Times responds to Beyer’s concerns over horse racing piece

by | 03.29.2012 | 9:39am

The New York Times investigative team responsible for last weekend's story on injuries and fatalities in horse racing has responded to criticism about the way the story was presented.  Specifically, the reporters challenged assertions made in a Daily Racing Form column by Andrew Beyer that the Times piece failed to make a clear distinction between Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing.

Read the Times' response to Beyer below.

“Andrew Beyer:

I read your column in the Daily Racing Forum and while I appreciate your recognition of the impact of our story, I take strong exception to your assertion that we were somehow dishonest in the way we presented our investigative findings on the horse racing industry.  
You said that by focusing on New Mexico, readers would assume that problems there were “mirrored in New York, home of the country's top Thoroughbred racing.”  Perhaps readers should be concerned about problems with thoroughbred racing in New York, given the recent, sharp jump in horse fatalities at Aqueduct, which we reported high in our story (9th paragraph and 27th paragraph). New York's governor, among others, is apparently concerned, since he called for an investigation into these breakdowns.
You also wrote that The Times “never drew a distinction between” quarter horse racing and thoroughbred racing.  That is simply false.  Our story clearly stated:  “With the finish line a mere 400 yards away, this would be an all-out sprint, horse racing's equivalent of a drag race.  While these races, run by a breed called quarter horses, lack the ebb-and-flow suspense of a longer thoroughbred race, they make up for it in a pure adrenalin rush.  The best quarter horses can hit nearly 50 miles an hour. ”  We also wrote: “For years, track veterans could only speculate as to whether racing quarter horses was more dangerous than racing thoroughbreds.  In fact, the Times analysis shows that quarter horses have a nearly 29 percent greater chance of breaking down or showing signs of injury.”
Even so, it is hardly accurate to say – as your column does – that quarter horse racing is an entirely different sport. In fact, quarter horse racing and thoroughbred racing are almost always governed by the same state racing commissions and operate under the same rules. For that reason, our statistical analysis included both thoroughbreds and quarter horses. We are hardly alone in including thoroughbreds and quarter horses in the same injury data base.  The Jockey Club does the same.
Thank you for hearing us out.”

Matt Purdy
Investigations Editor
The New York Times

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