With the Kentucky Derby set to kick off the Triple Crown this weekend, James Cromwell is making his first (and only) bet: “I bet you that at least three horses will be killed on a racetrack today,” the Emmy Award–winning actor begins in his new video for PETA.
“Unfortunately, it’s a safe bet, because every year, more than 1,000 die on racetracks across the United States.”
In the new video, which features footage from PETA’s five horse-racing investigations, Cromwell reveals how this happens: Many fragile, young horses are injured and killed before they ever even race. Thoroughbreds who survive, Cromwell explains, “are given drug cocktails to enhance their performance and mask the pain of their injuries”—a practice that makes the horses even more vulnerable to the kind of catastrophic injury that killed Eight Belles at the 2008 Kentucky Derby and more than three horses every day on U.S. tracks.
Cromwell also shares documentation from PETA’s investigation of trainer Steve Asmussen that Nehro, the second place finisher at the 2011 Kentucky Derby, was forced to run and train on extremely painful, deteriorating hooves—one of which was held together with superglue. Nehro died at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day in 2013. PETA’s allegations concerning Asmussen and assistant trainer Scott Blasi are still under investigation by the New York State Gaming Commission and several federal agencies.
When horses are no longer profitable, many owners discard them. Every year, as many as 15,000 Thoroughbreds are crowded onto trucks, shipped on long and terrifying journeys to Canada and Mexico, and slaughtered so their flesh can be sold for human consumption. But the industry continues to breed tens of thousands more Thoroughbred mares each year, perpetuating a deadly cycle.
“Horse racing is not a sport. It’s a blood sport,” Cromwell concludes. “Until the cruelty ends, please don’t go to the racetrack or have a Kentucky Derby party or watch the Triple Crown races on TV. And please, never bet on horse racing—because the only sure thing in horse racing is that the horses always lose.”