People within the industry and out of the industry are constantly asking my opinion on horse racing, and the bottom line is that I love it. I love going to the track to see those horses running their hearts out. I love watching the owners celebrate when their horses win, I love the look on the Jockey’s faces as they head out to the track. Going to the backside is like another world, and I love it. Going to take to crusty old trainers about their charges, or up and comers just like me, I love them all, and despite all of our differences, I believe deep down in my heart we all do it for the love of the game, and the love of our respective sports. So, my baseline opinion of horse racing is that I love it and would go to the track every day if I could.
The Darkside of Horse Racing
In my opinion, biased as it might be, I think the media distorts everything, politics, current events, celebrities, and news. This all translates into horseracing, and if you were to believe you hear, then every other horse would be dying on the track and every jockey is into drugs. All the trainers drug their horses and the horses are beaten into running. Ok, Ok that was harsh, but some of it might be true.
Horse racing, just like any other industry is not perfect, and I do not pretend that it is. Like everyone out there, I believe that the horses are run far too early, and that the industry over all needs to be cleaned up. But, there are standards, heavy standards when it comes to drugging horses, security on the backstretch, and many other issues. There is fraud in the big business industry, just as there are bumps in the road when it comes to horse racing.
The Triple Crown
I could spend a whole blog on this topic, and I probably will, but the triple crown has more prestige than ever, with less of a crop of three year olds. Today, it is so difficult to get your horse to the Derby, that perhaps the best horses for the game even get a chance to run. With a 20 horse field, the chances of the best horse winning is also slim to none. A typical horse field is somewhere around 5-10, with 15 being large. 20 is nearly obscene, with the traffic being more of a contention than the speed.
This translates into a longshot or a non favorite winning the derby more often than not, which also translates into a repeat performance in the Preakness more and more difficult, and especially for a win in the Belmont.
One thing I sure think that the racing business is doing right is their methods of breeding. Race horses are all registered in the Jockey Club, if they are intending to race or even be registered as a papered thoroughbred. There is no freezing of semen from stallions, everything must be live covered. This means that the stallion and the mare must meet and they ‘court’ live. This is not standard practice across all industries, with semen being flown all over the country and the world, although this makes access better, it also makes more babies. If live cover is required then it means that the breeder has faith in the match, it also means that the owner has more faith in the match, then simply mail ordering a baby daddy. If more industries adopted these practices, then there would be less unwanted horses and surplus from less desirable matches in this world.
Racehorses begin their career typically between the ages of 2-3 year of age, with a late bloomer being a 4 year old maiden. Racehorses then race for only as long as they are winning or as long as their bones and soft tissues can withstand the constant poundings of racing. Racehorses are typically retired after 4-5 years on the track, with 7 being ‘old’ for an active racehorse. Despite the strict breeding requirements, this also means that there are hundreds or thousands of horses put out of their careers every year. The term for is is Off The Track Thoroughbreds. For me these horses hold a special place in my heart, as I find them some of the best horses I have ever encountered.
Anyway, sadly, many of these horses do not find them in as desirable circumstances, and some of them end up in slaughter pens, headed to Mexico or Canada with a one way ticket, horses who won thousands of dollars are tossed aside for mere dollars. It is awful to think about, but it is reality. Other times the horses end up in homes that plan on rehabilitation them for dressage, jumping, trail riding or lesson programs. Also common is self proclaimed rescues taking over the horses without the capacity to retrain the horses. What Ottb need is homes that understand their previous lives, and how live has been viewed as racing horse. It takes truly a special person to correctly rehab a ottb and allow them to flourish in their next lives. This leads to even more excess of ottbs in the world, and some who have been subsequently ruined do to good intentions gone bad, or due to ottbs ending up in a bad situation.
I am sure I will write many more blogs about horse racing , many more to come, but this is my first pondering on an industry I both love and hate, and a million dollar industry that people tune into when there is a superstar, or there is an accident, or for the three biggest races in the world, the triple crown.