A horse race is a competition in which one or more horses are placed against each other to see who can cover a distance in the fastest time. Each horse is assigned a handicap that determines its starting position, which can vary from the front to the back of the field. The horses are then raced around a circular course, with the winner being the first to cross the finish line. The sport is popular worldwide, and the most famous horse races are the Triple Crown series of American classics: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
In the wake of the 2021 mass breakdowns at Santa Anita Park, Congress passed legislation that requires a uniform set of safety standards for horse racing across the country. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority began enforcing some of those rules in July, and the number of fatalities has fallen dramatically since then. The industry has been loth to change, but Lisa Lazarus, the authority’s head, says that most trainers want a more uniform system.
But the truth is that a horse’s winning time is a complex of its own innate desire to run modified by a range of human inputs including tactics, the jockey, the going, and so on (Abbiss & Laursen, 2005). Even the most successful racehorses do not seem to have an innate ability to run at record-breaking speed; they are simply able to improve their times over time.
There are essentially three kinds of people in the world of horse racing. There are the crooks, who dangerously drug and otherwise cheat their horses and then dare anyone to catch them. There are the dupes, who labor under the fantasy that the sport is generally fair and honest. And then there are the masses in the middle who know the game is more crooked than it should be, but who don’t do all they can to fight for reform.
That leaves the vast, silent majority of horsemen and women. It is the latter group, the honorable souls who know the sport is more crooked than it ought to be but still don’t give their all to make it better, where serious reform must come if the industry wants to survive and thrive.
That is why the latest revelations about how two top-notch thoroughbreds were treated at their stables came as such a thunderclap. They show, in graphic detail, what animal activists have long alleged at the highest levels of racing: that cruelty is rampant.