Rock Fall, Fourth Dead Horse at Keeneland in Past Week

4-year-old Rock Fall became the fourth racehorse killed at Keeneland in the last week when he, says the Paulick Report, “broke down in both front legs” while training this morning. PR carried this quote from owner Stonestreet Stables: “We are heartbroken to confirm our Rock Fall sustained a life ending training injury…” Both the “heartbroken” sentiment and the fact that Paulick even covered this at all can be entirely explained by the rousing success of this young “star” (back-to-back Grade 1 wins, 7 straight firsts overall, $750,000 earnings) and promise of riches yet to come (“one of the favorites for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Sprint”).

This is horseracing.

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  1. I’m sick and shocked at his death. And to think that the biggest event in horse racing, outside of the triple crown series, will be held there at the end of this month. All I can think of is a potentially large number of “unexpected” injuries and deaths.

  2. Stonestreet Stables AKA Stonestreet Farms was started by multimillionaire Jess Jackson. Mr. Jackson owns one of the largest wineries in California consisting of 2500 acres last time I checked. He died in 2011 from Cancer leaving his young wife, Barbara Banke, in charge of just about everything. Not missing a beat, Ms. Banke began spending money like water or should I say money like wine? Anyways, since 2011 she has spent an estimated 200 million on purchasing racing stock from Keeneland predominantly, upgrading the Lexington KY farm, and purchased an entire training center in Florida baring no expense. Wow must be nice to be rich. While the majority of us folks may be struggling, this lady has spent 200 million on racing flesh or racing related investments! I can only imagine what 200 million could do if it were put towards social issues or even horse rescue. Anyways, just dreaming.

    For the most part, Ms. Banke usually uses Trainers with multiple drug violations (Todd Pletcher) on their record so one could assume that therapeutic or possibly other drugs are being used on her racehorses on a regular basis. Of course this can’t be proved because the vet records are considered private property despite the fact that many people want vet records made public for the health and welfare of the racehorses kind of in the form of a file that follows them. We tried to implement this in California, and were immediately threatened with lawsuits from the vets, and their horse loving Owners. Of course horse loving is debatable. New York Racing publishes vet records for Graded Stake Races only, but that’s only for the couple of days previous to the race being run. It seems evident that these racehorses are given drugs to perform beyond their capability resulting in breakdowns such as these.

    Or, according to the reputable vet J.D. Wheat of UC Davis who released his conclusions in a study entitled “Catastrophic Injuries in Racehorses.” Here is an excerpt:

    We have discovered that most fatalities due to a skeletal injury are predisposed by horses training or racing with a pre-existing injury (Figure 1)

    In other words, the racehorse that dies on the track is one that had pre-existing issues and/or injuries which is often masked by therapeutic drugs in order to keep them racing. One could conclude that these trainers are playing Russian Roulette with these racehorses, and with the jockey’s lives whom depend on a sound racehorse.

    One just needs to look at the statistics on these Trainers or horse racing in general. I don’t mean the statistics that focus on wins and win rates. No, I mean the cold hard facts that racehorses are dying on racetracks everyday.

    Throw into the mix the unprecedented purse money as a result of casinos, and what you have is one deadly cocktail. There is a strong correlation between the rise in purse money, and the rise in breakdowns as witnessed by the New York Racing Industry prompting them to oversee this jurisdiction.

    So back to Rock Fall. This is my allegation only since I can’t prove anything due to the blockage of vet records. I’m saying this based on my years of experience as an Owner/Trainer, reputable vet studies, and general consensus: there is no doubt in my mind that Rock Fall was probably given a steady cocktail of drugs to keep him going especially at his young age. Pletcher may have been aware of issues going on in the front legs, but opted to mask it with drugs, and more drugs – not unlike any other top trainer that probably does the same (PETA undercover video of Steve Asmussen’s racing operations). By the way, Steve Asmussen was a regular Trainer of Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables. I would go so far as to say that most Top Trainers have an entire medical regime for their racehorses including regular shock wave therapy that, in conjunction with the drugs, masks, and desensitizes any issues going on so it makes it virtually impossible for the horse to convey the fact that they are sore. Moreover, they don’t feel their pain like they would if they were in a natural state. When a horse feels pain they “favour” it, which is a horseperson’s term for limping or showing signs that everything is not well. These obvious signs are often missing from the equation when drugs are being used. Case in point, some drugs are so powerful that they fool the vets in pre-race exams.

    In most cases, Owners like Barbara Banke are well aware that their horses are receiving drug cocktails because they are the ones receiving, and paying for the vet records.

    That said, I do know that most top Trainers have an iron-clad contract that an Owner must sign before the Trainer takes possession of the horse into their racing stable. That contract makes it very clear that the Owner is not to disclose any information whatsoever regarding the medical regime being used on any racehorse they hand over. They are basically signing that racehorses life over to the Trainer. In essence, the Owner complies with the risk factor involved, and are made very much aware of it. Sort of like: This is what we do, and your horse will sink or swim. If it swims, you will make big bucks, enjoy yourself in the Winner’s circle, and get your ego stroked. If it sinks, then keep your mouth shut so that the next horse may swim.

    So who is really to blame here? It’s a drug fest party – that’s what it is. That’s what I call it. It’s a collaboration of the Trainer, Owner, and vet with the racehorse being the biggest loser.

    Not to worry though. Barbara Banke has plenty of money, and plenty of rising stars. Some will rise, and some will fall. It’s all business as usual in horse racing.

    Small Trainers with small stables don’t stand a chance against the Todd Pletcher’s of the racing world. Sadly, he’s one of many, and more sadly, Rock Fall is one of many, and will be one of many in the coming days, and weeks.

  3. Oh, Patrick, we all know that Rock Fall broke BOTH front legs doing what he “loved” to do and was bred to do….training to race for the entertainment of the betting public. As long as the pro-racing fans can enjoy a beautiful day at historic Keeneland, isn’t that what is important? A few crocodile tears here and there, babbling that they are “heartbroken” to lose such a valued member of their team, and on and on….ad nauseum.

    I was never crazy about horseracing, even going back to the 1960’s. I always thought there was something not quite right with a “sport” where people prayed that horses would finish a race in one piece. Yes, I still watched the big races and read all the horseracing stories in the newspaper, but I just felt that there was something inherently wrong with risking a horse’s life so that families could be entertained. Many years later, I have turned with a vengeance against an industry that maims, and kills, horses every single day. I now pray that racing will continue its precipitous decline and will eventually die in the dirt just like so many of its athletes. How anyone can support this sick, sick industry continues to blow my mind.

  4. I have no doubt that Rock Fall had a pre-existing injury, more than likely masked by drugs and sent out to race. This scenario nearly always ends with a catastrophic injury, and very bad break down, breaking both legs. The suffering this poor baby endured and only 4 years old is sickening, and the inhumanity is criminal. These low life trainers do this all the time, and it always ends the same sad way. R.I.P. Rock Fall you deserved so much more, and I am so sorry you suffered.

    Todd Pletcher and all the rest of the unscrupulous trainers should all rot in hell, being forever whipped, and drugged, and feel the same suffering and misery that they have caused to these magnificent creatures. They are all poor excuses for human beings, and not one of them has a heart or soul.

    Marlene Thornley

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