For one thing, horse racing is an incredibly dangerous sport.
Per the report:
Despite the incredible risks they take, as well as the staggering amount of money involved in the sport of horse racing, many jockeys will earn as little as $28 for riding in a race.
Riders in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the sports' premier event, are paid more. But unless they finish in the top five it's still not much — about $500. Riders in the Preakness and the Belmont, the next two legs of racing's Triple Crown, might go home with as little as $100.
In addition to being completely exploitative and dangerous, horse racing also encourages jockeys to develop eating disorders.
Seabiscuit's IRL jockey, Red Pollard, reportedly ate just 600 calories a day to meet races' weight requirements.
Oh, you didn't know horse races had weight requirements? Well, they do, because they're fucking terrible.
The weight requirement for a full-grown human ass being in the Kentucky Derby is just 126 pounds at the max, and that's considered one of the more forgiving races. Since this includes roughly 7 pounds of gear, that means the jockey must weigh even less.
If a jockey doesn't lose their life on the track, they can die from an eating disorder. According to ESPN, "In 2005, Emanuel Jose Sanchez, a 22-year-old jockey, was found lying on the floor of the shower in the jockeys' room after riding a horse named Bear on Tour at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Virginia" — he died soon after, likely due to complications from severe weight loss measures. His body showed signs of dehydration.
But humans aren't the only casualties in the game.
Horse racing encourages unhealthy and completely unethical treatment of the sport's animals. A survey from the New York Times found that between 2009 and 2012, 3,600 horses died on racetracks that were state-approved for their alleged safety. About 24 horses die each week on these tracks, in training and races.
According to the Times, this could be due to horses being illegally drugged in order to increase their speed and performance. Even if their owners are caught, depending on what state they're in, owners might not even be fined and or stripped of their prize money.
The New York Times reported that since 2009, records show that trainers at United States tracks have been caught illegally drugging horses 3,800 times, which is "a figure that vastly understates the problem because only a small percentage of horses are actually tested."
At minimum, the sport is an uncomfortable symbol of privilege.
The race first began in 1875, just 10 years after the American Civil War ended.
To its credit, the Kentucky Derby was one of the first racially inclusive sporting events — the Derby's first winner, Oliver Lewis, was one of the earliest black star athletes, completing the race in just two minutes and 37.75 seconds. Black jockeys went on to absolutely dominate the jockey, winning 15 of the first 28 Derby races.
Sadly, the stories of these men, who broke countless racial barriers throughout their careers, are almost never told. Only movies about white jockeys get picked up by the big studios. If you ask the average 20something to name one famous horse, they'll probably say Seabiscuit, because of that movie starring Former Spiderman Tobey Maguire.
Is Tobey Maguire about to fuck this horse?