US Horse Racing at a Crossroads

Horse racing in America is under the microscope like never before. Petitions and calls to ban the sport completely are gaining momentum. The outrage was caused after 30 horses died during a six month period while running at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

There also seems to be some support for nationwide regulation of the sport, and there are fears that racing could be prohibited in several other states including Kentucky. Racing in the Bluegrass State is under scrutiny after a spate of tragic injuries recently occurred at Keeneland racecourse in Lexington and Churchill Downs in Louisville.

April Montgomery, a leading animal rights activist, recently told the CHRB (California Horse Racing Board) that “Californians will end horse racing at the ballot box. We’re going to end it, and it’s going to start with California.”

Two Sides to Every Coin

While the recent deaths in California and Kentucky are undeniably tragic, we must remember that there are two sides to every coin. For instance, what about the owners, trainers, and jockeys who have poured their hearts and souls into the racing industry? If you spend a little time on the backside of a racetrack, it’s easy to see how much love that owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms and other horsemen have for their horses.

If a blanket ban was to be placed upon the sport tomorrow, where would these people end up and what would they do with their lives? Many of them have been involved in the industry for several decades and know nothing else.

Perhaps it’s not just that easy to cut all ties and leave thousands of people without a job or any direction in life. However, there’s no doubt that some things might need to change and the public image of the sport has taken a hit.

So, what are the potential solutions? Can horse racing survive and thrive in America? Several industry experts believe that improved aftercare is a potential solution.

Impact on the Economy

What sort of impact would a horse racing ban have on the economy? According to the AHC (American Horse Council), it’s estimated that racing in California provides almost 18,000 jobs. It also adds in $1.56 billion to the economy through events and race meetings every year.

The California Horse Racing Board and professional racing tipsters also claim that more than $3 billion is wagered annually on races that take place within the Golden State. It’s clear for everyone to see that this would hit traders and bookmakers hard. It’s certainly a tricky subject to navigate. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument, that’s for sure.

What Does the Future Hold?

Several pieces of legislation have been put in place with the idea to protect horses. For instance, the Horseracing Integrity Act will create an independent horse racing anti-doping authority. Its main objective will be to govern a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program, however, many in the industry have pointed out potential problems with the legislation, especially given the fact that involvement of the federal government doesn’t always make things better, just more complicated.

If America wants to keep its multi-billion dollar industry alive and kicking, it’s clear that some changes need to occur, and quickly.