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Monday, May 05, 2008


- The fallout from the death of Eight Belles continues, and this is obviously not good. Keeping horses safe from injury is obviously a major concern of those both inside and outside of the industry; and not one that the sport has ignored. People certainly have a right to speak out and, as reader Robin noted here, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

It raises issues and the complacent have to respond. We'd rather not, we'd rather handicap. But these are worthwhile arguments, if annoying when taken to the extreme.
The problem is when those arguments are taken to the extreme at the expense of intelligent discussion that might actually spur constructive changes that I think we'd all like to see. So when I read useless blather like this (hat tip to Equidaily) or hear the kind of talk we're presently getting from PETA, it makes me wonder if the speakers are really trying to call attention to the problem, or to themselves.

In the case of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), I don't have any problem with their calling for artificial tracks, no whipping, or limits on at what ages horse can race. I don't necessarily agree that the industry should jump into any of those, and here's a wild guess - nobody at PETA has spent a single second reading and learning about the industry's experience with synthetics thus far. But these ideas are at least worthy of discussion; and in fact, highly visible and publicized breakdowns like this demand it.

However, their attack on jockey Gabriel Saez is completely uncalled for; their assertion that the filly was "doubtlessly injured before the finish" is unfounded and ignorant. Their characterization of his "mercilessly" whipping Eight Belles is just not borne out by watching the race. If I were the jockey, I'd be looking for a good libel attorney. Furthermore, the organization has called for the suspension of the trainer, and barring the owner from the track (a position on which Paul Moran would likely agree).

Even more absurdly, the organization released a letter it sent to Hillary Clinton which included this unfortunate news for the junior senator from New York:
I regret to say that your public support of horseracing — and specifically betting on Eight Belles—makes you culpable in her destruction.
(Since I only bet her underneath on my exotics, does that mean I'm off the hook?)
A race track is not a place for a fun day out, and we are writing to Chelsea on that score. Attending the Derby is as despicable as attending a dogfight. For most—not a few—of the horses you see will not end up put out to pasture on a beautiful ranch but will be sent overseas to be slaughtered for someone's dinner plate. At some point, all horses stop winning.

Need I say more? I'm not going to waste my time or yours refuting the specific points here. But does PETA really expect to be taken seriously with stuff like this? The letter is signed by PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk. Perhaps she's related to Alfred E. Neuman. This seems more appropriate for an issue of his magazine then a statement - and a very poorly written one, I might add - from the president of a supposedly important organization. Whereas PETA could be playing a constructive role, they instead demonstrate why nobody takes them seriously in the first place.


Anonymous said...

PETA is a Terrorist group.

They should be hunted down and put in jail.

Don't legitimize this group.

rather rapid said...

my reaction to your posts on Eight Belles is that they are unfortunate. If any good comes out of EB is that this will finally be a wake up call for the industry. I for one decline to "deal with it". Moreover, what would you expect of PETA or any animal group interest in animal welfare. my guess, there's lot's of animals out there that pray for "terrorists" as PETA as their only hope from unspeakable cruelty.

Personally Alan, I'd have been more impressed by a well reasoned look into cause and effect, and what needs to happen for this sport to survive. From where I am, EB ought to become a cause.

Anonymous said...

This was a blog post by a reader they saw fit to print:

'I know you'll think I'm crazy but I love animals so much I feel this is a disgusting "sport" if you want to call it that. I think in cases where the horse dies (and let's face it, it's only for money) the jockey, trainer and owners should die also.'

"terrorist group" might be an overstatement, but not by much!


El Angelo said...

Call me a cynic or a worrywart, but I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall with a positive test by Big Brown or some other violation by Dutrow with this horse. If the general public has positive proof the Derby was tainted and that it kills horses, we will never get mass attention again.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100 percent with points made by Moran and I have heard the same points made by horse racing industry veterans.
The fillies that run against the top colts are never the same.

Valerie Grash said...

From Andrew Beyer “Let’s Follow in Cycling Tracks” Washington Post (August 10, 2006):

If the winner of one of America's important horse races came back with a positive drug test, I would say with confidence that the offense would never be made public.

Anonymous said...

I posted this to their blog but it never passed review. wonder why?

Your letter asking for the suspension of the jockey is exactly why I have never joined your organization in spite of the fact that I am a tree hugging animal loving fool. The foolish personal attacks on the people involved with horse racing here in this thread merely confirms the common perception that this organization is sadly lacking in understanding and information.
As said here already this lack of understanding of what happened diminishes the credibility of your organization. I would go further and suggest your letter was simply a ploy to garner attention for your organization. You have used the tragic death of this animal for your own interests and to selfishly promote your own short sighted and ill informed agenda. That is more disgusting then her death. The jockey did nothing wrong. I have been raised with horses , yes i am from kentucky, and the whip is nothing to these animals but an annoyance...i have seen wasps the size of your index finger sting them on the rump and it phases theses animals no more then you or I brushing a fly off our arms. the jockey, the owners, the trainers...all these are non issues. You have embarrassed your organization with your silly letter and have blatantly attempted to use this tragic incident for your own misguided purposes. The solution has already been mentioned here...two year old racing needs to be abolished. I would suggest we all pursue that course of action as it is reasonable and would be well supported. Instead of attempting to promote your own organization at the expense of this poor filly why not do something that will really help these majestic animals. Anyone who cares: start with petitions on a state by state level. all states that have racing have a state Commission that oversees the industry. The only people who will resist this action are the money. The vet's, the grooms, most everyone involved will support this. Come on people! instead of venting your emotional baggage in an obscure thread read only by people who already support your opinions go out and DO SOMETHING...anything! Get involved and be careful who you make alliances with. PETA is primarily concerned with their own interests...not with helping horses.
James Barriger

Anonymous said...

While I understand that this type of thing can happen at any time, I do believe that the stretchout from 1 1/16th and racing against the colts for the first time added too much stress and played a major factor in her break down.

If Jones didn't have Proud Spell, the Derby never would have been a consideration for Eight Belles. See Washington Post quote Saturday. It was pure greed on his part!

Churchill Downs needs to get with the program and update the system, restricted earnings against fillies should not qualify for Derby entry!

Bottom line is the filly never should have been on the track Saturday!

Proud Spell Wins Ky. Oaks

Anonymous said...

peta? against the big money of the racing industry let alone the welfare of the state of kentucky. i'll take good old american competetive capitalism over peta every day. just look and the trainer of eight belles larry jones after they euthanized eight belles he was crushed with emotion and it had nothing to do with his wallet. he will get another and another gr 1 stakes horse bred or bought with his abilities in mind to train to racing at its gr 1 events are inspiring to americans and the world. this will not change due to death or injury to its participants.

Erin said...

PETA is a joke. They saw a great chance at publicity and their statements and actions prove they do no research before spouting their asinine proclamations. PETA is ridiculously hypocritical: they oppose the no kill shelter movement and the trap-neuter-return of feral cats. PETA's Norfolk VA location has killed over 14,000 cats and dogs. Their 2005 adoption rate of 6 per cent versus 90 per cent euthanized is one of the worst of any shelter in the country - this is under Ingrid Newkirk's tenure.

It makes me sick thinking anyone believes the image PETA is trying to sell to the public re: horse racing.

steve in nc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.