Horse Racing and Drug Abuse

Horse racing is a dangerous, expensive sport in which Thoroughbred horses are forced to sprint for their lives. Behind the romanticized facade of horse races lies a world of broken bones, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Yet horse racing aficionados continue to ignore the problems of equine welfare in their sport while relying on donations from industry folks and gamblers. The problem is simple: The industry’s business model does not consider the best interests of the horses.

As the sport evolved, rules were established governing eligibility based on age, sex, birthplace, and previous performance to create races with more competitive fields. In the mid-18th century, standardized races were established with specific weights for six-year-old horses in 4-mile heats. These were called King’s Plates. A horse had to win two King’s Plate races to be considered the winner.

The King’s Plates were the pinnacle of the racing season and an opportunity for owners to show their horses’ ability to win against the competition. The horses were not only weighed in the walking ring, they were also tested for preexisting conditions with high-tech imaging equipment. Bettors looked at a horse’s coat in the ring to determine its brightness, as it was believed that a bright, rippling coat indicated that the animal was ready for the race.

During the running of a race, steeds screamed and bucked in unison, pounding their hooves on the dirt as they competed to be the first one to the finish line. To make sure they were well prepared, the horses were injected with Lasix that morning, a diuretic marked on the racing form with a boldface “L.” The drug decreases bleeding from hard exercise, which causes some horses to hemorrhage from their lungs (exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). This is the reason most thoroughbreds receive it.

At the starting gate, Mongolian Groom balked. Horses who balk are a sign that they’re not in the mood to run. To be safe, the horse was given a second dose of Lasix at the starting line.

Once the race began, War of Will took the lead, and Mongolian Groom settled into the middle of the pack. This was not where the seasoned trainer wanted his horse, as horses are naturally prey animals who prefer to be near the front of the pack.

The horses ran their hearts out on the track, but they were all beaten to the finish line by McKinzie, who won the race by a nose. The race was the third of the Triple Crown, and it was expected that the winning horse would be crowned Champion American Horse of the Year. Instead, the honor went to the winner’s owner, Ganbaatar Dagvadorj, a wealthy Mongolian entrepreneur who had come to Santa Anita to watch his investment return.

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