The New York Times has published its second in-depth article in a series looking at problems within the US racing industry.
The second report, entitled “Big purses, sore horses, and death“, explores drug use in racehorses, the risks posed to horses in claiming races, and the effects of casinos on the industry.
The latest report suggests large payouts to owners make it profitable for owners to field thoroughbreds that are past their prime, sometimes with fatal results.
It follows the first report, entitled “Mangled horses, maimed jockeys“, published on March 24.
It explored the circumstances around the horse toll within the racing industry.
The report found that industry practices continued to put animals and riders at risk, and was especially critical of racing in New Mexico.
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 newspaper’s investigation 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.
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,” it noted.