Book Review: “The Black Horse is Dying” by William Jones

This is an important book. The issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) in Irish racing is now a hot topic following recent articles by David Walsh in the Sunday Times and Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Independent. Both journalists have rightly credited the work of William Jones in documenting the issue. William Jones is a former journalist who spent a number of years working with Coolmore before becoming a whistleblower about what he saw as unacceptable practices in Coolmore. These were documented in his first book ‘The Black Horse of Coolmore”, that led to a lengthy and bitter legal dispute with Coolmore.

His second book is especially damning in its portrayal of American racing. Reading the litany of positive tests/infringements in horses with US trainers such Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Doug O’Neill, Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis is both shocking and dispiriting. More concerning is the ongoing medication that is normal and legal within US training circles. A revealing extract from the medication history of seven Baffert horses who died at Hollywood Park, shows just how far removed US training is from the ideal of trainers using just water, hay and oats. He questions what he sees as the hypocrisy of European trainers and owners who follow the ‘when in Rome approach’ and run their horses on Lasix in the States despite condemning their use in Europe.

Lest, we get complacent in Ireland and the UK, Jones details various drug cases that occurred here and the trainers and vets who were sanctioned. He covers the high profile UK case involving Nicky Henderson and the Queen Mother’s horse Moonlit Pass. The book is revealing in highlighting inconsistencies in approach by the Irish authorities. The lack of accountability of the IHRB who are not covered by Freedom of Information legislation despite received c.€9 million in taxpayers money is an interesting anomaly that he raises. The author was instrumental in getting the Veterinary Council to change its rules about having fitness to practice hearings in public. He has been meticulous and no doubt an irritant to the authorities and yet Irish racing owes him a huge debt.

This book is not perfect; it could have done with better editing, the details of his legal battles and the repeat of some of his grievances with Coolmore might have been better left for another work. His belief that the UK administration and testing regime is more effective and impartial than the Irish system is also debatable. His criticism of some individuals can at times seem unduly harsh but he is a skilled polemicist and gets a lot right.

Reading this book it is easy to conclude that racing and breeding is ignoring a serious animal welfare/PED crisis. He covers the unacceptable behaviour of big bookmaker in exploiting problem gamblers and given the reliance of racing on these same bookmakers it is another area of concern. Whistleblowers are rarely thanked for the difficulties they cause those in power. If you want to thank Mr Jones you can purchase his book via Amazon or some independent booksellers. I urge you to do so….https://www.amazon.com/Black-Horse-Dying-Corruption-Exploitation/dp/1838536523

4 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Black Horse is Dying” by William Jones

  1. Reading the book now. Very interesting. Incredible the book is not reviewed or mentioned in any of the major racing publications: Racing Post, Irish Field, Blood-Horse, Thoroughbred Daily News. They are doing a disservice to horse racing and to their journalistic tole. Obviously, the content of the book can be discussed, and should be discussed. The book is not invisible.

    1. One organisation in particular doesn’t like some of the contents and they spend quite a bit on advertising in different publications. They didn’t like the previous book from the author either!

  2. Has the book been reviewed at all? Does there exist a review in a specialist horse racing publication? And, while I am at it, does there exist any racing/bloodstock newsletters that are under the radar?

  3. The author sent us this book freely upon our responding to his freely given email in another blog we were reading & commenting on. Very interesting in detailing of his experiences.

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