It is hard to tell where horse racing is headed in the United States because we rely on figures and facts from different groups who each have their own agendas. From within the industry we have the tracks themselves who make money both from their facilities and also from simulcasting. They have to share that revenue with horsemen as well as states and municipalities. Naturally, because they are businesses and trying to make the most profit for their investors, they are prone to understate their successes and over state their losses. The revenue from simulcasting has been a particularly contentious subject. How do you equate the true cost of providing that simulcast signal and how much should the different groups share in that revenue stream?
While money certainly drives the sport, I know people datos americanas hoy who own and race horses who never place a bet. They do it for the love of the sport and the love of winning. When my horses were racing I often spent so much time in the paddock that I lost track of the time and failed to bet my horse. While cashing a ticket on your own horse can be pleasant, an owner has so much riding on the race, he or she may not care to bet, feeling he or she has already risked enough. So many of the people involved in the sport, particularly those who own or breed horses, aren’t in it for the wagering. So while the money is a big part of the sport, it isn’t everything.
One of the biggest problems confronting horse racing right now is the issue of drugs and humane treatment of the horses. We have to do better, and quite frankly, up until now, we have done a frightful job of protecting the horses from unscrupulous people. In order to fix this problem we need to approach the sport of horse racing like all major sports in this country. We need a strong, centralized power that oversees the sport and has the power to enforce drug laws and laws relating to the humane treatment of our four legged partners. That will mean a commissioner of horse racing who will proceed to clean up the sport, just as they are working to clean up other major league sports.
How can we expect parents to encourage their children to watch horse racing when disaster is just a misstep away? Healthy horses who are racing on a safer surface and not being driven beyond their natural limits is a start. Of course, as in any sport, athletes do sometimes get injured, but we could greatly reduce those injuries by banning all steroids and performance enhancing drugs, seriously limiting the use of whips, and banning races for two year olds. Races for two year olds are often called “baby races.” Can you think of any other sport that allows babies to compete? They need time to mature and grow before enduring the rigors of racing.
As for the public trust, how can we expect people to bet on horse races when cheating is not treated like what it really is, fraud? If a trainer, owner, or jockey cheats in a horse race, for instance administering a banned drug that enhances the horse’s ability, he or she often has to forfeit the purse money, though he or she may have won much more than that through the betting windows. There may also be a fine to pay that is more than offset by the winnings. But what of the bettors who have been cheated? What do they get? They have been victims of fraud.
If an owner or trainer commits fraud on the betting public, why not prosecute that person? It is a crime. The same is true of animal cruelty. In harness racing drivers sometimes remove their feet from the stirrups and kick a horse to make it go faster. Looking over the records for the racing commissions you will sometimes read comments like, “Repeatedly removed foot from stirrups and did kick horse repeatedly.”
This often results in an insignificant fine or suspension. That is not enough. First of all, kicking horses is downright inhumane. It just isn’t right. It should be dealt with severely. What you have is a person who makes his or her living racing horses, openly kicking a horse in front of a crowd of people. Could anything be worse for the sport? Can you imagine what would happen if you or I stood in front of a crowd of people and repeatedly kicked a horse? You or I would be arrested and stand before a judge. Then you or I would pay a significant fine as well as perhaps spending time in jail, especially if we were repeat offenders. Why should a driver or jockey or anyone else who makes a living off horses be treated any differently?