Washington Post Column: Horse Racing Needs Governing Body, Not Legislation

by | 05.30.2019 | 1:15pm
At a 2018 hearing on the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017, a panel representing various horse racing interests answered questions from a Congressional subcommittee

Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins added her voice Thursday to the national conversation about the future of Thoroughbred racing, given the 26 fatalities at Santa Anita since the end of last year.

Jenkins argues that even though groups like The Jockey Club and the Water Hay Oats Alliance support the federal Horseracing Integrity Act, proper reform shouldn't come from lawmakers, it should come from within the sport. She writes:

You always hear that nobody loves the horses more than their handlers. But when are they going to show it? If they can't muster the will to organize and institute a national governing body with a uniform program of protections for horses and penalties for abusers, then they don't really love them. They just like and enjoy them, until they have to dispose of them.

Jenkins says the best advocates for racehorses are not within the halls of Congress; instead, they are the “many breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, hot walkers and grooms, who feel deep partnership and kinship with the horses.”

One of those people, Jenkins writes, is David Israel, an old friend of hers and the former chairman of the California Horse Racing Board who owns a horse trained by Bob Baffert. Israel has long supported a push for a national governing body led by a commissioner. Jenkins continues:

Israel, who is working on a book about his experience with Baffert, and who has watched handlers stroking the legs of their charges, contends, “No animals in the world receive better care than thoroughbred horses who are in the care of good, honest, hard-working trainers and their grooms and hot walkers. I've spent years on the backstretch without a vested interest, just observing. Kids aren't scrutinized that closely. Children.”

Poor cosmetics of the sport have obscured those people. Instead, the public sees appalling statistics on the prevalence of breakdowns, combined with frightening visuals like the criminally overcrowded Kentucky Derby field scrumming in the mud and a horse bolting riderless in the Preakness.

Thoroughbred racing's best hope for survival is a moral blockade by these good handlers of horses, a movement from within to ostracize non-cooperators in reform.

Click here to read the entire column at washingtonpost.com

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