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 Editorials

Thoughts from our editor, Joe Clancy. For archived editorials click here.

Maybe the horses have this covered. Maybe, if we left it to them, they’d make the right decisions and overcome all of our failures for the good of the game.

Think about it.

People give horses medications, necessary or not.

People create rules that apply in one state and don’t apply in others.

People run horses “one more time.”

People run former stakes horses in cheap claiming races.

People claim horses for strictly business reasons.

People won’t look outside the box (built by people) and think of an alternative categorical system of racing.

People try to have “early” foals so they’ll be bigger and stronger for the sales ring.

Other people tell you that doesn’t matter (all three 2021 Triple Crown race winners were foaled in April, by the way).

People breed hundreds of mares to the same few stallions, and then complain that Thoroughbred racing has no middle to its business, horses today aren’t as strong as they were decades ago and today’s stallions don’t offer enough variety.

People created some rules to help that problem.

Other people took those people to court.

People spend small fortunes on racehorses, and future racehorses, but the people who care for those horses work six or more days a week and often live on the racetrack in conditions that aren’t much better than the stalls the horses live in.

People created a federal body to oversee racing on a national scale and lobbied other people to pass the law putting it all in motion.

People set that law to go into effect next year.

People expect that body to get to work.

Other people think it’s all unconstitutional and are suing.

They’re not suing horses.

People created rules for the use of Lasix, to help protect horses from exercised induced pulmonary hemorrhaging.

People are changing those rules. Well, some people.

People created hard-to-understand rules for use of the riding crop. Those rules vary, depending on the state and/or racetrack.

People make decisions in the stewards’ stand.

People made rules that allow those decisions to be overturned. In some states, not in others.

People connected racing to revenue from slot machines and other forms of gambling.

People didn’t do a good enough job justifying racing’s share of that revenue to state legislators and the general public.

People are trying to take away those subsidies. In some states, not in others.

People got caught in an FBI probe into racing in 2020.

People make business decisions, instead of horse-welfare decisions. People let racetrack facilities get old.

People allow independent, competing entities to make big-picture decisions with ripple effects across the sport.

I know horses can’t literally make all the decisions for themselves – the feed cart would always be empty were that the case – but if we consider the horses a little more when we make our decisions, this will be a better game and a better world.

Think about it some more.

For all the controversy caused by his post-race test above the limit for betamethasone, Medina Spirit didn’t do anything wrong when he won the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t break a rule. He didn’t make a judgment call he shouldn’t have made. He didn’t blame it on cancel culture or hint at sabotage. He didn’t make excuses. The horse ran a gutsy, game, determined race, fought off all challengers, did everything expected of him.

Two weeks later at Pimlico, Medina Spirit tried to do the right thing again. He ran to the best of his ability, and finished third to another horse who did the same. After skipping the Derby, Rombauer summoned a reserve of energy in the stretch, passed Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon, won for owners/breeders with less than a handful of broodmares and gave racing a new story. Three weeks beyond the Preakness, Derby favorite and last year’s 2-year-old champion Essential Quality did his part – stepping up and delivering in the Belmont Stakes. He didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t bend a rule, he didn’t push things. He just responded like an athlete and edged past Hot Rod Charlie – another horse doing his best – to win the Triple Crown’s 1 1/2-mile finale.

Could we ask for anything more? Not from horses.

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