Louisville, Ky. — Following the $20,000 settlement in a first-of-its-kind, PETA-supported lawsuit brought by a bettor against a horse trainer and an owner for illegally doping a horse before a harness race, PETA is placing ads on the websites of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Louisville Courier-Journal, WLKY-TV in Louisville, and the Lexington Herald-Leader, alerting Kentucky Derby bettors that they, too, can sue if they’re cheated out of rightful winnings by trainers who have drugged horses.
In the precedent-setting lawsuit that has sent chills down horse trainers’ and owners’ spines, Illinois-based bettor Jeff Tretter alleged that trainer Robert Bresnahan Jr. and owner J.L. Sadowsky LLC illegally influenced the outcome of a January 2016 race at the Meadowlands, a harness track in New Jersey, by doping the horse Tag Up and Go, a long shot who went on to win the race. Unbeknownst to bettors, Tag Up and Go had tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production, thereby increasing the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity.
“Trainers should know: If they dope horses, they risk a lawsuit,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is alerting Kentucky Derby bettors to hang onto their tickets in case they end up taking horse abusers and cheaters to court.”
PETA notes that last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference. Later, his trainer, Jason Servis—along with 26 others—was indicted for drugging horses. Trainer Bob Baffert—who has horses scheduled to run in this year’s derby—recently had disqualifications after two of his horses failed post-race drug tests. Just last week, the California Horse Racing Board announced that it would pursue the disqualification of the Baffert-trained Thoroughbred Justify, who tested positive for a banned substance in the 2018 Santa Anita Derby. Justify’s win in this race qualified him to run in the Kentucky Derby and thus enabled his Triple Crown victory, something that should not have happened.
Performance-enhancing drugs often mask horses’ pain, allowing them to race and train with injuries that would otherwise be disabling. Illegal doping and the overuse of medication frequently lead to broken bones, other injuries, and death.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.