A March 27 New York Times editorial titled “Horses to the Slaughter” labeled horse racing in the United States a “disreputable industry.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s synonyms for the word disreputable include disgraceful, dishonorable, ignominious, and infamous.
The harsh Times characterization does not comport with the sterling reputation and international acclaim for many of the people involved in the industry as racehorse owners, now and in the past. A lengthy list of their names would reveal individuals who have, for instance, distinguished themselves as entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, philanthropists, entertainment and sports celebrities, military combatants, media titans, U. S. cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, state governors, ambassadors, physicians, lawyers, professors, and board members at major companies and universities.
Moreover, some of the great American museums and conservatories, medical facilities, and wilderness areas are named for individuals and families prominent in horse racing. Two of the museums, the Guggenheim and Whitney, are located not far from the New York Times Building.
Itemizing the philanthropic and charitable contributions of horse-racing owners would be a monumental task. This honor roll would encompass a sweeping range of activities, from assisting U. S. military combatants wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to presiding as president of the Metropolitan Opera Association.
To be sure, American horse racing has its problems and rogue actors, as does any industry, individual business, philanthropic organization, government institution, or religion. To illustrate, the Times itself was once embarrassed by a reporter in its employ who fabricated important stories, which the newspaper then published as factual. One should not equate having such struggles with being ignominious.
The Times has highlighted issues about horse racing that need to be addressed in the way of reform. But to paint an entire industry—and by extension, the vast majority of the people in it—as disreputable is patently inaccurate and despicable.
The supreme question that springs to mind is why so many prominent and successful people, from a wide cross-section of American life, would associate themselves with an alleged “disreputable industry?” The answer is self-evident.
Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business
Originally published in the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.