Horseracing heads for the barn
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:
“There is trouble here: the stench of a sport
that is dying,” pronounced the June 7 edition of
Newsweek, looking at the decline of horseracing. The
U.S. gate fell from 75 million to 39 million, 1980-
1995, while TV ratings for the Kentucky Derby,
Belmont, and Preakness dropped from 40-60% in
1960 to just 10-20% this summer despite Silver
Charm’s narrowly thwarted bid for the Triple Crown.
The New York-based Center to Preserve
Racing and track owners either blame simulcasting
and casino gambling for outcompeting live racing, or
look toward them for help, but the most evident factor
is that horseracing doesn’t attract enthusiasts
younger than the eldest Baby Boomers––who grew up
before the rise of the animal rights movement made
abuses better known than top jockeys and mounts.
The biggest horseracing stories in mainstream
media since 1990 have included the murders of
13 people and countless horses in an insurance fraud
scheme, 1954-1994; the dissolution of Calumet
Farms; the 1990 fatal injury of the filly Go For
Wand; the 1995 career-ending inury to Holy Bull;
and stuffing sponges up the noses of horses in a fixing
scheme at Churchill Downs, exposed just this year.
Each scandal involved top racing names.
People of all ages still love horses––and
that’s precisely why horseracing is fast fading out.