What Happens After a Horse Race?

Horse racing has a long history and has been a central part of world culture since antiquity. It has been an integral part of the Olympic Games, as well as many ancient civilizations including Greece, Egypt, Rome, Babylon and Syria, and continues to be a vitally important aspect of contemporary society. Despite its controversial image and sometimes crooked practices, there is no denying that the sport offers excitement, thrills and a great deal of entertainment for both its fans and players.

The race was held at Del Mar, on a warm and sunny morning in California. The horses began running at a hypnotic pace, bathed in pinkish light and moving with huge strides and an effortless smoothness that made the spectators giddy. War of Will took the early lead, with Mongolian Groom and McKinzie a length behind.

At the top of the clubhouse turn, the pack was tightened and the pace quickened as the field drew close to the finish line. The horses were aching to win and their jockeys were pressing hard. The riders were all sweating and breathing heavily, but the horses did not seem tired or uncomfortable.

One thing was for sure: the horses were thirsty. They had all been injected that morning with Lasix, a diuretic marked on the racing form in boldface letters. The drug is given to prevent pulmonary bleeding, which hard running causes in many horses and that can be dangerous and even fatal. Its main function, however, is to cause the horse to unload epic amounts of urine-twenty or thirty pounds worth. The result is that, by the end of a hard race, most horses are dehydrated and their urine is running off into the dirt in a pond at the bottom of the track.

A spit box is a container in which horses are brought for post-race testing to have their urine, saliva and blood sampled. The results are used to determine whether the horse is fit to continue racing and, if not, the reason why. A spit box also is where the samples are kept for future analysis by laboratory staff.

There is a certain irony in a horse race where the winner gets to become a CEO, but that is how many prestigious companies are selecting their next leaders. Over the years, some governance observers have criticized this approach as risky and overtly competitive, but there is no denying that it has been successful in producing outstanding CEOs at giants such as General Electric, Procter & Gamble and GlaxoSmithKline.

Nonetheless, it is an important reminder that the industry needs serious reform. As awareness of cruel training methods for young horses, doping and the transport of horses from America to foreign slaughterhouses has grown, horse racing is in danger of losing its fan base and shriveling on the vine. It is up to the industry to rouse itself from its perpetual torpor and get serious about doing something about it.