The Kentucky Derby 2014 is finally upon us, but for one of the Derby's biggest players, the event is being tainted by terrible allegations of horse abuse.
Thoroughbred trainer Steve Asmussen should have a lot to look forward to when it comes to the 2014 Kentucky Derby. He trains Kentucky Derby contender Tapiture and Kentucky Oaks favorite Untapable.
Yet the Kentucky Derby trainer and his former longtime assistant, Scott Blasi have been accused by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of a catalogue of crimes against the horses they train for the Kentucky Derby 2014 and other races.
PETA released a damning nine-minute undercover video and 285-page report ahead of the Kentucky Derby which wreaked havoc on an already troubled American horse-racing industry.
The video entitled 'Horse Racing's Daily Double: Drugs and Death,' focuses on racing injured horse, the use of electric devices to shock them into running faster, the dubious amount and differing types of medication they are wrongly given to enhance performance, and the scant regard which PETA alleges the Kentucky Derby 2014 trainers have for their horses.
In the video shot over five months on a hidden camera at Asmussen's stables, the Kentucky Derby trainer's assistant Blasi can be seen making insensitive comments about injured horses and talks about running Kentucky Derby 2011 contender Nehro, despite the horse in question suffering chronic foot ailments.
After the New York Times reported the allegations on March 19, Kentucky Derby 2014 trainer Asmussen had 10 to 14 horses removed from him by Nehro's owner Ahmed Zayat. In turn Asmussen sacked Blasi and was taken taken off the Hall of Fame ballot.
As a final insult the Kentucky Derby 2014 trainer was requested to stay away from Churchill during Derby week "for the good of the game" by none other than Jockey Club chairman Ogden Mills Phipps.
PETA have declared that Asmussen gave his horses "a steady diet of drug cocktails." Yet in an industry renowned for its indiscriminate use of drugs, many feel it is wrong to single Asmussen, who is the No. 2 race-winning trainer of all time as some sort of rouge bad apple.
Writing in the Washington Post, Andrew Beyer declared: "Neither Asmussen nor most members of his profession resemble PETA's caricature of trainers as heartless and ruthless abusers of thoroughbreds."
The Kentucky Derby 2014 trainer's attorney, Clark Brewster, called PETA extremist and self-serving and said: "They want to make horse racing disappear, and many things they've said show they are people with no understanding of the sport. Steve's horses are meticulously cared for, and usually the best-looking specimens in the paddock.''
When quizzed about a possible PETA protest at the Kentucky Derby 2014, Brewster added: "It might be an opportunity to gain more attention for [PETA's] cause, which is their main goal."
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