“Casinos like to kill people’s dreams and credit scores, not their horses.” [ D. Mattia <– Racehorse trainer and TV writer. ]
You can forget about global warming and climate change and baby seals for a few moments and dedicate your time to reading about the annoyances of horse racing.
They call it “The Sport Of Kings” when in fact it should be called the sport of mindless carnival people who have somehow managed to sneak into polite society whilst breeding the best to the best and hoping for the best, and then killing the rest for dog food and people who like to eat horses.
Do you know who paid for all the finery that surrounds horse racing? Dead horses, that’s who.
There are two major types of horse racing that seem to matter in the USA and Europe –thoroughbred racing and standardbred (harness racing).
It’s difficult to decide which is more troublesome since both are in a down-slide, and relying now only on an aging fan base and slot machine revenue to keep them afloat.
After careful examination of the facts, however, one can conclude that harness racing is closer to the edge of the cliff because its inner workings are more often fraught with scandal, illicit use of performance enhancing drugs, and inept supervision by whomever is supposed to supervise or govern it.
Thoroughbred racing has troubles too, but they seem to be quite adroit at putting them out to the curb.
Thoroughbred racing’s self-policing seems to be a bit more sophisticated, and their dirty laundry gets tossed into a Citizen’s Relief bin with nary a blink from the roving eye of people in animal rights or fans who have lost the rent money and are looking now for some slime to throw around.
While the thoroughbred industry is great at hiding their filthy linens, harness racing opts in the other direction; preferring to run their disgraces up a flagpole. Sounds like a pretty dumb thing to do, but that’s the course they have taken — and it ain’t workin’.
While it seems that caginess is next to godliness in the world of Bluegrass and Twin Spires, the trotting or harness racing industry is fair game because they seem to take some kind of sick and demented pride in announcing their scandals.
For some odd reason the powers — or the powerless — behind harness racing believe that a fan of that game will be more inclined to bet on their product if he or she is made aware of any and all malfeasance therein.
Why? Why would they do something so counterproductive? It’s like a deli clerk telling you how the balogna in your sandwich came to be .
Of course harness racing’s openness about the bad apples in their midst is done under the guise of being transparent and honest, but realistically it’s done because the governing body behind this industry, The United States Trotting Association, or USTA, is run by people who are not skilled at all when it comes to marketing and branding. It seems that the word “mystique” is outside the realm of their vocabulary.
The United States Harness Racing Association’s website makes money selling access to a detailed database wherein all fines and suspensions and violations are made public, but nobody seems to be using this information to pick winners. For the most part, it’s people within the industry itself who use that information to gossip on message boards.
The average person in the USA and abroad is not familiar with harness racing, but sufficed to say that the trotting and pacing horses who participate in this sport were, and to some extent, still are, subject to more medical experimentation and illicit drug use than lab rats at a pharmaceutical laboratory.
You need only look at the post-race drug positive tests and penalties that the USTA so eagerly publishes on their website to find the culprits and the drugs in question. This does not include, however, the drugs that are not being caught by the testing labs. The draconian measures that are now being taken against trainers at The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, NJ, USA, are ample testament to the fact that about 90% of drugs being used go probably go undetected.
In thirty years or so, harness racing has gone from being a standing-room-only sport, to a feeble death march that’s kept alive by casino money, but for some reason, the people who run this business seem to think that they can conjur up some magic remedy to draw in new fans. It’s not happening. Public tastes are changing with regards to entertainment brought forth by animals in captivity.
Hundreds of harness racing trainers have been caught using drugs the likes of which would boggle the mind and fall into the pages of a Physicians Desk Reference — or perhaps a really long story that reaches far beyond the scope of this blog.
In spite of all this drug use, nefarious harness trainers need only to lawyer up and appeal and appeal and appeal. Despite the fact that these drugs — mostly red blood cell stimulants (EPO) and anabolic steroids — have killed hundreds or perhaps thousands of animals, about 99% of the offenders get back to racing with little or no punishment.
It’s safe to assume that many more have never been caught in the act and have somehow managed to evade detection in post race urine and blood analysis.
Thoroughbred authorities tend to just throw the accused out of the business and go on with the game as if nothing ever happened. While this may seem like a fascistic way of doling out justice, it seems to work for them.
These days, racetracks who put on standardbred (harness) racing, call themselves “racinos” because they have cooked up a business model with casino magnates wherein slot machine are installed at the racetracks to attract customers.
This alliance — which probably annoys the hell out of the casino execs — has kept both forms of horse racing afloat in the USA and Canada, but it’s mostly harness racing that benefits from Aunt Mary’s fixed income quarters and dimes. Frankly — and all you need to do is look at the purse structure at racetracks who do not have slot machines to see that harness racing needs Aunt Mary’s quarters and dimes.
Without the slot machines, harness racing would be just about finished.
At these racinos, nobody watches the races — they just play the slot machines.
Think about it. Why on earth would any competent, casino marketing man want to support a racetrack full of accidents and scandals waiting to happen?
Riding alongside the horses is how the casino business got their foot in the door, but for how long will their marketing strategies actually tolerate horse racing?
“Casinos like to kill people’s dreams and credit scores, not their horses.” D. Mattia <– Racehorse trainer and TV writer.
Yonkers Raceway, a harness racing track just north of Manhattan, was once a gleaming hot-spot of action on a hill, but more recently, it had degraded to a dump where cheap horses raced for cheap money. Nowadays, with Uncle Max’s quarters dropping into the slots faster than the balance in his fixed-income bank account, the purses for the trotting and pacing races have risen dramatically.
New Jersey does not allow slot machines at the racetracks and the racing industry there is sitting on the edge of a really jagged cliff.
New Jersey is home to a place called Atlantic City, and there’s no way on god’s green earth that those Atlantic City casinos are going to divert dollars away from their glitzy and gaudy halls and into the hands of New Jersey tracks. Why should they? To them, anything that connects them to racing is a burden — it’s a welfare check.
New Jersey’s Governor, Chris Christie, is not very racetrack friendly.
Governor Christie was moments away from wiping harness racing off the map in the Garden State due to the fact that it had become a money pit, but in the final moments, Jeff Gural, a NYC financier and harness racing lover, made an eleventh-hour deal to lease the track.
“Jeff Gural is a very passionate man who loves the harness racing game. He has mercifully put harness racing at the Meadowlands and parts of New York State on a kind of comfortable life support until the public or politicians eventually decide to pull the plug. His heart is in the right place but it’s probably in the wrong business.”[ David D. Mattia – Harness racing trainer and journalist.]
Now the Meadowlands, which was once the greatest harness racing track in the world is almost a grade B track but it’s holding its own.
I seem to have drifted off course here because my initial intention was to mock the hypocrisy of “racehorse rescue” and “racehorse adoption,” but I will get to that shortly.
So, all this new racino money has lead to the creation of more horses and when you have more horses you eventually have more dead horses. There is very little use for horses once their racing careers are over. Thoroughbreds tend to be edgy, difficult and more often, by the time they leave the track, they are either crippled or close to it.
Harness racehorses, or standardbreds as they are called, are relatively quieter and more intelligent animals, but they have very little use for anything other than pulling a buggy in Amish country or Central Park when their careers are over.
Of course you have your standardbreds who are trained to ride after their racing is done, but if every harness horse who left the track went on to riding school, the streets would be clogged with horses. There are simply too many of these horses and when their careers are over they almost always go directly to a slaughterhouse or else they gradually trickle down like rocks and beans and lentils through a series of screens and then go on to a slaughterhouse.
There are people, some very nice people, who try with all good intent to save these racetrack cast-offs. They work tirelessly for no pay finding homes for horses who are headed for the slaughterhouse. Many of these people are poorer than the fly-bitten horses they try to save, but on the other hand there is a certain degree of hypocrisy to racehorse rescue elsewhere that might go unnoticed by the untrained eye. There are also very wealthy people in the racehorse rescue game — and deep within THEIR culture lies the hypocrisy.
Of course a very wealthy bunch of ladies-who-lunch can save a lot more horses than a poor lady who barely has time to wolf down something from the drive-thru dollar menu, but where did the wealth of the ladies-who-lunch come from?
I am going to pick on the ladies because they are usually the element inherent to the hypocrisy. Many or most of these women are the wives of trainers, breeders, jockeys, drivers and so on and so on. Perhaps over the course of a year they find homes for fifty horses, and at the end of that year they throw themselves a banquet wherein they bestow upon one another medals of valor for meritorious service dedicated to rescuing retired racehorses — but it’s a big, fat, stupid distraction and a half of a half of a half of a truth about which they themselves must be aware.
They might drive away from their gala in a BMW or a Porsche or Range Rover, but where did they get the money for that flashy car? Who paid for the pretty dress? Where did Miss Do-Good get the the money for her Prada shoes? And what about the rest of her splendid world?
Well, 90+% of the time that fabulous money can be traced down the line to that which was hard-earned by a horse who is now D-E-A-D! — slashed in a slaughterhouse from stem to stern.
Why posture and say that you save horses? 90% of everything these rescuers own, right down to their kid’s new jet ski, was wrought from the sweat of a racehorse who went to a slaughterhouse.
Of course, being mindless charity buzzards who see themselves only as do-gooders, these rescuers don’t see or remember the average horse who earned the money which paid for the BMW they drive or the garish MacMansion in which they live, or the flashy boat they take out on booze-soaked weekends, or the tuition check that sends their kids to college. They don’t see that they are not only part of the problem — they are the problem, and rescuing horses from slaughter is not only totally useless, it’s grotesquely selfish and sanctimonious.
Of course there are those amongst you who will say that these comments are punishing a good deed or that no good deed goes unpunished, but that’s not the case.
There are plenty of people who rescue horses with true goodness in their hearts, but for the most part racehorse rescue has become the false crusade of the very people who kill the horses simply by living their lives.
In other words: These people live well because their horses eventually die unwell, and that’s all you need to know.
Did you ever hear the expression: “Money is no object?”
A horse named Ferdinand won the Kentucky Derby in 1987, but after a failed stud career he wound up hanging from the ceiling of a Japanese slaughterhouse.
Where were the gleeful owners who greeted Ferdinand in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on that heinous day when the bullet hit the bone?
In harness racing, where high class horses still race for really good money, it’s not unusual to find a horse in a kill pen who has earnings of a half million dollars or more. Some poor horse worked its whole life to make somebody a lot of money, but now it’s about to get a bolt shot into its head.
In horse racing you’re only as good as your last race, and it’s the rare horse who finds himself rewarded for his work when he’s no longer pulling in the dough.
No matter how much money horse owners and trainers and breeders have, when push comes to shove, they will not dish out the $400 per month it costs to keep a “useless” horse in a pasture.
Statistically about 1 out of every 453 horses will live out its life in the company of the people it made rich. Kids in Third World countries treat chickens better than this.
So, if these sanctimonious racehorse rescuers want to rescue racehorses, they should stop making more racehorses to carry on the tradition animal slavery. They should stop telling themselves what humanitarians they are. It’s as easy as that.
Of course this blog should never deter anyone from adopting or saving a retired racehorse, but it should serve as a scathing reminder to those in the harness and thoroughbred businesses that the only way to stop racehorses from being slaughtered is to stop making racehorses. That’s not about to happen, so what’s the plan?
As the years go on, fewer and fewer people come out to watch this spectacle. The new generation of fans upon which the sport will depend seems to not exist and now the casino people are gradually moving away from their marriage with racing.
Damien LeGallienne reporting for TheDamienZone.com