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Claiming Races, Constant Travel, and Serial Ownership

Rampant ownership turnover is a significant contributing factor to the welfare crisis in the horse-racing industry, as there is little continuity and accountability over a thoroughbred’s lifetime. Owners often have only short-term financial interests in horses and thus have a limited commitment to a horse’s long-term welfare. For this reason, tens of thousands of horses are shipped to slaughter each year.

Most thoroughbreds are bought, or “claimed,” multiple times during their careers. In “claiming races,” all the horses in a race are for sale and may be purchased and taken away by a new owner immediately after the race. These horses relocate after each ownership transfer and are constantly forced to acclimate to new people, surroundings, horses, and training and care techniques.

Most of the breeders sell 1-year-olds by consignment at yearling auctions, many to “pinhookers,” who keep and train horses for a year and then sell them again as 2-year-olds in training auctions. After that, horses may be bought or sold multiple times during their racing careers, often through claiming races.

For example, from January 1 through March 20, 2011, there were 2,096 thoroughbred claims recorded at U.S. racetracks (compiled from Equibase records). One of those horses, the veteran gelding Who’s Bluffing, was claimed on January 28—it was the 12th claim of his career, including being claimed three different times by owner Michael Gill. In 2010, 14,805 horses were sold through the major thoroughbred auction houses, and countless others were sold through claiming and private sales. The Monmouth 2010 spring/summer meet produced 443 claims in just 50 days of racing—an average of almost nine claims per day at Monmouth alone.

Because no one individual is committed to a horse throughout his or her lifetime, each day brings new uncertainty to these animals. Horses are bounced from one owner or trainer to another, and they often undergo long journeys. If horses survive the transfer process, they are usually confined to stalls unless they are training or racing. Although horses would naturally graze and roam many miles a day through fields, they are limited to a few paces forward and back in straw-lined stalls.

PETA’s 360 Thoroughbred Life Cycle Fund requires a $360 ownership transfer fee, which would garner an additional $9.46 million per year for horse retirement and to help prevent horse suffering. Urge The Jockey Club to adopt this critically needed program today.