Something has begun in America...

Racehorses in training at Santa Anita Park (photo: Judit Seipert)

Thoroughbred race horses have been dying in high numbers last winter at a premier track in the US and apparently nobody knew exactly why.
In Europe,we first heard about the increasing number of deaths at Santa Anita in February, when it
attracted attention from the media.
In response to the deaths and negative coverage, the track closed for three weeks in March.
But he media narrative had been set, and nothing was going to change it.
Santa Anita had a problem.

Track officials have responded to the attention with a handful of public statements and some protocol changes.
When a filly Princess Lili B became the twenty-second equine fatality at Santa Anita, Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group (that owns the track) went on to announce new measures allegedly designed to protect the health and safety of their equine athletes. Those measures included enacting a ban on Lasix, a controversial drug frequently administered to horses on the same day they're racing; reconsidering the way jockeys use riding crops, and increased testing for equine athletes.
Stronach has been trying to find a way to regain public confidence in a sport under attack.

„We fought very hard for these reforms. For those in the industry, I think they appreciate the amount of work and consultation with stakeholders that occurred for this to actually happen. We really went in there with a coalition. For those outside our industry, they may say these are baby steps, but there should be more to follow. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished in a very short period of time.
All eyes are going to be on us. Every day we have to demonstrate that we have horse welfare and safety and jockey welfare and safety in what we do.
We’ve taken a very principled stand and the principle is horse welfare and human welfare have to be at the forefront of what we do, otherwise I don’t want to be a part of it. If I’m going to be a part of this business and industry, I want to leave it in a better place than when I came in. Unfortunately, it can take a tragic set of circumstances for everybody to get a wake-up call.”

Work in progress... (photo: Judit Seipert)

"The time has come for this industry to evolve," added Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for The Stronach Group. "It must do so for the sake of the horses and the people who depend on this sport for their livelihoods. Moving to international standards will help to set the right foundation for racing and fairness.”
Reforms cannot be avoided. As the Santa Anita scandal shows, the racing industry is vulnerable to media campaigns.
The reason breakdown stories are so effective is that much of the public is naïve about the risks of horse racing. Racing fans know that one start in 500 ends in breakdown, but the average reader doesn’t.
And the industry has no language that can explain it make acceptable.


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