Portrait of the American Horse-Racer

I’ve come to believe that horse-racers fall into one of three categories. In the first, surely the majority, are the grinders – those who race as career, for paycheck. Whether they were raised in the industry or came to it later, the bottom line with this group is always the same: It’s just business; the horses, to them, are but interchangeable cogs, resources, means to an end. No declarations of equine love here, just trade and transact – and often, especially in the claiming ranks (the bulk of American racing). And when one goes down, it’s plug another in and move on.

With the second, money, though always important, is not the primary allure. For these – whether blueblood racing families or rich celebrities mired in hollow lives – it’s about prestige, glory, ego. They hobnob and glass-tip and cheer on their expensive pets. Yet where is that obscene wealth when rescues come calling? Better yet, where are their rescues? Truth is, while they play, many of their erstwhile toys are wasting away at the hands of an Ernie Paragallo or some misguided hoarder; more, still, are bleeding-out in Mexican and Canadian abattoirs.

In the last are those who not only believe that what they do is not unethical, but, in fact, is (or at least can be) in the best interests of horses. When questioned, their responses are quick and predictable: “come visit my stable”; “my horses are treated better than many humans”; “horses are born to run, love to run”; “a horse with a job is a happy horse.” Beyond merely protecting, they care – as evidenced by the tears, prayers, and condolences when one of theirs falls. “Members of the family.” All of this, of course, is self-delusion par excellence. Not to mention, repugnant: true loved ones are not whipped, drugged, and sold – repeatedly – to the highest bidder.


In the end, though, the motive (income, hobby) or purported motive (“love”) is wholly irrelevant, for the core relationship between these people and their horses – exploiter-exploited – is inherently cruel; quite simply, it cannot be otherwise.


Leave a Comment

  1. How can there be just 3 groups? That hurts. From my 1st days at the racetrack until my last, I would never see & not report a crime to a horse. They froze with us on those cold winters in NY & we sweated together @Belmont & most sweaty Saratoga. Think about it, we worried about our makeup & hair & the horses kept sweating. And BTW, I wasn’t in the owner’s boxes, I was just someone with Affirmed

  2. Hi Patrick,I have actually seen this “mindset” among some of the equestrian disciplines.  They value their horses for only the trophies and ribbons, and maybe some money, they can bring.  If their chosen mounts aren’t making the grade, then the solution is to buy a more expensive horse; a more “finished” horse.  Yes, it’s all about ego; never about the horse.  I also hear from their mouths, “Oh, he loves to go into the show ring!  He gets all excited and struts his stuff!!”  (Could it be he gets excited because of his proximity to other strange horses?)  When at home they don’t saddle up and ride through the fields spending some quality time with their equine companions.  They only mount up and go through refresher training within the confines of a corral prior to show day.  Again, going around and around, never getting anywhere. And I sincerely believe that horses, left to their own devices, have no interest in running as fast as they can or jumping obstacles for the “fun” of it, being trailered from place to place (have you ever tried just standing, un-braced, in the back of a moving horse trailer!!!!) away from the comfort of your pasture at home, or going around and around the same ring changing different gaits.  Would these same horses do that at home by themselves because they liked it?  I’ve yet to see it. But I must say the true professionals in the equestrian world value their mounts over everything else.  There are always those extra pats on the neck (and sometimes hugs) upon completing a jumping course.  If the horse is performing well, is “off” on a particular day, these riders stop in the middle of the competition, and retire from the ring for the day.  They realize that horses, like people, have good days and bad days.  And why spoil a good horse’s good attitude by forcing him to perform.  It’s all about the horse; not the “points”, the ribbons, or even the $200,000 purse! Sincerely,”Wolfshadow”

  3. You raised a very important issue in this article – money. Back in the 50’s, when my family trained, the Purse Money was, on average, $2000 to win. Even when you put that into perspective (cost of living), at that time it was still a very low amount. Consequently, the majority of horse people cared for the horse much more than they do now. It was a way of life. In Canada, racehorses raced for about 8 months per year, and were rested up on farms for 4 months per year. It was very rare for a Owner/Trainer to send their horses South for the winter. I’m not justifying this horrific business in any way because I would like it shut down, but I have noticed a direct correlation between the increase of purse money (due to Casino money) and the increase of deaths on racetracks. The almighty dollar now takes precedence over any resemblance of good horsemanship. I emphasize that good horsemanship translates to the realization that this business exploits the horse to the fullest especially now. That’s why I left. Many Trainers tend to justify this business, and they believe what their saying. However, if they really examined the horse racing business model it equates to a racehorse being used, and abused. To what extent depends on the individual(s), and situation. If this business were to end, and I sure hope it does, there would be BILLIONS available to rescue the racehorse. There are BILLIONS spent at the Sale Auction houses such as Keeneland and Saratoga every year and less than 10% is given back to the racehorse. The amount of money spent in the horse racing industry is obscene while racehorses are disposed of on a daily basis. When I was in this business I found out that the very rich Owners tended to be very cheap when it came to opening up their wallets for rescue. I found that the “blue-collar” Trainer tended to do everything they could to find homes for their racehorses who usually ended up at Kill Auctions. In order for this business to continue racehorses must be exploited, and disposed of which is precisely why I left. I could no longer uphold an industry who exploits such a beautiful horse.

    • I admire your acknowledgement of what the horseracing industry truly is, nohorseslaughter ortiz…and the fact that you chose to leave something you loved once you became fully aware of the abuse. Too many folks won’t admit they were wrong about the industry. Or they have acquaintances that remain in it so they betray the horses in order to maintain those relationships. That’s weak…and it’s taking the easy road. Speaking out, standing by the convictions you KNOW are the right ones, the HUMANE ones, is the rough path. But each and every racehorse enslaved in this industry is depending on people with ethics and morals to DO the right thing! So thank you!

  4. Well written article Patrick. So true. People never see their own faults, therefore, will never see themselves in this article. It’s always the other owner, trainer, groomer or jockey, never themselves. Thank you.

  5. Once a horse enters the claiming game it is the start of the finish for that horse. They will either be run into the ground as they are claimed over and over.. And once they can no longer run in spite of drugs and injected joints, the vast majority will enter the slaughter pipeline. Many of these horses were once “loved” and were “members” of families according to many in the business. I would like to hear how these people define “love” and what being a family “member” means to them ?? And I would also like to hear how they justify entering their “loved” ones in claiming races when they know full well what these unfortunate horses are in for ?

    • Yes, Rose!!…how many times have we asked those who race their “beloved family members” HOW can they put a price tag on their “family member’s head” and leave them unprotected???…and Rose, we have NEVER received an answer to that question from those apologists who comment here! And we won’t…because the “family member” bulls*** is a LIE.

  6. Just an excellent post, Patrick…you have got this industry pegged! Those three groups are exactly what I witnessed and precisely who I “worked with” all those years on the backside. Even at that cheap track in Michigan, there were some from that second group – the wealthy owners. Only several of their stable would run at GLD…others were at Keeneland, Churchill, Arlington…depending on the month. And yet those horses would eventually end up in Michigan, running for cheaper and cheaper tags or having been privately sold to one of those in the first group you described. And yes, the horses were/are merely interchangeable cogs. And when their injuries were too severe to continue running, the broken racehorses’ stalls were needed for newly acquired “cogs”. And the vicious cycle started all over again…

  7. Love all the comments here. I would like to address the “Claiming Races,” AKA Claiming Ranks. To somebody who has never been an Owner/Trainer/Wager it’s difficult to explain the entire picture without getting very technical. Here is my Claiming 101 for those of you who are not familiar with horse racing even though you are an animal advocate. The claiming ranks, simply put, are a dumping ground for sore horses who usually have pre-existing conditions. Consequently, there are extremely vulnerable to career-ending or catastrophic breakdowns. The pre-existing conditions are almost always the reason why a racehorse can’t compete at the upper non-claiming levels OR they just are not competitive/athletic enough to run at the upper levels. It’s estimated that approximately 90% of racehorses don’t actually WIN a race. The odds decrease as the racehorse continues to run. For example, a NW2 (non-winner of 2 races) racehorse WIN rate takes a huge plunge after it breaks its maiden (Maiden=a racehorse who has never won). There are a multiple of factors as to why a racehorse decreases its chances of winning a 2nd race. However, it’s estimated that only 5% of racehorses actually win a second race whether claiming or non-claiming. Statistics via Equibase confirm that only 1% of racehorses are actually non-claiming racehorses who compete at the Allowance Level or Higher (Stake Races or Black Type). Out of that 1% only .05% actually win an Allowance or Stake Race. In short, the odds are against you. Throw into the equation the dopers, and cheaters, and the chances of any racehorse surviving this business is extremely low. So they quickly become a financial liability to the Owner and its connections. In order for the racehorse to “earn its keep,” it becomes a working slave for the Claiming Ranks. There are horses running with 20+ starts that are finishing by 10+ lengths that have never won a race. So it becomes evident that this racehorse is either sore, lame, or doesn’t want to be a racehorse, or doesn’t have what it takes to be a racehorses. Let me try to put this into perspective. These racehorses are equivalent to a student failing 10 pre-entrance exams to Medical School, and still trying. It’s blatant abuse. In fact, the cost of keeping, and running a racehorse in the claiming ranks far exceeds any purse money it may earn. Not only is the Owner/Trainer banging their heads against the wall so is the racehorse as it is housed in a 10′ by 12′ stall 23 hours per day while being continuously given drugs via joints, veins, muscle or whatever else they can find. The most vulnerable, and abused racehorse is the one with BACK CLASS (Black Class refers to a racehorse who was a winning racehorse in its prime, often winning in Allowance Races and/or Stake Races when younger). There isn’t anything more disturbing then a former Allowance/Stake Horse who has won $100,000 or more in its prime only to be dumped (usually by the Owners who made all the money) into the Claiming Ranks where the abuse is just starting. Not only are these horses physically unsound, but many are mentally suffering. I have seen it, I have witnessed it, and it’s heartbreaking. During Training Hours out of the Public’s Eyes some of these horses, who were once Champions, are running for a ham sandwich ($5000 or lower), and they are not happy campers. I can’t sit here and tell you what their thinking, but it became clearly evident to me that they no longer wanted to run. Many were sour refusing to accept a saddle on their back, had to be beaten onto the track, beaten into the Starting Gate, and then beaten in the stretch while protecting their sore bodies. It’s blatant animal cruelty, and nobody can tell me different. Moreover, this type of racehorse goes from Owner to Owner as it is continuously claimed. The huge issues with this is that NOBODY knows what their Medical Records are prior to the Claiming. They have no idea how many Joint Injections, Drugs, Feed or anything else about the horse resulting in more abuse. Even if the Trainer has good intentions it doesn’t matter. When I was an outspoken active Trainer I constantly submitted requests for change to protect these horses such as:MANDATORY Medical Records provided for any horse in a Claiming Race. This Medical Record would be similar to a “Used Car,” record. For safety reasons, most jurisdictions in North American require a Used Car Report for the car. It should be the same for a racehorse to protect that racehorse, and the participants in the race. It didn’t surprise me that my suggestion was not only dismissed, but my job was on the line. The sad truth is that they don’t want the wagering or general public to know that many of these horses are running with screws holding their previous fractures together or torn ligaments holding the muscles onto the bones. Talk about an accident waiting to happen! I’m shocked that more horses are not breaking down, and more deaths are not happening. It’s absolute insanity. How can anybody support or carry on a business this way? Only the horse racing industry of course. This is horse racing. If you are on Twitter please follow @notsocloudy. This Twitter Account keeps track of racehorses in the Claiming Ranks. Excellent source of information that confirms everything I have stated here (sadly).

    • What I do not understand is why anyone would purchase a horse through the claiming game? They get rid of their bad horses through claiming and then purchase someone else’s problems? I don’t get it. Unless, those people who truly cannot afford the racing game buy what they can afford (claimers) and hope to find a winner? But then they end up with a horse who needs medical treatment? I still don’t understand it.

      I am originally from Michigan where Michigan is still trying to come out of the economy free fall. I lost my house, bank appraised my house for $125,000 and when the banks failed it was worth only $15,000. Kentucky’s economy was barely hit during that time. I mention this because I have now retired to Kentucky and Kentucky will never let racing completely dry up unless there isn’t a dollar left to bet. Kentucky relies heavily on horse racing and the state being a Republican state the politicians will never let racing die out as Lexington Kentucky is known as the “horse capital of the world”. Kentucky makes billions off of racing and Senator Mitch McConnell, (now is the Majority Leader of the Senate) will block any bill that tries to eliminate racing/showing horse. He successfully blocked the PAST ACT that would eliminate stacks and chains from the sore Tennessee Walking horse and the “Big Lick”. So, unless all race tracks are closed down in the United States, Kentucky will still produce Thoroughbreds and horse racing. Unfortunately, Lexington is the head of this snake.

    • Gina,

      Thank you so much for this post. That was an excellent explanation of what a “Claiming” race is about. I had no idea it was that bad.

      I have never been to a race and never even knew there was such a thing as a “Claiming” race until I watched the television show “Heartland” that is filmed in Canada about horses.

      I agree with you that this is absolute insanity and I would add that it is absolutely evil to treat horses this way.

      This is blatant animal cruelty.

      I watched many “claiming races last weekend on HRTV and many of those horses looked so tired as they were trailing in the back.

    • Gina,

      I just read your earlier post and I see you were a trainer in Canada. For how long were you in the industry ?

      I am so glad that you walked away, I hope and pray more trainers will do the same.

      Now that you are out, is there any way to expose these people that are using these terrible whips with batteries
      and lead.

    • Thanks for your insight Gina Powell. I don’t know much about horse racing and your analysis gave me a clear view about the backbone of this industry. Those horses that go on the track they seem tired and worn out wanting no part in racing anymore. I have a question though you brought up a point about the horses being beaten onto the track and into the starting gate. I’ve seen this happen when the horse doesn’t want to load and some of the gate crew are holding lunge whips and lead ropes cracking it behind them do they actually hit the horse to make them move or do they just make the sound to scare them?

      • Tracey (and Gina will have more insight and answers for you, too, I’m certain)…I wanted to address your question about getting horses that don’t want to load into the gate. YES…they most definitely strike them to get them in. They also blindfold and spin them (horribly dangerous to blindfold them because if they get away from the handler, they bolt and are then running blind), twist/bend their ears, have 3 or 4 men get behind them and “shove” them in. I watched as a 10-year-old gelding that belonged to a man who lived out of his truck was whipped and shoved and had his ears twisted with great force in order to get him in the gate (the gelding had been GIVEN to this man…this man who could barely afford to feed himself…ah yes, such are the lives of claiming horses). I bought the gelding within the month of witnessing the abuse…he had run 85 times…he didn’t want to load anymore, didn’t even like people much by that point. He’s 25 years old now, has been with me for 15 years…and he still trembles in enclosed spaces so he never gets stalled. His name is Greenwish. He’s a racing survivor.

      • Thank you Joy for answering my question Its heartbreaking to learn that they go through this on a daily basis. More people should know that this happens before a race. I’m glad Greenwish was saved in time, he deserves a loving owner who will put his wellbeing above all else.

    • Gina, thank you for delving into the despicable “claiming game”. And as you brought out, it is the backbone of this sorry business. Some of these trainers and owners have made a lot of money on the backs of “claimers”. I heard a well-heeled owner say he could not survive in the business were it not for the disposal system, namely, the claiming game.

    • Gina,

      i have a question on the subject of claiming races.

      there is a “maiden claiming race and an allowance optional claiming race.

      Are horse put into a maiden claiming race because the owners do not think they are worth enough to keep or because they have been injured in training ?

      Also, what is an optional training race mean. Can the owner choose to keep the horse ?

    • Gina,

      What you said is shocking to me . I thought they were all sold with medical records.

      The fact that these horses are being sold with no medical records is further proof that those that are selling and those that are buying truly do not care about these horses at all or what happens to them.

      MArk Case (Trainer who won last years Queens Plate with Lexie Lou) says he buys horses “with his eyes” based on the way they look and he buys a lot of claiming horses.

      Has won Sovereign award 6 times as a Trainer – Mark Casse 2013 – 414 starts – 86 wins – 55 seconds – 52 thirds – $5,576,183 in earnings

      I wonder how many of these horses he still has.

      A five-time winner in this category including the past two seasons in succession,
      Mark Casse and his team continued its successful run as Woodbine’s leading stable in 2013. Casse won 85 races at the meeting (and one at Fort Erie: Uncaptured scored in the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown) to lead all conditioners at the Toronto track. Casse won 19 stakes races in Canada, three of them graded events, won by Madly Truly, Laugh Track, My Conquestadory, Delegation, Sisterly Love and Delightful Mary. Laugh Track went on to finish a fast-closing second in the Grade 1 Breeders’Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November and My Conquestadory won the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland. Sisterly Love, was named Champion Older female in Canada tonight and Delegation, was a 2013 Sovereign finalist for Older Male.

    • Gina,

      I will email ADLF to see if they will help look into the race horse abuse. they do a lot with dogs.
      THey have lawyers on board so they could take it on if they had the time.
      They create petitions and lawsuits

      More on ADLF from their newsletter

      the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has protected the lives of countless animals across the nation.

      After ALDF stepped in with a rulemaking petition, the North Carolina Board of Agriculture finally agreed in December to stop using gas chambers to kill dogs and cats in animal shelters. Experts disapprove of gas chambers for routine euthanasia at animal shelters—as it causes great panic, suffering, and a slow, painful death. Yet the state ag board had not stepped up to ban this controversial method until ALDF’s petition.

      ALDF also helped South Dakota become the last of the 50 states to make animal cruelty a felony offense. Felony penalties represent a state’s commitment to taking cruelty to animals seriously. 15 years ago, only 30 states had felony provisions, so we created the annual State Rankings Report—the longest-running and most authoritative report of its kind—to draw attention to strengths and weaknesses of state animal protection laws, and urge each state to work harder for animals. Now, finally, all states have felony penalties for animal cruelty.

    • Hi Gina is there a way that claiming list can be obtained without going to twitter I don’t have an account and would like to see that list

  8. Gina – just on your point about the racehorse having its own medical record. It is wonderful to hear this. I had the same concerns when I was working in the industry and monitoring some racehorses that were being passed on (one horse had 6 trainers in its career) and queried as to why there was absolutely nothing in place, nothing in writing (forget about relying on a trainer informing another about the horse) and I just couldn’t believe it. One horse had some unusual behaviour due to him being a rig (for those that don’t know a rig is a male horse that has been gelded but there was a problem with the procedure so horse ends up not being a genuine gelding) but he was good and I loved looking after him. Turned up one day and he’d gone but the trainer didn’t tell the owner to inform new trainer that he was a rig and there was an explanation for his behaviour (a real handful in trackwork and on raceday). Fortunately, I found him racing on the country circuit and rang the new trainer and gave him a rundown on this horse because I couldn’t bear the thought of him being badly treated because of his behaviour when there was a good reason for it. We do not have Claiming Races here, however, many horses on the gruelling country circuit are not unlike your claiming horses.
    About a year ago a colleague and I co-authored a submission to a state government authority (which treated it as confidential given the content) and when requested we gave our permission for such authority to forward a copy to the Australian Racing Board. In that submission we filed 15 Recommendations and one of them was “that all horses have their own PASSPORT which details all veterinary records and movements of all registered racehorses”. Our efforts to have a meeting were futile. However, just a few days ago a racing journalist interviewed the CEO of the ARB and at the very end he wrapped up the interview with

    Or maybe the ARB should just regulate by introducting an equine veterinary passport and disclose all treatments all of the time.

    Here is the link to the interview in case you or Patrick or anyone else is interested


    • Gina and Carolyn,

      That is terrible that the medical records are not passed on. That is blatant animal abuse. It is clear that they do not want a paper trail of how many drugs these horses have been given.

      I saw on interview last night on HRTV with a trainer named Mark Case. He won the Queens PLate last year with a horse named Lexie Lou and he has won the Sovereign 6 times and he races a lot of horses at Woodbine and in Toronto.

      Mark said that a lot of his horses are from “Claiming races” He must buy them from the US if there are no claiming races in Canada.

      Do you know anything about Mark Case ?

      There is a trainer named Todd Pletcher who is at a lot of races in California and I hear he allows a lot of his horses to be slaughtered. I wonder if Mark Case is the same way.

      I cannot stand these trainers that come on these shows for interviews and say how much they care about their horses and then send them to the slaughterhouse or into another claiming race when they do not make money for them. To me, They have hearts of stone.

  9. When you think of the barbarism of the human race since the beginning of time, this is pretty mild in comparison. But I would like to say, not only horses, but all animals should not be treated so cruelly. And to dispose of them like trash after making gain or finding pleasure in their suffering is wrong! Owners should be held responsible till they live out their lives.

  10. I have a friend, very beautiful, very sweet. Her husband was a jockey, was killed in the gate on the West coast. He was an award winner. George Wolf, I believe. We met by chance. I was friends with her brother-in-law on the East Coast & he too died on the track. R.I.P. the Pineda Brothers.

  11. Gina, my apologies, i mean’t to say NOT having its own medical record and that it was wonderful to hear someone else having concern about it.

  12. Thanks for the input here. I will try to answer all the queries. First, in response to whether a horse runs in a Maiden Claiming or Maiden Allowance: the decision is usually the Trainers. There could be many reasons why they run them in that spot, but usually it’s due to their morning workout performances that are not competitive enough to put in an upper race. Also, the possibility of a first time starter being claimed in a Maiden Claiming race is next to zero. Most racehorses start in a Maiden Allowance race to protect it (nobody can claim it) to see how it actually runs in a race. Most good Trainers have a handle on where the horse belongs, but also must consider the Owners. Most Owners (especially newbies) have this idea that their racehorse is the next Kentucky Derby winner, and you have to let them down gently. There could also be physical issues that are being controlled via meds, but affecting their performance in an upper level race. Optional Claiming Race means that you can put a price on the horse, and it will be listed in the form. However, you have the option not to race it for a Claiming Price thereby ensuring the horse is not claimed. There are a lot of concerns regarding whips. In the event that the horse is not an easy loader the gate starter will use a whip to “scare” it in without making contact. Usually, when a racehorse has a history of not loading easily then the whip is not so much a beating tool. When a racehorses is a senior with back class, and a long history of repeated Claims, and slipping down low in the Claiming Ranks then the possibility of abuse when loading is much higher. Overall, the Claiming Ranks for a racehorse is usually a do or die situation. There are usually running for their lives, literally, and if they don’t bring back a check their possibility of ending up at a slaughterhouse is greatly increased. In terms of medical records: I’m a strong advocate for a Veterinarian Passport detailing what exactly has been done to a racehorse. The possibility of this ever happening is slim, and this is where the true test of the industry comes into play because in order for a crippled, lame, and sore horse to fill a race they don’t want this information to get out to the public. It puts the entire race field at risk including both equine, and human athlete. It’s unsafe, and unacceptable. The horse racing commissions are supposed to be neutral, and put the well-being of the racehorse first. However, their neutrality is highly questionable, but so is their secrecy. Overall, the racing commissions are a powerful all boys club consisting mainly of ex-jockeys who were once a part of this cruelty circus. I dare anybody to just try to become a Steward. It’s a well guarded community of alleged corruption, doping, and cruelty to animals. As for the big name Trainers such as Mark Casse, Bob Baffert, and Todd Pletcher etc. – did you ever notice something in common? Their horses literally disappear when they are finished with them. They are RARELY seen in the Claiming Ranks. My guess is that whatever drugs they may be using can be tested at an independent lab if somebody were to claim one of their horses, and it seems to me, that they don’t want anybody getting physical possession of their horses once they are no longer Stake horses. This is really strange, and weird that their horses are RARELY dropped down into the Claiming Ranks. It’s as if they are immune to this which is utter hogwash. It’s like they win all the Stake Races year in and year out, and then their horses don’t run in the Claiming Ranks. There’s something very suspicious about this activity. It’s rumoured that a guy working for Casse as a Groom took some hair samples from a Stake Horse, and sent it to an Olympic Lab. It came back with high levels of Morphine. IF this is true, then how can you win against this level of cheating? This confirms that blood/urine tests are probably being tampered with so a Trainer can’t win against these Trainers. They just can’t if this level of cheating is going on. I can tell you from my perspective that there is NO WAY that a Trainer can be winning all those Stake Races unless their doing something that all of us aren’t doing. There is just no way. I don’t see them as big heroes or better Trainers then anybody else. I see them as Multiple Drug Violators with high rates of breakdowns who have rich Owners clamouring for a stall in their barn. They have a huge monopoly on the racehorse market, and I don’t for a moment believe that their horses are as good as they present them to be. At least not in all cases. What people need to know is how pampered, and spoiled these multiple drug violating Trainers are. They usually have CARTE BLANCHE no matter where they go. They have HUGE chunks of stalls while the racetrack denies other Trainers stalls. For example, Casse usually has about 100 stalls at the Woodbine Racetrack PLUS an entire Training Farm north of Woodbine with about 60 stalls. When a Trainer has 60+ stalls they have practically virtual control over the races written, the races that go, and RIG the races basically. While small outfits begged for stalls at Woodbine just to be given a chance, Casse, Stronach got huge allotment of stalls. This creates a virtual BLOCKAGE of any outsiders coming in, and winning races, and the statistics proves this. Moreover, if several Trainers are in it together and have hundreds of stalls between them they can virtually FIX a race, and manipulate the outcome of wagering pools. I found it very disturbing that certain Trainers at Woodbine (and most racetracks) control the majority of stalls. It seems evident that wagering pools are easily operating under the hospices of Racetrack CEO’s or high level connections. A talented racehorse can be lost in the scheme of things if this is happening. This monopolization delivers an dishonest product to the wagering system, and certainly makes the racehorse pay. I prefer lots of Trainers with up to 10 racehorses. During the 60’s this was the way things were run. When there are more Trainers then the possibility of manipulating the outcome of races are much lower. This is my direct observation, and opinion.

    • Gina,

      In terms of medical records:

      I agree with what you said.

      ” I’m a strong advocate for a Veterinarian Passport detailing what exactly has been done to a racehorse.

      …….and this is where the true test of the industry comes into play because in order for a crippled, lame, and sore horse to fill a race they don’t want this information to get out to the public. It puts the entire race field at risk including both equine, and human athlete. It’s unsafe, and unacceptable. ”

      There is a group that takes on law suits on behalf of animals. I will see if they would be willing to get involved.

      Here is what they say in their newsletter.

      Since 1979, ALDF is the only national organization dedicated to protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

      Help us set legal precedents that recognize animals’ rights to be free from abuse and neglect.

      Stephen Wells
      Executive Director
      Animal Legal Defense Fund

    • Couldn’t agree more with your comments Gina. The boys club in racing fete politicians at race meetings. In my State, the Minister for Racing is invited and obligated to attend some of the big race meetings. About 8 years ago I was communicating with the then Minister and he was accommodating and came across as being concerned. Well, when he next attended a race meeting he collapsed (fainted) just when the horses were close to the winning post and being viciously flogged. He couldn’t cope with horseracing and was transferred from that ministerial position. Unfortunately, the Ministers I’ve communicated with since always come back with statements like “thank you for your letter, we have passed it on to the racing authority which is responsible for horseracing in NSW. The Government is independent of this authority so you should direct your concerns to them in future….” “Independent” oh really? In the meantime the Government hands out hundreds of $millions of the taxpayers’ money to support horseracing in this State? Just one example: outdated grandstand demolished and replaced with a $150million new one. $50,000 was spent on five diamond and emerald trophies in the shape of a horse’s head. When these trophies were presented at this particular carnival in 2014, a 2 year old filly died and of course some other horses suffered injuries, viciously flogged with whips, etc. It just makes me want to throw up. If Governments can leave the running of horseracing to racing authorities and not intervene when evidence of animal abuse and cruelty is presented, then why do they think it is appropriate to give the taxpayers’ money to this “industry”? The Government is supposed to represent the people and act on what the people want and the people expect the Government to act accordingly. It is my belief that the Government is a third party to animal abuse and cruelty because it condones, legalizes, authorizes and financially supports the horseracing industry. I believe the great majority of people find animal abuse abhorrent and unacceptable. Self regulation in an industry which exploits animals is toxic.

  13. Gina,

    Thank you so much for that comprehensive explanation and stories about the racetracks..

    I have heard that a lot of Todd Pletchers horses have been sent to slaughter for the reasons that you named. They do not want them to know what drugs are in their system and so they do not want to sell them to people who could test them and expose Todd PLetchers abuse.

    I have a really bad feeling every time I see an interview with PLetcher and I did not have a good feeling about MArk Case or Bob Baffert either when I have watched their interviews.

    Baffert has a website and has a lot of photos on there featuring a number of his horses. They look exhausted and stressed and not at all happy as they run for their lives.

    I have heard that Steve Asmussen drugs many of his horses that he trains and he wins a lot of races. I agree that there is major corruption at the race track just like there is with the Tennessee Walkers that are treated with such cruelty as they burn them with chemicals to make them walk taller. Ever after the HSUS expose they still have not stopped this horrific abuse of the Tennessee Walkers.

    There is a group that have been trying to stop horse slaughter for years in Canada and I was told that it is an incredible uphill battle because of all the corruption.


  14. I’m continually disgusted (yet somewhat amused!) with the industry’s attempts at “feel good” stories. The Paulick Report is a gold mine of such stories…and once again, they didn’t disappoint.

    Owner/trainer Pete Pizzo was the subject of a PR story back in 2013 and again yesterday. While the human aspect of this story is certainly tragic and my condolences go out to the Pizzo family, trying to convince readers that Pizzo “loved” the filly he sold via a claiming race is a joke.

    Pizzo purchased Rena Starlight – a 2008 dark bay mare – for 1K and Vision of Liz for $3500 and put them into training. Rena Starlight earned more on the track than Vision of Liz and according to PR contributor Jen Roytz, she “[paid] her way”. Don’t you tire of reading and hearing that?…the horse “paid her way” or “earned her keep”? So must they do it all? Not only are they forced to bear the physical wear and tear of racing on their bodies, but the money THEY earn must provide for their owners/trainers AND themselves?…without a cent set aside for their safe retirement?…typically with aching arthritic limbs?

    Oh and according to Roytz, Pizzo just loved his fillies. Right. From the article, Pizzo; “You have to run them where they can win. I’ve got to run them where they can compete, because otherwise it’s cruel to them to run them in too high of company, because they’ll try to keep up and that’s how they get hurt.” Wow…how’s that for straight from the horse’s mouth. So it has nothing to do with getting a check, Mr. Pizzo?…you run them in claiming races only because it’s CRUEL to pit them against more class? But that being said, thank you for acknowledging the cruelty!

    So Pizzo puts his “beloved” filly into a claiming race and she gets claimed…and then claimed and claimed again. Rena Starlight runs 36 more races after Pizzo sold her for 20K via the claim in February of 2013. Her last race, a 5K, was this past December. 36 times Pizzo could have claimed the filly he called his “girl” in order to retire her. But he didn’t. No, that required a nudge by a “racing supporter-slash-advocate” who reached out to Pizzo and “shared her concern” about the mare’s “falling down in the ranks, owner to owner, trainer to trainer…and losing interest in racing”. (“losing interest in racing”…such benign words for used-up and worn out…and interestingly, a commenter on this piece offered, “I worked with Rena and she was the most unhappy horse in the barn”)

    Rena Starlight has been removed from racing but her future is still uncertain – at least one of the mare’s “official co-owners” is “[toying] with the idea of breeding [her]”.

    I can’t take another one of these feel good stories for a while.


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