The good: Social media outlets made the industry aware of a situation that begged for further examination.
The bad: Before the facts were gathered, people rushed to judgment with a lynch-mob mentality.
Such is the case of Monzante, the grade I stakes winner that broke down at Evangeline Downs during a $4,000 claiming race July 20, and after examination at the barn was euthanized because of the extent of his injuries.
Social media users and bloggers, including one employed by The Blood-Horse, were incensed over the horse's death and called out those who had been associated with the horse for the past nine years. All this came, however, before it was reported Monzante had not been euthanized on the racetrack, but rather at the barn after his connections decided he couldn't be saved.
It took The Blood-Horse and Daily Racing Form a few days to find out what happened. By the time the news cycle had ended four days later with an announcement by the Louisiana State Racing Commission the investigation was over, criticism on social media had all but evaporated.
In fact, it was just about done when it was reported the gelding hadn't died on the racetrack, and that someone actually made the call to put him down. That fact changed everything, as did subsequent comments from the trainer.
The level of interest, judging from the almost 1,500 "signatures" on a web petition to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association concerning the break down, is beyond encouraging and should lead to some of debate at the regulatory level. But the indictment of others before the story was investigated was atrocious.
The Blood-Horse was bashed–hardly unusual–and accused of ignoring the story before the first phone call was made to confirm the circumstances behind the horse's death. It wasn't much better for DRF.
Meanwhile, there was hardly a mention of the industry hierarchy's silence on social media even though it has invested money in an active social media arm. Perhaps it's time to devise a crisis-management plan using social media.
If any good came out of this, it's the reinforcement of the need for Thoroughbred racing to continue its efforts in the area of safety of horses and humans and uniform medication rules. Anything beyond that, such as mandatory racehorse retirement rules for anything other than age, is a major stretch given the fact horses are personal property, and there has to be some level of trust in owners and trainers to know when a horse is ready to be retired.
And retirement rules that deal only with horses that have won graded stakes not only would face legal challenge, they would raise even more questions from the public. Aren't all the horses important?
It would be ideal if everyone associated with racehorses committed to ensuring that horses are tracked throughout their careers, and that all parties contribute to support financially or otherwise to support that cause. But whatever happens, it's important for people to not lose sight of reality.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how well cared for racehorses are, and no matter how much progress the industry makes in regard to safety and welfare, there will be breakdowns, some of them fatal.
That reality–and it is ugly for those that care to admit it–is more than enough for horse racing to deal with at a time when animal welfare is under a microscope. Therefore, it doesn't need personal attacks and wild pre-judgments through social media and the Internet based on innuendo.
There's always more to the story. Give it time to unfold.