Can PETA Push Racing’s Buttons? Two-Year-Old Speed Trial Breakdowns Exposed in Activists’ Viral Video

[VIDEOSINGLE type=”youtube” keyid=”bOOiixz2zFE”, width=”560″, height=”344″]This could be the worst video you ever (or never) watch. It’s up to you.

You’re going to hear about this video, and I wouldn’t blame you at all if you don’t watch it. I can’t believe that I just did, but it was enough to make me post it here immediately.

The “STOP” button is that little square at the bottom left.

For some time now, different individuals and organizations have been calling for an end to the practice of timed track workouts for two-year-old Thoroughbreds in what is called “under tack” sessions before sales auctions.

But this week, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the most effective and aggressive users of media and publicity to highlight animal abuse, turned their attention to the issue. Using graphic video, they don’t have to say much, they just show the young colts running on broken cannon bones, somersaulting over track rails, and collapsing on the track, only to be dragged away.

How PETA’s video convinced the Wall Street Journal to cover the two-year-old speedster issue is another marvel. The Journal‘s story broke on the eve of the Keeneland September Select Yearling Sale, the highest moment of the year for the auction of the very finest blueblood Thoroughbred yearlings at Lexington’s hallowed racing and sales center.

Yet when the Journal would normally have been predicting or commenting on the number of zeroes that would follow a bidder’s savvy investment in a Bernardini or AP Indy colt out of the sales ring, the ink told a different story entirely. “Not So Fast” was the headline in the September 10 edition of the financial daily. And the text detailed PETA’s efforts to stop the under-tack timed breezes, rather than the median of this year’s crop of yearlings or the total investment of Coolmore, Godolphin or the Aga Khan.

At the same time, an article on today’s website tells us that PETA is asking prosecutors in Marion County, Florida and Lexington, Kentucky to prosecute Ocala Breeders Sales and Kentucky-based Fasig-Tipton “after a horse died at each auction house as the animals were being put through their racing paces before sales.”

How effective is PETA? I checked their Facebook page. Their post with this video had 775 likes and 338 comments. How many likes and comments accompany any post on the typical horse industry Facebook page? Check this number: 1,250,998 people “like” PETA on Facebook. PETA’s main Twitter account (it has many) has more than 200,000 followers.

It seems like everyone is taking a shot at criticizing racing these days, and there are plenty of open targets: PETA had their pick. To anyone familiar with the issues surrounding Thoroughbred breeding and racing, this isn’t the first criticism of the practice of speed testing two-year-olds but it is certainly the boldest. Many people protest the racing of two-year-olds and yet are probably unaware of the pre-sale practice. Or were, until this week.

How will racing react? And did racing see this coming and just fail to be proactive? Is this another nail in the coffin of racing or will this be the magic arrow that sends enough of a shock through the system to activate a realistic evaluation of the way the sale and racing of Thoroughbreds is conducted, and how it is perceived by the public?

PETA launched a campaign in May designed to upstage the Kentucky Derby by calling for a Thoroughbred retirement fee added to new registrations. This month’s viral video on two-year-olds will get more publicity than the Keeneland yearling sales.

It makes you wonder what they have planned for the eve of the Breeders Cup.




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