Drugged Up Horses Race To Their Deaths: Take Action


Would you put your money on a sport in which the athletes are routinely drugged so they can perform despite injuries? Where a stumble on the dirt can mean death or serious injury? A sport whose officials refuse to disclose accident rates and benefit from lax drug testing, as well as few if any regulations at the state and federal level?

An extensive New York Times investigation reveals all of the above about the U.S.’s horseracing industry:

The New York Times analyzed data from more than 150,000 races, as well as injury reports, drug test results and interviews and found that:

Approximately 3,600 horses have died while training or racing in the U.S. in the past three years.

Horses in lower grade claiming races have a 22 percent chance of breaking down or otherwise showing signs of injury than horses in higher grade races.

63 horses died at the track at the Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack in upstate New York in 2011, more than double the fatalities of the five previous years.

The risk of jockeys and horses being seriously, and fatally, injured once they dash from the starting gate has significantly increased at a time when racetracks, facing significant losses in attendance, have added casino gambling to bolster flagging revenues. The result is higher purses at the track; with more at stake, trainers are running horses who simply are not fit. Too often, trainers give horses “bute,” the shortened name for phenylbutazone, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, and other pain medicines. These might temporarily mask the pain so a horse can compete, but a drugged-up horse with pre-existing injuries is simply more likely to get injured further while running a race.

Currently, the US has no laws regulating drug testing and penalties for overmedicating race horses. In Indiana, a first drug offense means that trainers must forfeit their winnings. But in New Mexico, trainers who are caught drugging horses with the powerful painkiller Flunixin,”get a free pass on their first violation, a $200 fine on the second and a $400 fine on the third, records show.” Only eleven states require necropsies to determine if a horse who broke down had an existing injury. While poor track surfaces and jockey errors can contribute to a horse breaking down, the “prime suspect” is drugs.

In contrast, horses are not allowed to race on drugs in England, where the breakdown rate is about half that in the U.S. In Canada, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto has one of the lowest breakdown rates in North America, with an incident rate of only 1.4; medication use is more closely scrutinized.

The data reveal a grim picture of the abuse of horses as the US racing industry struggles to stay in business. Jockeys are also exposed to tremendous dangers: The New York Times article opens and closes with a portrait of national champion jockey Jacky Martin, who broke his neck in three places in a claiming race and will now most likely spend the rest of his life on a respirator. In September 2011, Martin’s horse broke a leg at the start of a race and was euthanized; the next day, another horse, Teller All Gone, broke a leg at the same track, Ruidoso Downs Race Track in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. Teller All Gone’s body was discarded in a junkyard beside an old toilet, near where he had been sold in an auction the year before.

In the US, horseracing, once called “the sport of kings,” has become a death trap.

Sign the petition to demand a ban on drugging race horses!


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Photo by kthypryn


Diane L.
Diane L2 years ago

(cut off).....after their racing careers have ended, many are retired to the broodmare barn (the fillies) or to be used at stud (the stallions and colts), and many are given away or sold as pleasure riding horses or to be shown on the hunter/jumper circuits or eventing.

As for suffering, sure, many do suffer while competing, but they also, as a norm, are provided with the best care possible.......best feed available, best veterinary care, the most recent technical advantages possible (use of treadmills in swimming pools, massage therapy, etc.) that the average "backyard pleasure horse" cannot ever have, and if one thinks about it, that only makes sense. Same as with human athletes, equine athletes, when provided with the BEST care, the BEST nutrition and BEST equipment available are the most likely to provide the BEST financial rewards for their owners. It makes little sense to not provide for the horses' needs if one expects to win anything.

Diane L.
Diane L2 years ago

Nimue, I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "a mug's game", but I think I do. While criminal elements are sometimes involved with at least TB racing, not all the time by any means. Yes, it usually does require a high financial involvement (considering costs of breeding, training and fees to be on the track, licensing, paying jockeys, etc.) and the "rewards" (prize money) often falls short of covering expenses, BUT while it used to be called "The Sport of Kings" because TB racing started from royalty betting against each other, it also has those who participate for the love of the sport (and while it's an industry, it ALSO is still a sport) as well as a love of their horses. QH racing started as local week-end competition amongst families, and still does. Yes, there ARE QH races held at such tracks as Bay Meadows and Almagordo Downs but even they are family events much of the time. If I may suggest, please watch the movie, "Casey's Shadow" with Walter Matthau.

It is also not accurate to state that all horses that no longer can race end up going to be slaughtered for pet food/the killers. Sure, some do, but even having said that, the ones headed there can and DO end up in Europe for human consumption. I don't know the percentages, but after their racing careers have ended, many are retired to the broodmare barn (the fillies) or to be used at stud (the stallions and colts), and many are given away or sold as pleasure riding horses or to be shown on the hunter/ju

Nimue Pendragon

Racing is a mug's game, always has been. It's all about greed and money - now there's a shocker, not. The animals have always suffered, and when they're no longer able to race and bring in the bucks, they are sent off to be slaughtered for pet food. It stinks. Petition gladly signed. Thank you.

Julie Botsch
Julie Botsch2 years ago

Thank You.

Lori U.
Lori Udenberg4 years ago

Human athletes have the choice to say whether they compete or not with an injury,since animals can't speak it is up to us to put their well-being.If you are truly in it for the love of the human/horse bond then you would not push them beyond their ability.Anyone that drugs or harms an animal to make them perform better doesn't deserve an animals loyalty.

Linda Jarsky
Linda Jarsky4 years ago

""If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ---St. Francis of Assisi..."..."

Cristy Murray
Cristy Murray4 years ago

Greed is a mental illness and is epidemic these days.

antonia maestre
antonia maestre4 years ago

GREED. Plain and simple.

antonia maestre
antonia maestre4 years ago

GREED. Plain and simple.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa C4 years ago

Signed and posted on fb.
All animal racing should be banned!