Spinning the Carnage, the NYRA Way

Every once in a while (Aqueduct ’12, Saratoga and Del Mar this summer), the industry and its mouthpieces are forced to address the giant elephant in the room: their dead horses. But even when discussing hard numbers – at least the ones they begrudgingly concede – they distract and deceive like seasoned politicians. In a Friday DRF article, David Grening writes: “The recent fatalities [at Aqueduct] have brought the number of equine deaths suffered at [NYRA’s] three tracks in 2014 to 33…” Yes, if we ever so conveniently ignore the training kills. The true 2014 toll:

19 dead at Aqueduct (2 more “non-racing”)
31 dead at Belmont (10 more “non-racing”)
14 dead at Saratoga

64 dead at NYRA tracks – 76 if we appropriately include the “non-racing” deaths.


But it gets worse: “NYRA officials…expressed concern about the recent fatalities but maintain that the number of catastrophic racing injuries – which they put at 22 – equals the second smallest in a quarter-century. Nine of the 33 fatalities, NYRA officials said, are classified as ‘sudden death’ from something such as a cardiovascular collapse or a broken neck suffered in a fall where the horse was not euthanized. NYRA classified two additional deaths as being unrelated to racing.”

And this from NYRA’s chief vet, Dr. Anthony Verderosa: “When horses are at speed, and you got 18,000 starts a year, you’re going to have some unfortunate incidences, and the numbers right now – and I hate to put it in those terms – are not that bad.”

How bankrupt are these people? First, in a contemptible attempt to shift some of the blame (to whom remains a mystery), they use the qualifier “catastrophic racing injuries,” thus excluding not only training deaths, but broken necks and “cardiac events” as well. Never mind that broken necks are caused by in-race collisions and falls; never mind that adolescent equines shouldn’t just drop dead. If it’s not an in-competition euthanasia, it doesn’t count; if it doesn’t count – progress.

Second, while the exploiters dismissing the destruction is to be expected, what are we to make of the state’s top medical professional, a person who has supposedly dedicated his life to helping animals, calling the gambling-induced deaths of 64 intelligent, sentient beings “not that bad”? In a word, revolting.

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  1. The fatalities are one set of statistics, but there are other stats that remain unexplored (the emotional and physical abuse, beatings, druggings, inept training, the mental abuse done to a claimed horse when he leaves a kind barn and winds up with an abusive trainer or grooms), etcera etcera.

    Animals bond with their caregivers and when they are claimed and taken to a new barn it is horrible for them mentally. Horses are sensitive creatures; they grieve just as humans do. Proof of that is Exterminator…he was devoted to a miniature pony named Peanuts. When Peanuts died Exterminator was inconsolable refused to eat for days and was clearing missing his friend. Eventually, Exterminator accepted another stable companion, but it was distressing for Exterminator’s connections to watch their big horse suffer emotionally.

    • Claiming and moving horses from barn to barn, some more abusive than others, has to be emotionally distressful for the horses. Horses to form bonds with their caregivers and other horses.

      I have an OTTB that formed a strong bond with an old mare. When the mare died he would stop at her stall and look for her every day until finally the stall had a new occupant. Also, a former broodmare was so unsettled when I got her she called for her herd and paced the fence line for days. She is happy now and enjoys being spoiled but it took a while.

  2. “Not that bad” Dr. Anthony Verderosa ?!! Oh, please ! What would be considered “bad” by this industry ?? These spokes persons should just keep quiet.

    PS And this industry, through it’s lack of any basic protections for the horse, actually encourages outrageous abuse of these animals such as starting them with as little as one day of recovery. Of course, other abuses that are evident, such as whipping, are also condoned and the mentioned abuses are the tip of the iceberg.

    The rules in racing are geared to money, period.
    How anyone can support, or be part of, this disgusting business is mind boggling.

  3. Dr. Verderosa…a disgrace to the profession of veterinary medicine. And he’s not the only one. Revolting, indeed!

  4. Well done NY !! And to continue, Mr. Jacobson has been recognized for the 3rd year in a row for the most wins !!!

    PS I wonder if NY recognizes the trainer with the most breakdowns ??

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