Beyer, Shanklin: NY Times’ failure to draw distinctions may cloud results

by | 03.27.2012 | 8:42am

While acknowledging the need for reforms in the Thoroughbred industry, some are expressing their frustration that the New York Times, with its expose on horse racing, is unfairly lumping together Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing to the detriment of its investigatory results.  At the Daily Racing Form, Andrew Beyer, who says drugs are certainly an issue that must be addressed by the Thoroughbred industry, writes:

“… almost all of the New Mexico horror stories cited by the Times occurred in Quarter Horse racing – a different sport, with a different breed, a different style of training, and a different ethic. If Thoroughbred racing is supposedly the Sport of Kings, Quarter Horse racing is the anything-goes sport of cowboys. According to the Times' own statistics, the seven U.S. tracks with the highest percentage of breakdowns or signs of injury were all ones that offer Quarter Horse racing – five of them in New Mexico, where supervision was notoriously lax. Yet the Times never drew a distinction between the two sports and did not even mention the phrase “Quarter Horse” until the 48th paragraph of its report. Subtract the Quarter Horse component from the study and the Times might not have a carnage-laden front page story.”

At Horse Racing Business, Bill Shanklin furthers the issue:

“Mr. Beyer has perceptively brought up the subject of “external validity.” When a survey researcher inquires about “external validity,” he or she is asking whether results obtained from a sample can be projected to make predictions about the entire population from which the sample is drawn.

“The Times study does not have external validity in extending the results from its study to Thoroughbred racing (or to harness racing) for reasons pointed out by Mr. Beyer; i.e., the sample included “the seven U.S. tracks with the highest percentage of breakdowns or signs of injury were all ones that offer quarter-horse racing — five of them in New Mexico…”


The Times fails to make the distinction once again in an editorial in Tuesday's paper.  It begins: “Thoroughbred racing trades on bucolic imagery and glossy beauty, but a report in The Times on Sunday documented the real pillars of its success: the casual and continual mistreatment of vulnerable, overmedicated and ultimately disposable athletes.”

After beginning the piece with the phrase “Thoroughbred racing,” the editorial never mentions Quarter Horse racing as it recounts the statistics compiled in the Times report, specifically reiterating the New Mexico tracks.  The editorial ends this way:

“The details are painful reading, but we have heard this story before. The death of Eight Belles, who snapped two ankles at the Kentucky Derby in 2008, brought Congressional scrutiny and promises of reform. But a powerful combination of money, secrecy and inattention has blocked progress and left the industry as compromised and dangerous as ever. This seems partly because of racetrack casinos, which have pumped new money into race stakes and added to the pressure to run unfit horses.”

“Not all owners and breeders are complicit; some are urging reform. Some support a federal bill to ban all racehorse doping. They note that the United States lags behind Asia, the Middle East and Europe in eliminating racetrack drugs. It's a worthy goal, but, as with previous reforms in this disreputable industry, it faces long odds.”

  • Francis Bush

    We absolutely do not need the federal government involved with anything in the racing industry. Open your eyes and see the mandates that have stymied business. Keep in mind that racing is a business. If the feds get power, the industry will be overtaxed, over wrought, and over burdened.

  • Enio

    It’s horseracing to the public, no matter the breed. Beyer thinks Quarter horses should be ignored? Dog fighting is OK because it’s only pit bulls.

  • Aunt Bea

    yep, until they start running $50K quarterhorse races on the Aqu inner, we’re in good shape, carry on, boys!

  • Merasmag

    OMG…im sick…

    alex shoulda hired me yesterday

  • Merasmag

     its funny2 make flip comments but this is DEAD serious…andrew beyer izza momo(TM) but @least he wrote something

  • Merasmag

    ok…does any1 ELSE have a problem that the editorial called horseracing a DISREPUTABLE INDUSTRY???

    thereUgo

  • Lanetwetz

    Not buying that one. Businesses pretty much call all of the shots in our country today.

  • Walt Bogdanich/Joe Drape

    Quarter horses are regulated by the same state commissions as thoroughbreds and must race under virtually the same rules.  In fairness, Mr. Beyer should have mentioned that fact.  We also believe that the lives of the men and women who ride quarter horses are no less valuable than those who ride thoroughbreds.  Anyone who feels differently, ought to watch the Jacky Martin video we posted at NYTimes.com.

  • stillriledup

    What’s the matter guys, feel good stories don’t sell copy? Racing has a lot of good stories, uplifting stories of triumph, im sure you could have done a piece on someone or something that was positive.

    Or, does that not ‘sell’ as well as negative sensationalism?

  • Meyer1127

    HORSES ARE HORSES AND RACING HORSE ARE RACING HORSES.
    They are just trying to wiggle away from the shae and blame that should be on them.

  • David

    What you fellows did was represent your findings as being for Thoroughbreds based on QH data.  This is not only shoddy research methodology but deceitful as well.  You are either incompetent or did what you did knowingly.

  • Of course not “Riled.” The single purpose and SOLE goal of the NY Times is to sell papers (or online subscriptions). That’s what it does. And just so, Bogdanich and Drape are writers whose job is to create material that will sell as many papers/subscriptions as possible. 

    That will not happen with reams of happy stories.

    But putting together a carefully researched series on the train wreck side of racing will sell tons of papers, generate seemingly endless commentary, and make Bogdanich/Drape famous and well-rewarded workers at the corporation.

    That is their job.

    And their series over the next few weeks will take us right up to the Kentucky Derby, when racing is as high in the public consciousness as the sport gets.

  • Aunt Bea

    Ok, well I have to admit I don’t understand what a izza momo (TM) means, so I must be waaay outta touch.

  • Lost In The Fog

    Where exactly in their original Sunday article did they “represent their findings for Thoroughbreds based on QH data?”  

    I read the article twice and had no problems whatsoever distinguishing between the two.

    Today’s editorial, on the other hand, does fail to make that distinction and should be criticized accordingly.

    Still, at the end of the day, the fact that so many in the industry are debating the NYT instead of focusing on addressing the real issues at hand tells you everything you need to know about the dysfunctional “leadership” and opinion makers in the sport.

  • David

    ” Yet the Times never drew a distinction between the two sports and did not even mention the phrase “Quarter Horse” until the 48th paragraph of its report.”

  • Lost In The Fog

    Thanks David for the quote from Beyer’s article but I think Beyer needs to re-read the Times original article which did indeed draw distinctions between the two sports.  He mentions the 48th paragraph but fails to mention the following section which appears just a few sentences later:

    “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.”

    That is making a distinction between the two.  All of us may have preferred that the distinction came earlier in the article but a distinction was made nonetheless in the above paragraph and elsewhere.

    My point is that we are wasting time and effort debating the merits of the NYT instead of debating the underlying points made in the original article.  We are shooting the messenger instead of doing the right thing.  That, in a nutshell, underscores the denial and lip service that permeates the powers who control and influence the sport we love.

    Was the NYT article 100% accurate?  Probably not.  Was it 100% fair in not further distinguishing the differences between QH racing and Thoroughbred racing?  Probably not.  Were the key points made in the article for the most part true?  Yes! And that’s what we should be talking about.

  • Canarse

    Beyer may be technically correct, but I don’t see how it changes the conclusion that in both the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing industry the regulations are either far too lax and/or poorly enforced.  There are too many breakdowns as it compares to our international contemporaries. Little changes because those that have the money and make the money don’t want it to change.  

    Federal regulation is something I think will help the game, and especially the horses.  It will make things difficult for many and probably shrink the industry in total, but if racing is to ever become viewed as honest and legitimate by the general public this is going to have to happen.   

  • Citation1012

    A struggle sport took a serious hit.  Whether one thinks the NYT is a “communist pinko rag” is not important.  It is still a very respected newspaper and there is a lot of fallout based on the article.  Go to other news sites and read the comments.

    I love horse racing AND horses.  There has been unsavory practices in horse racing, we all know it.   The problems with med’s have been discussed here and other horse racing blogs for years, long before the NYT article.  The chickens are coming home to roost.

    Yes, horse racing is a dangerous sport and even under the best conditions a breakdown will occur, but what is an acceptable rate?   I, for one, am thankful for the article despite the black eye it gave horse racing.  There are problems that need to be addressed and if the article serves as a launching pad to improve the condition for horses, jockeys, owners, betters, trainers were is the downside?

  • ktq1

    No disrespect Andrew, but TB racing has become more like QH racing over the past thirty years, than TB racing of the past.  We are no longer the “Sport of Kings”.  The bulk of TB’s are owned by average Joe’s and small partnerships that have little extra money or time to “do the right thing”.  Long gone are the days of a sport dominated by rich owners (outside of what we see on TV in the spring and the year-end breeders cup).  The sport has shifted from generations of home grown breeding programs to breed for looks and speed and produce a sales ring profit.  The sport has been inundated with QH racing trainers that know how to train for speed, speed, speed.  Where have all the 1 1/2 or 1 1/4 races gone?  The majority of races on any card – small track or big – are now 6 furlongs…..

    We are becoming QH racing….

  • Harry Buchanan

    Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert might have something to say when Beyer states “in quarter horse racing ANYTHING goes sport of cowboys”. Both started out as quarter horse trainers.

  • Canarse

    Using the same logic who can take anything anyone says or writes seriously?  Everyone has biases, interests, and agendas.  At the end of the day if what they say is the truth it really doesn’t matter what their agenda.  

  • ktq1…so true and those who suppose to know the sport just keeps on pretending…we are basically breeding extended sprinters…..We now have more graded 6 furlongs races than 10 furlongs races…..these inferior horses are so boring….they are used in races from 6 to 9 furlongs…..there is no more diversity in our stock….but they keep hyping these sprinters……Rachel Alexandra was Ruffianlike…..Rachel was laying eggs trying 10 furlongs while Ruffian won at 12 furlongs laughing….even the Brits and Aussies are learning from us how to hype….Frankel being compared to Shergar…..huh? and Black Caviar to Phar Lap…..You know we are circling the drain when there are whispers to changed the conditions for the triple crown like shortening the race and/or increasing the time between the races…..

    The biggest value races today is when these hype 9 furlong horses like Rachel, Quality Road and Havre pretend they can run 10 furlongs….I was loaded and was so dissappointed when miler Uncle Mo scratch out of the Derby….He would have sucked a lot of money out of the gullibles…..but he and Havre made up for it in the BC Classic….

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