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A Netflix documentary exploring the so-called “worth” of people killed or seriously injured in the 911 attacks got me thinking about the price racing takes on serious injury and death.
During the last Perth Carnival, a horse died as a result of a jockey’s carelessness. As James Oldring, CEO of Perth Racing, stated, “Horse racing is a high-risk sport for everyone involved”. In any other area, reckless, careless, or dangerous would be considered more appropriate descriptions of such behavior in high-risk environments. Think of a red traffic light.
But in racing, such actions are framed around a very indulgent narrative. This was demonstrated in the Perth Cup case and by Oldring who claimed that those involved did everything possible to mitigate any risk. This is pure nonsense.
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But this was not force majeure or the fault of the horse. It wasn’t a split-second decision that didn’t allow foresight – Oldring told us that. That’s what Mark Zahra’s recent testimony to stewards in Flemington tells us.
Unfortunately, Oldring’s pose simply reflected the industry’s broader position that horse racing crashes, serious injuries and fatalities are acceptable “business” costs.
If this were not the case, would we not see a change in the number of racing crashes resulting in serious injury and death in horses over so many years?
In assessing the jockey’s culpability for the interference that caused the horse’s death in Western Australia, the Lead Steward considered the six-week suspension “a very severe penalty” for a professional jockey. In this jockey’s case, it would have cost him $15,461.54 in fees and commissions (using 2022 numbers as a guide).
So there you have it, that’s the price of a horse’s death in Western Australian racing. $15,461.54.
Just? Just? Only? Aren’t these the principles of any legal system? I find it very difficult to accept the stewards’ proposal of a “very severe penalty” given the death of a horse, a mare who had won $17,000 in prize money in her last two entries and had a valuable broodmare career ahead of her .
Importantly, will this penalty mitigate the jockey’s negligence or dangerous disregard in future races? A look back at Hugh Bowman & Hot and Hazy suggests the opposite. A look at recidivism rates suggests that this is not the case. A look at the race statistics suggests the opposite.
Will the future be different for the welfare of horses and jockeys after last Saturday’s Flemington race crash which left Ethan Brown hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and two horses fell at significant cost to owners?
That a horse or jockey did not die is a miracle and not the result of many years of failed racing efforts to contain it.
Here is a REAL test of Racing Victoria’s vision for strategic equine welfare. Will horse first thinking play a role in all race control actions? Your approach will continue to speak volumes.
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/11/what-price-death-or-serious-injury-in-racing-in-perth-its-15461-54/ What is the price of death or serious injury in racing? In Perth it is $15,461.54