Hanaeleh has written multiple blog posts over the past decade about the many issues in the racing industry. Recently we haven’t posted as much because our stance has remained the same. As more and more horses die at the track, other than saying, “Look, another one died. Look, another one. Look, another one,” there hasn’t been much else to note. 37 horses died at Santa Anita alone.
The racing industry continues to kill horses and while the media has finally started to cover the issue, nothing really has changed. The Horseracing Integrity Act is still stalled in Congress. Trainers like Jerry Hollendorfer, who had FOUR (six if you include the two who died in December, 2018) horses break down and die in 2019 (meaning, basically, that there were catastrophic stress injuries that caused their deaths- the horses didn’t take a misstep and broke a leg, but they died from ankle, hip and leg injuries caused from repeated stress). One of his horses, came up lame on May 18th, only to be raced anyway on the 24th, was euthanized on the track. Even after he was banned, in tracks in California, however, he moved most of his horses to Oaklawn in Arkansas, where he is not banned. This matters little as he got around the ban at Santa Anita by transferring the ownership of at least one of his horses to his wife and the horses he is leaving at Los Alamitos will be racing under the name of his trainer. The goal is to get around the ban, not change how the horses are trained or raced in order to prevent future injuries.
And this, ultimately, is the problem. Everyone runs around trying to find the one thing that is causing these deaths, but the issue is that the way the industry is run is what is killing these horses.
Horses are raced too fast and too young.
Doping is prevalent and masks pain.
Horse are raced while lame.
Those horses who are lamed are sold at auction and potentially to slaughter.
Horse racing cannot continue to operate in the “same-old” mentality that it has pushed for years. Instituting bans that tracks have really no ability or desire to implement is a waste of time. Something needs to change across the entire industry if things are really going to improve for horses.
The arrest of 27 trainers and veterinarians this past week is a great start in addressing the widespread corruption that pervades the racing industry. The allegations against these individuals state that performance-enhancing drugs were used on horses on tracks across the United States and in the United Arab Emirates, including Maximum Security, who won the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified after a ruling of interference. Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, is charged with using these drugs on almost all of the horses he trained. These drugs can cause heart issues and lead to death; it is most likely not coincidence that one of the horses trained under Jorge Navarro, X Y Jet, died of a heart attack in January after winning in Dubai. Navarro was also charged in this indictment.
So what does the racing industry do now is the question? The arrest of these 27 trainers and veterinarians shows that there is rampant corruption and collaboration between those who claim that they love the horses and only love to watch the horses run, and those whose job is to do no harm. The Horseracing Integrity Act would help to create federal guidelines for doping. A California law, AB 2177, would go farther by installing independent veterinarians at the tracks to ensure horses are not lame when racing. That being said, unless the legislators pass these bills, they do nothing. Even with those guidelines, the blatant corruption that these arrests highlight the fact that the racing industry is not about the horses, but about the money, and there needs to be a way to identify those who participate in the sport in bad faith. The horses are a means to an end, and their suffering is not only ignored, but exploited.
The racing industry is at a pivotal point right now. What needs to happen is the trainers who do claim to love their horses and the sport need to make a lot of noise and call for bills such as AB 2177 and the Horseracing Integrity Act to be passed. Those same trainers and veterinarians need to be transparent about how they are caring for their horses, and the underhanded doping needs to be exposed. Trainers, veterinarians and owners who are caught need a lifelong ban from every racetrack across the United States. If the industry wants to show that it cares about the horses, then by God, the industry needs to stand up against those who are causing harm to the horses and to what has been referred to as the sport of kings.
And if the industry refuses to stand up and do everything within their power to ensure that racing is safe for horses? In that case, the industry deserves to go the way of most kingdoms. It deserves to crumble and die.