Animal welfare group PETA criticized rap superstar Jack Harlow on Friday for glorifying horse racing in his newest music video “Churchill Downs,” which debuted this past week.
The Louisville native shot most of the video (scroll down to watch) for the song at his hometown track on Kentucky Derby day. Drake, who also raps on the song, is also featured in the video, which includes them hanging out in a private box in the infield.
It also includes snippets of races and the two rappers placing bets.
In a statement Friday, PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said Harlow’s video glossed over what the organization believes is a brutal sport.
Jack Harlow’s glamorized portrayal of horse racing is missing the whips, drugs, and deaths that run rampant in the industry,” Guillermo said. “Profiting from the abuse of others is never acceptable, and PETA is calling on Jack Harlow to pony up and pay for the care of American Thoroughbreds who would otherwise be shipped to foreign slaughterhouses.”
A message to a representative for Harlow wasn’t immediately returned over the weekend.
Kentucky Derby a Huge Event
The Kentucky Derby is the biggest spectacle in horse racing as it attracts massive crowds and celebrities. The crowds don’t just come for the Derby. The Kentucky Oaks, held on the Friday before the Derby, also brings six-figure-sized crowds to Churchill Downs.
This year’s Derby attracted more than 147,000 fans, and the all-sources handle for the Derby was a record $179 million, which surpassed the $165.5 million wagered in 2019.
In all, bettors put down a record $273.8 million on the 14-race card Churchill Downs ran on the first Saturday in May. That’s a 9 percent improvement on the previous Derby Day record handle of $250.9 million also set in 2019.
All handle figures include money bet at other tracks and off-track betting parlors as well as wagers made online through advanced-deposit operators, like Churchill Downs Incorporated’s TwinSpires.
Recent Controversies Spurred Racing Reforms
Despite the glamor that’s attached to racing, sometimes referred to as the “Sport of Kings,” there are significant safety issues tied to the sport.
Horses lives are put at risk, and if they break a leg during a race or in training, it can lead to them being euthanized as such injuries can lead to painful physical problems that can also be fatal. Santa Anita Park drew heavy attention after 37 horses died at the Southern California track from December 2018 to November 2019.
Those high-profile cases led to national reforms in racing, including Congress passing the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act in 2020. The federal law creates uniform standards for safety and drug testing, and those standards are set to become effective next month.
Drug use has also been a controversial topic. Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, which showed the colt having more than twice the allowed amount of betamethasone in his system. After a lengthy court battle regarding a second test, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards officially disqualified the horse as the winner earlier this year. They also levied a 90-day suspension against trainer Bob Baffert.
Baffert began serving that suspension in April but is appealing the ruling. Separately, Churchill Downs issued its own two-year ban last year against the hall of fame trainer that kept him from entering horses in this year’s Derby or participating in any other races held at the company’s tracks. Baffert has filed a federal lawsuit against Churchill Downs over that suspension.
Medina Spirit died in December after a workout at Santa Anita. After a postmortem review, the California Horse Racing Board announced in February it found no potential violations that necessitated an investigation.
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