Day: December 12, 2023

The Integrity of a Horse Race

Horse racing is a global sport that dates back to the days of four-hitched chariots and mounted bareback riders. The sport has evolved in the modern era, becoming more complex and sophisticated with the advent of different types of horses and equipment, as well as new technologies such as radio communications, television cameras, and computerized betting systems. Throughout its history, the sport has attracted many different types of people. The first group consists of the crooks who dangerously drug and otherwise mistreat their horses; this is a small but feral minority that still stains the integrity of racing for everyone else. Then there are the dupes who labor under the illusion that the industry is broadly fair and honest. And finally, the masses in the middle–neither crooks nor dupes but honorable souls who know the industry is far more crooked than it ought to be but who are not willing to put in the effort to fix it.

Horse races are sanctioned by national horse racing authorities and may be run on dirt, turf or synthetic surfaces. Horses compete in a variety of race types, including handicaps where the weights that each horse must carry during a race are adjusted on the basis of their age (for example, a two-year-old carries less weight than a three-year-old) or sex (in which fillies are allowed to compete with males at a lower weight).

Besides the rules and regulations set by each individual nation, the sport also follows the rules of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. This organization consists of more than fifty nations with the majority being from Europe and Asia.

The sport has experienced many technological changes in recent years, with improved safety a big reason for this. Racing officials have embraced the use of thermal imaging cameras, MRI scanners and X-rays to help them detect any potential problems on the track or in the barn.

In addition, a new program that starts this year will bring uniformity to the testing, rulings and penalties across the nation’s 38 racing states. The program will include new, more rigorous drug-testing methods and more effective disciplinary action for violations.

But even with all the improvements in technology and rules, there is no way to completely eliminate injuries on the tracks. A large number of thoroughbreds are injured each year while competing, and some of these injuries prove fatal. One study found that three racehorses die every day in North America from catastrophic injuries sustained while running.

As the Times article shows, this is a multifaceted issue with no easy answers. It will take the cooperation of everyone in the industry, from trainers and veterinarians to owners and the public, to stop this unacceptable abuse. Those who deny or dismiss the report are contributing to an ongoing tragedy.