Horseracing kills horses – every day, scores over the course of a year. For an industry whose long-term economic outlook is ominous (see recent Newsweek piece “Horse Racing Fading in Revenue, Popularity”), this simple fact should in time help sound Racing’s death knell. It’s why I do what I do (focus on the day-to-day killing).
Mostly, and understandably so, Racing people avoid dead-horse talk at all costs. When addressed, it’s usually within the context of some supposedly positive “trend” – “catastrophic-injury rate down on turf surfaces in April…” Ludicrous, of course, but it can and does get worse. In a WDRB (Kentucky) article on the previously exposed “Equine Injury Database,” owner Ken Ramsey attempts to dismiss the killing thus: “I hate to have to say it, but any time that you race any kind of an animal or a human being – anything, basketball players, football players – you’re always going to get some injuries. Just try to keep it to a minimum the best you can.”
Well, Mr. Ramsey, let’s review some fundamental facts (again). First, and how sad that this needs repeating, human athletes willingly participate in sport; horses, as owned things, do not – can’t ever. Second, injuries are one thing, deaths in the arena an entirely other matter. Major League Baseball: one death (from a beaning) in 140 years. The National Football League: one death (from advanced arteriosclerosis) in 96 years. The National Basketball Association: zero deaths in 70 years. According to my data, roughly 2,000 horses died on U.S. tracks last year alone. Insanity.
Then this from horseracing “fan” Nicole Meiner (speaking on Shore Runner’s breakdown last October): “…the worst that I ever saw happen live… As a fan, it’s difficult to talk about. Although some extremist groups would try to say we don’t care about the animals, it’s hard to see a horse go down… Fans of the sport ARE fans of the animals, and we care about their well being.”
First, as former Woodbine CEO David Willmot once readily admitted, there’s basically no such thing as racing “fans,” just racing gamblers. As for the rest, how exactly does one reconcile “difficult to talk about/hard to see” with “Winner’s Circle” photos in the wake of a dying/dead horse back on the track? How is it that while bad weather may cut a card short, death on the field does not? “We care,” they say, yet their fallen “athletes” don’t even rate a perfunctory moment of silence. In a word, rubbish.
Fact is, Ms. Meiner, those truly distressed by seeing (hearing) a racehorse snap a leg don’t come back for more. Fact is, Ms. Meiner, but for “fans of the sport (much like yourself),” there would be no Shore Runners. Fact is, Ms. Meiner, you can love horseracing; you can love horses – but you can’t love them both.