Hancock: It’s Time for Congress to Wake Up

by | 11.23.2013 | 11:24pm
Arthur B. Hancock III, owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Ky.

I was reading an article the other day about how football star Michael Vick served 21 months in prison followed by two months of home confinement for fighting dogs. While dog fighting is outlawed in every state, it was not the state of Virginia that prosecuted Vick but instead it was the federal government!  Such actions are extremely rare.

Mr. Vick was charged by a federal grand jury with violating federal law 18 USC 371, conspiring to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities.  Under our Constitution the federal government has jurisdiction over an activity otherwise regulated by the state if that activity affects interstate commerce.

Sadly, the federal government's compassion shown for pit bull dogs has been absent in the terrible mistreatment of Thoroughbred horses that is occurring daily at racetracks across America.  According to the New York Times, every week in the United States, 24 Thoroughbred horses die while racing and countless others are broken down and maimed for the rest of their lives because they are being drugged to enhance their performance.

These wonderful animals are given countless numbers of so-called “therapeutic” drugs that are in essence performance-enhancing drugs.  These include painkillers like Butazolidin which thins the blood, causing horses to bleed and, of course, Lasix to remedy the bleeding.  Lasix has also been proven to leach calcium from the bones of human beings, making them susceptible to more fractures, etc.

By enacting the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (“IHA”) the federal government has allowed the simulcasting of races and off-track betting all across America. Ironically, the abuse of Thoroughbreds is now regularly televised and wagered upon under the authority of the IHA. The drugging of America's Thoroughbreds to enhance their racing performance clearly affects interstate commerce, and yet the federal government has thus far not acted to stop the cruelty inflicted upon these animals or the deception perpetrated upon the public by the use of these drugs.

Should we conclude that Washington cares more about pit bulls than it does about horses, notwithstanding that these brave animals pulled our covered wagons across America and carried us into battle time and time again?  Or is Washington callous to the consequences its citizens must endure from wagering on drugged horses?

While the drugs flow, there exist all of these effete horse organizations that don't do one thing about drugs or lift one finger to try to change the status quo.  Maybe if Mr. Vick had had these organizations turning a blind eye and minimizing the cruelty of dog fighting he would not have suffered the fate that he did.

And so the beat goes on.  Next week, 24 more horses will die and countless others will be crippled. Four percent of our fans will have deserted us by the end of the year, as they do every year.  It is my hope that the federal government will wake up and do something about all of this.  Nobody else will. Nobody else can.

Arthur Hancock III is owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Ky., and a founding member of the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance (WHOA) that supports H.R. 2012, legislation that would impose federal guidelines on medication use in horse racing and put drug testing oversight in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.


  • Rob Yetman

    Well said!

  • guest

    Well yes – maybe the FBI, state by state, perp by perp, is the way to go after all, eh? Needs a lot of private information but – let’s forget the impossible task of any federal law actually being aggressively supported, passed and enforced shall we? WHOA. That was good direct honest speech, no matter.

    • Jay Stone

      The federal laws are already on the books to prosecute the perpetrators of the laws. If the FBI wants to enforce them they have the resources, power, and laws behind them. There form of investigation and penalties leave the states looking like Barney Fife.

  • I wish here again as I do in the HORSE SLAUGHTER controversy and so many other instances, that animals, particularly HORSES were more important than MONEY. I have called and written letters and tweeted and faxed our Texas legislators so many times, and bottom line is, if a rich man makes another buck from it, they will do nothing to Protect Animals. So my concentration now is to fire them all and hire Democrats who tend to be more kind towards animals (and people).

    • Bubba

      Well you need to go rub your magic lamp a little harder and get another wish. Bottom line it is still a business. As for your hiring Democrats, maybe they can do another bang up job like they did with Obamacare. As for Mr. Hancock, there are as many people out there like Paula who think that your love of horse racing is as bad as someone else’s love of dog fighting. Just because it’s your sport doesn’t make it justifiable and because something else is “not” your sport doesn’t make it wrong.

      • nu-fan

        Bubba: But businesses are regulated by the federal government for the safety of the citizens of this country. That is why we have agencies such as the FDA to ensure that the food, drugs, cosmetics, etc. are safe for us. Being a business does not give it the right to do harm to others. And, please, leave Obamacare out of this. You are using one example and applying it across the board. Not a valid argument.

    • WM

      Paula, you’ve got to be kidding. The majority of the west coast is Democrat. Do you think that has affected their judgement on drug use for racehorses? No! it’s the same there as any track. And by the way, the President signed the bill allowing horse slaughter plants in several states. He’s a Democrat, remember? He could probably care less what happens to them as long as his party gets the vote next election.

      • Granny

        AMEN!! You know, NEITHER political party has all the better candidates when election day rolls around. These days, voting is like playing Russian Roulette. I am in my 70s and have never voted a straight ticket for either party. I recieved an email from Frankie Trull, President & CEO of ‘Policy Directions Inc’ in DC, last week. It was an informational email regarding the Manufacturing and Trade House subcommittee meeting where durg use in Thoroughbred Racing. In 2012, Senator Udall-D NM led a similar Senate subcommittee which also was trying to do pretty much the same thing…I sat in front of this computer for hours and watched that meeting, the following day I watched a replay of that meeting. Isn’t it a bit odd that both Udall’s Subcommittee last year and the House Subcommittee meetings this year took place prior to an election? In my meager opinion, we have trusted the government with far too much. We trusted them with with our Social Security Trust Fund and I don’t remember being asked if it was OK for them to pull funds from that trust when they deemed it necessary–but they did, it’s called robbery! They failed us! We trusted them with the auto industry and our banking system, we know how that went! And the future looks as if they will take over our health care, which doesn’t look all that appealing at the moment! WHY does anyone think the government NEEDS to be involved in horse racing? They can’t do a good job at anything, anyone remember the Mustang Ranch Brothel? If so, you know they failed at that as well. Why can’t the racing industry come together without all the arguing and personality clashes do something positive? YES, horse racing has many issues which need to be addressed; however, it need to be done without any assistance from Congress! Those magnificent athletes ned to be cared for, rules and regulations need to be set for the betterment of life for ALL race horses.

      • 4Bellwether666

        Most republicans suck…

    • betterthannothing

      Don’t fool yourself about Democrats being morally superior and thus more likely to be kinder toward animals. When money is involved, animal cruelty can be seen on both sides of the political spectrum. Don Tyson was a huge Bill Clinton supporter yet Tyson Foods, the second largest animal slaughterer in the world, was exposed numerous times for animal cruelty, importing cheap, unskilled illegal labor, causing extensive environmental pollution, giving banned chemicals to animals to maximize profits, etc.

      The livestock industry can be extremely rough with animals when needed, financially. It is no accident that the American Horse Council is religiously keeping horses classified as livestock. The NTRA which needs the AHC as a lobbyist does not have the b a l l s to be anti- horse slaughter.

      • azeri1

        Sadly and as much as I wish it weren’t so, you are correct. Tyson Foods is appalling and I wouldn’t knowingly purchase any food that they process for that reason. Yes they are big in Arkansas and did support Clinton as Governor and gave money to his election campaign. And yes, lobbying organizations make strange bedfellows. People who have wildly opposing views will close ranks when the almighty dollar is at stake. Once I found my educational technology organization (wildly Democratically dominated) cozied up with the NRA when trying to pass legislation regarding funding for ed tech in schools. The legislation passed under the Republican-dominated Senate.

        Yes the American Horse Council hasn’t lobbied to change the classification of horses as livestock. They do serve as a clearinghouse for horse rescue organizations through the Unwanted Horse Coalition. They have supported anti-soring legislation and are supporting the drug-free race-day legislation as well. They have supported the banning of double-decker transport trailers in the ferrying of horses (presumably to slaughter). So, while they have value for the racing industry, they do not reflect all the views of the advocates of anti-slaughter and horse welfare advocates across the board.

    • Steve

      Your medication is not working paula.

  • Stewart

    Dog fighting is illegal and is not a sport. To make an analogy between dog fighting and horse racing is beyond a stretch. Throw in some “stats” from Drape and sensationalized nonsense such as “every week…..countless others are broken down and maimed for the rest of their lives” and you lose credibility when the real facts / issues are enough to stand on their own.
    Regardless of the negative comments this post will likely receive, I am not saying there is not an issue (anyone saying this is blind, in denial, uneducated or lying to protect their own interests). However, WHOA should avoid becoming like PETA by sensationalizing things and telling 1/2 truths to support your cause, a cause supported to some degree by a large majority of owners in the game.
    Stick to the facts….there is enough factual dirt out their to support action.

    • Thoroughbred Watch Dog

      And, what is your involvement in the thoroughbred industry?

      • Jay Stone

        Major breeder, and comes from an esteemed racing family.
        Family owns Claiborne farm So he knows of what he speaks

    • 14151617

      Cruel and inhumane treatment of an animal is cruel and inhumane treatment of animal no matter what you call it.Sport,dogfighting,horse slaughter,all are for profit activities and the animals are the losers everytime.

      • Stewart

        Care to pick up the ongoing tab for the happy, healthy horses I have retired and are now on to a 2nd career (OTTB)? Since you know so much about the inhumane treatment and how horribly ALL horses are treated, I thought you might want to actually get involved in the care and associated costs for the ones I continue to abuse long after their racing days are over.

        • 14151617

          I donate huge amounts of money and time for the care of animals.Not just race horse horses.The wild ones,the back yard horse any type of horse that is likely to go to slaughter or be abused to make it perform.
          Snarky doesn’t bother me one bit.

        • azeri1

          Stewart: I believe you are sending a mixed message or are obfuscating your real stance. Are you in favor of retraining and re-homing OTTBs or not? I don’t think 14151617 was making a blanket statement about how all horses are maltreated in general. They were voicing concern for the many racehorses that do suffer abuse or slaughter. You cannot deny the problem exists. I also contribute to the aftercare of OTTBs and have given directly to associates who are braver than I who can walk among the kill pens at Mike’s Auction or “Shipsy” and New Holland. Everyday discarded racehorses end up in kill pens, even in states where it is illegal to send thoroughbreds to slaughter.(Some abysmal trainers run their thoroughbreds at Quarter Horse tracks for their last races just so they can directly dump them at kill auctions and avoid the technicality; Quarter Horses not enjoying the same state protection as thoroughbreds) Every thoroughbred horse who gets spared and goes onto a 2nd career is an ambassador for the intelligence and versatility of the breed. Never mind the love, trust and partnership they display when they are truly cared for.

          Please clarify what you were implying

          • Stewart

            I don’t know how what I said can be confusing. I own horses, take very good care of them and make sure they have a good home when their racing days are over (always at a significant financial loss because it is the right thing to do for the horses…then again, anyone who really understands racing realizes the entire game is not about money and almost always ends up as a significant financial loss). “Sport, dogfighting, horse slaughter,all are for profit activities and the animals are the losers everytime.” How is this not a broad statement? People on sites like this like to cast a broad brush on issues and I am simply saying there are many owners who do the right thing and take care of their horses. And despite what is stated on sites like PR, the majority of owners are in support of real regulation and standardized rules and penalties (more has been done in the industry in this area of the last 12 months than the previous 20 years…again, not covered consistently on sites like this because negative stories get more views). But Hancock is a hypocrite and is using PETA-like tactics such as 1/2 truths and unsubstantiated “quotes” rather than sticking to the bottom line. As I stated above, there is enough factual dirt on this topic to merit change…offering an analogy (or comparing…whatever terminology makes everyone happy) to dogfighting is ridiculous and anyone who looks at this objectively should agree this impacts WHOA’s credibility. Just stick to the facts without sensationalizing things….there is enough of that already in the press.

          • azeri1

            Well I commend you for taking very good care of your horses, There are a number of owners who try to do right by their horses. But there are a great many who don’t. Some of them don’t because their horses that they sold get lost in “the system”. Multiple untracked or poorly tracked sales allow these horses to descend into the ranks of hell. A number of well-bred horses end up at kill auctions each week. Recently Hallmarc LLC stepped up to bring “home” one of their horses who was hours away from the last journey to Mexico and Burt Bacharach did the same for one of his sold-off broodmares. With a more conscientious system and transferring of papers, I’m sure some of these close shaves wouldn’t have to happen. I am sickened, however, by the fate of the great number whose owners don’t or won’t provide for them. The lack of sales accountability as a horse descends to a fourth tier track and the lack of an alert system for breeders/owners who were originally responsible for the horse contributes to this.This does not get everyone off the hook. I have as much experience with owners who don’t give a fig.
            Yes I agree with you that many people get into the game not for profit, but because they like horses or the sport. The business is often a “money pit” and losses outweigh the financial spoils. It can be for fun. No group of people were ever so surprised as the buddies who bought into Sackatoga Stables and ended up with Funny Cide! However this is only some owners. There are people in the game who expect to turn a profit and when they don’t the horses pay the ultimate price.

            Mr. Hancock’s comparison might not be syllogistic on all levels, but the main point of his argument is that the industry does not self-police. No one (sadly) should be gobsmacked by this, Neither does the airline industry, or the Haz-Mat industry or the automobile industry (or any industry for that matter).

            Yes approximately 24 horses perish each week in the horse racing industry and yes necropsies enlighten us to some dubious or questionable practices regarding the findings. (I do my homework and keep my own records.) This is hardly “sensationalizing”. This is the industry and YES the industry as a whole could do much better by its equine athletes.

            It would behoove those who care for the sport to stand with Mr. Hancock and get back to Water Hay and Oats!

      • hereatpsu

        Have you given any thought about how cattle are raised in general or how egg laying hens are housed?
        Horses and dogs are not the only animals.

        • 14151617

          Of course and if you read my first sentence below: I donate huge amounts of money and time for the care of animals
          This is a post about horses not going to highjack it with my other causes and opinions.

        • 4Bellwether666

          Please don’t leave out “The Hogs”…ty…

    • Spa4Horses

      “Sensationalist nonsense” ?

      If the data supports that 24 horses die a week on US tracks, doesn’t sound sensationalist to me. Shooting the messenger, deflecting blame, that’s part of the problem, not the solution.

      The dog fighting and horse racing was a comparison, not an analogy. It’s not a stretch at all. Both are subject to Federal law. A perpetrator in dog fighting was investigated & prosecuted at the Federal level. How about racing?

      The point is, has there been a full-on RICO, gaming conspiracy investigation of the drug cartel in horse racing, even though doping horses can involve more than one party, cross state lines, violate veterinary protocols & humane laws, and affect the outcome of a sport with parimutuel wagering .. regulated at Federal and state levels?

      • David

        The problem that Arthur has, and you are restating, is the comparison between dog fighting and giving bute and Lasix to horses for a race is like apples to oranges. You have an illegal operation (dog fighting) compared to a legal operation (bute and Lasix) as saying they should be treated the same for prosecution under federal laws. Duh? Under the current racing rules, it is not illegal to give those drugs to horses on race day. If other, illegal, drugs are given to race horses, then yes those involved need to be prosecuted under federal law. But, until race day medications (and withdrawal times included) are prohibited, this argument is invalid. The push needs to be given to ban these first.

        • nu-fan

          David: But, who, in the horseracing industry, has been doing much of any pushing to ban these medications? Has there been anything substantial in recent memory to ban these drugs? If so, what outcome? Any at all?

          • guest

            Bute is not a race day med. In most jurisdictions it is a 24 hr withdraw time. Also, the breeders cup are taking on new lasix rules.

          • betterthannothing

            Horses run under the influence of bute and why B is given and officially listed along with L which helps lower overages of B which can still be present the morning of a race and make pre-race exams inefficient as demonstrated during the excellent research and presentation by Scot Watermam, DVM during the Equine Welfare & Safety Summit III.

          • guest

            I probably should have made myself clearer, in no way am I making an argument for or against bute or lasix. I am just trying to make sure the facts are correct.

          • guest

            and the listing of Bute must be jurisdictional, in the mid-atlantic along with ky and ohio, this is not the case.

      • betterthannothing

        Dog fighting is tied to horse racing because both use animals for gambling purposes, one illegally and the other, most often, legally. When arrests are made at dog-fighting and cock-fighting rings and at illegal racetracks, it is because illegal gambling is going-on and the government wants its cut, not due to animal cruelty, unfortunately.

  • Cindy Rullman

    Excellent article!

  • John Greathouse

    Let’s do a little math here
    av age of these horses is say 5 times 35000 born a year = 140000 racing. 52 times 24 = 1248
    so this affects .0089 % of the population?
    Looks a little different doesn’t it?

    • Knowitall

      Math is not your strong suit.
      There are not 140,000 active racehorses or anywhere near that in US due to death, injury, and being too slow long before they see a maiden debut, many don’t train on for these various reasons and stay on the track, and of course 35,000 member foal crops have not existed for many years.

      • John Greathouse

        I am using the numbers from the article only, somehow you seem to want to throw some more in
        I was trying to be fairly general here no name
        Only in the last 3 years has the foal crop dropped to the lower levels they are at today
        You might want to add up the number of tracks that race at the same time
        throw in a few training centers and then you might have a clue how many are training throughout the year
        the death and injury rate as quoted by Mr Hancock is 24 per week

        • Knowitall

          If you want to do math, add up the tracks on a circuit, all their races, and assign an average field size.

          As for foal crops, as you well know no doubt, the foal crops have not sniffed 35,000 since 2006.

          Besides, Arthur’s point is that federal intervention is the only chance for the sport of horse racing to be cleaned up. Parsing how many die instead of accepting the need to change, and being part of the solution, is an example of exactly why the game is dying a slow ugly death.

    • Ginger2000

      First there are not 35,000 TB’s born per year. And probably less than half actually make it to their first race. Breakdowns begin to occur as soon as training occurs. The number 24 is deaths on the track. Not the total number of deaths caused by breakdown. And nowhere near the number of total breakdowns.

    • betterthannothing

      Add to that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 TBs being slaughtered following racing and/or breeding careers each year, more dying at tracks that do not report fatalities or not thoroughly enough, in stalls, at hospitals and lay-up facilities following treatments, on-track injuries, diseases and surgeries and that number might begin to look troubling to you.

    • azeri1

      These statistics are erroneous and don’t accurately reflect the extent of the problem in the least. I also must say I resent the suffering of horses being reduced to a fraction of one percent. In New York State alone, for just the calendar year since January of 2013, 366 (at all NYS tracks) horses have suffered breakdowns or death in either training, or racing accidents. It is not investigated or presumed as to whether these are soundness and/or doping related, but this is just one state! The year is not even over yet.

      Not all states are required to keep statistics so an accurate national count is difficult to obtain. Advocates have to rely on reported findings from witnesses and trainers and owners to calculate the rest. It is expected that the number of aggregated horse deaths for the country is always under reported.

  • Windways

    It would be nice if Horse Racing had a governing body that could oversee uniform drug policies, coordinated suspensions and disciplinary action, and a TV and marketing strategy that all worked for the betterment of the TB industry. Federal Government involvement would be a complete snafu. State and Provincial racing commissions are struggling now to be efficient, functional and accountable.

  • Al

    As americans we tolerate death and disability at the alter of our sports. Last week to high school boys died of head trauma suffered on the field. We tolerate more than we are willing
    to acknowledge.

    • nu-fan

      But, even football has become scrutinized in recent times. Perhaps, we are all growing up to the realization that sports–at any cost–is no longer part of our culture.

  • Richard C

    The brutal fact is the “sport” has degenerated into an equine version of Rollerball…..death means nothing, since the disposable athlete is easily replaced. Shoot ’em up and stuff ’em in the starting gate….and – maybe – some suckers will claim the “sore” ones.

    • 4Bellwether666

      Disposable athlete(s)…Jockey’s too…ty…

  • Beach

    Let it also be remembered that this gentleman campaigned a Kentucky Derby winner(Gato del Sol) and paid megabucks out of his own pocket to bring Gato home from stud in Europe so he did not suffer the same fate as Exceller. Gato was cared for and eventually given a dignified and loving end.

    Mr. Hancock, thank you for standing up for what’s right.

  • smitty

    Michael Vick had dogs.He made them fight,horrible.He suffered for it.Lots of people have dogs and they don’t fight.They have them for the right reasons.Arthur Hancock has had racehorses for years.They mostly ran on some form of medication.When he was winning all those Ky Derbys and Oaks and Classics and had a strong voice,I didn’t hear anything bad about all this medication.No trainer ever subsidized his Vet bills.Now he wants congress involved!This problem,as it was created,can be fixed internally.This is a very tightknit industry,any one who has been around for a decent period of time knows whats going on and by whom.But we have never stuck together and worked it out ourselves.Too scared to alienate some “Good old Boy”.Now we want the Federal Government to fix it,When they have proven to the tune of some $17 Trillion dollars that they havn’t a clue whats going on!

    • fb0252

      My take is that it is not time to get Congress involved until we know in fact there’s a serious unsolvable problem. We are taking isolated incidents and blowing them up into mountains and basically feeding the trolls that are doing this in general because they have agendas–anti-lasix being one among several others..

      How about some publicity on enforcement mechanisms.

      How about an analysis if in fact medication rules differ from state to state.

      Or some focus on why so few cheaters are caught despite KBI patrolling the back stretches.

      Baffert’s situation is troubling to me, and unknown how he and his vet keep their licenses. Time maybe for someone actually on a back stretch to speak up? Nafzger, Lukas, Pletcher, Zito??? Is cheating with performance enhancers the problem it’s being cracked up to be?

      • Jay Stone

        Good questions. Each state has their own procedures for enforcement. Florida being the standard bearer for very slow enforcement. There are differences in what is allowed and withdrawal times. One group of states is trying to put a consortium together so everything would be similar from state to state. There needs to be one group controlling everything. At least one of the group of trainers you mentioned believes there is a large medication problem and I’m sure many would concur off the record.

        • Beach

          I’m surprised the California State Veterinary Board is not looking into(or, maybe it is) the possible “Every horse in the Baffert barn on thyroid supplementation” thing. In humans you can’t do thyroid supplementation without bloodwork and documented hypothyroidism. Only in one case did I ever see a lady with uncomfortable symptoms and mucho workup, even though the hypothyroid did not show in the labs(yet) be put on a low dose of thyroid medication with resolution of symptoms.

          I’m not a vet but I am a medical person and “every horse in a barn”, at the very least, APPEARS bizarre. And if it walks like a duck, perhaps the CSVB(or whatever it is called) should look into it.

          • fb0252

            it is more than bizarre. few understand–until they have a problem–the crucial and tricky thyroid hormone. Can cause in certain circumstances quick drop in blood pressure mimicking heart attack.
            More to this story. There has to be.

          • azeri1

            Yes Levo patients have to be monitored . Bloodwork needs to be done to accurately measure TSH levels. Levo also causes bone brittleness/loss and heart palpitations. It’s not a drug to be dispensed lightly and it has to be dispensed in very uncontrolled doses. it is not dispensed by weight, but by measured TSH levels. (The Baffert horses were having there’s dispensed as powder form, measured by grams by spoons!) No euthyroid horse should be given Levo.

    • Ginger2000

      Fixed internally? On what planet? Certainly not this one.

    • Leilani1234

      How many crooked horses did they take out back and put a bullet in their head in the old days? Hay,oats water then too they say. Ha!

    • RayPaulick

      FYI, when Sunday Silence won the 1989 Kentucky Derby (one of two Derby winners Arthur Hancock co-owned and one of three Derby winners raised at Stone Farm), Sunday Silence raced without Lasix or Bute.

      • betterthannothing

        Didn’t a certain A. H., DVM pay him a visit like he visited many KY Derby winners?

        • Jay

          Sorry. I did not see your response

          • betterthannothing

            Funny Jay, good to be on the same page! I didn’t know that I could mention the doc’s name here. As you probably know, he was a close friend of SS’s trainer who also owned a chunk of SS…

        • pete

          Indeed. A.H. closed himself in the stall with Sunday Silence before the Belmont. Probably meditating with him.

          • betterthannothing

            His meditation fell short by eight lengths that day!

      • Jay

        Perhaps.But he may have had Dr. Harthill in his corner.

  • jorge


  • Suzanne

    Touché Bubba!

  • Big Red

    Vick made money FORCING dogs to fight.
    Hancock made millions FORCING horses race in circles at 40 MPH .
    Both un-natural acts.
    Both gave THEIR animals drugs to overcome pain.
    Come on Arthur, we can all see you are using this platform to further your crusade against Lasix.
    Get over it. You are in the minority.

    • jorge

      How true.

    • Knowitall

      He wants federal intervention as the only solution left that stands a chance to clean up the sport full of characters like you, so it can possibly thrive again, and yes, this will mean no race day medication. Horses aren’t forced to run, they are bred to run. And you can’t make a horse run if he doesn’t want to or can’t. As for the majority – you mean the trainers that can’t train without a vet, and have a fearless leader claiming “There is nothing to see here folks, so move along.”

    • Ginger2000

      There is a very large difference between giving a horse with some arthritis SOME Bute for raceday, and the mind boggling amount of drugs routinely given now. There is science out there that proves that lack of minerals in the diet causes poor bone quality (and tendon and ligament quality), that being stalled demineralizes bone from inactivity, that Bute and Lasiz BOTH lead to de-mineralization of bone. But few trainers appear to care about what science has to say. The veterinary report on Coronado heights makes it very clear that it’s about drugs, not about the horse. The vet says the horse had no signs of lameness. First, how could he with all the medication??? And second, if there WAS no sign of lameness, why all the medication???

  • Belinda Whitson

    Seriously why is all this time spent bickering? Actions make change happen faster than words. If zero tolerance med free races were actually carded alongside your regular races, I think people could then sit back and let the results speak for themselves. I venture to say more parimutuel money would be wagered on drug free races. If tracks wrote drug free races with sizable pots it would be AMAZING to see how many horses that could all of a sudden race without anything. Just a thought, not that I expect to see many tracks with the proverbial balls to do it.

    • fb0252

      it is an excellent idea! determine once and for all whether lasix is necessary on dirt tracks.

      • azeri1

        Lasix to control EIPH is not proven to be effective now. At least according to a great number of top tier research veterinarians. The side effect of Lasix is what trainers like. A rapid approximately 40 lb weight loss in a horse is what benefits Lasix-laced horses, at least from the trainer’s perspective. I’m not so sure it’s so much of a benefit to the horse however, to run on a hot day after being administered a powerful diuretic. Certainly wouldn’t be beneficial to a human running a marathon. It would lead to faster dehydration and therefore MORE stress on the pulmonary system.

    • Janet delcastillo

      That would be my dream…drug free racing…it really is possible and the horses last to race for years if they are respected in their training program…not pushed too fast too soon.

    • betterthannothing

      Offer far more purse money to owners and bonuses to trainers of horses who agree to keep their horses under 24/7 surveillance and tracking, be totally transparent about equine health and treatments and only race their horses drug-free. Horsemen will follow the money and so will breeders, buyers and jockeys. Hopefully, horseplayers too.

      • Steve

        Horseplayers Don’t care about the purse(the media pushes the purses). They care about takeout and the size of the fields.

        • betterthannothing

          I know that Steve, but unless horseplayers have access to dirty insider information, wouldn’t most prefer to handicap based on clean, reliable athletic ability, horsemanship, distance, jockey, fair competition, versus chemically induced erratic performances and miracles?

          • Steve

            And higher purses will correct this? Please…
            25% takeout and the outrageous cost of past performances is why this game suffers.

          • betterthannothing

            Steve, we prioritize two different things. In my original post, horseplayers were only an after-thought! They are very important of course but I am not worried or sorry about them as I am about horses that are forcefully drugged and raced. Horses have no choice. Horseplayers do. If unhappy about a 25% takeout in horse racing, a person can choose among an array of entertainment or gambling venues. I believe that higher purses and/or bonuses offered to owners and trainers who would race horses DRUG-FREE would motivate some and hopefully many owners and trainers to change.

          • Steve

            The more horseplayers you get(lower takeout, free basic PPS) the more mainstream horseracing becomes(more media attention!!!)the more difficult it is for trainers to cheat.

            25% takeout
            means a 2nd rate sport and very little attention.
            .There are some people. Wink- wink who would love to have high purses and little attention.

  • gg

    A person of respect and accountability has finally spoken up. Thank you!

  • Brian Noyes

    Sadly, tragically and regretfully, horses will breakdown with or without therapeutic meds. Drugs could be the cause in most, not sure. End the game altogether…or not. Congress should move towards elimination of all medications if they are the ones who can do it. Let’s hope they are. At least the cheaters can be identified and the owners and trainers who play fair will remain in the game.

    But the amazingly beautiful horse, who did help build this country, needs a home when its’ career is over. Let’s ask a horse, so we can hear it straight from their mouths: do you want a drug free life but unless you are a graded winner or very, very lucky, you could end up in a slaughter house; OR, run with some drugs but have those who bred you contribute to your retirement, along with ANY AND ALL organizations directly or indirectly associated with the industry donating into your 401K and retirement plan so you can live a full life? After all, you deserve it, you put money in a lot of folks’ pockets. It is absolutely possible and it must be that racing is drug free and the horses live on.

    Please add something significant regarding the retirement of Thoroughbreds to any legislation that Washington may vote on or the drug issue ahead of the slaughter issue is the wagon in front of the horse.

    Former hotwalker of Owsley, Saratoga 2000

  • bert

    Just as in every other sport horse category not just racing there are good owners and bad owners. You see the same things happen with quarter horses, and hunter jumpers. As far as closing the slaughter houses this has only perpetuated the mistreatment of all disciplines. I live in Ocala,fl and since the closure of the slaughter houses we have a record amount of starvation cases.

    • betterthannothing

      “I live in Ocala,fl and since the closure of the slaughter houses we have a record amount of starvation cases.”

      Some abusers starve their horses today, some always have and some always will unless animal cruelty becomes a serious felony, horse owners are licensed, all horses registered and tracked and a nationwide animal abuser registry helps prevent abuse.

      The slaughter traffic has never stopped or even slowed down. Your argument is wrong.

  • ASL

    I applaud Arthur for his ongoing efforts to clean up horse racing.

  • PG

    Do Mr. Hancock’s horses race on lasix?

    • Big Red

      yes he does, but it’s ok you see, because he feels it “levels the playing field”

      • PG

        Hmmm even though it “has also been proven to leach calcium from the bones of human beings, making them susceptible to more fractures, etc.” his horses still get it. Interesting.

        • Concerned Observer

          PG, that is not a fair shot. I race horses and I race on lasix because I can not compete otherwise. But I would rather not race on Lasix and I have said so publicly. I am for drug free racing, but I want to race and why even enter a horse in a race if i am going to get trounced in every time by drug enhanced horses? If they run me out of the game, then the drug advocates win. I feel it is better for me to stay in the sport and work for change.
          Arthur has big balls to come out for this so aggressively and he has encouraged a core group of very influentual owners to follow his lead.
          I feel it is better if he and the other very high profile owners stay in the game and advocate and push for change rather than to abandoning the sport they love.

          • loopsteer


      • loopsteer

        the graded stake horses Menifee,Upperline both ran on bute and lasix but his Great champion and “horse of the year” Sunday Silence was the only horse in the 115th KY derby to not use Bute or Lasix and won

  • Patricia Jones

    excellent article i will support the horses not racing

  • Lefty_Orioles_Fan

    It is my hope that the federal government will wake up and do something about all of this. Nobody else will. Nobody else can.
    I don’t agree, you don’t want the Feds governing this.
    It should be up to the owner and trainer. It’s their horse and if they don’t give a damn and their own horse, why would you expect the Congress to care? It makes no sense to me to have the Government involved!

    • 4Bellwether666

      The only reason the FED (FBI) is stepping in is because of the FIX…Backside drug abuse (trainers/vets) will be handled by the DEA…The FED doesn’t want to govern “The Game” they just want rid it of “The Criminals”…Period…

  • nu-fan

    Since the horseracing industry has not stepped up and done much to ensure the safety and welfare of its horses (and, of course, the jockeys riding them), who else, with any enforcement capabilities across state lines, is there left to count on for this? The federal government. My thanks to Mr. Hancock to lend his very credible voice to rectify this very serious problem. Now, how many of those others that are leaders in this industry will also follow Mr. Hancock’s example and do the same? If they do not, it goes back to why the federal government is being called upon to do what the industry has not.

  • ljr

    BRAVO, SETH! Simple, straightforward, clear message. I completely agree. We (THE PEOPLE) all need to tell our representatives in Washington to sponsor this bill and that this bill must pass. Neither political affiliation nor “pocket” politics ($$$) must be allowed to slow down or stop this bill…..IT IS NOW TIME TO STOP THE ABUSE OF HORSES and give them the humane treatment and respect they deserve. Everything a racehorse does is for us….none of it is their natural behavior. I’m not talking about a “will to win”. I’m talking about the day in and day out grind of living in a stall, being in training, etc. It is obvious that WE NEED UNIFORM, FEDERAL LAWS/RULES GOVERNING HORSE RACING. This piecemeal, state by state method has failed. LJR

    • RayPaulick

      FYI, the article was written by Arthur Hancock, the older brother of Seth.

  • Patricia Hooker

    Reading this article only reinforces the fact that Federal Government cares more of getting the money that comes from racing of the Thoroughbred breed and other breeds that also race. I been looking into it through out Arabians being drugged up to show in the show ring from local class A show all the way up to the US Nationals, it does not let those of us who show without drugs much of chance, but I would rather not show if it would harm my horses, then to get a titles at any cost. I believe this is also how it comes out from the Federal Government all the way down to those who have no out look for the horses and only the money they can make off of them at all cost.

  • HorseyDem

    Nicely said, Mr. Hancock. And to all the tea party partisans out there, folks, sometimes the federal government has a place, and this is one time it clearly does.

  • sittin’ chilly

    After all the endless discussion about drugs, violations, “therapeutic
    medications”, suspensions, “the good of the horse” etc. ad infinitum, ad
    nauseum, Arthur has summed it up. We are in a cycle of drug use that will
    destroy horse racing. Illegal drugs get most of the focus, but it is the
    allowed drugs which will be our ultimate downfall. As anyone with sense or
    experience knows, drugs (or medications, if you prefer) have side effects.
    Other drugs are then needed for these, and so and so on. With humans, there is
    usually consent for treatment. With horses it is left to the human caretakers
    to decide what is best. In racing “best” means best for getting the most out of
    a horse in a race. So much for “the good of the horse”. What we do 99% of the
    time is for the good of the humans connected to the horse.
    That said, I am as guilty as anyone in this regard. We do
    plenty of vet work. We tap. We inject. We run on Lasix. All legal and all just like virtually everyone else. Yet I know it is not for the horses good. It is for ours. Yet I love
    racing and its world. So we can stop doing these things, stop winning and soon
    be out of business or we can continue and hope for change. I know plenty of
    owners who feel the same way. Ban all raceday medication, have zero allowable
    levels and we would be happy with a drug-free and level playing field. More
    importantly, the public will NEVER understand why horses have to be drugged to
    run for human pleasure. So we have a choice. Continue to argue whether Lasix is
    good or bad while we watch the sport spiral into oblivion or decide to build a
    business that does everything possible to run horses free of drugs, a business which
    just may have a chance of public acceptance and survival. To me it will be one
    or the other.

    • betterthannothing

      Excellent piece by Arthur Hancock and reply by sittin’ chilly.

      We have the morally bankrupt, greedy abusers of horses and those that choose to abuse ito stay in “the game”. Then we have those who care about horses and have enough integrity to do what is right only to get inhaled by the abusers and cheaters who train and race horses on drugs. This is what Jack Van Berg called “Chemical Warfare” and it is the saddest thing to watch.

    • Janet delcastillo

      Very well stated…what a shame that so many are in this predicament. I understand the plight of the trainer…in the best circumstances, few race horses pay their way and owners lose interest when they pay and pay and get no results. I try to remind owners…not every thoroughbred can win and or pay his way. But loading them with legal drugs has proven to only make a new playing field where everyone uses the stuff to the detriment of the horse. And owners have to pay outrageous costs of the medications…think of how much money could be saved with drug free racing. The horses would be better for it too.

      • betterthannothing

        Janet, horses would last longer: good for track “inventory” and gamblers who prefer full fields as long as the number of races reasonably fits the number of healthy horses available.

    • Beach

      I am not trying to be snarky–but, when will be the time to stop arguing, discussing–and start “doing” and banning?

      • 4Bellwether666

        And locking the CREEPS up!!!…ty…

      • sittin’ chilly


  • Doc

    Hard to take a man serious who gave away the greatest sire in the last 50 years. He single handled did more to lessen the breed in the United States than any medication did.

    • sittin’ chilly

      That’s ludicrous, and I didn’t know he had anything to do with Northern Dancer!

    • betterthannothing

      And your foresight is 20/20.

    • Matt D.

      Don’t blame A.Hancock. I did a little research and it turns out that American breeders weren’t interested in Sunday Silence because of his poor conformation. It’s amazing that one family’s transactions have made such a deep impact on world wide racing. Sunday Silence going to Japan and Bull Hancock bringing Nasrullah to the USA in 1950 – game changers!

  • Kathryn R Wilt

    Good points from an insider and a breeder w a conscience. Many layers to fathom on the subject of performance drugs. Our racing friends down under whom race their horses longer find it financially inefficient to race on drugs as it takes too long to wean them off and travel to international venues that prohibit .And for every rule…there are cheaters.I do not think that there is a perfect solution but the policing needs to be more UNIFORM.

  • Lina_TX

    Well said, Mr. Hancock. We have waited far too long for racing to clean up it’s own act. Obviously, it’s not going to happen unless enforced from the outside.

  • milezinni

    “According to the New York Times, every week in the United States, 24 Thoroughbred horses die while racing and countless others are broken down and maimed for the rest of their lives because they are being drugged to enhance their performance.

    These wonderful animals are given countless numbers of so-called “therapeutic” drugs that are in essence performance-enhancing drugs. These include painkillers like Butazolidin which thins the blood, causing horses to bleed and, of course, Lasix to remedy the bleeding. Lasix has also been proven to leach calcium from the bones of human beings, making them susceptible to more fractures, etc.”
    If you truely understand this, Hancock, then why do YOU keep selling these “people” the horses that they are destroying?!?
    It’s all about making money, and you are just as guilty for contributing to the problem…….

  • azeri1

    Mr. Hancock has a great reputation in horse racing for being an owner with integrity. He has been involved with the sport for over 30 years. If he feels the need to form an organization to campaign to clean up horse racing, I think there’s a fairly strong implication that what we read and the breakdowns we watch are considered to have a direct correlation to the over medicating and maladministration of drugs/supplements to horses. I, for one, am sick of viewing “unusual findings” in necropsy reports of young racehorses.

    The tail has been wagging the dog. Horse trainers who should be charged with the physical and aerobic development of horses are dictating to veterinarians what prescription & other substances they want administered to horses in their care. This should not be the case. It’s akin to a person going to their personal trainer to get a controlled substance or letting their Zumba instructor prescribe medications to treat their heart condition or hypertension. Until the intimidation of vets by the industry is curtailed (and I don’t see that happening in the very near future) there has to be an overseeing agency that is impartial and responsible for monitoring the actions of those within the industry. Doping is a flagrant problem, the horses are suffering the worst consequences, and jockeys who feel there are lame horses entering the starting gates are not encouraged to speak up if they want to continue receiving mounts. Why put so many lives into jeopardy? If we leveled the playing field horses might have a chance, unsound horses would be put on rest and properly cared for and the industry would still be lucrative and more accountable to the fans and punters.

    Here is where my optimistic streak kicks in. All the money spent on unnecessary drugs/compounds and services could be put into thoroughbred aftercare so that the thoroughbred athlete has a fighting chance at a healthy life and a solid second career/chance after their racing days are over. Licensed veterinarians could regain their place as equine “physicians”. The regulation of illegal and maladministered doping substances would put an end to the “snake oil” salesman who profit off the unnecessary suffering of horses. They would either have to offer legitimate therapeutic products or the “free market” concept would put them out of business. Demorphin and “milkshakes” would no longer have a market and vanish from disreputable barns. Shady trainers/owners would get regular visits from authorities and be held solidly accountable for their misdeeds. Barn vets would be required to share their administration records with track vets so that reasonable and carefully considered decisions could be made about the soundness of a horse to race on race day.

    Oh and more resources could be encouraged for all the jockeys who are forced to retire due to injuries as well. If it takes a vigilant outside agency to do this well it would be cost-effective in the long run. For me the lives saved or the eradication of doping related accidents/breakdowns makes this all worthwhile.

    Alright, I’ll take off my Pollyanna costume now, but where do I go to sign up to support WHOA?

    • princessspiro

      What an incredibly insightful, honest and straightforward common sense statement. You are not a Pollyanna, you are a practical visionary and so are many above who have contributed to this particular commentary. Now what needs to be found are the organized leaders to put the ideas into effect.

  • thehorseman

    actually congress can’t be blamed on this one — its the feckless and pathetic non leadership of the ntra and ahc — and their do nothing lobbyists are to fault …
    the old days of going to bunning and mcconnell are over —
    bunning retired and mcconnell is in the fight of his life — so you think he cares about saving the horses …
    the congressmen and senators don’t care about horse racing — they just like going to fundraisers a couple times a year …
    also, they are not really educated on what actually goes on …
    they probably think churchill downs is a horse racing company not a casino company —
    wheres the outrage from congress after being duped by some high priced lawyers on thursday and then being sideswiped by penn national shennanigans on friday
    off course there is too much drugs in horse racing — problem is no one has the guts to stop it because they don’t care and there is no money in stopping it
    remember when haley barbour’s lobbying firm charged hettinger high fees to stop the horse slaughter —
    well where’d that get the sport
    or when tommy thompson was hired by ntra to clean up the racing industry at 1,000 an hour akin gump?
    well did ole tommy and akin gump give penn national a clean bill of health?
    you betcha — just as their check came in!

  • Anon

    We all agree racing needs medication reform, but there are a few things nobody seems to have considered with this particular bill:
    1. Why does it give authority to the USADA, which usually monitors drug testing for human athletes- what do they even know about animal meds? Why not let the RMTC handle it, like they are already trying to do?
    2. Why is there a provision in the bill that lets the agency determine whether a track can hold its races, and how will that be decided? How much money would they collect to enforce the rules & who will pay for it?
    3. If Congress is so concerned about horse & rider safety, why doesn’t it also regulate drugs in other horse sports? The Germans got their equestrian gold medal stripped from one of the recent Olympics because their horses tested positive for drugs. Let’s not pretend the people in other horse sports are all as clean & pure as the wind driven snow, because they’re not. Why pick only on racing?
    This bill could end up being like health care “reform” where it sounded good in theory but not the way it was written. The devil is in the details. Medication reform is needed, but not the way this bill is written.

    • bettethannothing

      1) Based on the nailing of Lance Armstrong, the USADA can successfully investigate a tough case and police a sport as well as test for drugs. The RMTC has no authority. The USADA would have authority.

      3) Because the human endangerment factor in horse racing is far greater than in dressage. Also, because gambling is involved.

  • Dan Jividen

    Considering his position in the industry, and how much he has to lose by speaking out on this issue, it is courageous of Mr. Hancock to publish such an unequivocal and frank statement regarding drugs in racing – courageous and admirable. He deserves our greatest compliments and gratitude. Let’s all join him in support of WHOA.

  • gus stewart

    All have very good points and all love horse and the game. Here is my take,, Mr Hancock is close in his thoughts of how the fix the sport… But no government involvement, The sport and horses are there because of owners and gambling. We know 98 percent of owners lose money. Thankfully they are still around even though news owners are hard to locate. So now we look at gambling and how the drugs effect this others means of supporting the industry. You have big owners and trainers trying to get any advantage chemically because they are paying for and can afford bigger trianer and vet bills,,, And yes I mean the top guys. Im not saying these products hurt the horses short term but here is the problem long term. The smaller owners keep running 2nd 3rd or 4th even if their horse is in its peak condition. That means they are losing more money more quickly and cant afford to continue to pay the bills or buy more horses. Now as far as gambling on horses, for guys like myself and others for over 40 years, we cant keep getting beat by horses when dont know what they have in them for enhacing perfomance and we all play the horse less because of this. We all lose more money more quickly,,, So Hay oats and water only one or two vets and all vehicles checked to the best ability at all securtiy gates. This may help but I dont see anyone in racing going after big owners and saying, “you are going to lose more now, but you keep buying horses and paying extra fees for so called top trainers”!!!

  • Bright Futures Farm

    Bravo Mr. Hancock.

  • jorge

    Upperline had a positive test in a graded stake at Arlinton, had the positive overturned in court by appeal. Check it out

  • wabstat

    I’m just a fan… I think this is greatest sport that exists and that thoroughbred horses are truly a gift from God. For those who exploit and abuse, your time is coming, the sport will survive you and you will left on the outside, finally knowing you missed the entire point. I give thanks today for thoroughbreds and all the honest and loving people who care for them.

    • loopsteer

      I totally agree with you wabstat. We know the game is all about the horse…. Nowadays there are a small groups of vets, jockeys. trainers’ & ect that don’t even really like horses. That was not the case not to many years ago. I have been training horses 30 years I have had my day in the sun but now I am just 8% and tired, beat up, and soon to retire. In a sport I have been watching decline before my eyes. A rare fan like yourself is a breath of fresh air and still give a Some horseman like myself a glimmer of hope. Even as the light grows dim. I hope you did not take my previous post out of context .The Water, Hay, Oats Alliance (WHOA) H.R. 2012, legislation that would impose federal guidelines on medication use in horse racing WOULD BE GREAT! as long as it would be ZERO TOLERANCE law and accept no minimum levels of a drug. “that was my point”.

  • My Personal Response To The Letter By Arthur Hancock

    Dear Mr. Hancock, I hereby offer my response to your letter of November 23 rd of this year regarding possible federal intervention into drug related violations in horse racing.

    As I’m sure you know, we have state laws and rules of racing in effect in every racing jurisdiction that were adopted to deal with situations such as these, IF ADMINISTERED PROPERLY. I repeat, IF ADMINISTERED PROPERLY. Unfortunately we have a large percentage of racing commissioners and stewards who have done a shameful job of executing their important responsibilities for far too long. I am also aware of the smaller group of men and women who are qualified to hold these positions of trust and do so, with integrity. Without necessary changes being made at the state level I can assure you that the administration of any federal law will suffer the same effects that have crippled state regulation. Although I have a great deal more to say, I will sum up at this point in the interest of brevity. Without appropriate changes being made at the state level, H.R. 2012 becomes a dire necessity and I urge stakeholders to support it in principle. By that I mean, that until the final proposed language is known it can not be properly evaluated. I feel the most opposition will come from the pro Lasix group of trainers and I cannot imagine why members of the committee would not insist on the results of a commissioned study done by unbiased scientists before voting on such a hot button issue. Our Thoroughbred Horses deserve the truth about Lasix. Thank you for your attention to my comments.


    Lou Baranello

    cc: Rep’s Lee Terry, Joe Pitts, Ed Whitfield, Anna Esh

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