By Bill Finley
Horse owner and NHL All Star Erik Johnson conveyed a passionate defense of the sport when the subject of equine fatalities and the recent actions of animal rights groups was brought up on this week’s TDN Writers’ Room podcast (click here to listen). The Green Group guest of the week, Johnson agreed that the sport can do a better job of preventing catastrophic injuries, but said the animal rights crowd is way off base when calling for a ban of the sport.
“I just think that the general public isn’t informed enough about how great these horses are taken care of,” he said. “It just makes me upset to think that some of these animal extremists want to abolish horse racing. Some of these groups euthanize thousands of cats and dogs every year. So should we abolish pet ownership too? It just doesn’t make sense to me. There’s got to be a reform effort and there’s got to be things that we can do to make the sport better. But the care of the horse is the primary concern of people in racing, and I have no doubt about that.”
Johnson experienced firsthand what it is like for an owner to have a horse break down when a horse he co-owns, Princess Dorian (Idiot Proof) was seriously injured Nov. 10 at Del Mar. Johnson and his co-owner and trainer Andrew Lerner put in every effort to save the $8,000 claimer and had surgery performed on her. It appears that Princess Dorian will recover and live out her life on a farm in Kentucky.
“I immediately reached out to Andrew (after watching the race) and he told me he was not sure what happened,” Johnson said. “He called me back to tell me it doesn’t look good. I told him, ‘Listen, do whatever you can to save this horses life. I don’t care what it costs. She deserves it.’ I think everyone knows the negativity that’s surrounding California racing right now. I hope most owners would do what I did and give the horse a chance to recover.”