Unsanctioned and deadly horse racing is flourishing in parts of the U.S., often with cartel drug money

This article by Gus Garcia-Roberts is a horror show, detailing illegal horse racing in Georgia and elsewhere, with horses dying from drugs, shock devices and being pushed past their physical limits. One of these “bush tracks,” Rancho El Centenario, operates mostly with impunity:

For years, there have been hints that the horsemen of Rancho El Centenario are utilizing practices that would incur serious discipline at a regulated track. For instance: After deputies pulled over a horseman on his way to the track in 2019, a police report shows, they discovered boxes of amphetamine and anabolic steroids in the back of his Mazda.

Other times it’s more than a hint. On a visit to the races last month, during which journalists for The Post witnessed horses being injected before races, they also observed the day’s winningest jockey wearing a shock device of the sort banned in mainstream racing.

And though betting on horses is illegal in Georgia, apparent bookies ambled along the track, calling out bets before races and distributing the winnings from stacks of cash afterward.

Unbeknown to English and his Mexican cowboy clientele, however, there has been since last year a third party to the culture clash: animal rights activists.

Over eight visits to Rancho El Centenario between June 2021 and April 2022, undercover investigators for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals collected hidden-camera footage of all of this conduct and more: gambling, injections, shock devices, repeated whipping and horses dying on the track.

The group’s investigators collected syringes following injections around the track and had them tested at the horse racing laboratory at University of California, Davis, another of the nine facilities accredited by Kentucky’s Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC). Some of them tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine and methylphenidate, according to a letter that PETA’s lawyers sent this week, along with 17 pages of supporting materials, to the Lamar County Sheriff Sheriff’s Office and the local district attorney’s office.

In the letter, PETA general counsel Jared Goodman alleged “systemic and repeated animal abuse, including whipping, electric-shocking, and drugging horses to push them past their natural limits, leading several horses to break down and be killed on the track, as well as extensive commercial gambling on every race.” He called for a criminal investigation of the ranch’s activities and some of its horsemen.

Add to this the fact that horses are dying from fatal diseases that are endemic in Mexico and, subsequently, spreading to horses in America.

Angela Pelzel-McCluskey’s first encounter with the bush circuit came in the form of a bony 7-year-old quarter horse brought to a veterinarian in Ocala, Fla., in 2008.

Pelzel-McCluskey is an equine epidemiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with keeping disease from spreading through the American horse industry. The horse in Ocala, lethargic and refusing to eat or drink, tested positive for piroplasmosis, an infectious blood disease rare in the U.S. but endemic in Mexico that typically dooms its carriers to euthanasia or lifelong isolation.

Investigators traced the infection and found a cluster of 20 other quarter horses with the disease — all of them participants in unsanctioned racing, according to a study Pelzel-McCluskey co-authored.

Piroplasmosis typically spreads via ticks. In this case, though, investigators found the disease’s vector was unlicensed handlers using contaminated needles and other equipment to inject or blood-dope the horses. A year later in Missouri, another dying horse brought to a veterinary hospital led to a similar story, with investigators discovering a cluster of eight quarter horses connected to the same trainer who raced them on unsanctioned tracks.

Those cases led Pelzel-McCluskey to become the USDA’s sole expert on unsanctioned racing. She has watched with alarm, she said, as the phenomenon has steadily grown — and as the diseases she tracks have spread.

It’s a heart-breaking, infuriating article.

As is the video below, provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

I know. PETA can be its own worst enemy with some of its leaders’ more extreme views. But most of its work is laudable, including this investigation trying to expose the barbaric practices of this sport.

Warning: the video below is hard to watch.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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