More Troubles For Horseracing

Briefly today because I do need to get to be bed get some sleep…

Horseracing is – to be as positive as I can be – a sport in decline.  It is under attack from animal rights activists and it is a sport that does not appeal to millennials.  The animal rights activists had a field day earlier in the Spring when about 30 horses died at Santa Anita in racing and training “incidents” – that have yet to be explained sufficiently to blunt the criticisms of the track and the sport.  Now, it turns out that there is a less obvious – but still fatal – set of circumstances unfolding this Fall at Belmont racetrack across the country from Santa Anita.  USA Today reported here that 3 horses died at Belmont in the first two days of the current Fall meeting there.  Moreover, in the 40-day meeting that recently concluded at Saratoga, 11 horses died at that track.  Every PETA member worth his/her skin has been waiting for news of this ilk.

You could still chalk all of this up to odd circumstances and maintain there is “nothing organically wrong with horseracing”; this is all just malevolent happenstance.  But how then might one explain that the  California Horse Racing mavens had a failed drug test in hand for last year’s Triple Crown winner which should have made him ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby – – but they sat on that information and let it slide.  The NY Times is far better known for its investigative reporting than it is for its sports reporting.  In this case the Times did investigative digging into a sports story and turned up more of the stuff that comprises the seamy underbelly of horseracing.  You can read the entire story here; the reporter is Joe Drape, and this is a well reported and well-focused exposition.

The big issue here is that it seems clear that trainer Bob Baffert – – one of the most decorated trainers and most influential people in the sport – – was given a pass with his horse that flunked the drug test.  That brings in the element of “privilege” into the matter and it makes everything seem even more sordid than it needs to seem.

The Breeders’ Cup races are going to be at Santa Anita in about 6 weeks. It could be the death knell for horseracing if a horse “goes down” on TV and must be euthanized on the track that has already claimed several dozen equine lives this year.  The California Horse Racing mavens won’t be able to explain that away with a wave of the hand and a reference to the “rules and procedures for failed equine drug tests”.

Mike Bianchi put a punctuation mark on all this nonsense in the Orlando Sentinel last weekend:

“Can you believe the California Racing Board buried Justify’ s positive drug test just so the horse could win the Triple Crown? Who do these people think they are — college football coaches?”

The Miami Dolphins followed up their 59-10 embarrassing loss in Week 1 with an even more dismal 43-0 loss in Week 2.  Supposedly, multiple players on the Dolphins have told their agents to try to get the players traded elsewhere in the NFL.  Obviously, I say that as third-hand information at the very best but if these reports are accurate there is a humongous problem facing the NFL regarding the “integrity of the game”.  There have been two teams that were 0-16 for a season in the last decade or so.  However, neither the Lions nor the Browns set out to do anything of the sort.  They did that because those two teams were truly awful.  The Dolphins are also awful – – AND – – the Dolphins are making decisions with their roster that makes it difficult for folks to believe that the team actually wants to win football games in 2019.  There is a palpable difference between an awful team and a team that is going out its way to make itself awful.

Our house guests hit the hay early enough for me to get this short rant written, proofed and posted.  I don’t know if/when a block of writing time will appear later this week.  We shall see…

Finally, let me close today with some words from comedienne, Lily Tomlin:

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “More Troubles For Horseracing”

  1. OT but worth looking into as it progresses: it seems the 49ers were fired as managers of Levi’s Stadium, their 1 b$ playpen due to poor performance in keeping the place booked (one big issue is the 10 PM curfew), paying prevailing wages and upkeep. As far as the team is concerned it’s political grandstanding by Santa Clara officials, but there have been enough tone-deaf decisions made over the years by 49ers management to give the city’s complaints some traction.

    Enjoy the free time.

    Back on topic, one wonders how much the systematic refinements in breeding fits into this over the years, going for faster, stronger animals. Since there isn’t much reporting from years past in terms of death rates (i.e. like the ’50s) it’s not clear if this is a new problem since many of the some things I would expect are done now as they were last century in terms of training. Medicinal help (such as Lasik and Baffert’s pharmacology) is new.

    1. Rugger9:

      The story about the Niners and the local officials being at odds over the new stadium has not made a splash on a national level. I’ll try to follow it as best I can and hope that it blossoms into a full-blown spitting match that ends up in courty.

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