Street races of the often illegal variety are most associated with automobiles. Would you be surprised to learn that across the pond that people race horses in the streets? We did not so we turned our attention to Sicily. At issue are the races run by the mafia and what type of money they bring in.
Extreme measures to gain a competitive advantage are nothing new in sport but the level they take it in a city like Palermo caught us off guard. The nerves in their hooves are surrounding area are removed so the horses do not feel pain on the cobblestone roads. Instead of waiting until the wee hours of the night, prime time there is just after sunrise. With more and more people and bettors flocking to impromptu venues, this practice has increased dramatically as well as the frequency of the races themselves.
They gather the horses in the street, honk horns, and prod the horses forward. At sunrise, the police are changing shifts and the races begin. Why are the owners willing to risk their horses? These are not nags but some of them have prized bloodlines. The first is the savings of housing the horses. 2k in stable fees or a few hundred in illegal locations. Second is that it is probably mafia fueled. Gambling on this has seen an up to forty percent reduction in overall legit racing.
Worst of all is that the horses are dying with an alarming frequency. Money is even found in this tragic occurrence. Slaughterhouses have cropped up where they take the animals and process them for the meat. A sad state for our sport but expect it to be on the increase even more before this issue is finally tackled.