- BitsBlog - http://bitsblog.theconservativereader.com -

Horse Racing’s Future?

Mark Beech at the end of a longish bit at si.com [1] notes the same thing I did within hours of the death of Eight Belles:

And so racing will probably only have three more weeks to admire its newest superstar. And after he is gone, the game will still have to deal with the problems that the death of Eight Belles put squarely in the spotlight: the weakening of the thoroughbred breed through inbreeding, the use of performance enhancing substances and the dilemma presented by the presence of synthetic racing surfaces. Outcry or no, these problems will not go away in a month or a year or five years.

Indeed. As Beech notes, there’s a mess of money involved here:

Hours before the race, IEAH Stables, the outfit that owns Big Brown, sold his syndication rights to Three Chimneys Farm. Robert Clay, who runs the Lexington, Ky., breeding operation wouldn’t divulge the terms of the deal, but speculation at the track was that it was for around $50 million. With all that money on the line, it is highly unlikely that Big Brown will race again after the Belmont. Neither the owners nor the farm can risk losing that kind of money because of injury.

[2]Well, therein lies the central problems with cleaning up this mess; There’s far too much money involved, and it’s a consideration that renders inert, any objections to current horse racing, and horse breeding practices. What we saw a few weeks ago has not only been part of horse racing for most of the last century, it’s become an increasing problem. Alas, that it is going to take far more than the death of one horse, however much a fighter, to get people to deal with this situation. The income of the owners and trainers will need to be threatened.

Do not mistake me here. I have not “gone PETA” on you, dear readers. My point here, is both less and more than PETA activists will undoubtedly make it. It strikes me that the problems we’ve been witness to in the horse racing world, are emblematic for the problems in all of pro sports the last few decades, including the use of performance enhancing drugs which threaten the life of the athlete… in this case, the horses… and the money that comes from that needle.

Yes, in the world of horse racing, there is the added dimension of inbreeding which makes the situation that much worse, along with the at least borderline ethics of the thing.

At this stage, it looks like the only thing that will prevent Big Brown from getting that Triple Crown prize money for his owners, and handlers, and the attached breeding services that comes with it, is another incident like Eight Belles.  Such an incident is not to be hoped for, certainly, but I begin to wonder if anything less dramatic and heart-wrenching will change the situation.