In a week where the British government voted to change its archaic policy towards equal marriage, this wave of modernisation should be extended to reforming horse racing which is fast becoming a blood sport, writes Joe Bookbinder
Before I state my argument I should confess that in no way am I an animal lover, years ago I had a hamster and I enjoy David Attenborough’s ‘Africa’ series but that is about the extent of my interest. Saying that I loathe fox hunting, but perhaps contradictorily I enjoyed fishing, the moral high ground is still mine to be enjoyed as I at least ate the fish.
Huge tangent aside, horse-racing, or rather the safety of horses that race is an issue in sport which is often overlooked. To prove my point, ask yourself how many horses die a year due to the horse-racing business. 10? 50? 100? According to horsedeathwatch.com, a grimly fascinating website, 420 horses died last year alone from a combination of breeding, racing, training and disposal of commercially ‘unproductive’ horses. That’s one and a bit horses every day. 38 per cent of these unfortunate athletes are killed immediately, on the race track, either from breaking their necks after falling or being ‘destroyed’ after breaking a leg. It is an expensive business maintaining a race horse and many owners are unwilling to fork out unless the horse will repay its owner through its winnings.
In 2013 seven horses have died already, most notably Darlan, a six year old horse with a very promising future ahead having won six out of nine starts died after breaking his neck following a fall at the last hurdle at Doncaster Race Course on the weekend. Darlan’s rider, the legendary Sports Personality Award Winning jockey AP McCoy escaped unhurt, he was gracious enough to sit out the rest of his races for that day. One, whole singular day, how considerate.
AP McCoy was also the jockey on board Synchronised, who died running the Grand National, due to its popularity this was big news yet calls for new regulations such as lowering the heights of fences were forgotten soon after the hubbub died down. Darlan’s trainer Nicky Henderson was devastated at the news, crying “It’s some game, isn’t it? Why is it always the good ones?”. This quote in itself shows that these tragedies occur all too regularly. Yet there has been little if any calls for more safety precautions this time round.
Maybe tomorrow’s victim will be the tipping point, but it seems unlikely. So long as money is the driving force behind horse-racing and it remains the lucrative business that it is, change seem a long way off. As they say ‘money has no conscience’. Yet surely this is a classic example of a sport that has taken competitiveness too far. When the stars of the show, in this case the horses, are literally driven to their deaths as a part of the entertainment and attraction. It is time for rethink.