Jim Gath~Dear Horseracing Industry: You – we- have a problem.

Dear Horse Racing Industry:

You – we – have a problem.

According to numerous daily reports, far too many horses are dying on our racetracks. It does seem as if there has been a spike in them over the past couple of years. Whether or not the fatality rates are any higher today than they’ve ever been is irrelevant. The reports just keep coming. And that is bad for racing.

What’s even worse for racing is the very real fact that horses ARE dying. That’s indisputable. And, although injuries – many of them catastrophic – can & will happen any time athletes ply their crafts to the utmost of their abilities, it is my feeling that not enough is being done to lessen them.

Santa Anita this year. Saratoga a couple of years ago. Smaller venues all across the country.

It keeps happening.

And, there are always the questions……

Is the surface to blame? Are some trainers doling out meds that mask injuries? Should certain meds be banned? Are people breeding bad-legged horses into the breed? Are there unscrupulous people on the backstretch?

The answer to all of these questions & more is almost undoubtedly ‘yes’. To a certain degree, absolutely ‘yes’.

And it’s now time for the entire industry to do some real, honest-to-goodness soul-searching.

Otherwise, the bad news – news that has been only somewhat whispered in the past – will continue to not only come out, it will become a scream. It has already become a scream.

But it’s not the bad press that’s the problem.

It’s the well-being of the horses.

And the well-being of anyone who has anything to do with racing.

Quite simply & starkly: Fix things or die.

It has been somewhat etched in stone for what? – forever? – that track operators are independent entities & claim themselves responsible for what happens within the confines of their tracks. And that, no how – no way – should there ever be a central governing body that imposes any restrictions upon them. Even in today’s world, where various groups (Stronach, CDI, etc.) are consolidating ownership of various venues – those operators still seem to live in their own vacuums.

But what we have today is an industry-wide issue. Sure, the problems at certain tracks get the ink, but those problems aren’t necessarily exclusive to those tracks.

In my opinion, a central governing body would employ a group of independent experts: veterinarians, track surface professionals, etc. And, when a problem arises at a certain track – like this year’s Santa Anita debacle – those experts would descend upon the place & thoroughly investigate the situation, much like the NTSB investigates plane crashes. Reports would be issued & changes would be put into place to help prevent that problem from happening again.

Now, I don’t know if any of that makes sense.

But what I DO know makes sense is that it is imperative – for the well-being of the sport & for the horses at the core of it – for an industry-wide, all-hands-on-deck, effort made to minimize injuries, whether catastrophic or not.

Sweeping those problems under the rug & hoping they’ll go away or will be forgotten just ain’t working anymore.

The harsh, bright lights of the media are shining upon the industry right now. As well they should. And they’re not going away. Nor should they go away.

It’s up to those in the racing industry to fix the problems. All the bright-boy public relations in the world won’t hide a horse lying in the dirt with his or her hoof snapped off.

Four words, racing industry……four short words:

Fix things or die.

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