07/14/2013 7:21PM

Disassociated Press


A pox on the Associated Press. A painful, festering pox on the Associated Press and on their enablers, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, for the photograph chosen to illustrate the on-line verson of this story on The Times-Picayune site -- http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2013/07/lake_charles_drug_sting_leads.html -- about cyrstal meth busts in the Lake Charles region of Southwest Louisiana that involved several people connected in some way to “horse racing.”

It should not be a surprise that the story failed to mention the only local horse racing going on in the area lately was Quarter Horse racing at Delta Downs, owned and operated by Boyd Gaming, which just ended its meet. To the general press, if horses race it’s horse racing. And even horse racing in general does its best to perpetuate the conflation of the breeds through common state regulation, mixed meets and historical lore.

But there is no excuse -- save abject indifference, gross ignorance or shameful sloth – for the Associated Press to have illustrated the story with the image of Vyjack winning the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct earlier this year, or for an editor at The Times-Picayune (with its self-important cap “T” in “The”) to have failed to either notice the photo credit as “AP Photo/New York Racing Association, Adam Coglianese” or ignore it if they did.

The message is clear: Here’s a juicy story about drugs with a vague but at least officially attributed horse racing angle, with no names known beyond their circle, but now inscribed on the police blotter. And to catch your eye, here’s a picture of a horse – just any old horse – at the end of a horse race. Never mind that he is a horse who won a major New York prep for the Kentucky Derby, whose name was in the news for several months earlier in the year, or that Thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct, as tedious as it can sometimes be in the depths of winter, is a far, far cry from Quarter Horse racing at Delta Downs.

Then again, both tracks have a casino.

I admire the sight of a fast Quarter Horse in action as much as the next person. I’ve even sat on a few of them, and man are those critters a sweet ride. But for those of us whose first and only true love is Thoroughbred racing, the idea of being a fan of Quarter Horse racing usually begins and ends the moment it is learned that artificial insemination is used to populate the breed. This puts them on a par with chickens.

So let’s go ahead and pile on. The use of demorphin, aka frog juice, was first discovered in Quarter Horse racing. Drug money from Mexico’s Los Zetas crime cartel was laundered through Quarter Horse purchases. A local Illinois politician embezzled $53 million from her community and spent most of it buying and breeding Quarter Horses. The American Quarter Horse Association endorses equine slaughter as a viable management option and has no problem with slaughterhouses approved to open in Iowa and New Mexico. The notorious New York Times series damning horse racing with a broad swipe used Quarter Horse statistics and Quarter Horse horror stories to illustrate its point, including a photo of a freshly euthanized Quarter Horse corpse. At least in that case the paper got the right picture.

Of course, sweeping generalizations are unfair, just as the blatant misuse of a photograph is poor journalism. In California, the closure of Hollywood Park at the end of the year for racing and training has created a justifiable panic over finding alternative, cost-efficient stall space. The management of Los Alamitos, California’s home of Quarter Horse racing, has offered part of its stabling for Thoroughbreds that will be competing at Santa Anita and Del Mar. For some reason the idea was more popular among owners than trainers, but the plan was finally accepted as a temporary fix. Any port in a storm.

There is no question Thoroughbred racing has its own bad actors and its share of homegrown scandals. Still, it might be time to urge the people in charge to encourage a more distinct separation of the breeds, or at least mount an effort aimed at the perception that not all race horses are created equally, especially when there is a semen-filled syringe involved.