Letter To The Editor: Nick de Meric

Sarah Andrew

I just wanted to express my frustration and disappointment that we, as an industry, seem incapable of presenting a meaningful response to the negativity we are currently facing in the mainstream media. For example, when the 60 Minutes documentary aired several weeks ago, it elicited a wave of legitimate outrage. But the industry's side of the story was nowhere to be seen outside the trade press. We have a collective tendency, at times like this, to wring our hands and shuffle our feet, figuratively speaking.

Surely the Thoroughbred Racing Industry, with all the fine bodies encompassed within it, with all their titles and acronyms, should have a public relations/damage control body tasked with countering some of the misinformation and negative reporting circulating in the free press?

We have so many positives to present: the improvements to injury detection, increased out of competition testing, the monitoring of training and workouts, more pre race veterinary oversight, the dedication of Thoroughbred Retirement facilities and the huge success of the Thoroughbred Makeover Project, stricter drug testing and uniformity of rules through HISA and HWIU, more stringent protocols at sales and the resulting improvements to horse and jockey safety, all of which are clearly reflected in independent studies. And while with most of these we are playing off the back foot, playing defense, none of it takes into account the many 'feel good' stories from this year's racing, the magnificent spectacle of Thoroughbreds racing on a big race day, the euphoria of backing a winning combination or the sheer joy of owning a competitive racehorse.

We now face the fallout from another damaging 'documentary' on racing, titled, 'Broken Horses', this time from the Disney Company, in which we are told that Thoroughbred horseracing's social license to exist is to be questioned, among other things. How many more such exposés in the mainstream media can we survive? Yet more fodder for the abolitionists. At what point will the New York State legislature decide to scrap plans for Belmont's renovation and spend the funds elsewhere?

It seems we are in desperate need of an intelligently choreographed, sustained PR campaign stressing the love of the animals that is inseparable from our fine sport, the significant economic impact of the industry in racing states, of the beauty of the horses themselves or of the farms that nurture them, the rich traditions of its history, the international competition between owners, trainers and racing jurisdictions globally and the excitement associated with owning, or just betting, a winner. These are significant talking points, of which we could make far better use.

We have industry insiders loudly and publicly calling for an overhaul of the sport, of purging 'the evildoers' and of the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs, which only adds fuel to the firestorm of public criticism. Yes, we need constantly to raise the bar and continue to make ongoing improvements in every aspect the sport, which, by the way, we are doing. We all agree on this.

But it seems to me that it is past time to link arms and present a united front that gives a more accurate portrayal of our beautiful sport, and its fine athletes, than that which is fed to the public by certain factions of the mainstream media. With the many powerful intellects and social influencers among our participants, it defies credibility that we seem unable to create an entity whose sole task is to present the multitude of positives our sport has to offer.

Perhaps now would be a really good time to form such a body.


Nick de Meric.

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