My Job, My life, My Horse

Dear Senator Feinstein,

Good morning mame,

It’s me again, one of the nameless seventy-seven thousand workers in the horse racing industry here in Southern California. Let me tell you just the cliff notes about myself. My great grandfather Levi Strauss migrated across this great country of ours in the fifties with his family. Before leaving Dorchester, Boston my great grandfather Ruben Strauss spent all his free time playing the ponies at Suffolk Downs back east. So, yes, even though I never met my great grandfather Strauss, you can say horse racing is in my blood. Flash forward seventy years and I work as a wagering ambassador and handicapper in the green grandstand of Santa Anita Park. My grandfather loved Santa Anita when he came out west to California, placing bets on the great race horse Swaps many years before I came along. Every time I walk through our massive faculty I can feel his memory alive and well in this racetrack as well as the memory of all the amazing and historic horses who thundered towards our finish line. My great grandfather had a passion for horse racing and that passion is alive through me. I love these horses and this industry and my voice as small as it may be will not be drowned out by groups like Horse Racing Wrongs who feel that shrinking the horse population into extinction is the only solution.

I’m just one of the hardworking souls whose livelihood rests on the back of our industry, and on the fragile legs of the Thoroughbred athlete. In print, every morning, I read about how you and the radical leftist group, Horse Racing Wrongs, make us horse racing fans, out to be sub-human, evil and with no regard for equine life. I am myself a Christian woman,  and as such, I pray for our horses and our jockeys to return to the barn safety every single day. We love our horses here at Santa Anita Park and we have the passion to want to see our industry thriving here in California. By bringing an abrupt end to horse racing in California, I wonder if you have stopped to consider what this will do to our already extremely fragile and failing state.

Beyond the job loss example, horse racing in California is a 2.47 billion industry. That is a lot of money for our state. Just Santa Anita Park annually adds fifteen point six million to the local economy. There are over 58,000 Californians living in Arcadia and homeowners in this suburb of Los Angeles will definitely feel that hit when their taxes go up if Santa Anita Park were to close down. Santa Anita Park just hosted the Breeder’s Cup here last week, our tenth Breeder’s Cup we have hosted. This Breeder’s Cup event was expected to generate over ten million dollars for the metro Los Angles area’s local economy, over five hundred and thirty-two full-time jobs and nearly twenty-six million in labor revenue. Horse racing nationally is an industry that employs over 400,000 jobs. The horse racing industry nationally has an economic impact of around thirty-six billion dollars.

So I mentioned money and revenue for the greater Los Angeles area but the bigger part of this story is our love for the horses and our love for our jobs in this industry. How many people can say they are happy to go to work each day, that they truly love their jobs? Well, that is me, and everyone I know who works in the horse racing industry. We take pride in our work, whether we are trainers, jockeys, handicappers, race track analysts or camera dudes. Whether we work in publicity, marketing or group sales; We love this beautiful race track, we love our sport and our future is looking bleak if you listen to the radical left.

These anti-labor and extremist groups don’t care one bit about seventy-seven thousand Californians being left jobless. If horse racing were to be eradicated in California between the breeding farms, the training  facilities like San Luis Rey Downs,  the race tracks (Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Los Alamitos Race Course, not to mention all the horse racing at the state fairs in the summertime) 140,000 Californian jobs would be indirectly affected. At Santa Anita Park itself, we have over three thousand laborers, most of them from incredibly impoverished central America countries who are housed on our backside of the race track. (Eighty percent of these workers live on the Santa Anita backside) They are the grooms and hot walkers who care for these beautiful Thoroughbred racehorses and they will be out of work, and yes most of them will end up homeless if horse racing is abolished here in California. We already have over fifty-nine thousand homeless here in Los Angeles, one would think Governor Newsom would not want to add to that staggering number.

I know I wrote you back in April of this year with the same plea you have heard from others in our industry, please don’t be so haste in your want to destroy our industry and our jobs and our lives here in California. You may see us as the enemy over here in Arcadia, at San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego and at Golden Gate Fields up north but we actually love these horses and our industry. So many changes have been put into place to protect these fragile animals and make racing safer in California but one thing I think you and a lot of other Californians don’t realize is how fragile of an athlete these horses are.

When football players get a concussion or a dislocated knee like the Kansas City Chief’s Patrick Mahome, just two games ago, they may be out for a game or two. During the recent World Series when Nationals player Max Scherzer had a neck injury and received a cortisone shot, he was back in the game seventy-two hours later. When a horse fractures a cannon or a pastern bone it’s often too severe of an injury for the horse to survive. When horses get badly injured they can’t live on three legs like a goat, a cat or a dog. If a horse gets hurt (And horses can get so many ailments outside of leg injuries, including founder, colic, heart attacks, etc) the injury needs to be not so severe that they can get along in a cast to heal eventually. Horses have to walk and get out of their stall or they will get colic in their stomach which can be a death sentence to a horse. What the public doesn’t understand and radical leftist groups like Horse Racing Wrongs and PETA just don’t get, is athletes do get hurt and racehorses are very fragile athletes. Yes, horses can live to be thirty or forty years old but they often don’t when so many things can go wrong every day, and they do. Through the end of our recent autumn, Santa Anita meet, nearly 3,000 horses had workouts in the morning or raced in the afternoon and sadly seven-horse have had to be euthanized this meet but that is such an extremely low percentage over all the thoroughbreds working out every morning and racing in the afternoon. Our horses here in southern California get the utmost care and are genuinely loved by the people who ride them, fed them, train them and even shoe them. In the last year, since Arcadia received record rainfall in February, sixteen inches in just two days, track management has gone above and beyond to make our dirt race track one of the safest in the country. Extra veterinarians are on staff and pre-race examinations have been increased. Santa Anita Park is going above and beyond to scrutinize the horses who run over our dirt and turf surfaces.

With all this being said and done, accidents do happen, recently in the Breeder’s Cup Classic, Enebat Ganbat trained Mongolian Groom had a catastrophic injury while galloping down the home stretch. Groups like Horse Racing Wrongs want to convince the public this horse, and many others are neglected, unsound and abused. The backside of Santa Anita Park tells a far different story. Our barns and stalls at Santa Anita Park are full of horses being given baths every day, pets, hugs and love. You can’t walk amongst the backside and not see the love for the horse in our employee’s eyes.

So this all brings us back full circle to the corner Of Huntington Drive and Colorado Place where you could find me in my yellow shirt every Saturday morning of this meet. I’m usually the one holding the big sign, saying, “Honk if you support horse racing” I’ve been there, every Saturday morning this past October, waving my glittery sign, smiling and cheering for the future of our industry alongside tellers, jockeys, trainers, jockeys agents and fans. With every honk (And there are a great many) from the citizens of Arcadia from passing cars, it has our spirits soaring. If you listened just to the shrieking shrill voice of Horse Racing Wrongs one would think everyone in this area is against Santa Anita Park. Besides paying the homeless of Los Angeles County to protest for their side, I don’t know how on earth this radical group has become such a giant voice for their side of the battle.

Breeder’s Cup weekend I worked twelve-hour days and besides working, I wore my purple dress, fascinator and Breeder’s Cup credentials everywhere I went in Arcadia and Pasadena. When I went to CVS before work the cashier gushed about how much she loved Santa Anita Park. When I bought my kale salad at Whole Foods to fuel my twelve-hour days two different employees approached me to ask me questions about famous horses they would see later on t.v.

Two days later, I took my SUV in for an oil change and my mechanic told me how he graduated from Arcadia High School and grew up in the green grandstand of Santa Anita Park. He talked my ear off for twenty minutes about nearly every world-class horse who had run on Breeder’s Cup day.

Basically everywhere I have gone in the last week, all I have heard out of every Californian’s mouth is how great our race track is, how much people love spending their time at Santa Anita Park and how scared they are for the future of this industry here in California.  You must know, that when you only listen to a highly radical leftist group like Horse Racing Wrongs, they are not telling you what the majority of the California people actually feel.

Groups like Horse Racing Wong’s and PETA May want to get you to believe that these horses are not loved. That could be nothing further from the truth. I’ve included a few links at the end of this email, including a link to Rising From the Ashes. This video may be hard to watch, but you can not look at this video and ever say, we do not love our horses.

I would just like to say, when the San Luis Rey fire happened and horse racing trainers like Martine Bellocq were running into the flames of the fire to save their horse and in the days after the fire, groups like PETA never once came out to help when Del Mar asked for volunteers to help care for so many displaced horses. You can obviously see in a time of crisis where these groups who love animals, where their priorities lay. I also included a link to a news article about what Martine has been through since she ran into the burning stables to save her horses. You can’t look at this new story and say we don’t love our horses.

Horse Racing Wrongs and groups like PETA want to start with eradicating horse racing in California but all race tracks across America are under a microscope for them. In the wake of Democrat Andrew Beshears being elected in Kentucky, I worry about what the future of Kentucky horse racing has ahead of it. The economy of Kentucky is based on two things; Thoroughbred racehorses and bourbon. If this can happen here in California, it can happen across the nation and hundreds of thousands of employees are going to be affected if these radical groups get their way.

“Racetracks offer free stabling to owners and trainers. Making racing illegal would put some 125 tracks out of business, and the horses that live there would face eviction. Considering that it costs anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month to provide food, shelter and veterinary care for an average horse, it’s difficult to see how a marginally profitable horseman who has just been forced out of his livelihood and has no place to board his animals could continue to care for 15 or 20 thoroughbreds. Multiply this scenario by thousands of individual racing stables across the country, and reality begins to impose itself on animal-rights theory. Within weeks of shutting down horse racing, the United States would face its largest displaced livestock crisis ever.” New York Times

That is the reality for our sport if horse racing is outlawed. We love these horses. We love our jobs. We want our industry to thrive. A lot of progressive reforms have been implemented at Santa Anita Park to help these Thoroughbreds get hurt a lot less often. I think these sweeping and positive reforms will catch on across the nation and we can come out of this with a much stronger, safer and proactive sport. There are great changes in effect to safeguard the lives of these Thoroughbreds. Our hearts are breaking here in California over what is happening to our sport and our industry in the last six months, and we plead with you to please consider those who love and care for these equines and all the horse lovers working in this industry before you help destroy it.

Thank you for listening,

~Amber Woodyard

Wagering ambassador and handicapper, Santa Anita Park

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