WITH THE ECONOMIC GLOBALIZATION of the horse racing industry that has occurred over the last 40 to 50 years the once splendid and prestigious nature of the sport has been eclipsed by the lucrative value of Thoroughbreds driven by world economic markets.
In fact the current mass production of the Thoroughbred as a performance animal can be likened to a practice analogous to the factory farming of domestic livestock for slaughter.
As the modern Thoroughbred transcended from the status of the noble sport horse to the gainful foundation of global financial empires, with it came the ultimate betrayal and demotion to the doctrine of Speciesism – an anthropogenic truism that all species of animals are inferior to humankind and may therefore be used for benefit without regard to the suffering inflicted upon them.
No longer is the horse held in highest esteem but instead as a disposable commodity surrendered to secondary status as a result of economic interest and greed.
While over-breeding in the racing industry is the derivation of availability, inbreeding, and drugs are inescapably interconnected with the callous and brutal practice of slaughter as is the insatiable demand for horse meat for human consumption principally in European and Asian cultures. Inbreeding and drugs have weakened the modern Thoroughbred while the horse meat industry remains a lucrative multi-million dollar enterprise.
Since the 1980’s globalized production has spiraled into massive economies of scale given the introduction of syndicates and the influx of wealthy multinationals from Europe, the Middle East and Japan for example. The current state of the horse racing industry seems possessed with a thirst for profit and achievement beyond comprehension at the expense of the very creatures that render it viable. As a result, the comparatively small number of horses that are able to be absorbed by the industry cannot compensate the numbers that are mass produced in its zealous pursuit of profit above equine welfare.
These ill-fated, voiceless souls are at the mercy of breeders vying for the next genetic hit; the horse that will surpass all others. Sadly, in the wake of this realm of greed and power domination these horses suffer irreparably from incessant inbreeding leading to genetically induced infirmities, drug abuse and ultimately, together with the main driving force of slaughter – over breeding – are the pawns of a global disposable system of the multi-million dollar horse racing industry, the so-called “Sport of Kings”. If truth be told there is nothing remotely royal anymore about the tragedy horse racing has become.
On an annual basis over 100,000 Thoroughbreds are produced each year wherein the US is the most prolific country in terms of foal crops holding almost 30% of the world’s foal population. Together with 10 other countries, this makes up about 83% of the global crop which over the last few decades has progressively increased approximately 6-fold to massive proportions. The foal crop for 2009 (108, 572) was somewhat lower than figures for 2008 (114,804) representing an overall decline of about 5%. Significant reductions were observed in Australia, Uruguay, Ireland and Canada with decreases of 10%, 14%, 18% and 29% respectively.
Table 1. Top Thoroughbred Breeding Countries (2009)
Total number of foals worldwide (2009) = 108,572
Data taken from The Jockey Club for North America are predictive of the overall global situation in terms of foal crops albeit proportionately larger in number as a function of the percentage of global breeding. As shown in shown in Table 2 and Figure 1, NA statistics lend insight into the nightmare that breeding has become.
Table 2. Number of 2 YO Starters Compared to Number of Foals in Crop Year
|Racing Year||2YO Starters||All Starters||Crop Year||Foals Born
in Crop Year
|Difference in Foals*|
*Difference in number of foals = number of foals in crop year – number of 2YO starters.
Figure 1. N.A. Foals and Starters per Year and Cumulative No.
of Foals Produced (2004-2009)
Over a period of 6 racing years from 2004 to 2009, of the 224,823 foals that were born during the crop years (2002 to 2007) only 68,102 as 2 YOs were actually entered into a race (or 30%). What happened to the other 70%?
While it is true that some owners wait to race their horses at an older age, it is certainly not the norm. In fact, most Thoroughbreds today are only raced between the ages of 2 and 6 after which, for the most part, become a nuisance to their owners – burdensome beasts who no longer turn a profit. Even if some of these foals didn’t start their careers until the age of 3, it is unlikely that this number would be equivalent to the number unaccounted for.
Some clarification of these data arises when a sampling of breeding stallions and the number of starters they have sired is examined.
For reasonable statistical validity Table 3 shows several of the top 150 stallions on the General Sires list taken from The Blood-Horse source publications. Although only a sampling of the 150 sires are on the list for 2010, the percentages of starters and winners is representative of the whole for the Northern Hemisphere, and include foal counts from the Southern Hemisphere as well as some additional foreign foals and stakes winners from all countries.
Table 3. Sample of Leading Sires Foal Crop, Starters and Winners, 2010
|More Than Ready||76||22||28||15||19|
|Tale of the Cat||395||204||51||120||30|
|Lemon Drop Kid||117||45||38||23||19|
The numbers deliver a culpable portrayal of the waste and callousness that exist in the industry. Over 40% of the foals produced as registered Thoroughbreds never engage in a career on the track and only 38% of those who race actually win. What caliber of races do these horses win and what then happens to those that never see the track on race day or are unsuccessful in their endeavors?
Here is more food for thought.
“The Jockey Club, the national registry of thoroughbreds headquartered in Lexington, Ky., reports that approximately 35,000 thoroughbreds are foaled in North America each year, 68 percent of which are destined for a career on the racetrack. Of those horses, nearly 70 percent will win at least one race, but only 5 percent will win a bigger-pursed stakes race, and only two-tenths of a percent will win a Grade I stakes race, which awards the biggest purse and creates the biggest superstars." 
This means, on average, of the approximately 68,000 2YOs that started between 2004 and 2009 (Table 2), only about 3,400 won a bigger-pursed stakes race and a mere 136 of those horses actually made it to the pinnacle of horse racing glory. On calculating this means that only 0.06% of the total crop from 2002 to 2007 can be liken to the Secretariat’s of the racing world.
With tens of thousands of foals brought into this world on an annual basis throughout the global racing industry, the odds of a champion being born in any given year remains small from a relative perspective. As to the fate of the horses who fail to make the big league or never make it to the track the lack of foresight or concern for their welfare is a perfunctory component of the exploitation of the Thoroughbred as a disposable commodity.
“For every Big Brown or Rachel Alexandra winning millions in front of sold-out crowds, there are unheralded thoroughbreds -- such as State Deputy -- [who] also race their hearts out each day, but for small purses on cheaper tracks to nearly empty stands. Eventually, lackluster performance or an injury ends these horses' careers. At least 3,000 such racehorses are retired each year, usually by age 6 if not younger, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation estimates. Given that most horses live well into their 20s, the question of what to do with them for the next 15 or more years looms.”