NY Times report probes US racing casualties

A report by the New York Times says that American racing has a culture of drugs and lax regulation, with high casualties.

A New York Times investigation into American horse racing has cast the industry in an unflattering light.

The lengthy report, entitled “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys” explores the circumstances around the horse toll within the racing industry.

The report found that industry practices continued to put animals and riders at risk.

It said a computer analysis of data from more than 150,000 races, along with injury reports, drug test results and interviews, “showed an industry still mired in a culture of drugs and lax regulation and a fatal breakdown rate that remains far worse than in most of the world”.

The report, by Walt Bogdanich, Joe Drape, Dara Miles and Griffin Palmer, was welcomed by the animals rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) also weighed in on the debate, with its president, Dr John Mitchell,  talking of the fundamental obligation to provide the best of care and oversight for horses.

“There should be no higher priority for the racing community than the health and safety of its equine and human athletes,” Mitchell said.

“Reducing equine injuries must be the primary focus of all who care for the horse – from racetrack management and regulators to the veterinarians and horsemen who work daily in the barns.

“The racing community has a fundamental obligation to provide the best of care and oversight for our horses, and there are efforts to fulfill this mission.”

Mitchell pointed to recent programs aimed at improving the care of equine athletes, including the creation and refinement of an injury database, certification of tracks through the Safety and Integrity Alliance, the establishment of aftercare programs for retired racehorses, and  research into equine health and safety.

“As the New York Times article points out, there is much work to be done.

“Nationwide adoption of best practices for pre-race inspection and post-race observation, along with uniform medication, testing, security and enforcement policies by all racing jurisdictions, are essential safety and integrity elements for all to embrace.

“Commitment to these principles is critical to the very existence of the sport and most importantly, the safety of its horses and human athletes. What is good for the horse is good for racing.  The AAEP’s mission is to promote the health and welfare of all horses, and as doctors of veterinary medicine, we offer our continued support and expertise to the racing community.”

Peta, in its official blog, said: “The findings of the newspaper’s lengthy investigation into thoroughbred and quarter horse racing confirm what racing insiders have been telling us about their industry since Eight Belles died at the 2008 Kentucky Derby: Racing is a chemical-dependent industry in which too many people shrug off the casualties and turn their backs on the deaths of horses.”

The Times report said, on average, 24 horses died each week at racetracks across America.

“Many are inexpensive horses racing with little regulatory protection in pursuit of bigger and bigger prizes,” the report said.

“These deaths often go unexamined, the bodies shipped to rendering plants and landfills rather than to pathologists who might have discovered why the horses broke down.”

Peta said its own investigations into thoroughbred export, breeding, slaughter, and auction abuses showed that the racing industry in America had put the safety of the horses “at the bottom of its priority list when the animals’ safety should be at the top”.

The New York Times report can be read here.




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2 thoughts on “NY Times report probes US racing casualties

  • March 27, 2012 at 11:15 am

    There are people who are just in it for money in the horseracing industry just like anywhere else. I spent years working at the track. I then spent a few years working with show horses, mostly top level hunter jumpers. I have said for years that if I were a horse, I would take my chances at the track thank you very much. If people want to look into drug abuse with horses, have a look at the big hunter/jumper shows. I was gobsmacked. All in all, my observation was that the people at the track cared FAR more for the horses. Track surfaces have alot to do with breakdowns and the responsibility for that is with track management..NOT the horseman. Rules should be changed or tightened for sure but going after racing as a culture of drugs and leaving top level show horses out of it, is ludicrous.

  • March 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I am already sick of people whining about how the article will negatively impact racing. Good. Money is the driving force here. While I absolutely feel that the benefits to all horses from racing dollars (the bulk of research is funded by funds related to the racing industry) are a godsend, maybe the industry needs a strike to the knees to clean up its act. If average people see what really goes on and decide to spend their money elsewhere because of it, well, … Clean it up racing community! I love racing, have two OTTBs, and volunteer for Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue in MD. But most people in rescue and placement are tired of cleaning up their mess. It’s bad for everyone. Kudos to Adena Springs, Three Chimneys, Lanes End, and a whole slew of individual owners and trainers who do right by their horses. Boo to the rest of you. Personally, I’m glad for this piece. Now let’s put on our big girl panties and go effect some change.


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