For the Love of Racing

By Mandy Haskin

In light of the Steve Asmussen-Scott Blasi furor, my daughter has addressed the subject much better than I ever could, and through eyes a lot more innocent than mine. She wrote it just for me to read, but I feel it is something that needs to be shared

When you grow up in horse racing from the time you were a baby, the world of the sport is ingrained in your subconscious as a world of purity and uncomplicated perfection. It was a world of mighty Thoroughbreds, who may as well have been your childhood friends since you spent more time with them than anyone else. A world of green pastures and white fences, of barn cats and Jack Russell terriers. Chilly mornings on the Saratoga training track, chasing down the coffee truck and watching the steam rise off of the backs of bathing horses. The way your feet sink into the backstretch dirt and the feel of a horse’s whiskers and hot breath on your hand. A world where you can still wear My Fair Lady hats while mingling with fascinating people. A world of history and legend and regal pedigrees that go back hundreds of years. Of innocence, passion and of course all those magnificent animals.

I’ve gotten it before – I tell people I’m into horse racing and they say, ‘Oh isn’t that bad for the horses?’ My response is always the same: Thoroughbreds are literally bred to run, they love to run, and trainers take better care of their horses than they do themselves. It’s a beautiful, awe-inspiring sport. It is, and always has been, the Sport of Kings. And I still do truly believe all of that.

But every single time something comes out in the news about a trainer suspended for drugs, about a horse winding up somewhere in a slaughter house, about the use of electric devices during races, about overtraining, unpublicized injuries, spills, breakdowns, and euthanizing horses, a tiny piece of that idealized picture fades. Shapes begin to lose their once-distinct lines; colors lose a little bit of their brilliance.

Maybe the main thing that the horse racing industry is guilty of is entering into the 21st century along with every other sport. Every single sport out there, from baseball to cycling, has the same problems. Greed and corrupt competition have always been hovering over sporting events throughout history, but now with modern science and performance enhancing drugs being made more potent and easier to hide, we find ourselves in a place where they have taken over the fundamental essence of these sports. The reason that horse racing tends to wind up in a hotter seat than these other sports is simple – our athletes don’t have free will. An overtrained and overdrugged Thoroughbred can’t just say to hell with this, go back to school and decide to open a restaurant. And that is what opens the door for organizations like PETA to jump in and say that the entire industry is cruel and unnatural and needs to be stopped.

But I think it also reflects our American ideology that says when something is wrong, there’s a pill for that. We are an overmedicated culture. We overmedicate ourselves, our kids, our athletes and even our pets. There are plenty of drugs that are fine and legal in the industry, and it’s that grey area that pulls it farther into the hole of questionable dealings. Maybe we need to eliminate the grey areas -- that harbor the things that are technically illegal but everyone does anyway, or that are legal, but to some still unethical.

Horse racing will not survive if racegoers  think this is the norm. It would be like taking your kids to SeaWorld after watching Blackfish. How could you, knowing what you know now? But horse racing is certainly not SeaWorld and its scandal is not all-encompassing or fundamental to its existence. Horse racing must demonstrate to the people that these are isolated cases, and steps are being taken to fix the problem.

But what steps are being taken? I'm not at all involved enough in the business to know. Perhaps applying a broken windows approach may work – start cleaning up this industry like Giuliani cleaned up the New York City streets. Arrest the vandals and the toll jumpers, and the actual violent crimes organically go down on their own.  I don’t know. It’s my understanding that organizations like The Jockey Club, NTRA, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium Inc. are in place to solve these problems, and I hope that’s true. But I know there is a tangled web of challenges that face the industry – the variation of racing laws from state to state, the power of individual tracks, and the lack of a national commissioner who can take up racing’s problems on a federal level, which has been a recent source of debate. The problems are more deep-rooted than a couple of bad guys mistreating their horses.

But all of that is honestly over my head. So here’s what I do know. The people who make this sport great are the fans. Those crazy, wonderful fans who fall in love with certain horses and follow them like rock stars. The people who study the history books and devour the legacies and lore of this great sport. The people who show up to the races in rain or shine, who weather those freezing Aqueduct wind gusts and the stifling Santa Anita sun. The children who get to pet a horse for the first time. The newbie who wins $20 on a horse he bet just because he liked the name. And of course the countless number of “good guys” in the business. The people who wake up at the crack of dawn and work long, tedious hours because, at the end of the day, they just love the horses and love the sport.

It’s time us good guys stopped diffusing responsibility and take over this sport that is rightfully ours. People who were born into it like myself and everyone who still believes in the enduring magic of horse racing. Start conversations, write letters, form organizations, and by all means, continue to go to the races, root for the horses, and spout the industry’s virtues to whoever will listen. Let’s raise our kids to form fond, idealized memories of their own. People say that horse racing is a dying sport. It can’t die off while we’re all still breathing life into it

131 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Peggy in California

Thank you Mandy for your heartfelt and beautifully expressed thoughts.  I envy your childhood memories of the horses.  Thank you, Steve for giving Mandy the confidence to speak her mind in this time when most people who are connected to the horse racing industry will probably keep their mouths shut to avoid calling attention to themselves by stating the obvious, that there are reforms that need to be made.

25 Mar 2014 6:00 PM
ceil rock

Beautifully written, Mandy.

25 Mar 2014 6:07 PM
Fortune Pending

I see the apple did not fall far from the tree...  Excellent read.  I'm just a fan these days, but every time something "dirty" is made public horse racing dies just a little bit more, and my love of it fades just a little bit.

25 Mar 2014 6:26 PM
Andrew Motion

Brilliantly written. Your daughter's a chip off the old block, Steve. Let's hope the organizations at the head of this industry do the right thing and create some badly needed uniformity in racing regarding rules and medication.

25 Mar 2014 6:29 PM
Meleen Drewery

Thank you, Mandy for giving us this beautifully written tribute to the sport we so dearly love. Thank you, Steve for giving us Mandy.

25 Mar 2014 6:35 PM
Judy G ~ CA

Steve I couldn't agree more with your daughter's assessment: "The reason that horse racing tends to wind up in a hotter seat than these other sports is simple – our athletes don’t have free will."

By the time I got to this part: "The people who make this sport great are the fans. Those crazy, wonderful fans who fall in love with certain horses and follow them like rock stars." I had tears!! I can so relate. I don't care to get an autograph from an actor or a singer or a 2-legged athlete. Give me a horse any day! I love their spirit! Their fight to win! Their soulful eyes! Some have literally given their lives on the race track.

Sitting on the backside and enjoying the beauty of these creatures can make my day any time!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful daughter's thoughts and feelings. The apple doesn't fall from the tree :-)

Auntie Judy aka JAG

25 Mar 2014 6:37 PM
maggi moss

Thank you for the most refreshing, inspirational, and reasonsed article I have read since this madness started. I have felt many times in the past days, to "throw in the towel",  give up,  sprit broken-   this refreshed me and I love it.   Thank you Mandy

25 Mar 2014 6:40 PM
joe perrotta

Great piece, you both should be proud.

25 Mar 2014 6:41 PM
Lmaris

A good place to start would be to adopt and implement the banned substances database of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the equestrian sports' ruling body.  Would make the statement that performance PED's are not a part of Thoroughbred racing more than a polite fiction.

25 Mar 2014 6:43 PM
JorgeG

Woooow!!!! #TeamMandy

25 Mar 2014 6:54 PM
Alydar78

Thanks, Steve, for sharing this beautiful piece.  I rarely comment on anything I read, but felt compelled to do so here.  My first experience with racing was when I cheered for Snow Chief to win the Kentucky Derby in 1986, and that was only because the newstand in Santa Monica ran out of Horse Illustrated, so I bought a Bloodhorse instead.  I've spent the last several years wishing I were lucky enough to be more than just a racing fan.  And like your daughter, have had to defend the sport more times than I wished were necessary.  After managing to make a fan out of my fiancee, I found myself without an answer when he questioned my loyalty to this sport...after this incident.  So discouraging.

25 Mar 2014 7:06 PM
Delrene

Thank you Mandy.  Your insight is very helpful at this extremely sad time in racing.  I will remain a fan of thoroughbred racing, but I will be haunted by Nehro's story and hope many positive measures are forthcoming  to improve racing.  His sad story  and untimely demise hopefully will not be in vain.  I loved him and traveled to Oaklawn to watch him race the following year after his 2nd in the KD.  You have written a beautiful guest editorial.

25 Mar 2014 7:07 PM
tjconway

Nice article,Mandy. It seems this industry can't catch a break on anything lately. Let it be knownst to all trainers and backstretch workers,you are now under a microscope with spies, security cameras,etc. Act accordingly.....the "horses" will appreciate it!

25 Mar 2014 7:08 PM
Salvatore Carcia

When Kentucky decided to have state vets administer race day lasix, it resulted in an interesting side affect. Post race testing showed there was an overall reduction of drugs in the horses' systems. Dr. Scollay, KHRC medical director, attributed this to that some trainers didn't know the rules and others thought compliance was option.

There is the solution right there. Just make it clear that compliance is not optional. This can be done by having people around the backside keeping an eye on things. I have a feeling it will require only a small investment to get the point across. In policing, they call it 'fixing the broken windows'.

25 Mar 2014 7:13 PM
rpkelly55

Obviously, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  (Which is a compliment to both Steve AND Mandy!)  Brilliantly written.  From those of us who aren't as articulate, but still feel as passionately as you do, a very sincere THANK YOU.

25 Mar 2014 7:23 PM
Throwback

Excellent, excellent article

25 Mar 2014 7:27 PM
Fran

Well, the apple didn't fall far from the tree Steve.  Beautifully written from the heart from an awesome young lady.  And, she is right on the money!

25 Mar 2014 7:31 PM
Equitable

Stunning writing and in my estimation, covered the issues emotionally, intellectually and powerfully. A Haskin at work for sure - it runs in the family. Thank you.

25 Mar 2014 7:32 PM
pabred

Please remember most horseman do take care of their horses.  Only the bad get written about.  As for Asmussen, I still have not seen anything in the video illegal.  Like when the vet says the horses foot has no pulse.  That is actually good.  It means there is nothing wrong with the hoof.  If there is something wrong, the body will have a strong digital pulse to the hoof.  So many mistaken things in life  Blasi, is another thing.  Good riddens.  Would never hire him to be around my horses.  

25 Mar 2014 7:35 PM
lysa slater

I have been an avid fan of horseracing since I was 10 years old, watching Secretariat barrel down that Belmont stretch.  I have never placed a bet or been to the track, but I have spent lots of money over the years buying all sorts of racing merchandise (books, posters and photographs of my favorite track heroes).  

I watch all the big races on TV and I'm probably influenced to buy products that are advertised on these network events.  I have been reading Steve Haskin's columns for many years and read the headlines at bloodhorse.com everyday.  I avidly follow and enjoy all the hoopla of The Kentucky Derby Trail.  In short, I am a fan.  Just a basic fan.  

I know very little of what is involved in caring for race horses or what is or is not the norm for things like bleeding lungs and lack of feet.  I can safely say, as the outsider I am, that what PETA has apparently shown the light on is absolutely horrifying to me and I bet it is to most fans of my ilk.  I know that no one is guilty until proven, but I wasn't aware that the care of these beautiful animals is so filled with peril and dishonesty.  I thought horse racing was as beautiful as it looks on TV.  

Somehow I was able to overlook the tragedies of Ruffian, Go For Wand, Barbaro, and Eight Belles but this situation with PETA's video has forbidden me from looking away.  I can't ignore what has so blatantly been put right in front on my innocent horse loving face.  I am saddened that I have to know these ugly truths.  I feel sure there are many others like me.  

Until 2 or 3 days ago I had never posted a comment on this site, certainly never on Haskin's revered blog.  In terms of my devotion to horse racing, I am not sure what I will do next.  I know that I would love to see change come to this sport that I so enjoy, but I am not sure that I want to watch a sport that doesn't or won't govern itself to protect its most important asset.  I am not sure that it is morally right for me to enjoy the magnificence of the highest echelons of racing knowing what might be going on behind the scenes.  And by continuing to watch and enjoy, am I condoning the evildoers in this sport?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions but I sure wish I wasn't having to wonder about them.  I so wish the sport of thoroughbred racing had never allowed things to get to this point.  

My innocence as a fan is gone, and perhaps this fan is gone too.

25 Mar 2014 7:44 PM
John from Baltimore

When the top trainers are all giving their horses a daily dose of bronciodialators and thyroid medicine, legal or not, it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys for the general public.

25 Mar 2014 7:54 PM
LINDA MARIE

MANDY YOU ARE DEFINITELY A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK ...BEAUTIFUL!

25 Mar 2014 8:06 PM
Sandy in Lexington

Mandy, I found myself with cold chills reading this beautiful, heartfelt view on horse racing. I have been to the track in all kinds of weather over the years just to hear the thunder, feel the earth shake as those magnificent, majestic Thoroughbreds come charging down the stretch. Everyone wants that magical moment of winning, but it is much sweeter when it is a good, honest win and not at the hand of greed. May we continue to have the love of racing in our souls and may others be influenced by our enthusiasm. Thanks again, Mandy!

25 Mar 2014 8:08 PM
Judith Berube

Very well written article by Ms. Haskin; passionate and spot on. The horses are everything. Without them there is no Industry. It's time for NTRA, The Jockey Club, Horseman's Associations and owners and trainers to step up and make sure the necessary changes are made to protect the horses and, in so doing, save the sport of racing. I have been a racing fan all of my life, but first and foremost a fan of the horses. They are beautiful, majestic, living beings. Whether they are Stakes runners or low level Claimers, they should be properly cared for and treated with respect. As Ms. Haskin so clearly states, the horses do not have a choice. It's up to the owners/trainers and the Industry to make a commitment to protect them and put their welfare first. JB

25 Mar 2014 8:16 PM
LindaVA

Beautifully written and heartfelt.  Thank you Steve, for sharing Mandy's thoughts with us.

25 Mar 2014 8:19 PM
Mister Frisky

Looks like the Derby Dozen will be in good hands when Steve hangs it up.

25 Mar 2014 8:30 PM
TheBarnRules

Beautifully said.

I am curious if anyone that "reviewed the video" reviewed the unedited version of the seven hours of videotape (and I'm betting that that 7 hours is highly edited as well) or just the bits and pieces picked out by PETA. While no one should or does condone cruelty or illegal actions, context is everything.

And how ironic is it that PETA, an organization that not only kills 97 percent of the animals it takes in, even the ones it admits are adoptable, but supports horse slaughter (tinyurl.com/83tef56), is behind this?

25 Mar 2014 8:41 PM
Paddy

Like father,like daughter. You are both amazing writers who know how to get your opinions and feelings on paper.I am with you heart and soul. The good, caring people can save racing. It will take a lot of determination and hard work, but those are the  qualities that separate the true horsemen and women from the ones who have created this horrible crisis.  

25 Mar 2014 8:47 PM
Abigail Anderson

Mandy: You have expressed so much of what I feel and am feeling about horse racing over the last several years -- since I've had the time to come back to the passion of my life when I was a little girl, teenager and young woman. My grandfather's life was about horses -- standardbreds -- and I grew up knowing the horsemen in the small town where my grandparents lived and their horses, as well as the champion mare who remained the centre of my grandfather's life until he died. In my world (as C.W. Anderson so aptly said) "Horses are folks." But they were so much more than that -- they were majestic, interesting, noble, courageous and gentle creatures (well, most of them, in the latter case). Before I turned ten I had fallen hopelessly in love. Thoroughbreds came into my life because my grandfather adored them and knew all of their stories: Man O' War and Will Harbut, Count Fleet and Johnny (Longden), Gallant Fox, Sande and Sunny Jim. It was years before I realized that he had learned about these and so many other thoroughbreds by listening to the radio, reading the Saturday Evening Post as well as racing magazines and by going off to the local "cinema" to watch newsreels that showed some of them in real time ("real time" by the standards of the early decades of the last century). I won't deny that, as a young woman, I was a racing romantic. It's an honourable profession and, as you point out, the home of many a racing fan -- without whom there would be no sport. But those days are gone and the sport is suffering for many of the reasons you cite. It suffers because the horses suffer and although horses endured much of what we read about today since racing first started in England, today we have a public media so quick that it sometimes seems as though there really are no happy horses or great horsemen and - women at all. Because when news breaks like the story of last week, it pours down on our heads like a torrent, making it tough to remember the Nick Zitos, Graham Motions, John Shirreffs and Sir Henry Cecils who are far more representative of the sport than those who make headlines for unseemly conduct and practices. Like you, I find myself defending the sport to most of my friends, while knowing how masterfully the (non-racing) press has done its job in convincing them that racing horses is a modern-day version of bloodthirsty spectator sports of Ancient Rome. A few years back, a certain man you know very well, encouraged me to make my own statement about loving thoroughbreds and the sport. And I took his advice. It's my way of making a small contribution that honours all the great people who live and work with thoroughbreds and that honours the proud past of thoroughbred racing here and around the world. As you say, I (with the support of you-know-who) decided to sit up, speak and be counted. I have never regretted the decision. And in starting THE VAULT: Horse racing past and present I also owe a debt of gratitude to the first Big Red, to Count Fleet, to Secretariat and Flanders and Terlingua and Barbaro and Giant's Causeway and Rachel and Zenyatta and Animal Kingdom and So You Think and Black Caviar and Frankel and St. Nicholas Abbey....... I write for them, and for all those hard-working thoroughbreds and their people who may never become household names. Mandy -- I applaud the courage, passion, intellect and conviction of this "call to arms." It was also a privilege to read your work because it makes me feel that I am not alone in believing that we can make racing in North America a better place if we make the commitment and act. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

25 Mar 2014 8:57 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mandy

   You have an all encompassing, perceptive, compassionate view of the world and the ability to express it just as your father has.

   You're not the little girl anymore that we've seen in the photos that Steve has shown us in many of his articles, that show you with the horses where your love and joy of the horses is felt by us even through a photo just as it is now from your eloquent and passionate words.

   I hope that we can work harder, all of us involved with the sport at any level to make the changes we need to make so that the horses are safer, healthier, and well taken care of in every way during and after their racing careers. Let's give them the care they deserve. They give us majestic and highly athletic performances, and work very hard to get to the point where they can compete at the highest athletic level, and I believe that most of them love doing that, and that most do have good lives that they otherwise would not have but let's try to make sure all of them are treated good at any level of racing, the kings and queens to the paupers. They bring us many magical moments. Let's return the favor to the best of our ability.

  My belief is that we should have a zero percent tolerance of any abuse of any animal. If we can come close to that, then my greatest dream in my life will come true.

25 Mar 2014 8:57 PM
mendy mendenhall

Thank you, Mandy.  So well written and meaningful!

25 Mar 2014 9:10 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I've always liked and respected Ahmed Zayat and liked what he had to say about the PETA video controversy, especially what he said about transparency. That is something we must strive for.

25 Mar 2014 9:12 PM
Machmer Hall

After I finished reading this I sat at my keyboard and cried.  It was as the words were spoken from my mind and put into the most touching, honest way of ever being said.  It is those of us that cannot sleep for months after a young foal dies or are distraught looking into the sad eyes of a 26 yr old old pensioned mare that ran in the Breeders Cup, paid half the mortgage with her foals and daughters coming to the end of her life.  It is those of us that love what we do that are workaholics but do not consider it work and teach our children about how special animals are.  I cannot tell you how many times I break down in tears over the accomplishments and will of some horses.  I remember when Smarty Jones won the Preakness (we had his half sister at the time) I was so overcome, it took me a while to calm down from sheer admiration of his will and drive.  It is every day at the farm looking at the yearlings and watching them run laps in the field just to run.  It starts when they are at the foot of their mothers, playing miniature match races all while having great bucks and kicks and loving the existence that they have.  You see, without thoroughbred racing, there would be no thoroughbred.. or very few.  Most of the show hunter world has gone the slower, warmblood way and keeping up with a thoroughbred's fast metabolism is a hefty grain bill comparatively to most breeds.  I think that this is one of the most eloquent, beautiful letters that I have ever read about the industry that I have not "worked" a day in my life in. Steve and I have shared years or stories back and forth regarding the Ky Derby and raising these horses.  Our common thread, and obviously mine with Mandy too, is the shared passion and love for these creatures.  We just had another new colt born tonite and with that comes happiness, joy and a future full of hope and racing across the giant fields of Ky before he heads to the big show.  In a sea of sadness lately, whether it has been lost planes, mud slides or PETA videos, this single honest and candid assessment of what makes horse racing special and different but, also addressing that change must happen, has lifted my heart.  Mandy speaks what so many of us feel and I am thankful for her to put it into words.  I certainly know now the apple does not fall far from the tree.  

25 Mar 2014 9:14 PM
mike brown

Time for Steve to retire and for Mandy to take over!

25 Mar 2014 9:27 PM
Kate Corcoran

Wonderful... Above the sound and the fury Mandy's voice rings loud and clear and speaks to all of us who grew up loving the sport as she does. Let this be a legacy to the history and the horses that made this sport great. It is a legacy worth fighting for. Thank you Steve and thank you Mandy!

25 Mar 2014 9:27 PM
spitting the bit

Amen!  I too find myself defending Horse Racing, and having worked on the backstretch I have memories that I wish I could forget.  Nothing too harsh, but I wish that I had stood up and yelled just a little harder and louder...worked for small animal vets as well, and the same wish that I could have made some form of difference besides leaving the "business".  

25 Mar 2014 9:31 PM
Danette

Awesome.  You are your father's daughter.  Thank you for sharing your beautifully put thoughts.

25 Mar 2014 9:35 PM
Paula Higgins

Mandy, you captured perfectly everything that is both right and wrong about this sport. Like you, I have been asked more than once "How can you support such a cruel sport?" I am a card carrying member of the ASPCA, no joke, so it seems at odds with everything I believe. But it isn't. As you said so well, the horses love to run. It is part of their reason for being. A horse in fill run is the most beautiful sight in the world, bar none. The great horses know they are special and to see them in their magnificence after a winning race is the most exhilarating experience I have ever had in sports. There is not a sport in the world that can compete with it. Trainers and owners who put horses out on the track have a significant responsibility to them and when they fall short, especially deliberately so, the horse racing powers that be and the fans, need to hold them accountable. It is the only way that this sport will ever change. There are many trainers that would NEVER deliberately hurt their horses or put their horses at risk. We all know who they are I think. But when horses are being mistreated or decisions are made not in their best interest, the sport needs to have a centralized body capable of dealing appropriately with the parties involved. Horse racing doesn't really have that and it is a shame. It is part of the reason why the general public and people like Joe Drape are so down on the sport in general. Also, when you see some of the postings by long time horse racing bettors and followers on the internet defending the offending behaviors. It makes us look very shabby indeed, which is why we need voices like yours to speak up for those  who can't speak for themselves-the horses.

25 Mar 2014 9:58 PM
Paula Higgins

P.S. You and your wife should be very proud Steve.

25 Mar 2014 9:59 PM
Azeri1

It is a great sport to grow up with and it has something for everyone.Thank you Mandy for writing this for your father,who like so many of us, has had a very rocky week and and helping us all to remember why we got "hooked" in the first place.

A great chance to reflect on why we should be celebrating the best and working to change the worst.

Thank you Steve for sharing your daughter's sincere thoughts with us.

25 Mar 2014 10:02 PM
Bloodline Bob

Mandy Haskin, thank you for taking the time to write a very insightful observation of the current pulse of the horse racing industry. That being said, I would like to put my name in for nomination to be the 1st U.S. Horse Racing Commissioner to implement the SOLUTIONS to all of the PROBLEMS that are currently facing the horse racing sport. It might be called the Sport Of Kings BUT without the thousands of "peasants" like us there would NOT be a Sport For The Kings. Sincerely, Robert B. Antonelli willing and able to be your 1st United States Horse Racing Commissioner.

25 Mar 2014 10:03 PM
Deltalady

Brava, Mandy! Thank you for your heartfelt, reasoned and inspirational thoughts on the latest crisis to face our beloved sport. For the briefest of moments lately I toyed with the thought that I might not watch the Derby this year. What's the use of keeping up with the contenders for the Derby as well as the Oaks, and beyond to the rest of the Triple Crown races. I just cannot abide the thought that Bob Costas and his idiot producers will chew on this bone and gnaw it to pieces. Then, I read your piece, Mandy, and realized that I'm not alone in my sadness and melancholy over the latest racing scandal. One of my favorite quotes comes to mind in this situation:  "All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  As a fan, I can't do a lot, but I can be one of the ones helping to "breathe life into it!" Thank you for reminding me of this.  

25 Mar 2014 10:08 PM
Ta Wee

Mandy,

Very well said, just like your dad.

25 Mar 2014 10:21 PM
Steven Davidowitz

Much appreciate the breath and depth of your commentary, Mandy.

Wish it were easy to convince the officials and active participants that major reforms are not only needed, but so long overdue, that the failure to act is a potential death sentence to this great sport - -the most intellectually challenging gambling game man has ever invented.

Some of us with public forums have written countless columns on what can be done, what should be done and what sadly remains undone. It is extremely frustrating.

Columns written 20 years ago could be laid in fresh type with the same issues, the same suggested remedies, with the same problems still hanging over the sport's present and future.

State Agencies that control the way the sport is supervised in separate jurisdictions are one of the biggest problems.

Frankly, so much inaction and lip service through the years has left only one realistic alternative to break through the stubborn resistance that each alphabet organization in each state poses: An active federal presence.

While good arguments can be posed to sidestep that seemingly ineffectual alternative, Federal intervention what we citizens have left to deal with such interstate, difficult problems where state agencies and groups formed within individual states fight against reforms Actually all particpants would benefit from a healthy, safe, fairly run racing game.

To survive - -for Thoroughbred Racing in America to reach safe ground and re-acquire the public esteem it once upon a time earned and deserved - -nothing short of Federal inquiries, congressional hearings and a near-nationalization of the various factions seem inevitable, if not welcome.

I fear the recent scandal will perculate into worse before it gets better on its own.

So, if horseplayers and sincere horsepeople want to see real change, they must approach their legal representatives in Congress to step forward, not to take aim and politically use the sport as a scapegoat, but to help rescue it, help rescue a multi billion dollar business-sport with agricultural links and hundreds of years of history.

We can hope for the best, but we must act to get the best to actually occur.

Steve Davidowitz

25 Mar 2014 10:34 PM
tdodsonpoa

Steve, you are so right. What can we do?i don't know the powerful morally ethical people that can change things. How do we support them?

25 Mar 2014 10:52 PM
Windolin

Mandy,

This brought tears to my eyes it was so beautifully written with such heartfelt emotion and love for these amazing, amazing creatures that "God gave to us because he wanted us to be happy". You have expressed the thoughts that have been in my heart for the past few days. Thank you for putting all this into a perspective that inspires us to move past this horrible ideal...all for the love of horses.

25 Mar 2014 11:12 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you so much, everyone, for your your beautiful and heartfelt comments. We all appreciate them very much. As far as the apple not falling far from the tree. Mandy's mom actually is a taller tree than I am. I'm content to be No. 3 in our family when it comes to writing.

25 Mar 2014 11:17 PM
sceptre

It seems to me that, as a starting point, these are the broad questions and issues that should be tackled:

1. What ARE the REALITIES of life for the thoroughbred racehorse, from birth through maturity and eventual death?-A very large topic to address, and includes/not limited to, their inherent needs, the variations in care and housing, etc. provided them, the TRUE physiologic/anatomic risks associated with their training and racing...and much more. Do we not owe it to them to get at these truths, rather than rely on wishful or rationalized hopes that the superficial or anecdote mirrors the reality?

2. Given we have reached all answers in (1); do we find them to be morally acceptable, or not? And if not, is it reasonably possible for the Industry to effectuate change such that (1) can become morally acceptable or, rather, is it an inherent impossibility?

25 Mar 2014 11:30 PM
warning drums

Thank you, Mandy, for putting horse-racing magic into words - just like your father does.

Without intending to trivialize abuses that occur in a few barns, I will say to Lysa and anybody who shares her views that nobody should consider the PETA video as evidence of anything. It is manipulative and manipulated. As somebody who is involved in horse racing and who also teaches film and media studies, I am more alarmed by the obviously misleading video than I am by what it purports to portray.

25 Mar 2014 11:36 PM
Kelly Wietsma

I've had the pleasure of spending time with Mandy on a few occasions and her beauty inside and out is now matched by her beautiful prose.  During times like this, when so many of us feel beaten up by an industry that is so fragmented and broken it’s difficult at times to find the strength to march on.  Mandy’s words reinforce my love for these beautiful, majestic creatures and the passion and drive to keep fighting!  Steve…you and Joan must be so proud!

25 Mar 2014 11:36 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve: This is a very nice article ...well written and quite stimulating. I perceive the author's pedigree ...bred-in-the-purple ...especially on the 'dam's' side (LOL). You deserve to be a proud dad.

25 Mar 2014 11:37 PM
Mahuba

Like another fan who has commented, I am afraid of racing being spoiled for me.  I watched Native Dancer, Northern Dancer, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Ruffian and so many more great thoroughbreds...In the last 10 years I began watching all sorts of races with "ordinary" thoroughbreds.  These are magnificent, brave horses; they are my first love.  My mind managed to minimize any abuses that I read about, to believe it was in just a minority of cases--until now.  The Peta investigation has managed to freak me out; last Saturday and Sunday I couldn't bring myself to watch any races but a couple of stakes.  And I found myself wondering about those two.  I hope "the bloom is not off the rose" permanently for me.  I got enthused for a little while after I read Mandy's article.  It is beautiful!  But ultimately, I don't have as the same faith in my fellow man as Mandy does.  It seems that every undertaking that involves our fellow men ends up corrupted one way or another.  I feel helpless as a fan.  What can I do to help?  Sign petitions?  Write articles?  We had too many articles written;  they certainly seem useless.  It seemed that even Arthur Hancock didn't get listened to.  If we can't trust racing's regulatory bodies to police the sport, who can we trust?  Who else has the power to do it?  The government?  Wouldn't that be a mess!  The corruption would just spread to a lot of politicians.  Great!  Please guys, let's get it together, or we will lose this wonderful sport!  I know I won't be able to bear it much longer if it continues the way it is---

25 Mar 2014 11:43 PM
Dr Max

Thank you, Mandy, for reminding me of all of the good I love and enjoy about horse-racing! But its time now in the start of this century to move the sport and industry forward by cleaning-up the corruption at all levels. One way to do this is for all of the major organizations in the industry to recognize we need a strong, committed, and visionary leader to  become the Commissioner of the sport. A person who has a love for the sport, horses, and its history. A person who recognizers that the owners and horse-players fund the industry and, therefore, they must not be defrauded in any way by any illegal manipulation of races or maltreatment of horses. Let's create - if we done have one - or implement, revise, and update if we do - a Code of Conduct for trainers and jockeys and a Code of Ethics for the entire industry. And let's make sure violations of these codes and standards are pursued and consequences meted-out - even for minor violations and  "3-strkes and you're out!" policy. NOW IS THE TIME. The horse-racing industry cannot wait any longer. Already some  horse-players and owners are leaving the sport. The industry cannot afford to lose many more! Here's hoping something will be done this time!

25 Mar 2014 11:51 PM
BelmontBarb

For Steve and Mandy....

A fairly new participant and contributor to the this site, I was compelled to comment several weeks ago and warmly welcomed by your Dad - Thank you Steve! ~(for years I received The Bloodhorse publication along with Fasig-Tipton catalogs, etc., via the USPS). I never thought I would be posting anything ~ anywhere.  Moved by so many wonderful works of your father, I convinced myself to conform to this new technical navigation and handy tool and to no longer be silent when I am sparked by stories and comments ~ in this case, yours.

Mandy, I relate very well to your outstanding and passionate editorial and again deeply moved as I am touched by the description of the days past in the thoroughbred world of racing. I too, was introduced to racing at a prime and delicate young age and the opportunity to be part of the industry.  I have felt the warm breath of a horse and the smell of sweet infused hay and perfumed breezes; walked shed rows of herringbone as they raise their heads up and down in sync with ears pinned straight up, alert and welcoming and waiting for feed and anxious to leave their stall...and to the track filled with glamour and gloves.  I can not remember ever attending a Belmont without a hat (even now, I hold the traditions)and insist those close to me do the same in honor of these magnificent masterpieces of moving sculpture and spirit.

It is beyond belief that any individual would mistreat them or even a jack-russell terrier for that matter. If we think about the negative aspects of the racing world (let alone our world) we could not possibly make way for the good as our bitterness would let us faulter rather than rise. This does not mean we should paint a picture of perfection (it certainly is not). It simply means that we must do more to prevent the same thing from happening again or anything else or of the sort. We must make every effort to correct the incorrect and pick up the slack of those that have failed in their responsibilties and they must be held accountable no matter at what level they participate. Overlooking is welcoming to error after error and opportunity to opportunists be it PETA or the media (even in OUR lives, families and homes). We must not be the enabler by being ignorant of the facts and realities but rather we must learn and be knowledgeable so we just do not accept.  

Thus, I want to thank you for your perfect text of touching and intelligent thought and for your input of suggestion to promote the motivation of all that love the "Sport of Kings" to be pro-active in the process to save it for generations to come. (You can't feel that breath, smell that breeze with your apps - this is the real stuff!) It is our responsiblity to retain the beauty and benefits of the sport and to the best of our ability without error and hardship.  There are many fine people in this business and many fine fans.  The attempt of those to tarnish it is intolerable.

Also,

I want to thank you Steve for posting Mandy's beautiful work...Passion is what is lacking in this world of synthetic production and more of it is what we need. Sharing Mandy's - sincere "Letter of Love"  supports the fact that it exist and that there is always hope...

25 Mar 2014 11:53 PM
marapace

Very well written and of no surprise as we have enjoyed her writing in the past. Much I agree with and like many, sadly, my 'idea' of racing has been changed over the years too. If I didn't have and race horses myself (standardbreds), I would have had a very hard time with the video, even though I know about PETA and its extremist, terrorist type radical news grabbing behavior. That being said, are there some bad apples in the sport, yes. I do think they are few and far between though and need to be dealt with in a more firm and timely means (Dutrow springs to mind). I also think there are folks that talk trash but its just talk, remember John P. Campo, Sr.? I agree with no race day medication. Horses survived in this sport for hundreds of years on good old fashion hay, oats and water, good training and sound breeding practices before the legalization of race day medications. Uniform policies have been too slow in implementation and the last time a central governing body was attempted, it was a miserable failure that has cost us dearly.  The owners are the ones that need to correct this. Fact is, without the horses racing, which the owners can control, nothing else can exist, not the betting, not the tracks, et al. After watching the video, some things to consider for those that don't have race horses, horses in general and unfamiliar with some of the practices used. Several of the 'medications' test, so doubt being used on race day or days leading up, such as the Acepromazine aka ACE, which is a sedative used for calming and in some cases will actually act as a tranquilizer. One of the tubes appeared to be wormer and one was a bute mix (similar to Motrin). Frankly didn't see anything that screamed red flag, no snake venom and not anything I don't have in my own medicine cabinet for emergencies. The horse being injected, probably has a lameness issue that they are attempting to locate or pinpoint, which is usually done by blocking the joints starting at the lowest joint and working up, which is what it appears to me as to what is being done as its the same horse being 'stuck' in different legs/joints. To an inexperienced eye, it can be implied as something else. Injecting joints is tricky business and generally counter productive as once they have been injected, you usually have to keep doing it which increases the risk of injury and infection and lowers the value of the horse. The discussion on the buzzers we have no idea if it was 40 years ago or yesterday as there is no context but most likely from the bush tracks of long ago. I do have concerns about some of the comments made by Blasi, but again as we dont have the whole contexts of the discussion and as the person taping supposedly was in a relationship with the guy, asking a bunch of questions and egging him on, who knows how much of this is real or frustrated smack talk? There probably is some truth to it but how much and what, we probably will never know as sure much was edited and rest wont be discussed. My hope is that rather then the knee jerk lip service we normally get, there will actually be some good change come out of this. National Governing body, uniform rules, no race day medications and while were dreaming, horse microchipped with all medical data from foaling date to retirement and only authorized veterinarians allowed to administer therapeutic meds and procedures. In the mean time, hopefully everyone is doing their part to keep our sport healthy and alive

26 Mar 2014 12:02 AM
horseontherun

That is a heart warming essay about the love of the game. Thank you.

As you say the fans have to take action, the only way any action will be meaningful is either by boy cutting the sport till there are rules and regulations and someone or some entity that can hold trainers owners and tracks accountable; or the fans can write their representative in congress. For me the owners are guilty here they are ultimately responsible for their horses and they should be held accountable and not allowed to weasel out by claiming ignorance, because they are lying when they do that, no exception.

There was a time when owners were responsible respectable men and women that visited their racing stables and looked at every horse and got an honest report from their trainers and grooms. There was a time when owners would not even contemplate giving a horse any drug unless the animal was sick. Since the mid 1990s all this disappeared, new owners came into the game for the wrong reasons, and most of them rarely visit their horses and spend the day on the backstretch. They buy horses on the advice of specialists and breeding catalogues, they rarely buy a horse because they fell in love with it. There is no spark between owner and horse. I really put a lot of the blame on owners more than trainers or anyone else under their employ. They should be more responsible towards their property and not be hypocrites and claim ignorance after the fact. We need all to be proactive, but it must start with the owner, the fan has little influence except to walk away.

26 Mar 2014 12:06 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I vote for Mandy Haskin for President of a newly formed Ethics in Racing Oversight Committee- EROC. Or something to that effect. Paid for by the fans through proceeds deducted from racetrack betting profits, and donations. Non-profit but with salaried employees and volunteers. Money can be used to help with horse's retirement care, and toward medication reforms and quality of care. I'd like to see more grazing fields and less stall time, and I don't see any reason why horses that don't need lasix and other meds should be getting them when they can be harmful to the developing muscular-skeletal system. Would you give the same drugs to your teenage kids when their bones and muscles are trying to develop?

26 Mar 2014 12:15 AM
joseph alva

Congratulations and many thanks for such a poignant and heartfelt article.  The passion so many of us have for the sport due to its edifying life-giving traits will always prevail over the indifference of those who partake in it for merely utilitarian purposes.  Thanks, Mandy, as well as you, Steve, for sharing your passion and stirring ours.      

26 Mar 2014 12:30 AM
joseph alva

Mandy, I encourage you to write more on racing in the future -- most of us would certainly welcome it.  And by the way, Steve, don't even think about giving it up anytime soon!

26 Mar 2014 12:32 AM
Rechelle

I think we're all forgetting that the organization that is behind all of this is PETA, who has publicly, vehemently and repeatedly stated that they are strongly opposed to horse racing.  Also, there is no evidence that Steve himself has done anything he's being accused of. Trainers often leave their assistant trainers in charge at a barn while they travel, they aren't there 24/7 to monitor them, especially when it's a long time assistant like Blasi.  I work in the industry and have had the opportunity to not only meet, with work with, the Asmussen family and I cannot for a minute believe that Steve would do what he's accused of. Perhaps his brother, but not him.  

Remember y'all, PETA went after Larry Jones when Eight Belles broke down after the Kentucky Derby.  PETA would rather see us workers get killed than a horse step foot on a racetrack.  They do not value people, they never get their facts right and I give no credence to anything that they say.  They are prejudiced and since they couldn't destroy Larry Jones, they are now taking aim at a highly successful trainer in Steve.  Let's not cast blame on Steve for something that Blasi did.  There is, from what I've read and heard from Steve's employees, no proof that he did anything wrong.

26 Mar 2014 2:32 AM
Ernie Arnold

This is wonderful and I sincerely hope that every person in a position to make change happen reads it. You expressed what I think, but you said it much better than me.

Thanks Mandy.

26 Mar 2014 2:45 AM
ksweatman9

I too was "born into the sport". My father had a love for horses that he took to his grave. A huge picture of Secretariat was put on the wall at the foot of dad's bed when he was in his final days. The last words I whispered to him before he died in my arms was "You're going to see all the great ones run again, daddy." That being said, my father was a very simple modest man who wasn't material minded. He worked with thoroughbreds, never hit the big time, his wealth was spiritual. Dad was the type of person who would never risk harming a horse for financial gain, and he died a blue collar worker. Monetary success escaped him. When people are at the top of their game and their success is paid for with horse flesh, abuses are going to take place, far more than we'd like to admit to ourselves. Greed has inundated society as a whole. In this game the horses pay for greed. Unfortunately, not all owners are like the Zayats. Horse racing to me is a sport, exciting, blood pumping, heart stopping, rich in history, Americana, it has no equal. To many it's a business, no more no less. That's the difference. Scandals like this serve to further diminish the once respected sport. It's painful to watch. The damage is irreversible, the sadness profound. Thank you for the article, Mandy.

26 Mar 2014 3:49 AM
prudofrompuertorico

I don't know how to translate this, in my spanish speaking country we say "HIJO DE GATO CAZA RATONES" meaning that as we also say in horse language "Blood lines show up" Excellent!!

26 Mar 2014 8:12 AM
TygartValley

Perfect.  Bloodhorse readers should share on their Facebook page and Tweet.  Let's get the world to see Horse racing in a positive light as it truly exists.

26 Mar 2014 8:17 AM
greyfel

Mandy, your article says what many of us feel. As a fan of racing since the 50's, I have watched some of the greats thunder down the track. It is sometimes heart wrenching, sometimes exhilarating, but always a thrill. I have been a fan of all of the horses, some of the jockeys,some of the owners and some of the trainers. I strongly support the idea of a National Commission on Horse Racing that will have the authority to govern this great sport. In light of the ASSmussen/Blasi scandal, this is something that must happen and soon. This is an idea that must come to fruition in order to protect the fantastic athletes that are the Thoroughbred horse. In protecting them, we also protect the jockeys that ride them.Thank you again for your very excellent article.If racing does not listen to its fans, it will be doomed to extinction at some point.

26 Mar 2014 8:18 AM
Gollykeeper

Mandy, you have your father's gift for putting into words what others feel but have trouble articulating. This is a beautiful call to arms to ALL fans to stand up for horse racing and effectuate the change that will be forced on the sport by PETA and others if we don't take ownership ourselves. The most important point you made is that the heart and soul of racing, the horses, have no voice of their own. Therefore our responsibility, whether we work in the industry or just enjoy watching thoroughbreds run without ever placing a bet, is to be their voice in whatever way we can.

26 Mar 2014 8:23 AM
Alicia McQuilkin

Wow! Brilliantly said. Thank you.

I don't know enough about the business to know what groups are brainstorming to counteract PETA's accusations, but I think it's up to every fan and every "good guy" to be the best of this sport now. We have to choose our words carefully. Being callus or matter-of-fact towards injured animals is going to do a lot of damage. This isn't like other sports. Case in point: I am a huge Iowa State fan, when one of our star players got injured at the end of the 64-round game last Friday and it was announced he'd broken his foot and be out through the tournament, the announcers were throwing around phrases like "common injury...all you have to do is take one bad step". All I could think was while eerily familiar, if anyone in racing were to say something like that, they'd be put through the wringer by the general public, even if the horse was saved.

So I think it's up to us who love this sport to put pressure on these organizations, say WE want change, we need change. And if you live in a state, as I do, not at the center of medication reform, implore them to get on board.

26 Mar 2014 9:20 AM
SandyLoam

Ms. Haskin's essay is great in that it touches on all of the important issues surrounding this scandal and we appreciate  the shout out to the fans, a hugely neglected part of the game. My only concern is that it might have been worded too nicely to give the lords of racing a good ol' Man o' War kick in the head. :-) This incident, and many others, have clearly shown that "the bible of horse racing" has no compunction about contributing mightily to the head-in-the-sand attitude that is killing racing. Only Beyer has the desire to speak out, often advocating for the fans. With all that money, he can't be fired. Perhaps someone at Blood-Horse can don the banner. Ms. Haskin, I get the feeling your  experience is weighted on the backside, but we also need advocacy for the fans and the way the sport is run as a business. That is equally shameful. When the top two organizations in the industry publicly blaspheme their own sport, why should we care? Nevertheless, your essay should be required reading for everyone even remotely connected with horses and racing.

26 Mar 2014 9:22 AM
Mandy Haskin

I can't possibly thank you all enough for this outpouring of emotion, opinions, and of course praise :-) I'm so deeply touched by your words and overwhelmed by the passion you all demonstrate for this sport. Spread these conversations and impassioned ideas like wildfire across the industry and who knows what could happen. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

26 Mar 2014 9:24 AM
Melissa P

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, Mandy! Perhaps this time the "uproar" won't just last for a few weeks and things won't go back to the same-old/bad-old with a few truly bad apples spoiling the barrel. Perhaps with the actual action by Zayat Stables, the heartfelt publication of blogs and posts on Facebook, and the scrutiny of, not only the general public, but the organizations who are tasked at protecting our horses and our sport racing can get back on the right "track." I only hope and pray that this happens before it's too late. Sadly, for some of our dear horses, it is already too late.

26 Mar 2014 9:36 AM
PattiKilcullen

Mandy, you absolutely hit the ball out of the park.

26 Mar 2014 9:46 AM
CaroleJ inMN

Oh, wonderfully done.. I hadn't seen this before, so I'm super glad you reposted!  Verry verry well stated.

26 Mar 2014 10:03 AM
Abigail Anderson

I just LOVED reading everyone's comments here. I've already added my voice once, but I wanted to also say something to those who feel discouraged or helpless in changing things: Doing is the best way of saying. As in: aim for one important act that lets you stand up to be counted. By "important" I mean important to you. And that can be as simple as sending Mandy's article off to everyone you know. My professional background is education and I won't bore you with how tough it is to make important changes in classrooms. It's really hard. But if you fixate on that, you don't try at all. As several have pointed out here, last week's events will result in shock and a lot of blah-blah-blah. But that's going to fade. So there needs to be an effort to go beyond reflection to some kind of action -- whatever you can do. Remember the debate over whether or not Zenyatta should get HOTY in 2009? There was SO MUCH "fan write" that even the crustiest of sports writers took notice. It's a small thing, of course, to lobby for HOTY compared to the issues last week's video raises. But the industry and the sport do take notice of what the public does -- or doesn't -- say. And for those of you who think of leaving the sport all together, I certainly respect your reasons. But know that leaving won't change a thing -- except that the horses will have lost another person who cares and cares deeply.

26 Mar 2014 10:18 AM
Dennis Mills

This is the most insightful piece that I have read in months. You represent everything that racing future stands for during this period of renewal. Thank You.

26 Mar 2014 10:25 AM
txhorsefan

What a wonderful commentary, Mandy.  Thank you for speaking from the heart and sharing a point of view that so many of us without a place to voice our concerns (other than comments on a blog) feel also.  Thank you, Steve, for sharing your daughter's very wise words.

26 Mar 2014 10:29 AM
kelly j

Fantastic post!

26 Mar 2014 10:38 AM
steve from st louis

Mandy, my take away from this piece is that to paraphrase (a) you were born with a silver bit in your mouth, that you were exposed to the best era of racing known to man and had an up close and personal experience with the best that racing has to offer. Many of us on this blog followed you from [instamatic camera pictures of you as a baby with Spectacular Bid to later years as an informed young lady and that (b) you are very qualified to recognize the dark, underbelly of the sport and where changes need to be made.

Let's be honest, 99% of the people in love with horse racing are attracted to the mental exercise of gambling (that very famous politically exposed top 1% are there to see if "my homebred can beat your homebred"). If gamblers don't feel there is a level table, they'll abandon racing like rats on a sinking ship and move right next door to the inviting racinos and sports books. Let's hope that never happens but when exposes like PETA's find a news cycle which extends beyond a few days and exposes some of the upper echelon of the sport, the racing "ship" has just sprung a leak.

26 Mar 2014 10:44 AM
Teezee

Thank you Mandy for the nicly written article. I believe if more people like you andd your father were involved in horse racing there would be less of the people who are questioanble in their thoughts and actions towards horses. I myself would like to be an owner and would not tolerate anything that would be detrimental toward my horse or horses. A horse like human a human athlete should not be drugged. If it cannot run or needs rest, that is what should be done. Unfortunately horses cant talk, but I believe those people who know horses and who are responsible for their care, should know whe a horse is not 100%.

That is why owners put their trust in these people and that trust should never be taken lightly.

26 Mar 2014 11:27 AM
Fred and Joan

Thank you for such a good writing Mandy. We became enamored with thoroughbreds the first time we galloped one at the Tillamook county airport 32 years ago. That first thoroughbred we galloped was very willing and we were on a nice grass strip not unlike a good turf course.   We have seen and experienced the good and the bad in the horseracing industry. But have persevered always hoping things will get better. We are SMALL breeders here in Oregon who don't go by #`s alone in deciding which horses will be able to race. We go by the seat of our own pants! That has its hazards in the middle of the homestretch! We have NEVER used a whip or spurs or tied a horse up to 6x8 posts for hours as we have seen many trainers do here in Oregon. We rely on the willingness of a thoroughbred to run, they almost all love to. We hope that some kind of strict enforcement of rules is done as we have seen many, many abuses and we vote for increased observation of outside the industry people to ensure the stopping of the abuse. We hope to see more writings from you Mandy and we hope the Bloodhorse places you in their regular lineup of writers in the future. Fred and Joan.

26 Mar 2014 11:28 AM
lam1970

Thank you, Mandy! The last thing that everyone involved in racing, whether you be a fan or owner or trainer, is to be quiet about this issue. I in no way condone PETA and their practices one bit, to say that what supposedly happened in the Asmussen barn happens in every stable racing-wide is the norm and thus racing should be stopped is beyond ridiculous. That would be like saying all cycling competitions must end because Lance Armstrong doped. As an industry, whether we are a fan or more heavily involved in the sport, we need to make noise. We need to show the non-racing public that a few bad apples are not what we are as a whole. People will focus on the negative, usually, if it's all that they see. Get some positive, beautiful messages out about racing! Highlight the good stuff!! Yes, some not so good things happen in any sport. But racing has a lot more good happening for it than bad.

26 Mar 2014 11:45 AM
Sandy McDonald

Very well said, thank you for putting it so well. I believe a horse should not be given Lasix/Salix on race day unless a proven bleeder. Not because the guy in the next barn is doing it to ALL of his horses, every day. That's ridiculous. Every single horse does not have nasal bleeding. But look at the DRF racing form & track program. Every single horse on the card is racing on it. Pathetic, unnecessary and dangerous to the horses health. Let's make changes & make this sport better, safer & more popular.

26 Mar 2014 11:46 AM
Jennifer Elliott

Absolutely wonderful and incredibly written article!  Mandy has inherited an amazing gift from her dad and I think the racing world needs more of both of them!  Mandy does indeed have such a refreshing perspective and her words brought back so many wonderful early memories of my childhood and my grandparents.  Some of my earliest memories are of Secretariat and trying not only to say his name, but with the same flair as my grandmother did.  He was born one year before me, so "Secretariat" is a mouthful for any two year old!  I truly believe the industry would benefit from Mandy's thought provoking and insightful words!

26 Mar 2014 11:52 AM
Linda in Texas

Mandy - your profound words and expression of your childhood and rearing in the world of horses is priceless. No one can ever take it from you. Run with your hopes, face your fears and with help from your dad and all who of us who follow him and respect him as you do, maybe, just maybe we can save The Sport of Kings. Thank you for giving me some hope that the youngsters will indeed come to the rescue of us oldsters and see that the right thing is done for all horses.  Be proud Steve and Mrs. Haskin and take a bow.

26 Mar 2014 11:59 AM
ruffianruns

Thank you Mandy. I really appreciate this post and feel similarly. One thing with which I disagree: that Thoroughbreds love to run.  I don't think humans know what Thoroughbreds love. We tell ourselves these things, I think, to justify our continued use of them. You summed this up when you distinguished our sport from others. The Thoroughbred, or any racing animal, does not have free-will. Humans said "Hey look I got this fast horse and you have a fast horse. Let's breed them. Humans did all this for their own thrills. And, believe me, racing is a thrill for me. And I love these beautiful creatures. But I don't pretend to know that they love to run.

26 Mar 2014 12:36 PM
JasonR

Bravo!

26 Mar 2014 12:40 PM
Eliza

Mandy, you are some writer! I found your article to be extremely moving and convincing. I am one of those people who fell in love with horse racing at a very tender age. I agree with everything you wrote. Bravo!

26 Mar 2014 12:57 PM
food fight

I just read your daughter Mandy's piece about the problems with horse racing and the attacks it has been enduring and i find it to be a masterpiece of honesty and passion.It was so well written and with such passion that there is nothing i can add to it.I would just like to say to you Mr. Haskin and your daughter thanks for sharing your feelings and it could not have come at a better time.

26 Mar 2014 1:12 PM
monica

Well written, Mandy!  You have expressed many of my own thoughts and sentiments.

To "lysa slater"- I once felt as you described yourself.  But then I had one of those "Aha moments" and I asked myself, "If every horseracing fan/owner/trainer/groom/hot walker, who also happens to be a horse/animal lover, takes the moral high-ground and abandons the sport for ethical reasons, where does that leave the horses? Thats when I was transformed from "Fan" to "fan/activist"!   We need MORE fans who love the horses, not LESS!!  I hope you reconsider!  

26 Mar 2014 1:15 PM
El Kabong

Mandy,

You hit the nail on the head. There are plenty of us crazy fans who have fallen in love with the better side of this sport and this is our wake up call to preserve what is admirable, to understand that we are not perfect as a sport and industry, and to be proactive about our situation so that others may not illuminate us in a shameful state. Your closing words hearken back to the words once spoken by a man who cared enough to put it all on the line when he claimed: "Some men see things as they are and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and say why not? It is up to us fans to demand a voice, to not settle for excuses or allow anyone to participate in such a shameful manner. We all have so much to lose if we don't take the steps to examine our sport and create a check and balance that will hold us to a higher standard. I'm ready to put my mask and cape back on if need be, and sacrifice a guitar or two!(just having fun there). But you are correct. We are the largest group-the fans-we are the grease that turns the wheels, pays the investors, and rewards the industry, we deserve representation if we are going to fill the stands and cheer them on to the winners circle. There is no accolade shiny enough to hide the tarnish of what has been done and we cannot thoroughly enjoy bestowing our loyalty knowing the current situations exists. We, not just Mr. Zayat, have a problem that must be addressed and won't go away no matter how many scapegoats we herd into this current mess. Thank you for thoughts on the subject.

Steve, you'll have to explain the part about the mask, cape and guitars. Thanks.

26 Mar 2014 1:40 PM
Love 'em all

Another 'Haskin classic' thanks to you, Mandy.  I applaud you for your creative writing skills and of your knowledge of this most exciting sport of all ages.  

Sincere thanks to you and to your parents for sharing this with us.  This is definitely a keeper!

26 Mar 2014 1:48 PM
sara futh

thank you, thank you, Mandy and Steve, for putting into words what so many of us are thinking. Please go on writing to help us to work to make things better for the horses we love.

26 Mar 2014 1:55 PM
El Basilisco (Uruguay)

Daughter of a tiger, tigress must be! Delicious style to tell the truth in the best possible way. Thankful, my warmest and sincere congratulations

26 Mar 2014 3:22 PM
Zinn

Nicely said.. The first thing that needs to happen is to end the majority use of meds for racing and by and large for training purposes. Too many sore horses are in training via meds. No horse shall race on lasix unless he has a verifiable bleed done by an independent veterinarian. Personally I think they should move the Classic to a horse's 4 year old year. That would allow for more recovery from stress to take place naturally rather than  going through countless horses in order to find the one that can stand up to the Classics grind that essentially starts early in their 2 year old year. But in lieu of that, at least move the Triple Crown races to July, August and September. This would, at minimum, give horses an additional few months recovery time. Trainers would be amazed how sound they be with a few months R and R between their two and three year old campaign..

26 Mar 2014 4:38 PM
Bill Two

Well said, Ms. Haskin!  There always has been and there always will be those without principles who will seek to take advantage of any situation.  I don't think much has changed in that regard since time immemorial.  To paraphrase someone wiser than me, all it takes for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing about it.  Thanks for your well considered thoughts.

26 Mar 2014 4:39 PM
Brown brother

As a small owner/breeder/pinhooker which definition still requires I spend about $100,000 per year to maintain my 7 and expanding group of thoroughbreds, the PETA video sickened and saddened me.  Even if I outthink my far richer owner-competitors I have little chance of being associated with a stakes winner, much less a group or major graded winner.  Nevertheless, like most people with a passion for the sport, from gambler to hot walker, I am so in love with so many aspects of it even the PETA video cannot shake my passion.  Like life, there are terrible elements which I can best combat by conducting myself and encouraging others to conduct themselves with best efforts and integrity.  I hope Asmussen gets true justice which provides some deterrence or, gasp, rehabilitation but until I get a position of authority or donate money to a watchdog organization I will continue to treat my animals the best I can and make sure if I sell them they go to someone who will do the same. It was great to read Mandy's article and the comments of all my kindred spirits here.  

26 Mar 2014 4:44 PM
Ernie Munick

Thanks, Mandy, for your thoughtful column.

26 Mar 2014 6:44 PM
Mary Whitmer

I was so impressed by the article written by your daughter!!  Horses and their pedigrees have been a great interest of mine since I was a little girl and could only read about them in books.  Because I was an only late in life child of older parents they would never allow me to have a horse. However, I loved reading books about the three great foundation stallions and watched the Triple Crown from the time we owned a TV in the very early 50's.  Mandy, your writing is so on target and I honor you for your honesty.

26 Mar 2014 6:52 PM
carter

Thanks Mandy, I especially appreciate your line "It is like taking your kids to Sea World after seeing Blackfish. How could you, knowing what you know ?" That is exactly how I feel about the movie. "50-1."  Doc Blach the owner of Mine That Bird, was very recently the Expert Witness for Valley Meat in Roswell, NM. Mine That Bird lives about a mile down a dead-end country road from Valley Meat. It is practically in Blach's Back 40... He testified in support of killing 121 horses per DAY for human consumption there. As for rugs in the horse 'meat' he doesn't see that as a problem, as he thinks we can rely on clearance times, just like at the Track.  So, like you said, "How could you, knowing what you know." Boycott this movie.

26 Mar 2014 8:34 PM
Sail On

Thank you, Mandy, for a thoughtfully written and thought provoking blog post. And thank you Steve, for posting this, and giving all of us a chance to express ourselves on this issue.

The first place I can remember was sitting no my daddy's knee in front of our huge colonial fireplace, while he read to me Black beauty. This is a book that all who love animals, especially horses should read. So spoiler here, but if you haven't read it, do so now.

Back in the day,I was enlisted to assist in the training of a young racing prospect. This colt was wild, he wanted to jump over the fence and run thru the poseys and not run around a track. Finally, one day he rose up in the air, his whole height, screaming, he fell over backwards with me underneath. Neither of us was seriously injured, but I decided then and there I would love the horse racing from a more discreet distance. I never ever told my parents.

Those who work with horses, be they farmers, and into horse racing, know the nature of the beast. Injuries happen, even serious injuries. But horses were domesticated in pre historic times. They are working animals, and as such it is normal and right that they are employed in meaningful tasks for people. It is Mother Nature's way.

It is true that horses are dumb animals, ie, they cannot speak, but they can tell us how they feel. We have only to listen. We must not permit our desire to run in the Derby, or have a HOF stud or broodmare. We must, first and foremost, listen to what our loyal servants are trying to tell us. Like that super fast colt that would not let himself be trained to the track. This quality in horseman must be appreciated and rewarded.

The Iditarod, like other endeavors that employ animals, has been under attack by PETA et al for years and years. They have 'cleaned up their act,' and one thing they do is award a musher for best care of his dogs. How about giving an award to a jokey who pulls a horse up before he breaks down? Of course a jockey does not always know.Its the idea of changing the hyper competitive modal to one of comraderie, where we do not race horses that have issues and we reward those that show special care of their charges, not those who drug them to cover up weaknesses, just to keep them running.

When winning becomes the name of the game, and nothing else is valued, then we have a very big problem.

In addition, we must have our own watchdogs, not allow PETA et al, engage in this sport. PETA does NOT care about the welfare of the Horses, nor for that matter the dogs, their stated goal is to end the use of working animals. They want to end dog racing, horse racing, the circus, buggy rides, and even guide dogs, yes, even guide dogs. Think about it. Where's the goodness in that?

But when 2 horses every day are sacrificed to horse racing, it tells me that whatever organizations we already have, and whatever actions they are taking to 'improve' horse racing, is failing completely.

I hope we can share our thoughts, hopes and fears with each other, and come up with a meaningful plan to end the tragedy that visit our racetracks each and every day.

take care :)

26 Mar 2014 8:43 PM
Paula Higgins

Rechelle, I understand why you feel that Mr. Asmussen is taking the heat for Scott Blasi. You may be correct in that he was not aware of all that was going on in his barn. But the bottom line is that it is HIS barn and he has to be accountable for what happens, good and bad. Personally, I feel he knew quite a bit. Scott Blasi had been in his employ for 18 years. You can't fool someone for 18 years. I am not a major fan of PETA because of their tactics and their "take no prisoners approach" to everything. But this one time, I am glad that they were there to shed light on some serious issues that clearly needed to be addressed.

ksweatman9, your words about your father were simply beautiful.

26 Mar 2014 9:17 PM
DianaP

Mandy do you want to run for office?

26 Mar 2014 10:24 PM
Giddyup

I found it interesting that comments to the original article were shutdown when I tried calling Bloodhorse to task for presenting a completely one sided story. I am in complete agreement with Lenny Shulman who has on numerous occasions stated that the New York Times is only interested in smearing the sport of Thoroughbred racing. Another commenter to the original story presented his opinion that PETA seems to consist of overzealous and often hypocritical crackpots with their own agenda to discredit horse racing and he probably wasn't too far off the mark in that assessment.

Mandy wrote a nice article here and she is absolutely correct that the number of "good guys" far outnumber the bad apples in the sport. She advocates taking over the sport that is rightfully ours. To do that we have to stand up to organizations such as the NY Times and PETA who only want to attack and and discredit the sport and those in it.

27 Mar 2014 5:15 AM
lysa slater

I just read that the Asmussen trained filly, Finesse died after a race last Friday (3/21).  Why no mention of it on bloodhorse.com?  Why you search this fillies' name on this site, no article about her death appears to have been written.  

I would think the death of this filly would be particularly news worthy given her trainer.  Come on Bloodhorse, why no press on this?

27 Mar 2014 9:53 AM
Steve Haskin

Lysa, are you asking my daughter why nothing has appeared in the Blood-Horse? It probably would be more productive if you asked our editors. I'm sure they will be happy to address that.

27 Mar 2014 10:03 AM
lysa slater

Steve, I thought by posting the question on this blog, it would be the same as posting it directly to the editors of bloodhorse.com.  I am not aware of a visible way to ask the editors a question such as this; one in which the response can viewed and pondered by many.  

I have read many of the comments to your daughter's blog and they were not all directed to Mandy.

There are many comments about the need for reforms and illegalities that are not being dealt with posted here in the comments of this blog.  Your daughter can't do anything about those either.  So why should they be mentioned here?

I just am scratching my head at the sensitivity you are showing to my question.  

Again, many questions have been asked and ideas put forth in these comments that your daughter has absolutely no answer for or influence over, but I bring up a dead filly trained by Asmussen and you jump in?  Really?

27 Mar 2014 10:37 AM
JayJay

Thanks Mandy.   I thought Abigail's 03/26 post is probably the best response to this article so I hope she doesn't mind me re-posting it again :

Abigail Anderson                     26 Mar 2014 10:18 AM

I just LOVED reading everyone's comments here. I've already added my voice once, but I wanted to also say something to those who feel discouraged or helpless in changing things: Doing is the best way of saying. As in: aim for one important act that lets you stand up to be counted. By "important" I mean important to you. And that can be as simple as sending Mandy's article off to everyone you know. My professional background is education and I won't bore you with how tough it is to make important changes in classrooms. It's really hard. But if you fixate on that, you don't try at all. As several have pointed out here, last week's events will result in shock and a lot of blah-blah-blah. But that's going to fade. So there needs to be an effort to go beyond reflection to some kind of action -- whatever you can do. Remember the debate over whether or not Zenyatta should get HOTY in 2009? There was SO MUCH "fan write" that even the crustiest of sports writers took notice. It's a small thing, of course, to lobby for HOTY compared to the issues last week's video raises. But the industry and the sport do take notice of what the public does -- or doesn't -- say. And for those of you who think of leaving the sport all together, I certainly respect your reasons. But know that leaving won't change a thing -- except that the horses will have lost another person who cares and cares deeply.

27 Mar 2014 11:17 AM
Mahuba

I really appreciate reading all the comments; Mandy's article was wonderful!  And yes, PETA's tactics have angered and sickened me in the past.  I admit that I wasn't too upset by the Blasi episode--again I minimized it in my mind, thinking he was in the minority.  But when I saw the Lucas/Stevens part regarding the electric buzzers, it overwhelmed me.  Maybe they were just exaggerating in a "party" moment.  But their attitudes really got to me.  I was never a big fan of Mr. Lucas but I really thought very highly of Mr. Stevens.  I am really disillusioned now.  I plan to read Mandy's article again and again to help my attitude.  I love those horses and always shall, but if this abuse is common, I can't watch or bet on the races anymore.  I hope things get cleaned up, for mine and the horses' sake.  There would be a big hole in my life without racing.  

27 Mar 2014 12:25 PM
slee

Nicely done Mandy!  Thank you for the perspective.

I agree completely with this:….It’s time us good guys stopped diffusing responsibility and take over this sport that is rightfully ours….

Mandy's right - we are the fans, trainers, owners, breeders, reporters, track owners, grooms, vets and everybody else - we are the ones with the voice.  Speak up!  Don't assume that somebody else will say the right thing at the right time.  Don't think somebody else will write the email you're "too busy" to do.  You want to continue to watch horse racing?  Now is the time to say something.  We do need national policy and consistency and a whole lot less backbiting between jurisdictions.  And we MUST have a reasonable and enforceable drug policy.  If horse racing ignores this task, somebody else will do it!

But, sadly, I disagree with this:…..People say that horse racing is a dying sport. It can’t die off while we’re all still breathing life into it…..

If the government gets involved and non-horsemen look at it as a business, it could be killed.  Think not?  On a much much smaller scale, look at what Mr. DeBlasio, the new mayor of New York, is trying to do with the horse cabs in NYC - get rid of them completely.  Some "humane" groups say the horses are badly treated.  Some say friends of the mayor want the extremely valuable property at Clinton Park where the horses are stabled. The voice of the horse owners and cab riders?  Essentially being ignored by the mayor's office, though valiant efforts are being made in social media and they're picked up supporters like Liam Neeson and Jimmy Fallon.  Interestingly, last I read, the NY Times is in favor of the carriages…...

27 Mar 2014 1:26 PM
Irene Choi

I absolutely 100% agree with this opinion piece, thank you, Mandy.  

I want to be proud of the one sport that I am actually passionate about.  I used to spend time at a harness racetrack and I know that many people that work directly with horses just love the sport of racing, and would love to keep things clean and fair.  We admire the horses for their natural talent; the trainers for honing these athletes; the jockeys for their skill.  

Everything gets tarnished when people cheat.  

I want racing to thrive.  To do so, it absolutely has to address the problems that make the public turn away in disgust.  

27 Mar 2014 1:44 PM
Steve Haskin

Lysa, your comment,"Come on, Bloodhorse. why no press on this?" seems to me should be addressed to editorial. considering you are criticizing them for not having anything. If you had asked me to see if they could look into it, I would have forwarded your request to them. But you chose to be critical of them for ignoring it through my blog.

27 Mar 2014 1:49 PM
Evie Tubbs Sweeney

Really appreciated Mandy's thoughts, particularly the vivid comparison to SeaWorld/Blackfish. What a spot-on parallel. The issue is not whether or not public perceptions (be they PETA or otherwise) are correct. The REAL issue is that the perceptions, in fact 1.) Do exist; 2.) Are fatally mainstream; 3.) And, are doing incredible damage. For those reasons, they should be addressed and resolved head on. And by us, NOT PETA or anyone else. In short, racing needs to wake up, stop treating this as typical horse people would, and start treating this professionally as any business or industry would: A Mt. Everest PR Nightmare that needs immediate attention for continued life as an industry in our society.

Over the last week, that PETA video showed up in my non-racing friend’s Facebook feeds. PETA, whether you like it or not, is doing a better job meeting the public where they are at than we are. We live in the most animal-sympathetic society the world has ever known. On our best day, we are walking a tightrope in people’s eyes. If we do not start acknowledging these perceptions as important– whether we agree with them or not– Thoroughbred horse racing is on its way to being met with the same disdain as Greyhound racing in 10 years. It’s heart-breaking, as we have so much more to offer than these horrifying examples that only glorify the worst. What about the rest that Mandy talks about? Horse racing in its purest form offers stories so full of emotion, inspiration and soul that it can move a country. As Tom Hammond of NBC Sports said, “The Olympics offer the best stories. Horse racing comes next.” It’s not like we (or the horses) have nothing to offer. It’s just that we don’t focus on the right things.

The primary negative perceptions are focused around disrespect for the horse. If we really wanted to evolve with the society we find ourselves in, we would act swiftly, treat this as the PR nightmare that it is, and make intentional, committed changes. The obvious include:

1. Removing the whip altogether. Hand-rides only. Raise true horsemen again who encourage horses to run through good horsemanship, or because they want to, or both.

2. Tracks and organizations uniting to permanently disallow trainers who use performance-enhancing drugs. After the first five, trainers would seriously rethink everything. It would have to be a unified effort.

3. Getting rid of Lasix. For crying out loud, Europe already has.

4. Stop the racing of 2-year-olds (i.e. Don’t encourage racing until horses have fully matured.)

5. Donating 1% of all auction sales, wagering totals, and stud fees to Thoroughbred aftercare. Make it a publicly visible priority.

We need to stop letting others be the master of our fate. We need to stop the false thinking that if a public perception is incorrect, it doesn’t matter… That thinking is so not current. In fact, it’s archaic. It also highlights the wrong things, only drawing out unresolvable arguments. We need to be more forward-thinking for the sake of our sport, our history, and our horses. If we don’t, we deserve our fate.

27 Mar 2014 2:02 PM
Bonnie Mizrahi

Beautifully written and accurately sums up how I feel.  It was 17 years ago when the shocking news of the death of Exceller prompted a number of racing fans to join together to make a positive difference.  We were all active on the Blood Horse forum which has since been discontinued.  But this small group of fans came together to create The Exceller Fund to honor the legacy of Exceller and try to help Thoroughbreds avoid his terrible fate.  Back then our combined efforts were only able to save a couple of horses but our efforts grew to the point where we proudly stand with other like-minded organizations, now certified by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, to provide rescue, refuge, retirement and/or adoption for these horses that we love so much.

We are proud to have Gary Contessa as our President, and we deeply desire to have other industry figures join us on our Board of Directors.  Sadly, to date, no other industry figure has accepted our invitation.

We are a coalition of fans and we eagerly network with other organizations such as New Vocations, Friends of Ferdinand, Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement, Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, Old Friends, Angel Acres, Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue to provide a place for these horses to go once their racing or breeding careers are over.

I would like to issue an open invitation to those involved in racing to join us, work with us, and find ways to ensure that these wonderful equine athletes get the treatment they deserve both on and off the track.  One of our goals is to find a way to provide incentives for owners and trainers to retire horses that are struggling before they become too injured to be able to move on to a new career.  We also want to find more avenues of funding to provide retraining for OTTB (Off the Track Thoroughbreds) to increase their potential for adoption.

You can contact us at mail@excellerfund.org or check out our website at www.excellerfund.org

Thank you again for your well reasoned opinion piece.

27 Mar 2014 2:49 PM
Sail On

All good ideas, Evie Tubbs Sweeney!

Also establish an award for the welfare of horses, something like the Iditarod does. Recognize those who do right by the horses.

27 Mar 2014 3:20 PM
Gerry L

Excellent column Mandy. Best thing I've read on this subject.  Hopefully someone will listen.

27 Mar 2014 6:26 PM
Mike Relva

Great writing

27 Mar 2014 9:28 PM
lysa slater

Okay Steve, you make a good point.  I think I lost some of my manners getting caught up in learning about the dead filly.  Would you consider looking into why bloodhorse.com did not report this tragic event?  I would be very grateful to learn more about why and how this filly died and why it wasn't reported.  

In light of the PETA article, I have to resist jumping to the conclusion that the bit of news regarding Asmussen's dead filly got shelved so as to avoid stirring the pot.

If you can provide some clarity on this matter, it would be greatly appreciated.

27 Mar 2014 9:59 PM
Racingfan

Excellent column Mandy!  I wish everyone had the perspective that you do!

27 Mar 2014 10:53 PM
Bloodline Bob

@LYSA SLATER of RYE, N.Y.: There are horses that die every day, just like us humans, THAT's LIFE. Lysa(who does not bet), how do you think I liked it when I was @ Saratoga one summer and I bet $200(win + place) on the horse that Angel Cordero was riding to beat Jose Santos for the jockey title and the horse went down right in front of my eyes. They had to put the horse down right there on the track with a big screen around so people could not see the horse's tragic end. Blood-Horse did not write about that horse either. Not every horse that passes on gets mentioned in the Blood-Horse or the DRF. I've been a subscriber of Blood-Horse for 16 yrs. and I can tell you that the BEST HORSE owners + breeders work for this great international publication. The staff at the Blood-Horse has more passion for horses than all of those gutless PETA people. Have a nice day Lysa(44 yrs. old) + say hi to Barbara(Mom) for me. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. BTW, I would of given $400 more if they could of let that horse live that sunny day @ the SPA.

27 Mar 2014 11:43 PM
TerriZ

Thanks Mandy for such an outstanding article.         And now a question for father and daughter: How come the state board of licensing is not questioning the vet regarding Nehro's care? If his feet were so terrible, why was he still in a racing stable and not in a veterinary facility?

It's time that veterinarians have to take responsibility for their judgment and actions.

Possibly, the horse's worsening condition with his feet led him to developing colic and resulted in his demise.

27 Mar 2014 11:47 PM
JayJay

Evie : I really like the no 2 yr old races, although the focus of this horrible event was on the use of drugs and animal cruelty.  Unfortunately, I don't think the industry sees racing 2 yr olds as cruelty.   I hope they do figure out how to get rid of unnecessary medications.  With all the technology we have, there should be a way to determine which medications are needed by horses and which ones are enhancement drugs.

28 Mar 2014 2:59 AM
sceptre

Bloodline Bob:

Time for a wake-up call; and that's the most polite way I can put it. Yes, all living things eventually die, so does that mean we should ignore each and every cause of death?..And while many of the BloodHorse staff (composed mainly of journalists, not owners or breeders) are, no doubt, passionate about the sport of horseracing, I fail to see clear evidence to suggest that they are equally passionate about the welfare of the horse.  

28 Mar 2014 10:43 AM
lysa slater

Steve, do agree with the article quoting Mr. Phipps posted on bloodhorse.com today?  What are your feelings on this matter?  Would love to hear from you about this issue.  I highly regard your opinion.

28 Mar 2014 2:20 PM
Bonnie Mizrahi

The invitation is still open for people in the industry to get involved with The Exceller Fund.  

So far though, other than our President, NY Trainer Gary Contessa, we have had no other takers.

28 Mar 2014 7:46 PM
Mike Relva

Rechelle,

Typical of some looking the other way. As if his record is squeaky clean. lol Perhaps you can assist him paying the legal bills that's coming his way.

28 Mar 2014 10:17 PM
TerriV

Wow!  So very impressive.  There is real insight in your statements about the use of medications everywhere in today's world.  I have also truly enjoyed reading all the heartfelt comments from readers.  

No athlete who has to be on drugs to succeed in a sport should be participating in that sport.  Horses most of all, because, as you say, they have no choice.  

We need to do something but I admit I don't really know what or how.  It seems to me that the "good guys" in this sport need to stand up now.  The fans will back you, we want something to fix all this.  

What is that saying?  Evil triumphs only when good men remain silent.

29 Mar 2014 5:50 PM
lisam

Brava Mandy! Beautifully written article. Your description of mornings at Saratoga brought back many fond childhood memories. For me, the most perfect mornings were listening to the horses munching their hay while watching my grandfather take care of them.

All my life I've had a love/hate relationship with racing, but I believe there is much more good than bad in horse racing. As you say, let's start conversations and highlight the good guys like Janet DelCastillo, who helps people train their horses using the hay, oats, and water philosophy, or Dr.Cohen, who may run a horse in the Wood Memorial on the same philosophy.

Thanks Mandy for reminding us why we need to speak up.

30 Mar 2014 12:23 PM
sceptre

So, if we got rid of all drugs we'd soon notice a drastic reduction in breakdowns/deaths, severe injuries, etc.? The well-being of the racehorse would be much improved? Those who believe this simply don't understand the plight of the thoroughbred racehorse. And, should this be more about saving the horse, or saving the sport?

30 Mar 2014 9:42 PM
Terry M.

The most important statement is the last paragraph. The good guys need to take back the sport. That is the bottom line. Well said, Mandy.

31 Mar 2014 11:06 AM
Suf10Jul35

A most eloquent essay on the sport that is near and dear to us all.  Thanks, Mandy.  Thanks, Steve.  Keep up the great work/All the best.

01 Apr 2014 8:30 AM
Jan Ehl

I love horses and had always loved horse racing. Twenty four deaths per week due to breakdowns and exploding heart valves are not acceptable. Of course you hear of medication violations and an occasional breakdown. The extent of the suffering and actual statistics are kept from race fans. Someone had wrote that nothing illegal had occurred. How about morally??  What I saw was horrifying. These horses are over-bred, raced too young, drugged, and forced to run while injured. In 2008 while attending the races at Churchill Downs, I and a friend saw a Breeders Cup winning jockey abusing a horse simply because he lost and he was throwing a temper tantrum like a child. Others in the crowd made comments on the abuse. Thinking he would certainly be punished by Churchill Downs for his actions, I kept watch in Blood-Horse looking for a story or comment, but nothing. This sport needs a LOT of cleaning up before I return to supporting it. Rachel Alexandra is one of my favorite race horses ever and I shudder to think what Blasi and Asmussen did to her while she was in their care.

06 Apr 2014 12:46 PM
maria disalvo

SO WELL WRITTEN AND SO TRUE.  WE, THE FANS, MUST STEP UP MORE AND CONTROL THIS SPORT THAT WE ARE SO IN LOVE WITH.

I REMEMBER MY FIRST RACE IN 1966 (BELMONT STAKES).IT LEFT SUCH AN IMPRESSION ON ME THAT I WAS A PROFESSIONAL HORSEWOMAN FOR OVER 25 YEARS, OWNING MY OWN FARM AND RETRAINING THOROBREDS OFF THE TRACK FOR THEIR SECOND CAREER.  THERE IS SOOO MUCH HISTORY WITH THIS SPORT AND THESE BEAUTIFUL HORSES.  MY FAVORITE BREED.

15 May 2014 12:36 PM

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