The Hidden World of Horse Racing

Horse races are more than just a sport for people, they’re also a window into the closed world of insider politics. They’re the political version of the quick polls that circulate in swing states, giving voters a glimpse into the machinations of a campaign without the expense and inconvenience of a public debate.

They’re also the launching pad for political journalists, who can shine a light on the hidden world of horse racing by examining the plight of the animals who make the sport possible. Behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred racing is a world of drugs, injuries and gruesome breakdowns. Horses used for racing are pushed beyond their limits and subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs designed to mask pain, improve performance and mask the effect of the drugs they’re taking on their own bodies. They’re forced to race at speeds so fast that they often sustain severe injuries, such as hemorrhages in the lungs.

It’s no surprise that horse race critics are sounding their cries of alarm as election handicappers begin releasing their predictions for the 2020 presidential race. While the early polls have yet to be fully vetted, the inclination is to see the Democratic contenders as clear favorites in most of the major battlegrounds, leaving the Republican nominee trailing far behind. This election cycle has felt less like a horse race than in years past, as the Democratic contenders have been able to consolidate their support in many states while limiting the damage that could be done by a bad debate or a poorly executed debate.

Whether bettors are the hardcore daily ones who gather in private suites or the crowds that periodically swell the grandstands, their emotions seem to rise and fall with the fortunes of their horses. They cheer their favorites by name, and a good percentage of them connect with a particular horse’s story. Seabiscuit was such a horse, and bettors would shout his number when they gathered to watch him race on TVs in the bowels of the grandstand.