PETA Allegations Scuttle Hall of Fame Nomination

Earlier this month, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame announced the 10 finalists for its 2014 class of inductees. From 84 candidates suggested by turf writers, Thoroughbred industry participants, and racing fans, the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee had selected four jockeys, four horses, and two trainers whose names would go to the voters, with the winners announced on April 25.

Already controversial, the nomination of trainer Steve Asmussen became even more contentious when the New York Times last week published the results of an investigation undertaken for four months last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), alleging abuse of the horses in Asmussen’s care at Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course.

Response from the general public and the racing industry was swift. Within hours, writer Bill Finley had posted a column saying that he had asked for and received permission by the Hall of Fame to rescind the votes he had cast for Asmussen and Curlin, the horse that Asmussen had trained to two Horse of the Year titles.

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10 thoughts on “PETA Allegations Scuttle Hall of Fame Nomination

  1. I have mixed feelings on this. Based on the 9 minute video it seems to be crass behavior but little else. Asmussen is almost nonexistent on the video but is blamed fully for his assistant’s alleged actions….whatever they are. Anyone who has followed Asmussen in the past decade or so knows that operation is massive. Maybe this is more of an accountability/supervisory issue than an abuse issue. Just my two cents.

  2. It bothers me that the nominating committee saw him more worthy than some other trainers, who have sterling credentials and are awaiting their rightful turn. A week before final ballots went out, Steve Crist wrote a column saying Asmussen’s credentials overrode concerns about his violations. Then this comes out. It’s hard to defend. I would love to read about trainers who are angry with Asmussen and company for giving their sport a black eye. I’m not seeing those stories, and please direct me to them if you know where they are. Do you think they are forthcoming? Is it a case of not throwing stones in glass houses? I have a trainer friend who said she wished PETA had come to her barn and seen how well her horses are cared for. She was furious, but she’s not a top-20 trainer. Where are those people? Sitting on their hands?

    • I’ve been working this week on an article about trainers’ reactions to the PETA investigation. I hope it will be posted at Hello Race Fans! or Raceday 360 by tomorrow. So far, I’m not hearing a lot of anger (on the record, anyway)–more frustration, and a sense/hope that what’s happened will lead to change within the industry.

      • Those who hope for changes are the ones who are going to have to get involved and spearhead the efforts. The ‘good guys’ within the industry need to be the ones to force out the bad..

      • What’s unfortunate is the lack of consideration given to changes that have been underway for some time. Does more work need to be done? Sure. But medication reform is underway, and in some cases, it’s the state, not racing entities, that are stalling.

        None of that is to excuse any reprehensible behavior towards animals. But

  3. You are right John…it is a bit weird to see people post photos of themselves hugging horses to call out PETA when they should really be calling out the people who bring negative attention to the sport. Self policing has never been a strong suit of the sport. What makes this industry less friendly to whistleblowers compared to other industries? Is it the fact that there is no real investigative arm to follow up on complaints? We all know capabilities and resources to investigate allegations of misconduct vary track to track but is anyone really going to stick their neck out there to report misconduct or corruption when the offender’s punishment more often than not will only be mere days? I don’t know. It seems to me there is this wall of silence from the industry that a lot of people feel comfortable with. Until then the industry will hold it’s breath until the next PETA video surfaces. Who will be racing’s Frank Serpico?

    • I don’t think this industry is less friendly to whistleblowers. The entire economy collapsed because no one spoke up about subprime mortgages and the shady things banks were doing. Law enforcement is a similarly closed system, as is politics. Whistle-blowers are a rare breed.

      • Really interesting perspective on the whistleblower aspect here:

        I just hope there aren’t too many voters like Bill Finley who are going to throw Curlin under the bus as far as the Hall of Fame because of the sins of his trainer. Mr. Jackson was always very clear that he wouldn’t tolerate mistreatment of his horses, and due to the stringent rules in the UAE we know Curlin was clean when he won the Dubai World Cup.

  4. Where I’m from in Texas the Assmusens are considered racing royalty per se. I personally always thought they were first class jerks but would never imagine all this. If this is all found to be true, the abuse of the horses, labour violations and sending those broodmares to slaughter then they should all be kicked out of the sport and banned for life. It makes me sick to see this because 99% of the people in this sport care more for these horses than themselves and this fool comes along and gives everyone a black eye. What is really disturbing though is they got away with all this for so long and it took animal extremists horse race hating PETA to break the story? Good grief someone on the inside turned a blind eye to this and they are just as guilty for not blowing the whistle. As for Steve Asmussen , as I have said before , I hope he has a nice scorching hot seat next to JT Lundy in Hell , if proven, and it looks to be that he is guilty. I feel sorry for Nehro too , what a waste that this turd was given the responsibility for his care too

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