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Az Racing Commissioner: Tracks like Rillito 'a killing field' for horses

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Az Racing Commissioner: Tracks like Rillito 'a killing field' for horses

  • Horses race at Rillito in 2015.
    Bill Morrow/FlickrHorses race at Rillito in 2015.

Rory Goreé is the vice chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission.

On Saturday I was at Rillito Racetrack in Tucson, watching the races. There were two horses that suffered life-ending injuries on opening day. I did something I have not done in past — I walked out to observe both situations. I went behind the curtain. The breakdowns were horrific, disturbing, and not something I will ever be able to erase from my memory. I witnessed the horse's leg dangling by skin with the broken bone protruding out.

On Sunday, Rillito had two more dead horses. One during racing and another during an incident in the paddock.

Something is not right in Arizona.

I blame our current sad situation on the change to Race Wagering Assessment. We — the commission — prior to 2017 had the ability to raise or lower the RWA based on budget and funding needs.

Yet someone felt they knew better than the commission and lobbied to get the RWA lowered, and number fixed in law in 2017. The Department lost out on a million dollars funding thanks to this stunt. I was told that due to staff shortage at Turf, there is no one able to perform pre-race exams on all horses. We are also unable to pay for staff to review racing records of all the horses entered to race and determine which horse is at risk or which horse needs more scrutiny or which horse should be scratched. As it currently stands, the state of Arizona has no ability to stop an at-risk horse racing to its death.

I personally believe the blame for current situation starts at the ninth floor (governor's office), House, and Senate. I know there is a majority in House and Senate against discussing tax increase, but RWA was the industry paying to fund itself!

It sickens me to know we continue to kill horses at an unprecedented rate, full well knowing we could put in preventative measures but thanks to someone lobbying to reduce and prevent an increase in RWA, Arizona horse tracks are a killing field.

At this current pace, Arizona racing is facing a one to two-year window until its demise unless we as a whole take immediate action. I personally would welcome a moratorium on racing until proper funding is enacted by the legislative bodies and proper rules are implemented. Some may disagree with me and use the “but we need to make money excuse.” To that I say – if these avoidable horse deaths continue, there will be no industry from which to make money. We can change course, or we can go the way of greyhound racing, continuing to not accept responsibility for our mistakes and take corrective action.

These are my personal feelings, and not those of the Department of Racing nor Commission.

Rory Goreé is the vice chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission.

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