Horseracing has long been referred to as ‘the sport of kings’, and with good reason, too. When horseracing first emerged centuries ago, it was only royalty and the aristocracy that could afford to breed racehorses. The individuals that bred them were very good at what they did because they vast sums of wealth to fall back on. Consequently, these wealthy breeders were able to afford to cut their losses when one of their horses would get seriously injured or ill. But ironically it was the influx of lower-class breeders that resulted in the diluted pool of racehorses that we now have today.
The Dilution of Breeding Begins
The lower-class breeders were unwilling to cut their losses with horses that should have been put down. They would have invested the bulk of their resources into their horses and could not just walk away. So rather than do the humane thing and put them down, the un-elite breeders would encourage their fillies to be with foal before selling them on and withholding key information of their problems. As you can imagine, this quickly contributed to a pattern of breeding that lead to a weaker crop of horses.
Deliberate Collusion by the Vendors
One of the most popular breeding sales in Europe is the Tattersalls Derby, held at Fairyhouse Racecourse. Owners and breeders searching for horses to run in National Hunt events like to visit Tattersalls. The 2013 sales saw an astonishing €11 million spent on 350 horses. This year’s sale was rather unsavoury, with allegations that vendors colluded to prevent purchasers from checking the wind mechanisms of the horses. It was said that the vendors carried out all of their communications via text messages and strongly called upon their colleagues to obstruct the checking process undertaken by the purchasers.
The Checking Process
The checking process is conducted by purchasers that have a vet attending the sale with them. The vet then checks the breathing systems of the horse through the use of an endoscope in an entirely painful process. What the vet is looking for is any abnormalities present in the horse’s respiratory system. As you can imagined, some vendors can take the test personally and feel very defensive over it. Significant abnormalities would result in horses being determined as having performance issues, thus making them a poor investment for the purchaser. However, it would be entirely unfair for a purchaser to pay top-dollar for a racehorse that couldn’t race.
The obstacle in the way of Tattersalls rectifying the situation is that they benefit more from the vendors than they do the purchasers. Tattersalls faces competition in horse sales in Ireland from Goffs, so are perhaps reluctant to clean up the process at risk of losing out on clients. The more influential of the vendors arranged the coordinated the entire tactic of obstruction. Vendors with lesser reputations were warned of repercussions if they did not adhere to the strategy of preventing the complete respiratory check.