Tag Archives: horse racing

QUESTION 1 WOULD AUTHORIZE NEW SLOT MACHINE LICENSE

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Vote! For our next president … and for humane living conditions for farm animals (Question 3). There are 4 ballot questions in all – today Maher takes a closer look at Question 1. pic: R.T.

By Steven R. Maher

With all the hullabaloo about the Presidential election, and the clamor about charter schools (Question 2), humane conditions for farm animals (Question 3), and marijuana legalization (Question 4) little attention has been paid to Question 1, which would allow the Stating Gaming Commission to license one additional slot machine parlor.

That’s unfortunate, because there’s apparently a story behind the ballot question:

The opponents of the proposal stated on their website: “Question 1 is a flagrant abuse of the ballot question process. It was filed by one developer, for one site, for one purpose: his own financial benefit. The drafters of the Massachusetts Constitution designed our ballot question process to give the people a voice on statewide issues, not as an end-run around the legislative process for wealthy developers and corporate interests.”

Written to narrow down

A closer look at the proposed referendum seems to indicate that it was drafted to narrow down the location of the slot machines parlor to one site:

• The location has to be “at least four acres in size”;

• It has to be “adjacent to and within 1,500 feet of a race track, including the track’s additional facilities, such as the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, Amphitheatre, and bleachers”

• It has to be “where a horse racing meeting may physically be held”;

• The site has to be “where a horse racing meeting shall have been hosted”; and

• The site cannot be “separated from the race track by a highway or railway.”

All these references to horse racing suggests that the beneficiaries of the ballot question would be the owners of the Suffolk Downs racetrack.

Opponents of Question 1 deny this. “Suffolk Downs itself would have no ownership interest in the proposed casino, and would receive no direct benefit from it. While a percentage of any Massachusetts casino’s profits are legally required to go toward the statewide Horse Racing Fund, this fund alone may not be enough to save New England horse racing,” says the Vote No website.

“The question of a casino near Suffolk Downs has already been asked and answered three times, and there is no reason to revisit it now,” continues the website statement. “The first proposal was withdrawn due to serious questions raised by allegations of criminal ties and inappropriate conduct on the part of Caesars Entertainment. The second was voted down by East Boston residents, and the third was denied by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission even after the Commission changed its own rules to give Suffolk Downs a second chance.”

Pros and cons

According to the website of “The Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee” the slots parlor will have the following benefits to the Commonwealth (www.Massachusettsquestion1.net)

• “Over $80 Million Dollars in new Revenue to the State per year”;

• “$12 Million Dollars to support Horse Racing in Massachusetts”;

• “1000’s of new jobs both Direct and Indirect for Massachusetts citizens”;

• “$5 million dollars in guaranteed new revenue to the Host City.”

The website of the “Committee for Responsible and Sustainable Economic Development”, MaCasinos.net urges a NO vote for the following reasons

•”Legalized casino gambling in the Commonwealth is too new and unproven to expand at this time”;

• “Only one slot parlor has opened in Massachusetts, and it is significantly underperforming”;

• “Five casinos are expected to open in Massachusetts by 2019. The Wall Street Journal warns that New England already has more casinos than the market wants or needs”;

• “Proponents of the ‘Act Relative to Gaming’ have traveled across the globe to exploit the Commonwealth and send a message to other casino developers – they can come to Massachusetts and do the same”;

• Urges a no vote “to postpone the question of gambling expansion until a review of the costs and benefits of existing Massachusetts gaming establishments is completed.”
Economic benefits

What are the economic benefits of passing Question 1?

Both sides dispute that state taxpayers, on the whole, will benefit or not benefit from passing the question.

In a “Statement of Fiscal Consequences” mailed out to state voters, the Secretary of State’s office stated: “The fiscal consequences of this proposed measure for state and municipal government finances could range from 0 dollars to an unknown positive amount.

“Under the Expanded Gaming Act, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has the discretion to determine whether a gaming license should be issued and when that determination would be made.

“If the Gaming Commission did award the proposed license, a new analysis of the casino market would be needed to determine the amount of revenue from this license, based on proposed size and operations, and the potential impact of competition from other gaming establishments in Massachusetts and surrounding areas.”

Horse deaths at race tracks should be as rare as Triple Crown Winners

By Kathy Guillermo

Seeing the video of the fourth race on Belmont Stakes day, when a horse named Helwan broke his leg and was euthanized, reminded me of the very first time I saw a horse break down during a race. It was many years ago, and I thought it would be the only time. I thought that a death on the track was as rare as a Triple Crown winner.

What seemed to me then to be shocking and unusual is actually so routine today that numbers are reported in a detached way, as though they were simply statistics from less deadly sports—more than three horses a day die on tracks, which is 24 a week and 1,000 a year. These stats don’t convey the horror of the loud crack of a bone and the horse crashing to the ground while running at top speed.

But what’s even more astounding is that the racing industry could stop many of these deaths right now if it wanted to. Some good people in racing, some members of Congress, outside experts and PETA have been saying it for years: Get rid of the medication. Stop drugging horses to keep them running when they should be resting. Eliminate the use of the debilitating diuretic Lasix on race day.

The drugs are leading to the breakdowns, and all medications should be prohibited in the week before a race. If a horse actually requires medication, that horse should not be racing.

Instead, not a day passes without the death of a Thoroughbred or Standardbred or Quarter Horse somewhere on a U.S. track. On June 14, Danzig Moon, who finished fifth in this year’s Kentucky Derby and ran in the Preakness, broke a hind leg and was euthanized at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. On June 15, when only six Thoroughbred tracks in the U.S. were open, four horses broke down.

Drug use is pervasive even at the top levels. Veterinary records released by New York State reveal that all eight horses who ran in the Belmont Stakes were given the powerful painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication phenylbutazone on June 4, just two days before the race. Is it coincidental that every horse was suffering from “inflammation”?

The French horse Helwan, who died on the day that American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, had a winning career in Europe and had never raced on Lasix. But racing for the first time in the U.S., where nearly every horse is given this drug, Helwan was given Lasix, which can cause dehydration and the loss of a hundred pounds in a single day.

It is inexplicable that racing without drugs should panic so many trainers and owners. It is inexcusable that the racing industry doesn’t stop its ceaseless bickering and clean up this mess immediately. Some members of Congress agree. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania have introduced a bill that would repeal the Interstate Horseracing Act, which allows betting across state lines, by phone and on the Internet. Ninety percent of the $11 billion wagered annually on horses comes from this form of betting, and without it, the racing industry would collapse.

Pitts, along with Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, has also reintroduced legislation to end drugging in racing and ban violators. Both these bills would improve the chances for horses’ survival, and clearly, federal oversight is essential. The racing industry won’t do this itself. That much is clear.

The drug days of summer horse racing

By Kathy Guillermo

There’s quite a buzz surrounding the possibility that I’ll Have Another will cross the finish line first in the Belmont Stakes June 9 and become the first Triple Crown Winner since 1978. The subtext to this public discussion is a lot seedier: I’ll Have Another’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, has a long rap sheet of drugging violations.

For more than a decade, O’Neill has been in trouble over and over again for administering substances illegally to horses. Just last week, the California Horse Racing Board suspended O’Neill for 45 days in that state and fined him $15,000 for a drugging violation. Statistics show that the horses he trains suffer catastrophic injury at twice the rate of the national average—an indication that somehow (anti-inflammatory drugs? Painkillers? Muscle relaxants?) horses are raced when fatigue and injury should dictate rest and recuperation.

To those of us not involved in thoroughbred racing, the questions are obvious: How is it that this man can still be training horses? How can it be that someone who wouldn’t even be allowed to unload a horse van on a track in one state is garnering accolades as he prepares to run a horse in another? And why has the racing industry embraced him and not kicked him out on his chemical-laden can?

So here’s a message to the racing industry: Stop blaming your bad image on the animal protection organizations that work to improve living, racing and retirement conditions for thoroughbreds. Quit your griping and clean up your act.

Thoroughbred racing needs a zero-tolerance policy. This means much more than a multiyear debate about whether or not furosemide, also known as Lasix or Salix, should be allowed on the day that a horse races. The discussion about this drug, which purports to prevent bleeding in the lungs during exertion, is the racing industry’s delaying tactic: If they focus on this one medication, they won’t have to talk about the 25 or 30 injections of drugs that are often given to horses in the week before a race.

“Zero-tolerance” means that repeat offenders need to find a new career.

The misuse of legal drugs to keep unfit horses racing is what is killing racing—and thoroughbreds—in America. Everyone from the groom to the top trainer knows it, but few are willing to admit it, with notable exceptions. At a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hearing on race-day medications at which I testified last fall, famed thoroughbred owner Arthur Hancock commented: “Therapeutic drugs are given to a horse who is ailing or recovering. Is every horse in every race ill or injured?”

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens recently testified before Congress on the use of drugs to keep horses running: “Horses need down time. … Horses need time off to heal naturally. … [A] lot of good horses would still be running today, if medications weren’t used in the way they are. Would you inject your son or daughter so they could run in a track meet? I don’t think so. You would let them heal and miss a race or two until they could come back and not damage themselves more. So why would we do it to horses?”

Because there’s no federal oversight of horse racing, the Jockey Club, too, is trying to deal with the deadly proliferation of drugs. They’ve proposed sensible rules and penalties that could get the worst of the offenders out of racing altogether. But they need every one of the racing boards in 38 separate states to buy into the plan.

It’s clear that these racing heavy-hitters can’t stop the excessive drugging by themselves. The entire racing industry needs to embrace reform instead of syringes. Every trainer could start by firing the veterinarians whose answer to an ache is a regimen of drugs instead of rest. Every thoroughbred owner should fire or not hire trainers with violations. This would mean a good many track vets and trainers would be filing for unemployment. But it might also mean the beginning of clean racing—and this means fewer injuries and deaths on the racetrack.

Until this happens, don’t go to a race and don’t bet on one. If the racing industry won’t do the right thing for the right reasons, let’s make sure their already plummeting profits fall through the floor. Maybe then they’ll quit doping the horses.

Kentucky Derby to be held Saturday – please steer clear of horse racing

By Kathy Guillermo

Several years after Eight Belles’ fatal breakdown during the Kentucky Derby, many of us still remember the heartbreak of seeing that beautiful filly lying in the dirt at Churchill Downs, her ankles shattered beyond repair.

The thoroughbred racing industry would have us believe that Eight Belles’ tragic death was a “freak accident,” but it wasn’t. Every single day, three horses, on average, suffer catastrophic injuries while racing and must be euthanized. This is no rare event. It’s business as usual.

Thousands of horses have died on U.S. tracks since the Eight Belles tragedy. And every month, 1,000 racehorses who don’t “measure up” are sent to other countries to be slaughtered for human consumption.

People who care about horses for horses’ sake must steer clear of the Triple Crown races if they don’t want to contribute to this staggering death toll.

In the weeks following Eight Belles’ death, there was much talk about reforming the horse-racing industry. And after being prodded by PETA, the racing industry did make some improvements, including banning steroids from the states in which Triple Crown races are run.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Racing insiders tell PETA that the misuse of legal drugs is still the biggest cause of breakdown and death, and the industry has yet to address this issue in any meaningful way.

Horse trainers have told us that in the days leading up to a race, strong anti-inflammatories, painkillers and muscle relaxants are legally injected into injured, sore horses to make them run when they should be recovering. Some horses are injected with drugs up to 30 times in the week before a race, and it’s all legal.

Then there are stories about the unusual substances, such as cobra venom, that are injected into horses in order to mask pain. There is no drug test for cobra venom. Many horses also undergo what industry insiders call “milkshaking”—forcing a large quantity of sodium bicarbonate and sugar into a horse’s stomach through a tube. This procedure is said to make them run faster during a race.

Drugging animals to make them do what they never would under natural conditions is abuse and must be stopped. It’s not enough to sound upset and make empty promises about reform.

The public deserves to know that the problems with horse racing didn’t end with Eight Belles. Horses are still being run to their deaths on racetracks. Most of them just never make the news.

So here’s my advice to racing fans who want to help push this industry to rein in its worst abuses. Don’t go. Don’t bet. And don’t watch.

Slaughterhouses: Where racehorses go to ‘retire’

By Kathy Guillermo

Every spring in the U.S., as many as 50,000 thoroughbred mares give birth. Perhaps every thoroughbred owner dreams that, this year, a champion will be born. The odds are against it. Only a fraction of all these foals will go on to compete. And only a fraction of this fraction will become as successful as Charismatic and War Emblem.

Charismatic won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness—the first two legs of the Triple Crown—in 1999. But during the Belmont Stakes, Charismatic’s left front leg broke in two places. Unlike Barbaro and Eight Belles, who were euthanized after their legs shattered during Triple Crown races, Charismatic survived. With four screws permanently holding his bones together, he went on to become a breeding stallion.

Just three years later, in 2002, War Emblem, like Charismatic, won both the Derby and the Preakness, lost in the Belmont and was retired to stud. The same year, both horses were sold to thoroughbred breeders in Japan. This was also the year (although no one knew it at the time) that another Derby winner, Ferdinand—who had also been sold to Japanese buyers—was sent to a slaughterhouse. Continue reading Slaughterhouses: Where racehorses go to ‘retire’