Day: August 13, 2023

The Horse Race Is Not What It Seems

Horse race is one of the oldest of all sports, having evolved over centuries from a primitive contest of speed and stamina between two animals into a modern spectacle featuring huge fields of runners, advanced monitoring technology, and immense sums of money. But despite these changes, its basic concept remains the same: horses run around a track to determine the winner.

The industry’s claim that these horses are born to run and love to compete is, at best, a complete lie. Patrick Battuello, who runs the activist group Horseracing Wrongs, says they are drugged and whipped, often for long periods of time, and forced to sprint–often over short distances–at speeds that cause injuries such as ruptured lungs, broken bones, and hemorrhages in the blood vessels of their legs.

Behind the romanticized facade of a horse race is a world of drugs, injuries, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. It’s a cruel and inhumane sport, and it should end.

At the Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup, managers and officials frantically pushed for a safe event, flooding the zone with veterinarians and expensive imaging equipment to screen horses for preexisting conditions. During morning workouts, vets watched the animals with binoculars as they galloped down the track.

In the backstretch, the pack started running into the last of the sun, its massive strides gliding with hypnotic smoothness. War of Will took the inside position, but on the far turn, McKinzie and Mongolian Groom surged past. In the ring, bettors looked at the horses’ coats in the walking ring to see if they were bright and rippling with energy, and if so, they would place a bet.

Unlike major professional sports leagues like the NBA, horse racing is regulated by a patchwork set of rules across dozens of states that host races. This means that even if a trainer or owner is found to have violated the rules in one state, they can usually participate in races in other states soon after, leaving the door open for illegal practices. This uneven playing field gives trainers and owners an incentive to push horses to their limits, which can lead to catastrophic breakdowns, and even death.