Dead Racehorses at Del Mar: An “Unsolvable Problem”?

The latest Del Mar Minutes are in. While no dead are specifically identified (because California does not require such transparency), the “deceased” tally for the week comes in at four. This presumably includes Unusualy, Alicanto, and All the Marbles – leaving one unnamed. All told, this brings Del Mar ’16 to at least 20 dead racehorses.

week of 7/11/16-7/17/16, “Deceased: 5”
week of 7/18/16-7/24/16, “Deceased: 6”
week of 7/25/16-7/31/16, “Deceased: 1”
week of 8/1/16-8/7/16, “Deceased: 2”
week of 8/8/16-8/14/16, “Deceased: 2”
week of 8/15/16-8/21/16, “Deceased: 4”

A recent San Diego Union-Tribune article points to the various obstacles we anti-racing activists face on a daily basis. First, one from ostensibly our own. The article says that “animal advocates” met with Del Mar officials to air grievances and seek answers. Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana: “We are out here today to ask the board to investigate the reasons for these breakdowns, these injuries and these deaths.” Not only ignorant (“Investigate the reasons”? Do your homework.), but horribly misguided. By reaching out to, and working with, the industry, you validate that industry’s right to exist, making it harder to ultimately bring it down.

Next, an unwitting (or fully witting, it’s hard to say) press allowing itself to be a conduit for industry propaganda: “The board…said it’s already taking steps to prevent the injuries, including adding more personnel to inspect horses and tightening blood screening standards to make sure horses are healthy enough to race.” Look, this is all-too-familiar territory. Every time there is a surge in deaths (or at least what is perceived to be a surge – Del Mar ’15 lost at least 18), the industry responds with assurances of “we’re on this; no stone will be left unturned.” More vets, tighter testing, better surfaces. And yet somehow, the killing continues. Imagine.

Inevitably, too, in the wake of (publicized) dead horses, come execrable quotes from industry VIPs. Del Mar president Joe Harper: “I’m in this business because I love animals. I love horses and believe me when one is injured, we all feel it. And like animal rights folks, we want to find out what we can do to help prevent or at least slow down some of these injuries.”

One, Mr. Harper, you’re most certainly not in this business because you love animals; you’re in this business for business. You can love horses. You can love horseracing. But you can’t love both. Two, and this goes back to Ms. Saldana’s quote, true “animal rights folks” are not at all interested in finding ways to “prevent or at least slow down some of these injuries.” A true animal rights person is only interested in ending your vile business. No “improvements,” no reform – just an end.

Worse, though, is this summation (which I would describe as shocking if not for the fact that, at least for me, Racing’s ability to shock has long since dissipated) from Cliff Goodrich, former president of Santa Anita: “Goodness knows in society there are problems that are unsolvable; this may be one of them.” The this here – the potentially “unsolvable problem” befuddling 21st Century America: killing horses for $2 bets. Sometimes, there are simply no words.

(Due to copyright considerations, I cannot post the picture that accompanied the article. But I encourage you to take a look.)

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  1. Another staggering quote came from equine medical director Rick Arthur of the California Horse Racing Board.
    On July 24, after 8 horses had been killed in 8 days, Arthur was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune as saying that it was “too early to take a position on whether there’s a problem.” WHETHER there is a problem?
    Suggesting therefore that 8 dead horses in 8 days was possibly not a problem at all. The animals are just collateral damage to these people in the racing business. They expect the breakdowns because they know how and why they happen. They are used to it and it does NOT bother them. There is no mystery in spite of all the hand-wringing. Follow the money.

  2. It is incredibly easy to “solve” the problems in horseracing. Simply stop betting on the horses that put their “lives on the line” every damn day. Joe Harper is in this business because he loves animals? I take umbrage to his comment. He is in this business because he loves horseracing. Big difference but perhaps he isn’t smart enough to realize that. It seems that many racing supporters struggle with that concept.

    I agree with Patrick. I am only interested in this vile industry ending.

    • The problem is with their age!! Race horses shouldn’t be racing until they are 4 years old. Period! In Europe and in Australia horses have to be 4-5 years old. California Chrome just turned 5. Now he’s in his prime. Speaks volumes

  3. The horse racing industry never has solved the problem, nor will they ever, because the fundamental business model is the exploitation of racehorses for profit.
    Built into this model is the expectation, and acceptance that racehorses will DIE.
    Even if they were to care, and we know they don’t, it wouldn’t matter because they are sending racehorses to their death.
    This is not a game of chance this is a game of Russian Roulette with the “gamble” being who will DIE on what day?
    Like Patrick, and Mary I’m only interested in ending this despicable cruelty circus, and death camp.
    The only way to end it is to stop going, stop betting, stop watching, and stop financially supporting it.
    With respect to the lack of transparency that the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has been getting away with for too long now – this MUST change.
    Hiding their dead, and the connections responsible is unacceptable.
    So sorry for all the racehorses who lost their life at Del Mar this past week.
    This MUST end, and the only way to end it is to shut it down.

  4. 2015 actually saw at least 26 dead horses at Del Mar because there were 10 dead horses in the steward’s minutes of the winter “Bing Crosby” season that didn’t receive a mention in any media. This was on top of the 16 dead in the summer season.

    • Thank you Toni.
      The horse racing industry does a good job at downplaying the deaths even refusing to release the names of horses that DIE on their tracks.
      This is unacceptable.

  5. The so called medical director should be forced to resign for stating he had to think about whether 8 magnificent horse deaths in 8 days was a problem! I’m sure he turns a blind eye to the torture called ‘soring’ done by unethical trainers on Tennessee Walkers. All at the expense of the welfare of these star horses.

  6. Something definitely needs to be done. Not one horse should die. What is it that’s causing the problem? The track is bad? The health of the horse is bad? The owners don’t have a vet. inspect the horse before it runs? It needs to stop. It is very sad that these beautiful horses are dying when they shouldn’t be. Something needs to change immediately.

  7. I was one of the animal advocates who addressed the public meeting of the CA Horse Racing Board during Public Comment last month (I’m quoted in the SD U-T story you linked). I understand that you don’t think that investigating the deaths of horses at Del Mar is enough, but calling former CA Assemblymember Saldana “ignorant” ignores the reality that SHE was the reason we had 4 TV News cameras there plus the region’s main newspaper and got THIS info published for a lot more people to see: “According to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, 16 horses have died at the track this summer, six while racing and 10 while training. That’s compared to nine horses that died last summer (six while training, three while racing) and 11 that died during the 2014 summer racing season (three while training and eight while racing.)

    “Counting only the horses that died while racing, Del Mar has seen 2.89 deaths per 1,000 starts this year. Nationwide there were about 1.69 deaths per 1,000 starts in 2015, a 14 percent drop from the previous year’s rate of 1.89, according to an analysis released in March by The Jockey Club, a thoroughbred industry group. The 2015 numbers marked the lowest fatality rate since the organization started analyzing the data in 2009.”.

    • Sorry, Martha, I strongly disagree with the approach. They – Racing – talk of investigations/assessments/remedies every single time bad publicity comes their way. And nothing changes. Why? Horseracing kills horses – lots of them (see my most recent post). Always has, always will. Draw a line here – no more. If you truly wish to end the killing, that should be your clear, consistent message. No more.

      • No single approach is going to achieve our common goal: ending horse racing. Having a former CA Assemblymember press the State regulator to do MORE is part of the continuum of action that will build the momentum toward this.

      • Martha, it’s all talk…blah, blah, blah. Nothing will change because racing is a 40 billion dollar industry that does NOT want to change. If the industry wanted to change, don’t you think it would have done so by now? A continuum of action….sounds good but means nothing.

        • I understand the cynicism. I helped keep the defective San Onofre Nuke Plant shut and end captive breeding of orcas by SeaWorld with a continuum of action. All hands on deck, death by a thousand paper cuts.

      • The fact is horse racing has never, and will never change because the fundamental business model is the exploitation of racehorses for profit.
        The racehorses are disposable commodities with the meetings, committees, blah, blah, blah, the racing commissions (in this case the CHRB), all on board to legitimize and systematize the ongoing blatant racehorse abuse, cruelty, and deaths.
        There are no amount of committees that has ever changed or will ever change the dying.
        Although I agree that a high profile politician like Saldana increases public exposure, I also agree with Patrick and Mary that this needs to shut down.
        That said, I was once delusional enough to think that things would change for the better just like Saldana.
        After YEARS of directly dealing with the maiming, and dying as an active member of the horse racing community there was no other conclusion to reach other than this industry MUST be shut down.
        A multi-faceted approach is great as long as the message to shut it down remains consistent.

  8. What can we do to take action? Donations to non-profit charities? I would love to post on my business FB page (5,300) and have shared your information. It would be great to give the folks an immediate action!

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