We've seen a great deal of hand-wringing of late from people on the social media machine. Some of the critiques are fair, some surely unfair, but after Senator Dianne Feinstein's letter to the CHRB, imploring Santa Anita to not reopen this week, it's reached a fever pitch.
Leaving the reactions and solutions aside, I think much of the consternation, and real worry, stems from the fact that this business has never really known what it is. Is it a sport? Are horses livestock? Is it a gambling game? If horse racing had a leader, we could ask him or her for an opinion, but fat chance.
What I think has troubled me most about "horse racing" (and really, I don't even know what that term means), is that even with simple proclamations like horse safety or high takeout, there's never any direction.
Everyone wants horse safety right? Fake tracks were safer, at the very least, and we all know that; it's why they were brought in. What do we hear often about them when they are brought up, however? That they cause other injuries.
I can't remember where I read it, but in World War I they developed helmets for the first time. After they were introduced, something funny happened -- Medics were reporting a massive spike in head injuries. This occurred, of course, because soldiers received life-saving treatments because they did not die.
In some quarters in this sport, I fear this would be considered a bad thing, and they'd want the helmets banned.
We've read study after study, economist after economist, gambling expert after gambling expert say that horse racing's takeout is not optimal at these high rates. This is seemingly an immutable truth.
If so, why in the hell did the entire horse racing brain trust in California stand up and applaud at a CHRB meeting when it was raised in 2010? Why do other tracks follow them?
I am fairly agnostic about whips, but I do know one thing -- if they are banned, the sport will survive just fine. We'd put horses in a gate, and at the end of the race there will be a winner and several losers. If the price of a bet is right, people will bet, and that betting volume will not remotely correlated to how many welts the horse has on his behind.
In the infamous words of a gambler to Woodbine chief Dave Wilmott's question, "What if horse racing went away, you'd be betting on frogs, what would you do then?"
"Find the fastest frog."
There are factions who seem to deem a removal of a whip the death of the sport. but think about it; in 2019 with all the massive horse welfare and safety issues, an argument being made is that the industry needs to hit an animal more.
Those of us who love the sport can't do much. We're just pawns in the game. But it doesn't make it any less frustrating that whenever we raise our heads from the sales catalog pages, or the third at Gulfstream, we see such little common sense.
If this industry loves their animals, it has to prove it. If it believes takeout is too high, it has to do something about it.
When you do the opposite people are noticing now more than ever. And folks, that's not a good thing.
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