Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Brutish Sport of Horse Racing: The 'Sport of Kings' Is Another Name for Cruelty

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Brutish Sport of Horse Racing: The 'Sport of Kings' Is Another Name for Cruelty

Article excerpt

For mixing pageantry and cruelty, nothing is quite like horse racing's Triple Crown, which refers to the Kentucky Derby the first Saturday in May, the Freakness Stakes two weeks later in Maryland and New York's Belmont Stakes in early June.

At each event, red-coated trumpeters call animals and jockeys to the track. Sentimental songs are heard--"My Old Kentucky Home," "Maryland, My Maryland," "The Sidewalks of New York"--and women gussy themselves up in hats the size of horse barns. All this, plus the patter of pre- and post-race TV commentary on horses' bloodlines and jockeys' strategies for booting home a winner.

Push aside the froth, and horseracing, whether at gloried gatherings of what's left of horsey-set high society or backwater tracks where spavined plugs end their days as long shots getting longer, is a shabby, money-driven industry that exploits and abuses enslaved animals.

The violence was seen at the Kentucky Derby when Eight Belles was put to death after breaking her ankles yards past the finish line in second place. Thundering down the stretch, the horse had been feverishly whipped by her jockey to go faster in a mad sprint to the wire.

NBC declined to show the animal's last moments. A site producer explained: "She was writhing. It was gruesome. I elected not to go to it for the simple reason it's not something I'd like my wife or children at home to see." In other words, leave the public as shielded from this particular scene of death-dealing as it is left habitually clueless about the many other cruelties inflicted on race horses.


Leave the public uninformed that racehorses are routinely injected with drugs, from Lasix to keep blood from filling the lungs to morphine to dull persistent muscle and bone pains. Leave it uninformed that horses are being commercially bred to have sturdier bodies but thinner legs, which means more broken bones that bring down a Barbaro or Eight Belles.

Leave it uninformed that it's easier to collect insurance money for a euthanized horse that is only slightly injured than to spend money bringing it back to health. …

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