May 10, 2024

A horse race is a contest of speed between horses that either are ridden by jockeys or pull sulkies with their drivers. The race has been around for millennia and remains popular in Europe, Asia, and Australia. As the sport has evolved in recent years, technology has had a significant impact on horse racing. From thermal imaging cameras to MRI scanners, racing’s advances in technology have improved safety. In addition to the advances in technology, racing’s rules and regulations have been adjusted to better protect both horses and riders.

The New York Times’ recent article, “PETA Accuses Trainers of Cruelty,” struck a chord among people who follow racing. The video on which it was based was hard to ignore, and it revealed, to many people’s horror, what animal activists have long been alleging in racing. It is easy for critics of racing to dismiss the story and the video by arguing that the source of the information is suspect, but it is equally wrong to conflate hostility toward PETA with a rejection of the story itself.

When the race began at noon, a drenched sun fell across the track, casting a pinkish light over horses and riders. The horses moved with huge strides and hypnotic smoothness. War of Will, the favorite, stayed close to the inside rail while McKinzie and Mongolian Groom surged on the outside. The tense crowd quickly switched from cheering to shrieking.

As they rounded the far turn, it became clear that War of Will was beginning to tire. At the top of the stretch, his jockey urged him on. “He’s got to run faster,” Black said. “We’re getting a little closer.”

But despite his effort, War of Will could not pull away. He was passed by the leaders, and his rider slashed his whip to coax him forward. “The trip has a lot to do with a horse’s ability to accelerate and run the race,” Black said. “If the horse gets boxed in or has to run wide, that can really affect how well a horse runs.”

After the race, Alexander sat at his kitchen table and talked about what he had seen on the track. He had lost one horse that day at Santa Anita, a three-year-old named Satchel Paige. He had been trying to break his maiden, and he did not have a good trip. He had not been able to get the horse into a comfortable rhythm.

He had tried to give the horse a chance to relax by making sure that the track was not too rough, but that did not help. He had also tried to get the horse to eat and drink. He had even given the horse some painkillers. “The track has no spring to it,” he said. “The flexor tendon in the back of a horse’s leg works like a big spring. The flexor tendon stretches and rebounds, and that’s what lets the horse go fast.”