The Crooked World of Horse Racing

horse race

Horse races are more than just a sport; they’re a business, one that requires a high-level of skill, a lot of money and the participation of well-bred animals. But behind that romanticized facade, the sport’s insiders must deal with a reality of drug abuse, injuries and, in some cases, gruesome breakdowns and slaughter. A recent story in the New York Times and a video that accompanied it are forcing horse racing to finally face its problems, including the crooked treatment of horses by trainers.

The video showed two of America’s most successful thoroughbred trainers, Scott Blasi and Steve Asmussen. It offered a glimpse at their handling of world-class racehorses in training at two of the sport’s most revered and distinguished tracks, Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, and Saratoga in upstate New York.

In the days and weeks leading up to a race, trainers prepare their horses by grooming, exercising and feeding them in their barns. Then the jockeys arrive to saddle them in a paddock area. After the horses are saddled, they enter the starting gate and parade past an official for inspection.

A steward is an official empowered to enforce the rules of the game and ensure that all participants are treating their horses fairly. The steward oversees the race and can disqualify a horse or discipline a jockey or trainer for violating the rules.

Once the race begins, the stewards keep an eye on all of the runners to make sure that no one is cheating or taking unfair advantage. The stewards also help keep bettors informed about the conditions of each race.

As long as horse racing is a business, it will always attract its share of crooks and dupes. But there are many honorable people who work in the industry, as well as those masses in the middle, not naive enough to believe that horse racing is more crooked than it should be but still too complacent to do all they can to fix the problem.

To compete in horse races, a horse must have a pedigree proving that its sire and dam are pure members of the breed. A thoroughbred horse’s race record is a significant factor in the amount of money it can earn. The bigger a race’s purse (the total amount of money offered to bettors), the more horses will enter. That in turn will draw bigger crowds and attract more media attention, which can in turn lead to more wagering and higher profits for the entrants. Then the cycle starts all over again.