Horse racing is a sport of betting in which humans ride horses to compete for money. The sport has been practiced around the world since ancient times, with evidence of race tracks dating back to Ancient Greece, Rome, and Babylon. It is an important part of the culture in countries including Australia, France, England, Japan, South Africa, and Brazil.
In the United States, organized horse races began with the British occupation of New York City in 1664. Colonel Richard Nicolls, a leader of the colonial forces, laid out a 2-mile (3.2-km) course on Long Island and offered silver cups to the winner of each race. In the beginning, the hallmark of excellence for American Thoroughbreds was stamina rather than speed. But after the Civil War, speed became the goal.
Despite its glamorous façade, horse racing is a dangerous sport for both the horses and the people who train them. Pushed beyond their physical limits, the horses suffer from numerous injuries, some of which are fatal. They also experience a painful condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage that causes them to bleed from the lungs. To make them less susceptible to the bleeding, they are administered a cocktail of legal and illegal drugs.
The drug abuse in horse racing has a long history. During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), the sport was based on gambling and aristocrats used aristocratic-named horses to bet on each other. In the early 19th century, racing became more popular and bettors began to look for an advantage over their competitors. Trainers started to use cocktails of legal and illegal drugs to improve the performance of their horses.
Abel Cedillo, the jockey riding Mongolian Groom that day, was a journeyman from Guatemala. His calm demeanor masked his anxiety about the race. In the walking ring before a race, bettors look at a horse’s coat to see if it is bright. A bright coat means that the animal is ready to run. A dull coat means the horse is frightened or angry.
Despite the best efforts of trainers and owners, many of these horses end up dying at the track or in slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada. The only way to save these horses is for an industry-sponsored wraparound aftercare solution, but the sport is unable to embrace such a change. Instead, the industry blows off the concerns of the public and animal rights activists. For the sake of the horses, we must continue to question whether horse racing deserves a respectable future.