NTRA: HBO horse racing report 'slanted, distorted and inaccurate'

May 23, 2019 07:31pm
In a statement Thursday evening, just short of two days since HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" aired a report calling attention to racehorse fatalities and slaughter, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's president issued a stern response.

“Once again," Alex Waldrop said in a statement, "HBO's Real Sports presented a slanted, distorted and inaccurate view of horse racing without acknowledging the important progress our entire industry is making with respect to safety, welfare and aftercare. Today, the strongest push for a higher degree of safety and integrity is actually coming from within the industry, which through its actions is working every day to provide a safer environment for our equine and human athletes."

Waldrop, who did not appear in the broadcast, added that "the real facts about horse racing have been shared with HBO directly.” He also published a letter (see in full below) to "Real Sports" executive producer Joe Perskie detailing disagreements with the piece.

No comments from horsemen, track operators or racing officials beyond an appearance by Stuart Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club, were offered in a report titled "Raced to Death."

Janney, who spoke in support of the Horseracing Integrity Act to form centralized, national oversight of drug regulations in racing, blamed individual tracks for wanting "to keep the power they've got, even though they've done a terrible job." Janney also said, "They are putting the very survival of the sport at risk."

Waldrop's reference to "once again" goes back to other "Real Sports" reports on racing. In 2008, the program reported on slaughter. In 2014, it focused on drugs. File footage from both was used in Tuesday's show.

Janet VanBebber, chief racing officer for the American Quarter Horse Association, on Thursday published a response to the AQHA website.

"Friends, this is a call to action," she wrote. "We need to take the reins and change the direction we are headed. More specifically, we must impart a better understanding of how we care for our horses. We love our horses. We offer them the best care that rivals pampering offered in a high-dollar spa. As horsemen, we often go without our own necessities in order to tend to our horses’ needs.

"To quote Dr. Larry Bramlage, 'Undeniable passion for the well-being of horses permeates throughout the industry, as well as the public.'” 

VanBebber also said she's open to suggestions for how to communicate racing's message outside of the industry bubble.

"Do we need to raise money and have a professional crisis management-focused agency assisting us with public relations?" she asked. "Maybe so. I know that we need to do something, and we better do it right."

Waldrop's letter in full: 


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