The Shady World of Horse Racing

A horse race is a competition between horses ridden by jockeys or pulled in sulkies by drivers. In a horse race, competitors try to win by completing the course first, or winning the most money. Often, races are contested over a distance of one to six miles. They may have two or more turns, and be run on dirt, turf, or asphalt. Spectators are usually allowed to bet on a horse race, although betting is prohibited on some races.

In recent years, horse racing has taken some commendable steps to make the sport safer for horses. Unfortunately, however, those efforts cannot undo the damage done by a generation of poor training and management practices. In addition, the industry’s declining popularity is compounded by the fact that major professional and collegiate team sports now compete for spectators with horse racing. Moreover, horse racing is a minority sport among Americans, with only 1 to 2 percent listing it as their favorite sport.

The race to save the sport has never been a pretty one. Even when horse races are clean and safe, they are rarely popular with the masses. They are too smoky, expensive, and slow for the average sports fan, who wants to watch fast-paced games like baseball and football. Furthermore, horse racing’s image has been tarnished by allegations of cheating and cruelty.

Despite these challenges, there are many good people still in the business of running and breeding thoroughbreds. But there are also crooks who dangerously drug and otherwise abuse their mounts, and those who countenance such behavior. And there are the dupes, who labor under the fantasy that the sport is broadly fair and honest.

A new article by The Atlantic has blown the lid off the shady world of horse racing at the very highest level. It features disturbing footage of trainer Steve Asmussen and his top assistant, Scott Blasi, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and Saratoga in upstate New York.

Asmussen and Blasi are accused of using illegal drugs to get their horses to perform better in races. The trainers’ use of such drugs is particularly deplorable given that they train world-class horses, the best in America and perhaps the entire world.

This is just the latest piece of evidence in a long-running story about a flawed and corrupt industry that hasn’t escaped its own corrupt and corruptible roots. The industry’s biggest problem, however, is that it continues to kill the horses it claims to care about. That is, if it doesn’t address the fact that its industry-sponsored aftercare system hemorrhages ex-racehorses into slaughter pipelines, where they are charged arbitrary and sometimes outrageous ransoms by private slaughterhouses in places such as Louisiana.