I have been able to confirm the following deaths at Mountaineer Racetrack:

Pastorelli in the 7th race July 9. He was four years old and under the whip for the 10th time. Rose’s Asset in the 4th race August 25. She was six years old and under the whip for the 35th time. Flying Around in the 9th race December 2. He was six years old and under the whip for the 53rd time.

It’s worth noting that according to my source, all three were euthanized where they lay – on the track, that is. Yet according to the Equibase notes, each was “vanned off” after taking a “bad step” – no mention of death. They lie and deceive because dead horses – now more than ever – are bad for business.

In a column in HorseRace Insider Tuesday, (racing) journalist and lifelong handicapper Mark Berner renounced his beloved “sport” – yes, renounced, as in he’s done. And here are some of his reasons why:

“The horseracing industry runs on a pack of lies, a bunch of swindles, hidden information, and many corrupt and illegal activities for the love of money, not for love of the horse.”

“I will no longer support a fractured industry of disparate alphabet organizations now guided by greed. You have killed the game for me.”

“It does not matter if you knew Mongolian Groom. I did not. But I did know horses now buried in infields of racetracks and in Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. I walked shedrows and I pet them on their heads. Now they are dead. It has happened a thousand times before and will again.”

“It happened slowly over the past few years as I wrote about rescue, slaughter and drugs. What put me off most is the great number of industry people who favor the latter two.”

“The game is rigged at every level, with rampant cheating its finest art form.”

“I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.”

Just a few questions, Mr. Berner. You admit to it – dead horses – “happen[ing] a thousand times before,” with horses “buried in infields of racetracks” the country over – and yet it has taken you this long, 44 years, to get out? Or are you suggesting that this – dead horses – is but a recent thing? Please.

What “put [you] off most is the great number of industry people who favor [slaughter]”? “Put you off”? Not revolt you to your core? Nonetheless, thank you for the quote. It’ll make a great addition to this list.

And finally, you are deluding yourself if you think there was a golden age of horseracing; age, as in the inexorable aging of the human brain, has a way of doing that (“I remember when…”). Horseracing is animal exploitation, animal cruelty, and animal killing. Ever it was, and ever it will be (until, that is, we send it to the same ash heap in which Ringling Bros. currently resides). So again, thank you for hammering one more nail by getting out so very publicly. Would that others of your ilk – old men fervently and desperately clutching their DRFs – follow suit. (As Berner was managing editor and “one-third of its staff,” this might be the end for HorseRaceInsider – “The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing” – too. ‘Twas a good day indeed.)

Even though the NYRA baton has been passed to Aqueduct, the killing at Belmont Park continues. The NYS Gaming Commission has disclosed the following:

Goneonamission “found deceased in stall with apparent head injury Nov 24.” The 2-year-old was raced at Aqueduct just two days prior, finishing dead last, some 57 lengths back. Germane? Perhaps.

Sweet Timing “stall bound since Oct 12 due to pelvic injury, developed fever and pleuropneumonia – euthanized Nov 29 due to poor prognosis.” The Commission, of course, is trying to pass this off as “non-racing”; we, however, know there’s no such thing, for all deaths within Racing are by Racing. But in addition, the 3-year-old Sweet Timing was “worked out” on Oct 9, meaning it’s a good bet the pelvic injury that led to her death was incurred on the track.

For those who may have lost count, that’s 37 dead horses at Belmont Park this year. 37. For shame, America.

Doyouknowsomething, Jan 8, stall – “sustained left elbow injury in stall”
Speke, Jan 19, training – “suffered a fracture to his right shoulder”
Catpsalm, Jan 29, stall – “protozoal myeloencephalitis”
Miss Marion, Feb 3, training – “fractured cannon bone…euthanized on track”
Chronos, Feb 3, training (euthanized Feb 4) – “fractured right front leg”
For Pops, Feb 26, training – “collapsed and died” (four years old)
Queen Bode, Mar 3, training – “euthanized at hospital”
Mighty Zealous, Mar 10, stall – “severe respiratory distress…euthanized”
Miss Marilyn, Mar 23, training – “leg injury…euthanasia on the track”
Miss Mimosa, Mar 28, training – “cardiovascular collapse” (three years old)
Pretty Enuff, Apr 1, training – “suffered a leg fracture…euthanized”
Luz Mimi, Apr 4, training – “suffered a leg fracture…euthanized”
La Manche, Apr 11, training – “suffered a fracture…and was euthanized”
Noble Cause, May 11, racing – “injuries necessitating euthanasia”
Anne’s Song, May 24, racing – “ambulanced off, euthanized due to poor prognosis”
Successful Mission, Jun 9, training – “sustained fractures while breezing”
Inflection, Jun 9, racing – “euthanized due to poor prognosis”
Ro Bear, Jun 16, stall – “died in the barn from an apparent impaction colic”
With Caution, Jun 28, training – “P1 fracture…died complications from anesthesia”
Fancy Persuasion, Jun 30, racing – “cardiovascular collapse” (two years old)
yet-to-be-named, Jul 11, training – “fractured sesamoids…euthanized”
La Fuerza, Jul 27, training – “fractured humeral, ambulanced to barn, euthanized”
Royal Inheritance, Sep 6, training – “collapsed and died” (five years old)
Passporttovictory, Sep 6, racing – “bad steps”
Mo Moxie, Sep 7, training – “sustained a fracture and was euthanized on track”
Deft, Sep 12, racing – “broke front leg and was euthanized on the track”
Rhode Island, Sep 14, racing – “was vanned off…subsequently euthanized”
Coffee Crush, Sep 19, training – “cardiovascular collapse”
Have Another, Sep 20, stall – “severe laminitis”
Meet Me in L A, Sep 21, racing – “went wrong…euthanized”
E Z for You to Say, Oct 10, stall – “severe laminitis [both front] feet” (two years old)
Mo Fun, Oct 14, training – “suffered a cardiovascular collapse” (three years old)
Kid Robin Hood, Nov 2, training – “sustained a fracture at the 5/16 pole”
Darken a Day, Nov 10, training – “sustained injury to leg requiring euthanasia on track”
Long Haul Bay, Nov 21, stall – “severe colic”
Goneonamission, Nov 24, stall – “found deceased with apparent head injury”
Sweet Timing, Nov 29, stall – “pelvic injury…fever and pleuropneumonia”

“Those who think they can simply wish away a legal, multibillion-dollar enterprise with a rich history that employees thousands, supports local economies and is enjoyed by millions are fooling themselves. … The reality is that, for now, no matter how many horses stumble to their deaths at Santa Anita; no matter how much protesters shout at racing fans as they pull their coolers through the gates of the Saratoga Race Course; no matter what kind of negative press follows the industry’s safety record, labor practices and administration, the Sport of Kings will see another summer. And another summer after that. Bet on it.”

And so begins a shallow and terribly misleading editorial by The Daily Gazette (Schenectady) editorial board last Sunday. Most glaringly, it utterly ignores the sea changes in the “animal-entertainment” sector over just the past few years: Ringling shuttered, SeaWorld exposed and in decline, rodeo prohibitions spreading, and most relevant to the issue at hand – dogracing in its death throes.

When Floridians voted overwhelmingly to outlaw dogracing last November, they did so because it was rightly deemed cruel, wrong, unethical, or whatever term you care to use. In fact, dogracing is outright banned in 41 states – banned, as in rejected by the people as morally intolerable. The board, I’m sure, is very much aware of this, but lacks the courage to declare what any intelligent, objective person can easily discern – in regard to the welfare of the animals involved, horseracing is dogracing. No need to guess, however, whence comes this cowardice – money, as the board makes clear at the top. Dogracing is seedy tracks, lowlife bettors, hand-to-mouth owners – a two-bit gambling business. Horseracing is Churchill Downs, Tom Brady, Stronachs and sheikhs – “The Sport of Kings.”

Locally, horseracing is the Saratoga behemoth, with its teeming turnstiles and bustling boutiques. Never mind the 14 horses who perish there every summer. There’s cash to be had and jobs to be filled, and far be it from us, a mere local newspaper, to get in the way of that. But here again, the board fails to present a full and honest picture: Relative to the industry at large, Saratoga is an aberration. It, and maybe five or six other tracks – out of about 100 – are financially sound. Most of the rest are being wholly propped up by subsidies, and for a good portion of those – including all of the harness variety – everything said about dogracing above fully applies.

The editorial goes on to cite the latest desperate attempt by the industry to assuage an increasingly uneasy public: the “Thoroughbred Safety Coalition.” “Encouraging progress,” they call it. Again, a bit of homework by the board would have revealed that this is what Racing does each and every time the heat gets hot – Eight Belles in ’08, Aqueduct in ’12, Del Mar in ’15 and ’16, Saratoga in ’17 – promise “reform” and a “commitment to equine welfare,” and all the while the bodies continue to pile up.

As to the aforementioned “shouting,” since it is us (HW) doing the protesting, I deeply resent both the characterization and the imagery it evokes. We are there to educate. We do this by holding fact-based banners and signs; respectfully offering informational leaflets; and, yes, by chanting – which as even a middle-school student could tell you is a time-honored tool of protest employed by every great social-justice movement in our nation’s history. This past summer, any shouting that did occur came at the provocation of patrons – more specifically, men getting in the faces of some of our female protesters and calling them the vilest of names. And I for one will push back on that every single time.

Look, I know there are lots of people out there who think we have no chance, that Racing is too big, too powerful, too entrenched. I know there are others who simply deride us as “extremists.” When I hear this, I think of Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – “At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. … But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist.” – and take solace in the knowledge that all social-justice activists who went before were, too, dismissed as crazy (“Gay marriage?” “You must be joking!”). Truth is, once begun, these fights for rights – be they labor, civil, gender, sexual, etc. – go one way. And so it will be with animal rights, including those of enslaved racehorses, no matter how hard the small-minded reactionaries resist. In fact, it’s happening as we speak.

Shedrow Secrets

Lochness Bluegrass

by Mary Johnson

It was toward the end of 2007 and “Alex Brown Racing” was the forum on which to follow horseracing issues. Of course, whenever horseracing is discussed, the subject of slaughter rears its ugly head. It was because of discussions on this forum that a group of equine advocates decided to attend the Shipshewana (Indiana) Good Friday auction in March 2008, and depending on the amount of money we could raise, we were determined to “save” as many horses as possible. The Good Friday auction is one of the biggest held at Shipshewana during the year. Over a thousand horses pass through the ring, with the auction going from early morning until almost dark. Shipshewana doesn’t discriminate…expensive horses, as well as low-end horses, are run through and kill buyers are, of course, ever present. So money was raised and a handful of us committed to attend (but there were many who donated).

Our group was able to save 14 horses and 2 donkeys that cold, wintry day, and one of those lucky few was a bay Standardbred gelding with “SE636” tattooed on the right side of his neck. We outbid the kill buyer Jaron Gold for this horse, and I vividly remember walking him out of the barn and saying to Joy Aten that he was lame in his right front. Joy replied that it was good that we got him. He came home with me, as did another Standardbred gelding. Within a couple weeks, I reached out to a contact who knew how to track Standardbred tattoos and she identified #SE636 as Lochness Bluegrass, although by then I had named this sweet boy Sherman. Almost 12 years later, Sherman is still a beloved member of my animal family.

We often hear about owners and breeders “loving their horses like children,” although we know that the only reason they bring these horses into the world is to make a profit. A couple months ago, I decided that I wanted to contact Sherman’s breeder, Dr. Luel Overstreet, thinking that he would be overjoyed to hear that a horse he bred was in a loving forever home and had been saved at an auction frequented by kill buyers. I was sadly mistaken. But before I called Dr. Overstreet, I called the U.S. Trotting Association for further info on Sherman: Foaled 4/10/97 in Henderson, Kentucky, Lochness Bluegrass had 20 starts, won $1439, and last raced 2/14/2001 at Balmoral in Illinois. I was already familiar with Sherman’s sire, Dorunrun Bluegrass, a “successful” pacer who won almost two million dollars in his career. The gal I spoke with gave me Dr. Overstreet’s number at his vet office in Henderson.

When I finally connected with Overstreet, I asked him if he remembered Lochness; he had no idea whom I was talking about and he didn’t remember Sherman’s dam, either. I told him that Sherman had been rescued out of a kill auction and he replied, matter-of-factly, that “a lot of them end up there.” He also said that if they weren’t “producers,” he usually was “done” with them by three and off to auction they would go. When I mentioned that Sherman had only won $1400, he actually laughed and said that Sherman most likely went to auction young because horses who weren’t going to make money didn’t stay around very long. He then told me that at least 200 horses had moved through his farm over the years, so it was difficult to remember specific ones. I then realized that to him, most of his horses were just commodities.

I felt incredibly sad for Sherman and his dam, neither of whom were even worth remembering to a man like Overstreet. On the other hand, he was more than interested in telling me about Dorunrun Bluegrass’ track prowess and subsequent stud career in New York and Indiana. Our conversation ended with a feeling of emptiness. I just felt incredibly sad for all those horses who weren’t (aren’t) worthy of being remembered. The big-money earners have “value”; the low-level ones do not. Bottom line, these horses are NOT “loved like children.” In fact, they aren’t loved at all unless they are bringing home a paycheck.

from a commodity…

to a respected being…