Time for The Industry to “Stand and Deliver” When it Comes to Accountability, Transparency, and Most Importantly, the Horse
“Ganas…all we need is Ganas.” –Jaime Escalante
Pretty simple words to say, but much harder to truly live by, and the racing industry is at the point now where it needs to truly not only say these words, but to live them.
Jerry Brown, in a letter to the editor recently published in the Thoroughbred Daily News, stated his belief that horses running in stakes races were not running true to form possibly because of not running on Lasix in those races. He pointed out that these horses may have been scoped post-race, but very often the fans, handicappers, and the public have no idea what the results of these scopes are. This issue is not related to just scoping a horse looking for bleeding, but in all facets of a horses medical care. Racing woefully fails this transparency test, a fact known for years.
One of the arguments (aside from the legal one of owners releasing records which is easily remedied with a change to an owner's license application) against providing full transparency of medical records and fatal injury data has always been that the public will not understand it, and the animal rights crowd will try to twist it to fit their narrative on things. That really is not an acceptable excuse. The industry can no longer rely on the old refrain of “you just don't understand the industry” when presented with any question or argument against racing. Take the time to explain what we all “don't understand,” but also explain it to the ones the industry has the most chance of making understand and converting to fans. It is something I have come to call the “10-80-10” rule. Ten percent of people are always going to think racing is wrong, inhumane, and should be forever banned. They are never going to see it any differently. On the other end of the spectrum, there are 10% of people who think nothing needs to change in the racing industry at all. They will not agree to changing anything even if the data points to a need for it. Both extremes are not the area racing needs to solely focus on (even though both often shout the loudest). The focus should be on the 80% in the middle that are asking to be heard but are also willing to listen. Providing not only transparency but an explanation about that transparency in a manner that people can understand builds the trust needed to bring new blood into the game. It is not hard. It just takes “ganas.”
Finally, a constant refrain I am hearing all the time regarding the sport is, “Without the owners you have no sport,” or “Without the gamblers you have no sport.” This is all true. However, what must be remembered far more importantly is this: “Without the HORSE you have no sport”!!!
Without the HORSE you have no entity for owners to own.
Without the HORSE you have no entity for the gamblers to wager on.
Without the HORSE you have no entity for trainers to train.
Without the HORSE you have no entity for the jockeys to ride.
Without the HORSE you have no entity for vets to treat.
Without the HORSE you have no entity for the fans to root for.
As soon as we take the focus off the horse, we lose sight of what the most important thing in this sport is. The majestic animal we all fall in love with and root on to hold onto that lead or just get up at the wire is what the sport is all about. I am not trying to belittle the contributions of all the other stakeholders of this sport (and I know some will still be offended by my statement). However, NO ONE in this industry is in a position that is superior to the creature that makes it all possible. Keeping this in mind at all times is what will help re-invigorate fans and interest to the sport. Take care of the HORSE first and foremost, and the rest will follow and fall into place.
The time for just talking about change is over. We need meaningful actions to bring about that change. In some places it is happening. In others it is not. One thing remains a constant theme throughout, though. Want to bring this amazing sport to the next level and see it thrive? All it takes is “ganas.”