Yesterday in the Sunday New York Times there was an article about horse racing. This article was not in the sports section but it was the feature article for the Sunday paper. The title of the article was Death and Disarray at America's Racetracks/Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys. When I saw the title I knew right from the start that this was not going to be good for the Sport of Kings.
I read the article and I had an opinion that this is one of those articles that will set horse racing back. I decided to listen to some of the morning horse racing shows and see what they think. I listened to Roger Stein and he was very upset about the article. There is a show on after his that covers the Los Angeles horse racing scene and they were livid about the article. Laffit Pincay came on and he gave his opinion on the article. I heard what they were saying about how this article is bad for business and how people who started with nothing have made a good living in this industry. I agree with all of that and as a fan of horse racing I would hate to see it go by the way of the Dodo Bird. Horse racing has to look at itself and fix what is wrong.
First and foremost is that horse racing has to fix the doping problem that runs rampant through US tracks. The article states that during the last three years the rate of horses getting injured was 5.2 per 1,000 starts. In contrast, racing in Canada only had a 1.4 incident rate. If you have ever gone to the track with me and Canadian racing is being televised, I always play the Canadian tracks. My motto has always been, "They aren't as big of cheaters." The Canadians aren't as permissive with the drug use.
The breakdown of horses can come from a variety of things but one of the most common reasons for breakdowns are with drugs. I am not talking about drugs that are therapeutic and used to maintain the health of the horse. I am talking about drugs that mask the pain. This type of drug allows a horse that is injured to actually race.
Just the stats for California from 2009 through 2011 shows that there were 296 drug positives and 635 deaths.
These medications are part of the problem and the second part of the problem is the dope that trainers use to make the horse run faster. These trainers are allowed to do this because the punishment is almost nothing. Go to the California Racing Board website and look at the fines and punishment handed out to the trainers and it is a joke. On January 27, 2012, John Sadler, who started the horse Stoney Fleece, the first place finisher in the fifth race at Hollywood Park on November 27, 2011 was fined $1,000.00 for using an illegal drug on the horse. That is an absolute joke because he still gets to keep his winnings from that race and he can continue to train. A thousand dollars to him is nothing but an inconvenience, it is not a deterrent. Until something severe happens to these cheaters, the sport will always be reading articles like the one from Sunday.
I love horse racing but I know every time I place a bet, the thought goes through my mind on how this race might be fixed.