The Horse Race Is Just A Phrase For Something Much More Dangerous

The word horse race is a fairly generic term and can be applied to any form of competition or contest. When it is used in a political sense it usually refers to some sort of close race. In recent times it has also come to mean a close election or battle for the presidency. With all the mud slinging, name calling and attack ads it is easy to lose sight of the real issues at stake in this race. However, one thing that is becoming clearer is that the horse race part of the phrase is a euphemism for something much more insidious and dangerous.

Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred racing lies a world of drugs, whipping, injuries and slaughter. While fans show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are forced to sprint at speeds so fast they frequently sustain serious injuries, including hemorrhage of the lungs. And while human athletes can walk away from a bad situation, horses are unable to negotiate contracts or refuse to compete.

According to Patrick Battuello, who runs the advocacy group Horseracing Wrongs, “horseracing is a sport that lies to its fans and to the public.” Its athletes are drugged, whipped, trained and raced too young and pushed to their limits, often beyond. And despite the fact that they are social animals, many spend the rest of their lives in solitary confinement in a stall. Even when they stop winning races, few are retired to pastures; instead, they are disposed of by their owners, who don’t want to pay for their care. Those that don’t end up in retirement facilities will most likely be sent to slaughterhouses, where they will be turned into glue or dog food, or sold as meat for export to Japan and France.”

It is true that the vast majority of trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, drivers and caretakers are good people who love their horses and would never deliberately harm them. But that is not an excuse for those who do abuse them. Virtually no one outside of racing cares how PETA got the video that was linked to the New York Times piece; they only care that it exists. And while racing insiders like to conflate hostility toward PETA with dismissal of its work, it is a mistake to do so.

When a trainer or owner is disciplined, he or she will have the option to appeal the decision to the Racing Commissioner. Whether an appeal is successful will depend on the strength of the evidence presented in support of the trainer’s or driver’s case. In many cases, the appeal will be decided by a panel of three judges who may or may not have a background in horse racing. Appeals are rarely successful, but the process is worth the effort, because the outcome can be life changing for the trainer or driver who has been disciplined. The more thorough the evidence, the more likely that the decision will be reversed.