Which One of These Claimers Is Next?

The claiming game, as anyone at all familiar with horseracing can attest, is the worst this odious industry offers – a place where cheap horses eke out meager livings for bottom-of-the-barrel trainers and owners. “For Sale” prior to every race, the horses here are shuffled like unruly foster children. And because they’re not worth much – literally, their claiming price – and because they’re typically running for slots-enhanced pots (which often pay first through last), they are raced – a lot.

For most of these cogs, something bad awaits. Could be a breakdown, could be the kill auction, but eventually, Death – unnatural, premature Death – comes. And at close to 70% of all American racing, claiming is impossible to marginalize. Here is a look at a few of today’s entrants at racino tracks Charles Town and Finger Lakes.

In the 4th at Charles Town, the average number of career starts for the 10-horse field is 57.6. The elder statesman in this group is a 9-year-old gelding named Changing Funds. In 7+ years on the circuit – almost all claiming – Changing Funds has been whip-run a total of 101 times (with only 7 Firsts).

In the 4th at Finger Lakes, 8-year-old Bad Boy Bubby will be run for the 78th time. This will be his third race in November (11/5, 11/10) and sixth in barely over six weeks – all claiming, all at Finger Lakes, all under trainer/owner Mark Tasso. In that same race, another 8-year-old – Straight Thunder – will also be making his third November start. The Edward Perdue-trained gelding goes in with 89 notches on his saddle.

The 6th race at Finger Lakes will be 7-year-old Wabash River’s 79th and 7-year-old Small Town’s 92nd. Just last month, the Ortis Henry-trained/owned Wabash was raced twice within a week.

And finally, there is the 7th at Finger Lakes, where a pair of horses with a combined 231 starts will have a go – 8-year-old Western Jet (trainer/owner Gino Gabrielli), a FL denizen since 2009, 95 races; 11-year-old Barco (trainer/owner Jose Cabrera), 136 races. Yes, 136 races. This is the American claiming game. This is horseracing.

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  1. This is wrong on every level. And they call it a “sport” – these horses are waiting to die. Unforgivable that one of the richest industries a. supports this kind of racing b. does very little to finance a next career for these horses c. does absolutely nothing to regulate it.

  2. Unforgivable indeed, Bridget. Thank you for your intelligent and insightful comment. These older claimers just have their lives stolen from them. The cheap claiming game – which is tragically the “backbone” of racing – is one of the worst, if not the worst, aspects of this gambling industry…and ANYONE can choose to abuse a horse in this manner. And for entertainment. That’s depravity.

  3. Racing is despicable at every level but the ugliness of the claiming game is glaring. It is nothing short of disgraceful that there is not one rule to protect these horribly abused animals. Racing condones running these horses into the ground. The NYRA is as guilty of animal cruelty as any of these people at the track. What a “sport” !!

  4. Speaking of dying.

    Yesterday, I spoke with a good friend of mine that has aprox. 60 horses and one of her horses got ill and died within 24 hours. this was one of her favorite horses. He was only 7 years old. She had no idea what happened as she was out of town but I helped her figure out the cause of death and it is a serious problem that I was told that a lot of trainers/owners do not know about. Her ranch hand and assistant were taking care of her horses as they always do when she is out of town. Her father was breeder. She is as well. She has really nice horses and takes very good care of them.

    Vet misdiagnosed the horse condition (over the phone) said it was colic. It was not. He said to give the horse Banamime shot in the muscle/vein. They did. Two shots. Horse died several hours later. He had a virus. not colic. He had no symptoms of colic. He was not that ill. He had a runny nose and blood shot eyes. no stomach problems. He should not have been given Banamine. The label instructions say you can give it to them in the muscle but it can be fatal when done that way and it was not even what the horse needed.

    Here is my research.

    banamine dangers to horses



    Clostridial myositis…Could your horse be at risk for this potentially deadly disease?


    Intramuscular Banamine: Not Worth the Risk



    You Oughta’ Know: Banamine






    banamine dangers to horses


    • “Alias” Kathleen, Negligence is what that is called. I personally believe the whole story is made up because someone just clued you in that banamine is not a IM drug,But lets say by some stretch if the imagination the story is true. Your friend, with 60 horses left them in the hands of someone who can not tell the difference between colic and a virus. “Symptoms are runny nose and bloodshot eyes”???? The dreaded bloodshot eyes huh?
      Anyone in charge of that many horses should know when a horse has colic and how to treat it. Your friend gets some Bozo who has a vet, over the phone tell them it is colic and they don’t know other wise. That is neglect of the owner of these horses. To have someone who does not know the basics of equine care, and you want to comment on how racing is abuse…

      Your imaginary friend should have every horse taken from her. When making up these stories you should put a little more thought into it. Like does your friend that owns 60 horses not have a cell phone?? Does she not know what to do if a horse is not acting right.?? Did she even take their temperature?? Also why were the farm hands giving needles to begin with??

      In you attempt to educate the public (with information that is common knowledge to anyone with just a little horse sense) you have shown how your “friend” is an abuser.. Good Job.

  5. Agree with all comments here. I will also add that Claiming Races are dumping grounds for sore, and tired horses. They are the slaves of horse racing. While they break their bones, tear their ligaments, and have their spirit ripped out of them – they are forced to run via powerful drugs administered into their veins. When they try to slow down in the stretch to protect their sore bodies, they are beaten by a whip. This is blatant animal cruelty. It’s antiquated, and needs to end. #stophorseracing.

  6. Sadly I must agree largely. There are a few decent trainers that do run in the claiming game, but not in an abusive way (myself included). My homebred horses were trained by me and every care was taken, no matter what level they competed in, and the second they showed a lack of desire, they were placed in show homes (fortunately I was a show rider and had a lot of connections). All that being said I think there should be restrictions on how often a horse can run (certainly 3 times in a month is Abuse. Also, stricter monitoring of what horses are being medicated with is necessary. Greed is a terrible thing!

    • Confirmation, it appears, from someone IN the racing industry that running a horse THREE TIMES IN ONE MONTH IS ABUSE.
      No offense meant to darlaflack1 here…but here we have it, from the “horse’s mouth”. There is no reason for darlaflack1 to exclaim this except for it being the truth.

  7. AC 2, why don’t you comment on the abuse of these track warriors ? Do you support/defend this outrageous exploitation ? And you are knowledgeable enough to know this is the modus operandi in the claiming game, the backbone of this sorry industry. This is the true face of racing.

    • Rose, If there is going to be racing claiming is an essential part. It simply allows “Like” horses to compete. The worse thing for a race horse that actually tries to compete is to have them race against horses that have more talent. That is where horses break down or come up with problems. Not the horse that goes out and trails the field every time putting out little effort. (i am generalizing so please save your examples) It is the horse that tries it’s ass off and is running against faster horses. Sure it is also a “dumping ground” for old warrior horses, but again they get to race against horses they at least have a chance of competing against. If all races were non-claiming they would be easy pickings for the more talented animals. You would have the Jacobsons and Engleharts running $50k horses against $5k horses and beating up on them every time. The $50k animal would not have to try as hard so they would end up running twice as many times as the $5k ones that push themselves to compete.
      I understand there isn’t anything I can say to change your mind and honestly that is not what I am trying to do. I am just trying to answer your question the best way I can.

      Now if you would not mind. Do you think Kathleen’s story true?? Or is it just a pitiful excuse to put all of those attachments up?? Obviously someone just clued her in on what I am sure we all have known, Banamine is not IM. If you believe her story to be true would you consider the owner negligent?? Also why are the farm hands giving shots anyway???

      Another thing why is Ms.Normile not ridiculed like everyone is, when she glorifies major thoroughbred owners. The way I read it she is saying, you can own and race horses just as long as you sign up with WHOA. Give them all the drugs everyone else is giving them just write a small statement on their website condemning the practice. EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE OPENLY DOING THE ONE THING YOU DENOUNCE. I can not be the only one that sees this double standard.

  8. AC2, the subject is the awful exploitation of “claimers” and the claiming game. Many of these horses are shunted from barn to barn over and over. They are started with as little as 3 days between races and sometimes one day. They are drugged and run sore with joints injected. They are literally run into the ground. And you say this “is an essential part” of the game !!!

    Claiming is in no way “essential” for horses to compete in their own class.
    This claiming game is unique to this country, as you must know. Claiming was touted as a means for the not so rich to own, or be part owner, of racehorses. In reality, it is the disposal system for horses. Many of these horses were once big earners but were no longer profitable for the “elite” of the game. Still others, although well bred, did not live up to expectations. And of course, there are the horses that spend their whole “careers” as claimers. There is a way to classify horses based on ability that allows horses to compete at their level without being up “for sale”

    Racing forces the horse that is unable to compete at the allowance or stake level to be up “for sale” every time he is started. Some people in the game do not want to “sell” their horse. Yet this “business model” forces the owner to take that risk in order for their horse to compete !

    Racing loves the claiming game ! It is the backbone of this sorry business.
    It is, in fact, a sanctioned bastion of horse abuse. How can any decent person say it is “essential” to use and abuse horses in this manner ? !

    • Rose, I never claimed to be a decent person. To some people I may be, to others I am sure I am far from it. Goes back to my belief “If you have to tell me how good you are, you’re probably not that good”. So my claims of decency would sound like a desperate attempt of flattery..

      I was hoping you would comment on my questions…

      • AC 2, you ignored the fact that claiming and subsequent abuse is not “essential” as you stated.
        And as you well know, the subject/focus is the outrageous exploitation of the so called “claimers. Questions/discussions other than what these horses are forced to endure in the largest component of this game is just a distraction, a red herring !

  9. Rose, I did not ignore that claiming is not essential. That is you refuting my earlier statement. My position is steadfast. As for abuse, yes there are abused horses and trainers doing the abusing. I believe your position is claiming in general is abuse. I have made it clear I do not hold that opinion.

    As for my questions, I will take your unwillingness to comment as confirmation to my belief. Rose it is not the worse thing in the world to admit I am correct once in a while…

  10. Horses that are being run with abusive frequency are full testament that horse racing needs to be shut down. Firstly, track vets should not be allowing horses to be raced into exhaustion due to immoral or inept, ignorant trainers, secondly, the stewards should also be held accountable for allowing these horses to compete. A good number of stewards are former jockeys and they most certainly should protect these horses mediocre trainers and insensitive owners. This is a disgrace that people who know how to protect horses are indifferent to their sufferings and despairs.

    • Oh, there’s definitely no shortage of “immoral or inept, ignorant trainers”….on track and off…

      They are:
      – on the golf course most mornings while owner has no clue
      – often chain smokers who like their $10 race bets
      – incapable/unwilling to send proper legit invoices like other businesses
      – the licensed privileged – who don’t care when they run a low level claimer with conditions left
      against double digit winner in open company
      – disgraceful

      So which poor laboring horse is next for a breakdown?
      I wonder who A$$mussen JERKen and Drug O’Neill would bet on.
      Maybe Changing Funds but possibly 8yo gelding ‘Parabola’ could sneak in.
      He is still faking happiness running his ass off at Penn. 81 Starts and counting.
      His long forgotten breeder Janet Jeanpierre was enjoying a (fresh legs) entry at Woodbine over the weekend.
      I think he (Parabola) maybe was an old rival of Cusack. His long forgotten breeder Ellah Bloodstock Inc. Terrance, I’m quite certain he ran new blood recently at Woodbine too. His used stock apparently has liked surroundings at Thistle for ages now. However, Colebrook Farms mentioned on HW by someone before – well, they relocate many geldings to lovely places like wv tracks where even the vets are difficult. Just so we can keep watch on the never ending list of sore and tired claimers – whose next – to fall.

  11. Our society, environment, and horses will be much better off without this antiquated business that exploits racehorses for profit. From the commission vets, to the racing commissions a racehorse will be passed to run. One can’t blame the vets alone for passing the horses since powerful pain masking drugs can make a horse appear sound. However, the stewards rarely invoke the non-competition clause anymore. So we have horses running with not enough rest or finishing last. These horses should not be allowed to enter. The Racing Commissions, who are staffed by ex-jockeys, who usually uphold the industries need to fill races for wagering purposes leaving the racehorse to fend for itself. The system is supposed to protect vulnerable racehorses. Instead, it greases the wheels of wagering at the expense of the racehorse.

  12. Straight Thunder is entered for 11-26…it will be his FOURTH race in 23 DAYS.

    Wabash River had THREE starts in June, THREE in July, THREE in August, and THREE in October.

    Western Jet ran THREE times in September.

    And Barco…137 lifetime starts, ran FOUR TIMES in the month of October.

    There’s another gelding – 9-year-old Call Tiger – who just ran in his 96th start on November 16…only 6 days after his 95th.

    Reading these geldings’ names, looking at their PP’s…all so reminiscent of Brave Miner. The industry just takes, and takes, and takes…..

    • ‘Wabash River’ was once trained by Jevon Crumley – his wife is Darlene – one of the daughters –
      Double D Farm Corp was named after.
      Thoroughbreds such as – Diva Darlene and Double the Greed – were runners for them. So were a ton of others.
      Ohio based Crumley collected his $day rate+ for this horse from owner – River Card Stable.

      River Card Stable just claimed ‘Tarty to the Party’ at Woodbine out of Race 6 Nov.14th

  13. And of course they are all given the wonder drug, Lasix. There is hardly enough time between starts for electrolytes to replenish and balance not to mention the poor tired sore bodies.
    I find it mind boggling this abuse is not against any of the racing rules.
    Where are the so called veterinarians, and where are the so called officials in all this, as well as all the “good people” I keep hearing about ?

  14. I was that “good” Owner/Trainer Rose with good intentions. After years of watching Trainers with Multiple Drug Violations, getting Multiple Stalls, and preference over honest Owner/Trainers who played within the rules; I was banging my head against the wall. Any “good” person can’t make a living in this business, and it don’t matter how good your horse is. You can’t compete with the drugs – you can’t. Especially at the upper echelons of the racing industry where the majority of top Trainers have Multiple Drug Violations and/or suspect activity including corrupt scandals. If the industry wanted to do something about it then these Trainers would not be Training. More importantly, it’s the racehorse who suffers because their under the care of doping, cheating Trainers who have a history of breakdowns and deaths in their racing stables probably due to powerful pain masking drugs. These Trainers are rarely brought to justice while I’ve seen Trainers with one overage get their License suspended. So they will apply the rules to some Trainers, and not to others. No wonder these Top Trainers are “stealing” all the purse money putting hundreds of Trainers out of business, and Owners as well. From what I saw, it seemed obvious to me that blood/urine tests are bring tampered with to control the outcome of races, and that could be accomplished by the Racing Commission responsible for that jurisdiction which could possibly explain away why certain Trainers horses are passed to run in races when the PP’s indicate that they shouldn’t be running whatsoever. After what I witnessed, both myself & my Owners (who have since left the business) concluded that race fixing is rampant and accomplished by placing certain people in key positions while the rest fill races for them. In the end, it’s the racehorse that suffers, and pays the price while the “good” people get screwed, and eventually leave. There were two areas that we focused on: 1) the care, custody, and control of the blood/urine post-racing tests. I DARE anybody to inquire about this quagmire. I was receiving Death threats when we tried to find out. In actuality, this should be Public Information, and should be available on Racing Commission websites. We did find out that these tests sit in office for up to 48 hours – plenty of time to either “switch out,” or tamper with. We were amazed at just how primitive and vulnerable to tampering the testing protocol is. This could also explain why certain Trainers with powerful drug histories have a high rate of breakdowns. Could it be they are using powerful drugs knowing that their test will be switched out, but didn’t count on the horse breaking down? Remember that the testing lab is DRUG SPECIFIC so they have to check-off what drugs to test. Another major flaw in the system. 2) The role of the HBPA. Who in the hell are they? They present themselves as being representative of all Trainers when nothing could be further from the truth. They control a large percentage of stalls & who gets them! They get an automatic 1-10 % take-out which they claim is mandatory & legal when many Owner/Trainers don’t authorize it which amounts to millions in their pockets. Then when you review their accounting statements they don’t add up. They are pro-drugs pro-Lasix for the most part. Many HBPA members are not even known to the people who support this business: Owners. My Owners wanted nothing to do with the HBPA, and saw them as a corrupt, money grabbing association, abc I have to agree with them. Many members of the HBPA occupy a large portion of stalks, and win many races. Something here is big right. This is just part of a very big picture, but when you have lots of time & money invested you look into these things and demand answers. Well the answers rarely come, and when they do they are rarely explainable.

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