Saratoga Is Shameless

In promoting its product – exploiting horses for gambling – Saratoga Race Course cynically targets young families, hoping, of course, to lure and condition the next generation of “fans” (bettors). Toward that end, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) offered the following in the recently completed meet:

“Saratoga is always a great place to bring the kids. The beautiful backyard at Saratoga is an ideal setting for picnics while watching the horses saddle in the Paddock. The weekly family festivals will be held each Monday of the meet at the Saratoga Pavilion, located…near the Carousel.”

“Admission to Saratoga Race Course is free for children 12 and under when accompanied by an adult any day of the meet throughout the season.”

“Each day-long event will include free face painting, arts and crafts, mascot appearances and bounce inflatables.”

In addition, there was a “puppet building workshop,” a “Mad Science interactive exhibit,” a “hands-on robotics demonstration,” and, on closing day, a “special magic show.”

from NYRA website
from NYRA website

And in a press-release from yesterday, NYRA President Chris Kay said, “With our guests treated to top quality thoroughbred racing, 40 days of special events and new capital improvements to enhance the on-track experience, the 2014 Saratoga meet was a success.” Additionally, “families were able to…visit the new ‘Horse Sense’ exhibit, enabling guests to get up close with the stars of the show…”

So, I wonder: Did the 12-and-under free admission include a backstage pass for the bleeding lungs – how fitting that the final horse in the final race on the final day pulled up “bleeding from the nostrils” – shattered sesamoids, and “mercy killings”? I’ve had several eyewitnesses to some of the 28 combined Saratoga/Del Mar deaths tell me they will never set foot on a racetrack again. Imagine how children, innately compassionate children, would respond to just a sliver of racing truth. Heck, I’d settle for a Scott Blasi-guided tour.

Saratoga’s Fallen “Stars”:

4-year-old Lifeguard On Duty, July 24, training: “pulled up badly…fx RF sesamoids”

3-year-old Double Gold, July 25, training: “fell over rail, suffering paralysis both hind legs due to trauma to lumbar spine”

3-year-old Father Johns Pride, July 28, race 7: “ambulanced off – euthanized in necropsy area”

3-year-old Lavender Road, July 30: “collapsed [repeatedly] on horse path leaving track, treated for heat exhaustion with no resolution…xrays revealed a fx to the 7th vertebrae”

2-year-old Sir William Bruce, August 2, race 5: “pulled up without incident, collapsed after unsaddling and died”

4-year-old Regretless, August 11, race 4: “collapsed and died on track – apparent cardio-vascular event”

3-year-old M B and Tee, August 21, race 7: “collapsed after finish unseating rider, died on track – suspected cardiovascular event”

2-year-old Kamarius, August 23, training: “pulled up after breezing on Oklahoma Track, ambulanced off, sustained fx RF leg”

2-year-old Ludicrous, August 23, race 4: “suffered fx RF leg – euthanized on track”

3-year-old Elena Strikes, August 24, training: “suffered fx LF leg while breezing on training track – euthanized on track”

7-year-old Makari, August 25, race 1: “fell unseating rider after going over hurdle – died on track”

2-year-old Divine Guidance, August 29: “pulled up and vanned off [August 27], xrays revealed fx RF leg”

The shamelessness knows no bounds. (By the way, Mr. Durkin, you should be crying over spilled blood, not the end of your shallow career as a track announcer.)

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  1. This is so disgusting to me. People are terrible, I’ve told people I know about racing abuse, and the lift their eyebrows and shrug, what kind of person are you!!!!!

  2. I remember a racing supporter telling me, a number of years ago, that she always “said a prayer” when the gates flew open. She “said a prayer” to keep the horses safe. To this day, I still find that comment to be a bit unsettling. I don’t “say a prayer” when I watch my horses in a pasture or when I’m at a horse show. I think this supporter needs to keep praying as horses snap their legs off at tracks through out the country. If the horse does make it out of racing alive, she then needs to start praying that they land in a safe place because the slaughter system is an effective and efficient way of disposing of horses when their racing days are over. Only a fool would consider this industry “family fun” for their children to enjoy – only a fool.

  3. Patrick, I’ve only been reading and sharing this site for a few weeks/two months, but have become addicted to the informative and well-written articles covering virtually every part of the business of thoroughbred horse racing. [Clearly many of the same issues affect quarter horse racing.] I started reading this blog after California Chrome was injured at Belmont. I followed his career from the Kentucky Derby on to present and it spurred me to attend the first thoroughbred stakes at Los Alamitos in July as it has become his “home track” to save the track from going under. Before that I had nothing to do with horses or horse racing except managed rides as a child.

    At Los Alamitos I went alone to the track for the July derby/stakes race won by Shared Belief, another magnificent animal. While watching the races I happened to comment to a waiter that I always closed my eyes during part of the race and said a prayer for the horses and riders that no one would be hurt. In sympathy with my reaction, he said that there had been a horse down in the previous month but when queried he had no details. He became silent and I had the impression that he was not to speak of this. Was it racetrack superstition? I went home and researched to find the horse who died. The horse’s name appeared no where in the media; it was as if he never existed at all. And then your website appeared in my path.

    Because I work in an area of law that intersects with medicine, it was easy to understand how greed overtakes the vet’s concern for equine safety and encourages heavy drug use (the same occurs in human medicine with opiates), and overtakes the trainers and owners care for the horses, the jockeys wish to make it, and even the sparse regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect all from mayhem. If only they could be reformed from outside and made forthright was my stance even a month ago.

    Now my question for you: Because you know far more about this than me, because you have obviously a tremendous grasp of the issues, is it true that Europeans race thoroughbreds in a safer manner, without drugs and without using 2 year olds and with planning for the long-term well-being and retirement of the animals?

    I am a rescue dog owner (many times over) and see that there has been huge progress in educating dog lovers about the perils of breeding mills, encouraging adopting rescues and mixed breeds. Is there no hope for this rapid evolution in thinking about the future of the powerful and magnificent thoroughbred?

    With sincerity,

    • Thank you, Louise. Yes, I do believe Europe has a lower breakdown rate. They do not allow raceday meds; I’m not sure about the 2-year-olds. (Although I feel that many are too focused on this part of racing – all horses under six are physically immature.) Now, just to be clear, I am not the least interested in reform. One racehorse snapping a leg – or collapsing from a “cardiac event” – or starving on a “retirement” farm – or being shackled and bled-out is one too many. Exploit inanimate slot machines and blackjack cards. It’s time for racing to go.

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