2019 was a difficult year for horse racing. Horses suffered fatalities in record numbers and a Triple Crown winner was discredited. All of the horse racing wrongs that were brought to light have renewed the protests of animal rights groups and others who want to end the sport as we know it. There are things in horse racing that need to be corrected. This point cannot be argued. Should the sport be banned, or is there a way to right the wrongs of horse racing?
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Fatalities and Bad Drug Tests
The horse racing wrongs of 2019 began with the Santa Anita race meet. It was during this meet that a record number of horses suffered injury and had to be euthanized. Horse racing can be a dangerous sport for both the horses and the jockeys who ride them, but the record number of break downs in the Santa Anita meet caused a negative spotlight to be thrown on the sport.
In late 2019 horse racing suffered another blow when it was revealed that the most recent Triple Crown winner, Justify, had failed a drug test at Santa Anita prior to winning the Kentucky Derby. This failed drug test would have prevented Justify from ever competing in the Derby had it been revealed before the horse arrived in Kentucky. Instead, the test information was withheld by California racing officials until it was exposed by the New York Times in September 2019.
All of these events have combined to give the critics of horse racing a lot of ammunition in their ongoing quest to have horse racing regulated or banned. It should be noted that the horse racing wrongs in question all relate to horse racing in the United States. There is much less complaint when it comes to horse racing in Australia, France, or the UK. Why is this?
US Horse Racing Authority
Horse racing in the United States is managed a little bit differently than it is in other parts of the world. In Hong Kong, for example, there is one organization that oversees all of horse racing. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is responsible for making sure the rules of racing are followed at all of Hong Kong’s race tracks. All trainers have to answer to this organization in regards to the safety of the horses under their care.
In the United States horse racing is conducted differently. There is no central body which serves to regulate the sport. Instead, there are state racing commissions which govern the rules in their own state. This can lead to confusion and a lack of cooperation. In the case of Justify, the Triple Crown winner of 2018 that failed a drug test prior to winning, this lack of cooperation is what allowed California racing officials to cover up the failed test. Had there been a central authority for horse racing in the US the cover up could not have happened.
Many insiders in horse racing have been calling for the creation of a national racing commission in the United States. The incident with Justify may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It may push the nation forward in establishing better rules which will safeguard the integrity of the sport.
Is Horse Racing Safe in the United States?
Horse racing wrongs in the US most frequently address the treatment of race horses. Animal rights activists and organizations are quick to point out that horse racing claims the lives of many horses each year. This cannot be disputed, but some websites like HorseRacingWrongs.org play loose and fast with the facts to support their own conclusions.
Yes, the race meet at Santa Anita in 2018-2019 was very bad for horse racing. Around 30 horses lost their lives as a result of racing. This mortality rate is unheard of in racing, and it is something of an anomaly. One need only look to the Del Mar race meet which followed the one at Santa Anita to see that the results at Santa Anita were not the norm. At Del Mar in 2019 there was not one single fatality. This was also unheard of. Both meets stand out as exceptions to the rule.
True fans of horse racing do not like to see horses come to harm. They are also concerned with horse racing wrongs. One can only hope that measures will continue to be taken that promote safety in horse racing for all involved.