I don’t like horse racing because it seems they use younger and younger horses on frailer and frailer bones as the years go by. In the NYTimes today there is a story on some of the changes happening in horse racing (at lower levels) due to casino involvement and all the money that can be had even by losing horses.
It doesn’t look real good for the horses.
Which brings us to the heroes of the day.
Jockeys at Penn National!!
But there was no secret why Mr. Gill had made Penn National the hub of his operation: the hefty purses.
Now, Melodeeman’s death threatened to upend it all.
The next morning, Thomas Clifton, a veteran jockey, complained to the state racing commission’s office at Penn National that Mr. Gill’s horses were unsafe. He had been making similar complaints for a month.
“The horses go perfectly sound right up to the second they snap their leg off,” Mr. Clifton said. The following day he came back with a warning: “If we have one more horse break down, we are going to have a major problem on our hands.”
That night, riding in the fifth race, Mr. Clifton heard a bone snap and saw another jockey, Ricky Frazier, vaulting off a horse named Laughing Moon. Mr. Clifton yanked his own mount, but they still went soaring over Laughing Moon.
Within minutes, Mr. Frazier was in an ambulance and a veterinarian was administering a lethal injection to Laughing Moon, the ninth Gill horse to die racing in 10 months.
That is when the jockeys decided to take a stand: They would not ride in any race with a Gill-owned horse.
Their boycott cast a harsh light on the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and Penn National Gaming, which owns the track.
“It wasn’t the commission or the racetrack or anyone with any responsibility for horses and riders who took action,” said George Strawbridge, a prominent breeder and owner. “It was the jockeys who feared for their life. That’s not a shame. That’s a disgrace.”
Track officials and regulators had ample reason to question the integrity of Mr. Gill’s operation well before the boycott.
The officials who are theoretically in charge of the well being of the horses here should be ashamed of themselves.
At Aqueduct in NY:
These horses got little protection from state regulators or the racetrack. Even as the death toll was rising, necropsies were not performed to determine if pre-existing injuries had contributed to the fatal breakdowns. Nor were toxicology exams conducted.
In March, days after Governor Cuomo announced he would appoint a task force to investigate the fatalities, New York Racing Association veterinarians became more aggressive in keeping unfit horses out of the starting gate, which Dr. Anthony Verderosa, its chief examining veterinarian, called “a coincidence.”
Jockeys make little money. The group that banded together and refused to ride Mr. Gills horses deserve a metal while the vets who are checking on race horses at this level – making more money than jockeys at it I presume – deserve a kick in the ass.