"And they're off!"
While we're talking about facts, let's talk about arguably the most famous racehorse in history: Secretariat. He still holds the record for the fastest Kentucky Derby. He sired 453 foals and lived to be 19 years old. Big accomplishments for a racehorse. After his death, we also learned that his heart was 2 1/2 times the size of a normal horse heart. That combined with his longer than average stride is what won him the Triple Crown in 1973.
What brought down this tremendous machine? Chronic Laminitis, which is when the hoof-leg joint becomes worn down causing extreme pain to the horse. The best racehorse in history was euthanized because of the racing that made him famous.
Lameness is among the most common injury among racehorses, just as runner's knee is the most common injury in runners. It can not only cost the horse a race but cost its life. According to the New York Times, 24 horses die every week on United States racetracks. That doesn't even account for the drugs used to make horses race better or cover the pain of injuries.
But my biggest problem with horseracing isn't the drugs or the injuries per se, but the age. To be raced in the Kentucky Derby a horse must be 3 years old, even though a fully developed 4-year-old horse would be faster. Why then do we race premature horses? For the economic gain.
Don't believe me? Think about it this way: a 2-year-old horse would be like watching your little brother play tee-ball, it's not as competitive due to the horses being so young. At 4 years old the horses are too predictable; they're developed enough that it's not really a gamble to know who will win. 3 years old is right in the middle — the perfect age because there's just the right amount of uncertainty to make it worth the money gambled.
I don't think the solution is to outlaw horseracing — it really is fun to watch and not every owner and trainer cheats by drugging their horse. But I do think that raising the racing age to 4 years old would be much better on the horses. So what if it's more predictable? The fun should be in watching them run, which is what Thoroughbreds are built to do, not the gambling.