A recently received letter. Please read in its entirety. Then share.

October 28, 2019

Dear Patrick and Friends,

I say “friends” because I feel a united kinship with you and the regular commenters on HRW. I’ve followed HRW since its inception and I am grateful for the tracking you do on every death. Someone needs to remember the horses in a public way and, to me, the kill list reads like a memorial wall to their lives. They aren’t forgotten by everyone.

It is a shame that the owners and trainers and handlers don’t stand up for the horses. One need look no further than the horse racing “industry” to see the worst elements of human existence and the results of apathy and greed. Apathy begets greed. Greed is a hallmark of those without a soul.

I don’t want to reveal my identity or the identity of the TBs I will speak of here for fear of repercussion. I am long out of involvement directly with racing, but the names could alert people still involved. There are a lot of active racing folks who read HRW to find something to bitch amongst themselves about, to deride the information, to see if their names are mentioned there. I hope you understand.

I need very much to share the story of the horses whose names didn’t make it to the lists – private training track deaths, deaths on the farm. These beautiful beings were my friends; I’ve always been able to connect deeply with horses, to feel and understand their hearts and minds. For some time in my life, this made me valuable to the racing business. Horses were my greatest joy and the root of abject sorrow.

I treated horrific soft tissue injuries, helped the vet euthanize those too damaged to patch together anymore, consoled many who were beaten and terrified – so afraid that the sound of grain being poured into their feed bucket sent them bolting against the back of the stall, wild eyed. I have watched “trainers” whip and choke down young horses who were frightened and confused, and I’ve seen (like many of you have) horses keep running – because they were afraid to stop running – with horrific injuries. Yes, horses like to run, but no horse is born dreaming of being run at terror-response-level speeds in a circle.

The worst thing I’ve ever seen was a filly – let’s call her Miss Dee – not quite 18 months old, a magnificent blue-black with two socks and a white star and stripe on her face, gentle, fast, and compliant, in a speed trial under tack for the second time. That little girl was whipped to breakneck speed, and terrified, ran through the rail. She lost her rider but kept running, making a horrendous gasping. Then her guts fell out. She had eviscerated herself on the broken fence but…kept running.

She made it another 40 yards or so before she fell, a two-foot wide streak of purplish blood behind her. She staggered and made a final lunge forward, digging into the earth with her front hooves as she fell. She died with an indescribable expression of horror and pain on her face. It happened so quickly, yet years later, I can still see it and smell the blood.

Her entrails lay in a steaming heap where they fell. All was silent for some seconds as those watching looked on in shock. I went to her and slid the bridle off of her head and just kneeled there, unable to speak. I don’t know how long it was, but then I became aware of people moving around me, and someone telling me to go get a wheelbarrow and haul those guts to the manure pile. Somebody else had already started the tractor to go bury her. In 20 minutes, she was gone. Just gone. No marker for her grave, not even buried whole.

That day was the end of many things for me. It took me years to be able to even talk about that day and that poor baby. I couldn’t work around the horses anymore; although I am just about ready to adopt some of racing’s throwaways and give back to the horses, I feel like I will need the support of like-minded people. Her death broke me, too.

Recently, I drove past and saw that where her unmarked grave was, there is now a small pond and it made me angry and sad that even in death, she was not left in peace.

Please, please share her story if you feel it appropriate. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and how much she meant to me and how very little she meant to others who should have cared.

If you do share her story, please do not identify the state from which you received this letter. Thank you for caring about the horses. God bless you.

J

Top Hat Darlin in the 5th at Charles Town last night: “chased the pace inside, showed no response leaving the turn, collapsed post race and was euthanized on the track” (Equibase). Dead. Top Hat Darlin was three; ’twas her third time under the whip.

In the race replay (here – hit “Replays,” 15th, race 5, pick up around 3:20 mark), the van carrying the dead Top Hat Darlin off the track can be seen passing by as the “winner” readies for the photo op. You can’t make this stuff up.

Within Racing, at least the parts that incessantly talk of “integrity,” owner/breeder (with a Derby winner on his resume) Barry Irwin has a stellar reputation. A self-described member of the “hay-oats-and-water crowd” (no raceday meds/doping), Irwin is the proud recipient of the “Equine Savior Award” from a prominent horse rescue. In short, he’s one of the industry’s “good guys,” or so the apologists tell us.

So I read with interest a BloodHorse article Wednesday that says Irwin’s “Team Valor” operation “is phasing out its stable in the United States and will focus on racing in Europe.” Irwin explains: “With what’s going on in America right now, I am not enjoying racing here as much. So I’d rather go to Europe where I can enjoy it.” Or – it’s time to get the hell out of Dodge. But it was this passage that really caught my eye:

“I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve done for it for 30 some years, but it’s reached a point where I’d like my people and me to be in the business as full-time professionals. So the idea is to buy a horse after a start or two, which we have been doing, develop them, and then either sell half of them or all of them for a profit. … I’ve now told people up front that going forward if you want to participate in these partnerships with me that our goal is to sell them and make money. … That’s the bottom line.”

“…our goal is to sell them and make money.”

A sort of template, the article says, is the recently-sold Talk Veuve to Me. “Talk Veuve to Me still has a lot of racing in her,” Irwin said, “but we had some fun with her, made some money, and it was time to sell her so we can do it again with another horse.”

“…we had some fun with her, made some money, and it was time to sell her so we can do it again with another horse.” (By the way, Irwin already did this to his aforementioned Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, who was “sold to Japanese interests last month.”)

Commodities. Assets. Things. Chattel. Slaves. Racehorses, through the eyes of one of the “good guys.” Vile.

Doc’s Rocket in the 6th at Delta last night, as relayed by Equibase: “forced the early pace outside, stopped entering the turn in distress was pulled up and euthanized.”

“…stopped entering the turn in distress was pulled up and euthanized.”

Just another cheap – she was “For Sale” at a pittance ($4,000) prior to dying – throwaway, an ever-so-easily-replaced cog in the grinder. It is vile. It is disgusting. It is morally indefensible. It is horseracing.

Doc’s Rocket “pulling up,” mortally injured – and yet, “congratulations” to the “winner”

On his HorseRaceInsider site, John Pricci recently shared an email he received from a racing-related friend in Saratoga Springs, home, of course, to Saratoga Race Course:

“Horses are dying. We all should be uncomfortable about that. Thoroughbred racing is worth saving and the game that you and I grew up loving was noble. But if we don’t face this thing down… So far, those I have talked to seem not to be willing to face this.

“This past Derby Day, approximately 50 protestors [that was Horseracing Wrongs, by the way] were on hand at the Oklahoma Training Track, just down from the East Avenue entrance. They later moved to the front of the National Museum of Racing. The number of protesters at the gate, and at the Museum, grows annually.

“I have been struck in recent months about when I am stopped by someone when it comes to racing and this issue. It is in church, the supermarket check-out line, or the deli newsroom where I get my papers each morning. My spouse is president of a charity at a Roman Catholic Church and is the youngest member of this organization of caring older people. After two recent monthly meetings the question asked of me was ‘what about those horse deaths at Saratoga [this year]?’ These people barely know where Saratoga Race Course is located. Okay? But they are getting the message and forming an opinion.

“This game has got to step back and take a deep breath and make some truly hard decisions about where it wants to go. Because if government makes that decision as a result of popular pressure [animal abuse is an automatic vote-getter], it is not going to be pretty.

“Hallowed Saratoga is NOT immune to this and most of our civic leaders don’t get that. For a far less harmful situation than horse deaths — opposition to gambling — New York outlawed thoroughbred racing in 1911 and 1912.

“I truly love [the game] and have first-hand knowledge of what it can be. I honestly think we are in crisis and are unwilling to confront that. I hope I am wrong.”

Pricci concludes: “Can stakeholders doubt there’s a crisis when residents of the town that is home to one of ‘America’s Top 10 Sporting Venues – where horse racing has been part of the fabric for over a century and a half – begins to question why so many horses are dying?”

Running scared – even in sacred Saratoga. Which brings to mind one of my favorite historical lines. It comes from an ever-so-brief note from President Lincoln to General Grant in the waning days of the Civil War: “General Sheridan says ‘If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.”

Indeed, activists and all caring people nationwide, let the thing be pressed.

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