The New York Times on March 25, 2012, ran a front-page article titled (online version) “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys” by Walt Bogdanich, Joe Drape, Dara Miles, and Griffin Palmer. As indicated by the title, it was a highly unfavorable depiction. Not surprisingly, reader comments were overwhelming anti-racing and many commenters called for an outright ban on the sport.

Like my website Horse Racing Business, the New York Times writes with a point of view, even outside its editorial page. If you disagree with their slant, you have a few options: complain in an email or a letter to the editor; not buy the newspaper; or cancel your subscription.

But keep in mind that front-page articles offered as reporting and analysis–like “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys”–are the direct result of flagging readership. Simply put, The New York Times needs to sensationalize in order to attract readers.

The facts are: The New York Times Company has seen a continual dramatic decline in its subscriptions, with its revenues plunging. The company now has negative earnings per share and its stock price has retreated from $51.50 per share in 2002 to less than $7 a share today. The newspaper has become so desperate (and evidently resentful of its fate) that its editorial page has turned into an attack machine on people and groups it does not happen to agree with. Recently, for instance, the Catholic Church and Mormons were savaged by an angry female columnist. Any pretense about dispassionate journalism and reasoned editorial analysis has long since been dispensed with.

Even the paper’s traditional motto “All the News That’s Fit to Print” is an anachronism. If horse racing is (supposedly) a dying sport, the Times has a more advanced illness, with a foot in the print grave in the digital age.

The kind of article produced by Bogdanich et al. could easily have been written about head injuries in the National Football League, drug use in Major League Baseball in particular, but other human sports as well, punch-drunk former boxers, and the perils of auto racing. Indeed, some of these topics have been addressed because they sell papers. However, the major sports leagues have the financial wherewithal to return fire with their own publicity, whereas horse racing is decentralized and makes for an easy target for failing newspapers trying to gin-up sales.

In spite of The New York Times’ pecuniary motivation and bias, the issues raised in the Times article of March 25 and elsewhere are not without merit. When esteemed racehorse owners like George Strawbridge and Charlotte Weber publically protest about lax drug policy in 2-year-old graded stakes races, people should take serious note. These folks are not out to sell anything, but rather, are expressing anguish about the direction of a sport they love.

While justifiably railing against the New York Times may make you and me feel better, venting won’t do anything except expend negative energy. People who genuinely care deeply about the sport of horse racing–and the animals and humans involved—need to reform the sport, regardless of whose toes get stepped on in the process. Especially work to rid the sport of race-day medication and the thugs who give racing a bad image. Especially do everything possible to make racing surfaces safer for jockeys and horses. If a racetrack surface temporarily goes bad due to weather, or whatever, cancel the day’s races.

Horse racing will never be a 100% safe sport, and never 100% free of thugs, which also happens to be true of other sports and living per se. The reasonable and necessary goal must be to institute reforms, sooner rather than before it is too late. That way, horse racing will not be such an easy target for journalists looking to hawk their stories and do-gooders looking to bring down an elegant sport and large-scale agribusiness employing lots of people.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business


  1. You are right on all counts. The NYT has an agenda but speaks some truth.

  2. Bill Shanklin says

    The accusation leveled against horse racing that is particularly offensive to me and others is that the sport is the province of people who don’t care about their animals. I resent this deeply because I have always had a strong affection for animals and most of the people I know in racing are the same way. We cannot rid the sport of unscrupulous and uncaring individuals, but we can get a good start on it. We cannot stop horse slaughter any more than humane societies can stop people from discarding unwanted cats and dogs, but we can mitigate the problem. Just don’t have the hubris and audacity to call us who like racing inhumane. Those are fighting words.

  3. MillerTime says

    Joe Drape is a turncoat by writing a Fleet Street piece like this. He needs to return his Eclipse award and see about a new job at the National Inquirer. The NYT gives only one side of the picture, nothing on what racing is doing to correct some of the problems. This vendetta is similar to what happened with fox hunting in GB. There is an element of class warfare here against wealthy owners.

  4. The New York Times article is excellent and gutsy. The only way to start improving the sport is to expose the negative aspects otherwise most racing fans will just continue to see a rosy picture of adorable foals in the pastures some with their NURSEMARE, pretty silks, gushing over the Rachels. Some people acted like they were even shocked about the photo when we have ALL seen much worse. The article was really fairly innocent if you followed the story of the horse No Day Off or Deputy Broad as they went from racetrack to slaughter. OMG if you truly want to help the sport, start doing something postive NOW instead of complaining about an article that exposes the reality.

  5. John Scheinman says

    To blame the New York Times and its so-called agenda – especially loathsome is the accusation that the series was crafted out a need to build circulation – is shameful. The New York Times is the finest newspaper in the country, and I can find much to fault within the article. The motivation should not be faulted, however, because it reads like a level-best if flawed effort to present the level of carnage and abuse going on in the sport. You think you can just waive that away because you don’t like the New York Times? Nothing will ever get done if that’s the case. Racing needs to use the article as a mirror and decide if that’s how it really looks and if it likes what it sees. To me, this Horse Racing Business column is reflexive and whiny and should not be representative of the response of racing as an industry or a guideline to fan reaction. We must do much, much better.

  6. Bill Shanklin says


    If the New York Times is the finest newspaper in the country why is it in such trouble financially? Former readers and advertisers have voted against the Times (and many other papers but not all) by withholding their dollars. The proof is in the pudding and factual performance feedback from the marketplace matters more than your opinion or mine.

    If you read my entire column I did not blame the paper for racing’s predicament, but I did say that it sensationalizes to sell newspapers. Would a balanced newspaper allow a writer to demonize the Catholic Church and Mormons, as the Times did?

  7. 4thestate says

    If JS is who he claims to be, he once wrote for the Washington Post, so he is taking up for his fellow scribes. He seems to be suggesting that journalists write stories without regard to how many readers they will attract. He knows better. A journalist that does not have many readers won’t be around long.

  8. 4thestate says
  9. Bill Shanklin says

    To reemphasize what I said in the article: The NYT reporters have brought up issues that are hanging over the horse racing business like the sword of Damocles and threaten the sport’s existence. Definintely, they need to be addressed. I also cautioned that the NYT pieces should be read with a healthy degree of skepticism because the NYT’s goal is to carry front-page articles that sell newspapers. Moreover, the NYT has a history of being decidely one-sided, even tolerating bigotry on its editorial page. In short, the NYT is desperate for readers and a business turnaround. The pingbacks above are both from sources that quote my article to the effect that I am in favor of reform in horse racing, which I assuredly am.

  10. August Song says

    I’m still waiting for Joe Drape to do an expose’ on the politicians that were involved with the Aqueduct Entertainment Group and the VLT’s. Cuomo was the Attorney General of New York at the time. He’s now the governor. Fitch, the state investigator who was assigned to see if there had been enough impropriety going on to warrant indictments, found there was an embarrassing amount. See how quickly Cuomo is moving to recommend indicting the alleged participants Paterson, Sampson, Smith, and Meeks?

  11. art DECARO says

    I WOULD BET THE HORSES THAT DRAPE ARE TALKING ABOUT GET BETTER CARE THAN ANY ONE OF THESE SO CALLED JOURNALISTS , GIVE TO THEIR AGEING PARENTS……GO TO A SENIOR HOME, HOW MANY SEE A DR(VET) EVERY DAY! 7 dollars a shr is going to be a huge stock price 2 yrs from now bankruptcy is in the ny times future plans. a once proud organization…..now is garbage in, garbage out…. bye bye nyt

  12. Bill, I believe every word you said in your critique on the New York Times article. You speak of a reasonable and necessary goal being to bring reforms before it is too late. I agree with that statement also but I submit to you that this country has a fine legal system in place which has demonstrated its’ effectiveness for well over a hundred years. The crux of the problem is that most of the present regulators, stewards and racing commissioners, are not making effective use of it. It is documented that violations are taking place and that the stewards are providing wristslapping penalties for offenses that deserve months and in some cases years. Commissioners, by their silence on these issues are further abetting this permissive form of regulation. That is at the root of all of this tail wagging the dog situation. Personnel changes in the appropriate places would produce obvious changes in short order. A very good housecleaning would not be out of order.

  13. Bill… you ask “If the New York Times is the finest newspaper in the country why is it in such trouble financially?” If you don’t know Bill, ALL print newspapers are in trouble and IF they survive, they must reinvent themselves in the digital age… A newspaper being in financial trouble says nothing about the merits of the paper but the state of print news.


  14. In response to the story about horseracing in the Us the statement made by the author about the UK and less accidents due to no drugs is fine. I only regret the lack of obvious knowledge on investigation is blatant due to the fact that in the US we do not own a cannery for horsemeat wereas UK and also Canada do. Why does all the negitives need mentioning when there are so many positives. I have worked on various racetracks in Maryland and New Hampshre and my home state of Ma, working for Lynn Whiting and other great horsepeople who care for they propects. I have only witnessed the upmost dilgeligence amonst these professionsla and the horses themselves are treated better than some people in this world with kid gloves sort of speak. If the magizine auther wanted actual coverage he should of gone to the backside of a real thoroughbred racetrack and would have had his head shrunk and given his EGO a gallop out.


  1. […] Horse Racing Business puts it in their summation of the article: While justifiably railing against the New York Times may make you and me feel better, venting […]

  2. […] in the website Horse Racing Business by Bill Shanklin, he writes: In spite of The New York Times’ pecuniary motivation and bias, the […]

  3. […] in the website Horse Racing Business by Bill Shanklin, he writes: In spite of The New York Times’ pecuniary motivation and bias, the […]