We were just one stretch run away from a clean Breeders’ Cup. The worst that we feared did indeed happen - Mongolian Groom was pulled up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was vanned off the track where vets found that he had a serious injury to his left hind leg. The decision was made to humanely euthanize him.
Mongolian Groom was a great example of the Thoroughbred racehorse. He was so beautiful, a perfect bay color. He was so gutsy in the Gr.1 Awesome Again Stakes, beating talented horses like Mckinzie and Higher Power. He was gallant every step of the way.
Moments like these break the hearts of anyone who loves horses and horse racing. It is easy to see this tragedy and decide that horse racing is a cruel, bloody sport. It is easy to turn away from this sport, dismissing it as something that can never change. But is a time like this that we need to stick together more than ever.
This morning I decided to google “Mongolian Groom” and read the articles written by non-racing outlets. I read the articles posted by Fox News, CNN, and Sports Illustrated. Each article mentioned the following statement made by the Breeders’ Cup:
“The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community. Our equine and human athletes’ safety is the Breeders’ Cup’s top priority. We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety. Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment.”
Many of the comments on these articles found no solace in this statement. “Guess that hasn’t worked,” read one comment. “Shut all horse racing down permanently,” read another. How are we to change the opinions of these people who see these articles and assume that our sport is all bad? The majority of people who read the articles about the breakdowns will do nothing to learn about our sport. They will not go to the racetrack or breeding farms to see it for themselves, at least not without some kind of encouragement. They will not see the posts on social media about the good of horse racing if these posts are only being marketed to those who already enjoy horse racing.
These people see the articles about breakdowns and begin to believe that there is nothing that can be done besides ending the sport of horse racing as a whole. The public does not see everything that goes into horse racing. The public only sees those brief, two minutes where our horses are galloping around an oval at full speed. To the public, this is a gambler’s paradise at the expense of a beautiful animal. To the public, this is a sport made only for the wealthy, a sport where the majority of Americans do not belong.
We know this is not the case. We know that there is so much work that goes into raising and caring for these beautiful animals. We know the dedication it takes to keep our horses happy and healthy. We know the love that goes into it.
The majority of the public know nothing about horses. These are no longer the days where everyone has horses or livestock in their lives. People do not know that horses often injure themselves in their paddocks or stalls. They do not know why horses cannot survive with three legs. They do not understand that these are huge, powerful animals that sometimes need the encouragement of a crop (that is regulated & does not cause pain) to focus. And how do we even teach them these things? So many of them are blinded by emotion that they refuse to listen to anything someone in horse racing tells them. They think we are trying to find excuses for our “inhumane, sorry excuse for a sport”.
The beautiful moments of the Breeders’ Cup have been tarnished with tragedy. No one sees the pictures of Jose Ortiz hugging Elate, of Chad Brown kissing Bricks and Mortar, of Peter Miller running to embrace Belvoir Bay.
Change is coming, but it must come much faster in order to save this sport that we love so much. There are multiple battles going on right now and few organized efforts to actually have these battles won.
There is a political fight taking place, especially in California. The Breeders’ Cup occurred at a track that has been getting a ton of scrutiny by the public and the media. Unfortunately, the worst of the worst occurred in the biggest and most watched race of the weekend. Groups like HRW & PETA will be gaining momentum to beat our California group We Support Horse Racing. Now more than ever we must support WSHR as they continue to fight for our sport on the political lines. We must push for better media representation of horse racing. We need our sport marketed on channels outside of TVG. We need YouTube ads that show the good. We need social media posts sponsored to get to people outside of horse racing. We need to promote the stories, not just who the best bets in a race are.
We must band together to push the high ups in the industry to make real change. We need a governing body that will make uniform rules at tracks across the United States. We need better media campaigns and representation. We need to ensure that EVERY racehorse has a home after they retire from racing. We need better injury prevention protocols.
As I scramble to think of things I can personally do to help horse racing, I encourage you to tell me what you think could and should be done to help horse racing. Discuss with others. We must brainstorm. Our sport depends on us all working together to create real change. Champions of the Track has over 10,000 followers across platforms. Imagine what we could do if we all worked together! [Video: Remember Mongolian Groom with his win in the Gr.1 Awesome Again]
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