I often think like you how much BETTER the races would be without the stories of horses breaking down mentally AND/OR physically.
How many more track records would we set?? How much more interesting would the spectator sport be if everyone involved knew that we were actually doing the best for our horses?? Sheesh we could let the public back into the barn area .... there would be nothing to hide.
It would be great if there were alternatives. I think a few bigger races for older horses could indeed shift the tide and like you said even people who with hold their 3 year olds to race at 4 are still running them too hard too young. I'm nervous about starting my girl at 4 1/2 and I promise you that if she gets sore or I think ANYTHING is wrong then I and my trainer will pull her. PERIOD. I truly love my horse and plan on riding her myself someday as a dressage/sport horse but I realize that I am in no way the "norm". I'm not making my living from horse races tho either. I'm into it for the fun.
I wonder if we could put together some kind of website (I"m a web designer) to draw attention to racing horses too young and how it affects the horses and the industry and offer some other ideas/options?? Who knows maybe we could get someone or some biz to sponsor an older horse race??
There are older TBs out there racing. I've know horses as old as 8 or 10 racing but its not real common.
PM me and well see if we can come up with some ideas :)