“Heartbreak” at Aqueduct: Uncle Duncan Dead in the Mud

3-year-old Uncle Duncan is dead after breaking down in the 4th yesterday at Aqueduct. This from his owner’s (Zilla Racing) Twitter feed: “Heartbreaking: Zilla has had to put down its first racehorse. Uncle Duncan broke his R sesamoid. A bad step when switching leads.” So much wrong, where to begin – “heartbreaking,” “bad step”? Worse, though, are the responses from Zilla’s vacuous followers:

“so sorry for the loss”

“my heart goes out to the Zilla Racing family on this terrible news”

“my sincere condolences”

“so sorry Mike. We’re thinking about you and the partners. Heartbreaking sport sometimes.”

“So sorry! RIP Uncle Duncan”

“My thoughts are with you. Sad.”

“So sorry for your loss. It’s never easy.”

“Tough day. Hang in there.”

“prayers go out to all of you. May God bless you”

“Oh no. I’m so very, very sorry. Run free, Uncle Duncan.”

“sorry to hear that, awful awful news”

“I am so sorry. I have been there. Sad and prayers to all who cared.”

In a word, revolting.

The track, by the way, was wet, sloppy, and shrouded in a thick fog: race replay here (Race Replays, Sunday, race 4). As a matter of fact, when the ensuing two races saw two other horses ambulanced off, Aqueduct decided to shut it down – after, that is, squeezing in one more race.

This is horseracing.

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  1. I receive your posts via email (I hate racing!) and I don’t comment usually but I was appalled at the conditions and the fact that they still had to do just one more even after 2 horses had been ambulanced off prior I mean, coming around onto the straight, you couldn’t even see them! ‘Sickening :(

  2. I’m in disbelief. These horses were forced to race at Aqueduct in truly shocking conditions, as if it isn’t bad enough to race in the dirt but this mud, small pools of water and racecaller at times couldn’t identify the horses, that’s how bad it was. Blatant animal abuse that’s what it was! Why didn’t the jockeys protest that the very poor visibility was dangerous for both them and the horses? Uncle Duncan was leading all the way and when he broke down IT WAS VERY OBVIOUS, yet, the racecaller never mentioned it and went on to say that …… is now in the lead – oh these people are insanely sick.

    In another race (the one Aqueduct has up on its site) a horse in pink was struggling last all the way many lengths from the field, he was naturally desperately trying to keep up with the herd (his family) and this cur of a jockey flogged and flogged him in these terrible conditions. My heart always breaks for horses such as the one in pink because they’re pushed beyond their limits, they’re going as fast as they can, they’re really suffering, their bodies are telling them to slow down and at the same time they’re alone because they’re not in the safety of the herd which is a comfort to the equine.

    The New York Racing Commission and Aqueduct Racetrack should be brought to account for allowing this meeting to go ahead in the first place. Rather than abandon the meet they think absolutely nothing of taking the risk of horses and their riders dying and being injured. And in my view this is not only totally unacceptable but is evidence that the safety and welfare of both horses and riders is NOT a consideration.

    The horseracing industry sure does an excellent job of retaining its notorious reputation….

    • Carolyn, the racing industry only cares about one thing….making money. It doesn’t matter if the track conditions are bad, if the fog is thick or if the horses are racing with injuries. The show must go on. In fact, on a particular race day in December, Mahoning increased the times between post times in order to reach their million dollar handle goal and reach it they did and that fact was shared with me by an outrider. A one million dollar handle in one day at one track. Not bad if you can overlook the fact that horses are being maimed, and killed, in the process. As a racing official has told me time and time again, the racing industry doesn’t care about the horses…only the money. What a sad commentary…

  3. Carolyn, your comment is right on. I did review the replay. It made me sick to my stomach. First of all, your so right when you say the announcer didn’t even mention Uncle Duncan until after the fact, and played it down.
    Sources have told me that announcers now are told to not sensationalize or verbalize breakdowns during a race. They just hired 2 new announcers at Stronach owned Santa Anita, to replace Trevor Denman, and the pattern is there.
    Second, that was a horrific breakdown. They all are, but this was very disturbing. I have a trained eye so I watched it several times. As a horse person, I can tell you that Uncle Duncan was feeling his pain at the 1/2 mile pole. If you watch it you can see how he continually cranks his head to the side. It was the white blinkers that made it possible for me to see this although at the point of breakdown it was almost impossible to see anything due to the weather conditions. However, This is very typical of a horse trying to convey their pain. They point their head towards their soreness. If nothing else, he was not carrying his head in a comfortable way. Then I notice he’s placing much of his weight on his front left leg not fully extending his right ankle. This observation plus the horrific track conditions is a recipe for disaster.
    Third, when are the racetracks, the NTRA, ever going to be held accountable for the countless horses that they are partially responsible for killing? When is anybody going to hold these people legally accountable? This is a national disgrace. This industry needs to be shut down so badly.
    Finally, I’m so sorry Uncle Duncan for what happened to you. You were more than likely continually injected into that joint in order to keep you running. You probably received your fair share of injections, and drugs to keep you running. You were part of the relentless cycle of exploitation that this industry promotes, supports, and attempts to cover-up. How convenient that private vets administering joint injections are not legally obligated to provide records even after breakdowns. There is very little protection in place for racehorses as they lend lip service, and deception that they really “care” about their horses.
    I wont forget you Uncle Duncan for the short time that I knew you, and watched you run.
    I only hope that you, and countless other racehorses bring this industry to justice.
    On another note: the industry has hit yet another all time low.
    They have just announced this:
    “In response to questions I have received pertaining to the eligibility of trainer Steve Asmussen: With the state racing commissions’ investigations in Kentucky and New York concluded and the allegations of animal cruelty being unfounded, Mr. Asmussen in good standing with both organizations and is eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2016.”
    There is no doubt in my mind that this is pay back for the PETA video. The industry does this. This is their way of communicating that they run their own business, for people to butt out, all the while taking casino profits away from taxpayers, and the community who could use it for social programs.
    They want their cake and eat it too. Our government gives this to them as they continually play the job card.
    You wait, and see they will announce Steve Asmussen’s induction into the Hall of Fame. We all know that it should be called the Hall of Shame.
    This is horse racing.

    • Gina, you have a very trained and experienced eye – thanks so much for sharing.

      As for Steve Asmussen being nominated for induction in the industry’s Hall of Fame (Shame), I agree with you – the industry is true to form in its behaviour, very much “the boys’ club” mentality. Re the PETA exposure (how dare they do this to us!) they’ve reacted in an extremely defensive manner e.g. just a $10,000 fine (chicken feed) for Asmussen. The fact that they (Kentucky and New York RCs) didn’t find any evidence of animal cruelty, and this was documented (and a public document at that) proves how devoid they are of any ability to admit any wrongdoing. In my view, they did the horses and the industry a grave injustice. They sure know how to shoot themselves in the foot. Obviously they did not consider that the indisputable tangible evidence of horrific animal cruelty (Nehro’s owner Zayat removed all his horses from Asmussen) was viewed internationally. The everyday person is usually not interested in horseracing but when the public saw this PETA investigation there was utter disgust resulting in a hate for the horseracing industry.
      Now, when faced with this situation wouldn’t you think that they would make an example of Asmussen by banning him for life to show the public (and other trainers/owners/participants) that such unspeakable acts of cruelty on its “much loved” horses will not be tolerated. No, they chose to do otherwise and made an appalling decision. Do they really think that because they fined Asmussen that they’d done all that was needed to be done – I believe this is their mindset.

      I think this particular lauding of Asmussen will backfire on them, BIG TIME. What sort of message will they be sending? A very bad one which can only bring on more disgust from the public.

  4. Carolyn, right on. 100% correct on Steve Asmussen. Blatant animal cruelty, and not one suspension? Now, eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame? Are you fu**ing kidding me?
    I so hope it backfires.
    This entire industry is in a decrepit state of affairs. They do little or nothing for the health and welfare of the racehorse.
    This industry is an antiquated Romanesque circus that has no place in the 21st century.

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