Watch: Why Are So Many Horses Dying? HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ Has the Answer

Published by Alisa Mullins.

Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen, whose stables at Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course were recently investigated by PETA, sat down for an extensive one-on-one interview with HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. He didn’t get off easy.

“You have two reputations,” Real Sports correspondent Bernard Goldberg told Asmussen. “I think one reputation is one of the very, very top trainers of all time. The other reputation is ‘Here’s a guy who’ll cut corners, who’ll give his horses drugs to get ’em out on the track because they aren’t making any money unless they are out on the track.'”

Goldberg goes on to reveal that an average of 24 horses die every single week on racetracks across the country—and he lays the blame largely on the overuse of legal—and illegal—drugs.

Sedatives, muscle relaxants, painkillers, thyroid medication, and other so-called “therapeutic” drugs” (really “performance enhancers”) allow horses to run with injuries (something that is only encouraged by the Triple Crown’s tight schedule of just a few weeks between races), which can cause the injuries to become worse, leading to chronic lameness or fatal breakdowns. Real Sports cites repeated drug violations by Asmussen and other top trainers and numerous deaths of promising horses in their prime.

Check out the full feature on HBO, HBO2, or HBO On Demand, and share it with your family and friends.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind