Forced – by media reports – to respond to 12 dead horses in Saratoga, NYRA issued the following statement Friday:
“Although New York State has made significant progress in reducing injuries and preventing the inappropriate use of medication in racehorses, the job of equine safety is never done. There will be challenges along the way. We are experiencing such a challenge during the 2014 Saratoga meet. A thorough investigation of all of the racing fatalities…is being conducted.
We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to identify the causes of death in all racing fatalities in New York. As stewards of the racehorse, we have a duty to do all that we can to honor and protect these incredible athletes.”
When it gets hot – post Barbaro/Eight Belles, Aqueduct ’11-’12, Saratoga/Del Mar ’14 – the industry talks of amping up its commitment to the “incredible athletes” – improved track surfaces, more stringent drug policies, lower purse-to-claim ratios, “safety stewards.” Yet even when “reforms” are implemented, the killing continues, virtually unabated. It continues because it’s built into the system.
Racehorses are legally and morally regarded as pieces of movable property, things to be exploited. Property by definition has no serious interests to respect; exploitation by definition seeks to maximize the exploiters’ gain. So, they intensively train and race bred-for-speed horses on immature bodies. This will not change. So, they trade equines like pork belly futures, shuffling them from barn to barn, vet to vet, treatment philosophy to treatment philosophy. This will not change.
So, except for a reproductive-worthy few, they do not retire at the first sign of trouble, trouble that is patent to any experienced horseman. This will not change. So, they send the vast majority of the has-beens or never-were to the claiming game, which not only serves as the backbone (70%) of American racing, but is also where most of the dying occurs. This will not change. Racing, by its very nature, kills horses. And they know it.