Horse racing has spent the past 6 months tied up in a chair in a dark room, a harsh, blinding light in its eyes, with interrogators playing good-cop, bad cop trying to get it to admit it’s corrupt, that it really did kill 25 horses a week, and that the Derby winner really was doped.
For those, like me, who have come into this sport as fans and then worked hard to be a part of the game, it’s a heart-rending time, to have to explain to people why I am so fond of such a dirty, heartless group of nere-do-well horse-killers.
And that was coming from the lady who rode performance Walking Horses!
Horse racing has an image problem, and it’s because of 30 years of inaction, looking the other way, selfishness, and good-old-boy power-tripping. And it has got to end TODAY.
We are past the point for “hands-off” approaches to fixing the drug problems that stain a black mark on the heart of racing. We have missed the chance to actually educate the public, which now cries out for justice for the horses they perceive to be killed while racing unsound and pumped full of painkillers.
There was a time not too long ago that I thought a well-planned, well-researched, expertly-crafted publicity and educational campaign could help the public understand why and how we care for our horses. It is becoming more and more clear that only a complete overhaul of medication rules, testing and transparency will save us now.
For too long, the cheaters have gotten away with murder, literally and figuratively. We must ban them for life, prosecute those who use substances like dermorphin, and fine them with amounts that can be used to perfect testing and help retired horses. We must flush out the cheaters, so that the honest people in racing can survive and thrive.
We must ban all race-day drugs, including lasix. It is too late to argue the merits – too many people see it as a performance-enhancer. While I fully understand the health benefits of the drug, I cannot overlook the questions I get from people I take to the track: “Why do they race horses who bleed out the lungs?” I can’t help but look at our overseas neighbors, who race such magnificent horses as Black Caviar and Frankel, without Lasix. Heck, we did it ourselves for 100 years. We can do it again.
All horses’ medical records should be public. This will protect the wagering public, who, like it or not, are the lifeblood of the sport. I’ll Have Another’s medical records were released to a firestorm of controversy, but we all know he was not treated any differently than any other horse at Belmont that week. But the public will never know that, since none of the other Belmont horses’ records were released. Now we have a “doped” Derby winner, and this magnificent horse’s image, as well as the sport’s, is forever tainted.
I have said a lot about “perception” here, and no doubt there are people who say why should we care what civilians think, they aren’t in the sport, they don’t know anything, the NYTimes is out to get us…
They may be. But we knew we had a problem before the stories came out. We knew we had a problem in 2008. But you all have missed the chance to educate them. With the expansion of social media, criticism will only get more heated. It will NEVER GO AWAY as long as we keep on with the status quo.
Why should the industry care about what I think? I am the future of this sport. I want it to survive and thrive in the modern age. I demand change, now. I will do all I can to force that change to occur, in the voting booth and with my hard-earned money, and as best I can with the platform I help steward. Because if you lose me, you will have lost everything.