Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and horse owner/breeder Jane Smiley is among those sharing opinions publicly in the wake of Santa Anita's closure due to 21 fatalities at the meet.
Smiley, who penned the books A Year at the Races and Horse Heaven, writes in a Los Angeles Times piece that she's no longer a fan.
“Like a lot of former fans, I never loved racing for the betting — I loved it for the beauty of the animals. What drew me was their beauty, their individuality, their pleasure in their job, whether it was running, jumping or standing still. But after breeding some, sending them to an honest and caring trainer, and writing a novel about the racetrack — a microcosm of capitalism itself — I backed away.
“I have another friend, an American woman who trains racehorses in France,” Smiley continues. “Conditions are much different there. The horses don't start racing so young, and they don't run as fast as they can around an oval track, pushed harder and harder because the bettors like speed. My friend trains her horses in a wooded area on different types of footing, and the races have that kind of variety, too.”
Smiley's Horse Heaven is a novel about racing while A Year at the Races is a non-fictional account of her experiences as an owner/breeder of Thoroughbreds. She's most known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres, published in 1992 and later made into a film. Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the movie, The Secret Lives of Dentists.
“I do not know whether racing can be saved, or whether it should be saved. I'm no longer a fan, and my trainer friend in France is not hopeful…” Smiley writes in the LA Times editorial. “The 21 deaths at Santa Anita in two months are shocking and sad. Perhaps they signal the coming end, and there are plenty of Americans who won't be sorry to see it go. Maybe I'm one of them.”
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