There is yet another amazing meltdown happening in American racing that sort of defies the imagination. Michael Gill, known as the King of Claimers, is in trouble again after jockeys at Penn National refused to ride races in which his horses were entered. Gill’s horses are breaking down at an alarming rate (although what exactly that rate is seems open to argument, and it seems other owners and trainers are killing horses at a similar rate but attracting less attention doing it). I’ve been following the story and the outrage at the Paulick Report. It’s hard not to be amazed and horrified by this situation for lots of reasons, but the primary one for me is this: There is no system of authority in place in the United States that can ban irresponsible owners and trainers and get them out of the sport. Every state sets its own rules, and from what I can tell, individual tracks seem to be able to play by their own rules, as well. That means that everyone is in charge, so no one is in charge. And despite the latest flare-up over Michael Gill, nothing will change.
What is amazing to me is now narrow-minded my fellow Americans can be. After riding hundreds of dangerously infirm horses, jockeys finally draw the line at Gill, so now Gill is villain No. 1 in American racing. No one seems to be looking or caring about breakdown numbers of other owners or trainers. Same with synthetic racing surfaces. “Plastic,” as Jess Jackson likes to call it, didn’t completely stop horses from snapping their over-medicated bones on the track, so it must be no good. Let’s get rid of it. But let’s keep up the medication and breeding for speed, because that’s what America is all about. I am more convinced than ever before that horse racing in America is going the way of dog racing – destined to die out. Unfortunately for the horses, it looks like the death will be a long and painful one.