Source: Washington Post Opinion by Bob Baffert Baffert trained Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify. Horses he has trained since 1992 have won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes, 15 Breeders’ Cup races and three Dubai World Cups.
The horse-racing world was stunned this week by the arrest of 27 people on federal horse-doping charges. The indictments describe a “widespread, corrupt" scheme to give racehorses performance-enhancing and other banned drugs that can mask preexisting injuries and directly lead to horse injuries and death.
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our equine and human athletes, and nothing impacts their health and safety more than the policies and procedures concerning drugs. These indictments show that the current system of 38 state racing jurisdictions, each with its own regulatory body, laws and regulations, is entirely inadequate.
Horse racing is experiencing the most profound crisis in the long history of the sport. To emerge stronger, we must act decisively to protect the horses who are the stars of the show; nothing else will restore the confidence of fans, gamblers and the general public. And that means federal action.
Our horses and jockeys deserve an unbiased, independent national anti-doping authority. Fortunately, the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA) is moving through Congress.
Horse racing is more international than ever, so it’s important that our national policies align with globally accepted international standards and rules. Fortunately, the HIA provides that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would play a key role in this national governing body. The USADA is universally recognized as having world-class drug knowledge and anti-doping expertise, and it governs anti-doping programs for the U.S. Olympic team and others. The agency is independent, unbiased and would have no agenda other than the best interests of our athletes and our sport. Its oversight would ensure that we have the best possible rules, testing protocols and effective penalties. This in turn would ensure that horses would receive medications only when the therapeutic benefits would clearly outweigh any negative or health-threatening effects, and that the cheaters would be quickly caught and punished.
The HIA was introduced in the House by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and has strong bipartisan support, with 244 co-sponsors. Companion legislation was introduced into the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and has 24 co-sponsors. The bill is moving, but Congress needs to speed up the pace.
In the past, there has been disagreement about whether a federally sponsored anti-doping body was necessary, and I understand the reluctance of many in the industry to invite Washington onto the track. However, these federal indictments clearly show that a patchwork of 38 separate regulatory bodies doesn’t work and that the losers are horses and all those who love this grand sport.
It is time for the horse-racing industry to unite in support of a national anti-doping regulatory system. I invite all of my colleagues to join me in clearly asking Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act.
Bill creating new horse-racing authority amid track deaths draws opposition from Kentucky Derby owner, Churchill Downs
The bipartisan Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754), which will eradicate horse doping, has the majority of U.S. Representatives supporting it, but Monmouth Park and Churchill Downs object to the bill.
A Hall of Fame jockey and animal-welfare advocates were among those pushing this week for a bill that would establish a new authority overseeing U.S. horse racing, but the bipartisan Horseracing Integrity Act also is drawing flak from Kentucky Derby owner Churchill Downs Inc. and other industry players.
“Right now, there are almost no controls on what therapeutics horses are given while in training,” retired jockey Chris McCarron said at a House subcommittee’s hearing.
“The status quo — with 38 different states governing one industry with 38 different sets of rules and penalties and numerous different laboratories doing the testing using different standards — is just not working,” added McCarron, who rode the winner at two Kentucky Derbies, as he backed the legislation.
The bill aims to create a new anti-doping authority, and it has found support amid a rash of horse deaths at racetracks last year. For example, 38 horses died in 2019 at Southern California’s Santa Anita Park, which has instituted drug-use reforms. The legislation looks likely to pass in the House, given that more than half of the Democratic-led chamber’s members have signed on as co-sponsors of it.
But top officials from New Jersey’s Monmouth Park Racetrack and the Association of Racing Commissioners International spoke out against the Horseracing Integrity Act at Tuesday’s hearing, and Churchill Downs Inc. also voiced its concerns with the bill.
“I’m opposed to federal legislation. I don’t think federal legislation should be in our business,” said Dennis Drazin, Monmouth Park’s chairman and CEO, speaking to members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee.
“And although I’ve been opposed to federal legislation, I want to be part of the solution — not part of the problem — in preventing this. I’ve worked hard with my colleagues on the NTRA special committee to come up with comprehensive solutions for you,” Drazin added, referring to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The bill “duplicates a framework that’s already in existence,” said Edward Martin, ACRI’s president and CEO, during the Capitol Hill hearing. “The goal of trying to get to uniformity is a very good goal. We believe there’s substantial uniformity, but not total uniformity, with regard to the testing in the labs. The labs are accredited, and we think you can achieve uniformity by adopting the ARCI model rules.”
“We will continue to implement meaningful procedures at Churchill Downs that address the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes, and this commitment extends to working with industry leaders and regulators,” the company added.
The Horseracing Integrity Act was the top focus of Churchill Downs Inc.’s Washington lobbying efforts last year, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of disclosures. The bill was reintroduced in the House a year ago by Republican Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky and Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko of New York. They’ve been rolling out versions of the legislation since 2015.
Barr told the subcommittee on Tuesday that his bill will “advance the safety, the integrity and the international competitiveness of the sport.”
“This idea that federal legislation is the wrong way to go — if you go back to The Jockey Club minutes from the 1970s and the 1980s, when they were discussing medication reform, they were saying back then that we don’t need federal legislation. The efforts to reform the industry by the industry itself — the efforts through interstate compacts — have failed,” the GOP congressman said.
The Jockey Club, an organization that maintains the breed registry for thoroughbreds, is part of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a group that supports Barr and Tonko’s bill. The measure has an “excellent” chance of becoming law, said The Jockey Club’s president and chief operating officer, Jim Gagliano. It’s expected to pass the House with “strong support,” and there is “also strong support in the Senate with 24 senators co-sponsoring the bill,” he said.
“This bill does not create new federal bureaucracy but rather an independent and private authority to manage racehorse medications, which should be a positive with the Trump administration,” Gagliano added.
Source: Market Watch
With wins in this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, American Pharoah has one more race to win to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Fans will pay close attention to Saturday's Belmont Stakes because they love a winner, but also because they love horses -- their beauty, athleticism and storied place in American culture.
But of the 25,000 thoroughbreds bred each year, very few will compete in the Triple Crown races so familiar to us. And tens of thousands of other horses of other breeds will never gain a spot in the limelight, and certainly not in the winner's circle of a major race.
Too often, these horses do not make the cut with their owners, or they are redirected from a legitimate enterprise -- racing, work or pleasure riding -- and sent into the horse slaughter trade.
Data from the U.S. and Canadian governments indicate that more than 100,000 American horses a year are exported and slaughtered in Canada or Mexico for human consumption, often after a long, typically harrowing journey that starts in an auction barn in a rural part of the United States.
It's an inhumane process from start to finish, and far from a dignified or appropriate end for a creature that did nothing wrong and which deserved much better than to be turned into a slab of meat for a foreign consumer.
The predatory horse slaughter industry doesn't euthanize old, sick horses. Precisely the opposite: Kill buyers, typically misrepresenting their intentions, purchase young and healthy horses and haul them away. At auctions, kill buyers often bid against legitimate horse owners and horse rescuers. Based on observations by our organization, most horses going to slaughter are in good condition and able to live healthy and productive lives.
Horses are transported long distances in overcrowded trailers and are badly injured or even killed during transit, according to documents obtained from the Department of Agriculture. Inside the bloody, panic-stricken environment of a slaughterhouse, their suffering only intensifies as horses endure repeated attempts to render them unconscious. When horse slaughter plants operated on U.S. soil before being rightfully shut down in 2007, it proved to be no better: The USDA documented horrific cruelty, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from eye sockets by a thread of skin.
Although horse slaughter is so ruthless and inhumane, proponents of this grisly practice try to convince the public that slaughter is somehow "good" for horses that otherwise would be neglected. But it's actually the kill buyers who routinely abandon horses, especially at the border when they are rejected for slaughter. They are also responsible for a laundry list of cases of severe neglect.
Beyond being a predatory enterprise, the horse slaughter industry also endangers human health by peddling tainted meat. Horses in the United States are not raised with the intention of turning them into food, so they therefore may be treated with any of hundreds of drugs over the course of their lives, both illegal and legal, that may be toxic to humans if ingested. One example is phenylbutazone, or "bute." It is as common to horses as aspirin is to humans, and is banned by the FDA for use in any animal intended for human consumption.
Then consider the makeshift pharmacy of drugs used in race horses -- from cobra venom to cocaine, according to a 2012 New York Times investigation. Because of these serious food safety concerns, the European Union, among the largest consumer of the meat of American horses, recently suspended horse meat imports from Mexico, where 87 percent of horses slaughtered for export to the EU were of U.S. origin. EU authorities made the decision after a series of scathing audits that exposed a cluster of problems, including a lack of traceability of American horses and horrific suffering on U.S. soil and in Mexico.
Most Americans disapprove of slaughtering horses for food. A national survey of 1,008 people in 2012 found that 80 percent opposed slaughtering of horses for human consumption.
To end the slaughter of American horses and protect the food supply, legislators in Congress introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports Act. It not only would prevent this clandestine, greed-driven industry from operating in America, but would outlaw the export of horses across our borders for slaughter.
So while we turn our attention to the next race, let us remember that every horse, whether a Kentucky Derby winner or a pleasure horse, deserves our protection and lifetime care.