The "Mangled Horses and Maimed Jockeys" story in the NY Times over the weekend is causing a big stir in the racing community and the non-racing community. It seems that many newspapers accross the country have printed the story.
Horse racing is in such bad financial shape that a story like this could affect it's business. But I see it as a wake-up call. If the industry doesn't take the opportunity to address the blantant drug use by unscrupulous trainers, then the business will die off much like greyhound racing seems to be doing.
The article focused in on one state. New Mexico was one of the first states to allow slot machines at it's racetracks. A portion of the slot revenue was given to the horsemen in the form of higher purses. That's where the problems began. With more money to race for, trainers routinely inject the horses with legal and illegal drugs (the labs can't detect some of the illegal stuff and when they do, the trainers will move onto something else). Also a party in this mess is a do-nothing racing comission. Since the drugs mask injuries that the race horses have, they start a race they shouldn't be in. Some lame horses continue to race even though they should have been given a rest or retired altogether.
The article didn't delve into some areas that need to be looked at. At nearly every racing circuit, the trainers who lead the standings for wins alse lead in drug violations. Also horses racing in the United States breakdown at a much higher rate than those racing in other countries. The USA horses get less starts per year too, probably to recover from the drugs. In fact the average horses makes less than 10 starts per year, while horses racing in South America or Australia start about 30 times a year.
Racing needs to take this opportunity to do what's necessary to clean up it's act. The trainers have been calling the shots for too long. You can see where it has led the sport.