A well-known thoroughbred trainer is under investigation in Kentucky and New York for allegations he abused horses.
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said an undercover video shows Steve Asmussen forcing injured horses to run and overusing pain-masking drugs.
Other allegations include the using an electric shocker to make the horses run faster.
“The images are and the reports that we've seen and heard are disturbing and troublesome,” said Eric Mitchell, editorial director for The Blood-Horse. “We have to realize there is no context put to any of this footage. We have to realize that horses are athletes and that all medication is not the same.”
PETA released the video as part of an undercover investigation accusing Steve Asmussen and his assistant Scott Blasi of animal abuse at Churchill Downs and Saratoga last summer.
Asmussen’s been in trouble before. In 2006 he served a six-month suspension after a filly he trained tested 750 times over the legal limit in Louisiana for a local anesthetic used to deaden pain in a horse’s legs so it will continue to run.
What isn’t in question is Asmussen’s success on the track.
He’s second among the trainers in career racing victories with more than 6,700.
However, his nomination to the Racing Hall of Fame has been put on hold while he’s being investigated.
“It's unfortunate,” said Michael Blowen. “It's mostly unfortunate for the horses also unfortunate for horse racing.
Blowen runs Old Friends, a retirement home for race horses in Scott County. He’s well aware of the debate over whether horse racing is a sport or abuse.
He said it can be animal abuse but it doesn’t have to be.
“My feeling's always been the better you treat the athletes the better the sport ends up,” said Blowen. “II think that horse racing is definitely going to recover from this, it's recovered many times before.”
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said it will conduct a thorough investigation.
Asmussen’s attorney said Asmussen and Blasi will not comment until they have reviewed the complaints.