Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wigmore Hall Reminds Us that Racing Needs to Clean Itself Up

As I'm sure you have all read, dual Grade I winner Wigmore Hall tragically broke a leg at Doncaster Racecourse this past weekend and had to be euthanized.

     Breakdowns are a part of racing. They're an absolutely terrible thing that we as an industry need to make sure we work to prevent from happening as much as we can, but the unfortunate reality is that it isn't possible to completely eliminate them from the game. It happens. It's awful and heartbreaking, but it happens.

     The Wigmore Hall story is yet another one of these very sad stories, but it took a turn for the disgusting when the Daily Record released an article containing photos that revealed Wigmore Hall was put down via a bullet to the head. A screen was put up in front of the horse so the public could not see, and a silenced pistol was put to the horse's head. I don't care if it was a quick death, or how difficult it is for a horse with a broken leg to recover, you do not under any circumstance euthanize a horse with a shot to the face.

     Racing has had no shortage of bad publicity when it comes to the welfare of horses as of late, the Del Mar meet was nothing short of a disaster and the Steve Asmussen/Scott Blasi story that looked at 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro took the industry by storm this past spring. Bad publicity is not something racing has an easy time avoiding.

    But the Wigmore Hall story, in my opinion, is considerably worse publicity-wise than the two aforementioned stories. Del Mar officials didn't make a conscious decision to have track surfaces that weren't  entirely safe and Steve Asmussen did fire Scott Blasi (but eventually re-hired him.) In the case of Wigmore Hall, a racetrack and/or industry employee made a conscious decision to put the horse down in the atrocious manner he did. This is a story that should have been a very sad story about a top level racehorse who suffered an awful fate, and has instead become a story both about a top level racehorse suffering an awful fate, and the fact that despite any progress the racing industry tries to make, there is always someone keeping the industry's foot in its ass.

      The racing industry needs to make sure that all racehorses are treated in the most humane way possible, and stop putting itself in these positions. We need to clean ourselves up. There is no excuse for what happened, and I hope that everyone who was involved in this incident hold their heads in shame.

     I don't have much more to say about this issue. We as an industry are responsible for our image. Morally, as a person who dearly loves these terrific animals, I am thoroughly disgusted. This never should have happened. It's as simple as that.

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