Horseracing criticism continues after horse fatalities at Churchill Downs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It was the sport’s biggest day on its biggest stage.
But seven dead thoroughbreds at Churchill Downs prior to the Kentucky Derby hijacked the spotlight, focusing its glare on horseracing’s biggest problem.
“Come together as an industry. All hands on deck. Everyone has a role to play,” Lisa Lazarus, Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) CEO said. “And we need everyone to be engaged, to be working toward this mission.”
After being created by Congress, HISA is the target of lawsuits filed by groups resisting national oversight.
Rules and penalties at one track still do not always apply at others, and in the wake of the Churchill Downs fatalities, criticism of the fractured sport is amplified.
“The American public is getting sick and tired of seeing this body count on America’s tracks,” Animal Wellness Action President Wayne Pacelle said. “America’s tracks are turning into crash sites. And that is not acceptable.”
Numbers compiled by the Jockey Club show the rate of fatal injuries dropped in 2022 for the 4th straight year to 1.25 deaths per 1000 starts. That is the lowest rate since the Jockey Club started counting in 2009.
However, that is not good enough for people demanding national rules and consequences for tracks, owners and trainers who break them.
“There has to be more at risk for the people putting horses in competition,” Pacelle said. “Who says, ‘Oh, I’m so sad. It’s a terrible disappointment that I don’t get to run my horse in a race.’ Well, it’s a worse disappointment for the horse, who is dead.”
Lacking uniform standards and national enforcement, the spike in deaths of thoroughbreds at an elite venue like Churchill Downs to some critics raises the biggest of red flags.
“I think it’s hopeless for those tracks that are smaller, where there’s nobody paying attention,” Kathy Guillermo, PETA Senior Vice President said. “We have people discussing protocol for Churchill Downs what are some racetracks in United States, they don’t even require a veterinarian to be on the track when horses are racing.”
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