Horse racing is a sport with a long and distinguished history. It is rooted in ancient cultures in a variety of places, including Babylon, Egypt, Syria, and Greece. However, the practice began in Europe in the 1600s, starting in Newmarket, England. A race is typically a test of stamina, speed, and endurance. Traditionally, the most important flat races are those over a range of distances, from five to 12 furlongs, and are seen as tests of stamina.
In the early 2000s, the sport was experiencing a good pandemic. The races were consistent, and the crowds were filled with working class men. But with the rise of stretch runs and betting on horses, the curses began to re-emerge.
On April 30, 2019, the Breeders’ Cup came to California. Officials had plans to run as many races as possible. They wanted to ensure a smooth run. This plan would include running large fields, but there were a few complications. One was a shortage of race-ready horses in California. Another was unusual winter rain, and another was the track’s inability to account for that.
At Santa Anita, the management was desperate to get the race off the ground smoothly. They were using a plan that called for a big field, with plenty of room on the track. The race, however, was not as planned. Not enough race-ready horses were available in California, and Santa Anita management did not take account of the weather.
In the first half of the race, Rich Strike and War of Will were cruising along with fast speeds. But when they reached the stretch, it was Rich Strike who surged past the leaders. After that, Big Brown was dead last.
Rich Strike’s first-half performance was enough to give him a comfortable win. He went on to finish first. As he got to the wire, he passed Epicenter and Zandon.
Big Brown’s trainer publicly claimed that the horse was on a powerful legal steroid. However, Alexander didn’t believe this was the issue. Rather, he was worried that there might be other drugs involved. His doubts were fueled by the fact that a number of veterinarians had been on hand in the zone screened for preexisting conditions.
Meanwhile, the racing office was under pressure from veterinarians who didn’t run their horses. If they did not, they would be forced to forfeit stalls at the track.
But there was no way to keep up with the new medications. Lasix, for example, was given to almost every thoroughbred in the country. Its diuretic function causes the horse to unload its epic amounts of urine. And a new drug, antipsychotics, was on the market.
Racing officials were scrambling to catch up. But with so many new medications, it was difficult to determine whether a horse was being drugged. Some of the latest meds included powerful anti-inflammatories and anti-epilepsy products. Other meds included a drug called growth hormones.
Eventually, the pandemic slowed down and a new horse racing authority was formed. The new group aims to bring the U.S. closer to Europe in terms of safety.