HBO’s ‘Luck’ Was The Tip of the Iceberg Of Horse Racing’s Ugly Side

by on March 27, 2012

in Entertainment

Nick Nolte in 'Luck'

When we heard about the third horse to die during the production of HBO‘s horse racing series called Luck, it seemed statistically high for three horses to die from accidents during the production of a single show.

But the HBO publicity machine went to work, stating that horse tragedies are not that uncommon within the racing industry. Subsequently, HBO cancelled Luck that same week because they felt the horse deaths were an unnecessary risk to produce a drama.

But it seemed crazy that three horses died in less then two seasons worth of filming of a show. Then we saw that The New York Times reporters Walt WALT BOGDANICH, JOE DRAPE, DARA L. MILES and GRIFFIN PALMER dug up some information that not only sustained HBO’s perspective on the number of horse deaths being the standard, but that only three horses passing away seemed golden and the reporters paint an ugly picture of the horse racing industry as a whole!

When we think horse racing, or as it’s put, the sport of kings, the general fan only thinks of the pinnacle events of the industry of horse racing… The Kentucky Derby and the other two races that make up the trifecta of champions, the Triple Crown.

Or if you live near a large enough city you’d be exposed to the places like Santa Anita (Where Luck was filmed), Hollywood Park, or even Del Mar in San Diego. All old haunts that my parents used to drag me to.

In the right light and filmed with skill, horse racing can be a beautiful sport to behold on the surface. But my wife is pretty down on horse racing and I admit that it ain’t perfect if you dwell on it. Then there’s this dark side of the industry that, because I never thought deeply about it (ignored?), I never realized existed.

Junkyards For Burial, 24 a Week

When you don’t dwell on it, you don’t realize that the underbelly of the industry are the minor tracks where a lot more racing goes on. The tracks where a jockey is racing to place just to make $60… or tracks that dump euthanized horse bodies in junk yards down the street from the track.

But that’s the world the New York Times Article has uncovered. An ugly, uncontrolled world of minor-league horse racing.

They note that each week, an average of 24 horses die at the races. That’s 24 per week, in an industry with little or no regulatory protective measures.

And when racetracks put in casinos to make money and add purses to the racing events, the norm of competition gets cranked up and more risks are taken to win those big monies. Risks that include drugs to mask the pain that horses are in. And the article notes that the number of incidents go up when casinos are present on-site at the tracks.

In The Last Three Years

Since 2009 our earnest reporters noted that despite a tiny percentage of horses ever get drug tested, that almost four thousand horses still fail the drug tests. Meaning the horses were doped up for running the dirt.

Or that since ’09 almost four thousand horses died at state regulated race tracks.

In a strange twist of ill-fated timing, they discovered that on the very same day that the Kentucky Derby and all it’s glitter and hat fashions were splashed across the TV screen, there were 23 incidents across the country where riders were thrown and horses injured.

Feb. 29, at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races

This is admittedly one of the worse events ever at a race, and I’d suggest not watching. But if you can, “it” starts at the 30-second mark. The accident that ended the day at the races, where the 9th race was canceled.

The New York Times article touches often on the use of drugs and lack of regulatory oversight and over-training. And I’m not even touching on the deaths and injuries of the jockeys. At least the jockeys have a choice and put themselves in these situations.

They touch on known trainers who repeatedly put their animals through over-dosing and such. And the sport seems to have very lax penalties for folk like this.

And the latter half of the source article touches on the world of the jockeys and what they experience, go through and why.

If you are interested in any way… you should head over there and check out this incredibly upsetting piece of informative work. It showed a side of horse racing that makes me sick.

[nytimes: death-at-americas-racetracks]

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