Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Is Horse Racing About to Implode?

By Anthony Brancato

Lost in all the usual drama swirling around the Triple Crown season was a potential bombshell dropped on March 15, when Frank and Belinda Stronach — the William and Mary of American thoroughbred racing (even though both are Canadian) — announced that furosemide, marketed under the brand name Lasix and used to prevent horses from bleeding through the nose during races (think of the effect of driving down a highway at 50 miles an hour with all the windows open), a property that was apparently discovered by accident half a century ago, will no longer be allowed at the two tracks they own in California — Santa Anita in Southern California and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. The ban will be "grandfathered" in, starting with all horses foaled (born) in 2018 — the two-year-olds of 2020.

So far at least, Del Mar, in San Diego, has not signed on, nor have the tracks on the Northern California summer fair circuit. But Belinda Stronach, head of The Stronach Group (which should tell you who wears in the pants in that household!) is threatening to extend the Lasix ban to Gulfstream Park in Florida, and to both of the major thoroughbred tracks in Maryland, which they also own — Pimlico, home of the Preakness, and Laurel.

Already smarting from the closure and subsequent demolition of Bay Meadows in 2008 and Hollywood Park in 2013, this could very well put horse racing in the Golden State over the edge — and as Ricky Watters said: For who? For what?

After having all but decimated greyhound racing in the United States, the animal rights activists — a par excellence example of H.L. Mencken's "booboisie" if ever there was one — have turned their attention to horse racing — and the use of Lasix has been the number-one sore point with them.

They don't like the use of whips on horses either — but they are so ignorant of the sport that they neglect to realize that if a horse is "lugging in"; that is, moving toward the inside, being struck by a whip held in the jockey's left hand will generally straighten the horse out, which could prevent a catastrophic accident.

If the actions of the woefully misguided Stronachs do reduce horse racing horse racing in California (and Florida and Maryland) to a ghost town, the vastly inordinate beneficiary would be New York, the only state whose purses are comparable to those of Southern California — a monstrous irony, given that New York was the last state to legalize Lasix, on September 1, 1995.

Call it The Big Apple's Revenge — revenge for California having stolen the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York (baseball) Giants in 1958.

The horse racing industry employs, directly or indirectly, millions of people, and is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry.

To destroy that industry in the name of smug, self-righteous idealism — the late Morton Downey Jr. would have used a far harsher description of it if he were still among us — would be the height of folly.

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