not rescues that offer a first right-of-refusal like Hanaeleh; rather, a number of them seem to be focused rather on retraining, adopting, and moving on. What that means is they will take the horse from the track, retrain them, then sell or adopt out the horse, and that is the extent of their responsibility.
Thoroughbreds at Auction
We work with a group called Auction Horses Rescue, and have taken in some of the horses they were able to pull from the auction or save from the trader before the horses are sent to slaughter. Although it is illegal to sell a horse for the purpose of slaughter in California, it is not the case in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where many of these horses are shipped before being sent to slaughter in Mexico.
For example, just a few of the horses who are at Mike’s auction in Southern California this week:
Chipper: 2017 gelding by Street Boss (Street Cry x Ogygian) and out of Miss Rebound (by Speightstown). He is linebred to Mr. Prospector. Chipper won $99,671 in 17 starts at Santa Anita.
Unnamed: 2011 mare is a daughter of Bat Mobile (Dynaformer) and out of Famous Ruby (by Western Fame). She is linebred to Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Terlingua, Northern Dancer and Storm Cat.
Tyra: 2017 mare by Sundarban (son of AP Indy) and out of Privileged One (by Wildcat Heir). She is linebred to Secretariat, Blushing Groom, and Storm Cat.
Laultimaesperanza: 2017 mare by Affirmative (Unbridled x Alleged) and out of Chinita (Lemon Drop Kid x Dynaformer). Linebred to Mr. Prospector, Tom Rolfe, and Raise A Native. Bred by the BG Stables who sent a number of broodmares and babies to auction this year and finally shut down.
Piru Pi: 2017 mare by Suances (GB) and out of Addison’s Honor (by Marino Marini). She is descended from Riva Ridge, via her 4th dam Riva’s Girl. (Riva Ridge won the 1972 Kentucky Derby *and* Belmont Stakes; later inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame).
Malicious Mischief: 2006 mare- she is in poor shape at the auction. She only raced twice- once at Hollywood Park as a two year-old, the second at Santa Anita, just a few days after she turned three.
This is ONE auction on ONE weekend. These are the Thoroughbreds who have tattoos- there are any number who don’t make it to the track and are dumped before they are registered and tattooed. Multiply this number by the hundreds across the United States, for 52 weeks and you may get an idea of how problematic the Thoroughbred racing industry is, and how this industry is perpetuating a cycle of indifference and cruelty in the interest of money.
The horses above have already sold- there is no way to know if they have found good homes or were sold to a kill buyer. Thus is the uncertain fate of so many Thoroughbred horses in the United States today.