Prominent Trainer on Saratoga Deaths: “On the track, things happen”

As the dead horses pile up – 17 as I write – at Saratoga, the industry responds with utterings ranging from the befuddled to the just plain loathsome, with a (typical) dash of duplicitous thrown in. From Sunday’s Times Union (please take the time to watch the attached video covering many of this summer’s kills):

From the dazed and confused category, this from jockey Javier Castellano: “Maybe it could be the track. It has to be something, it has to be the track. That’s all I can say.”

“Maybe” the track – well, “it has to be something.” On second thought, yes, it’s the track. And why not, the “track” is definitely the summer’s villain du jour.

As to the vile, how’s this: “‘He was a sweetheart,’ [trainer Rick] Violette said [of Howard Beach, killed July 29], shaking his head while standing outside his office at his summer barn on the Saratoga backstretch. ‘He took a bad step, and it was ugly,’ said Violette. The breakdown happened in front of families who were taking in breakfast at the track and watching workouts. On that same morning, a 3-year-old gray gelding named Positive Waves was victim to a nasty accident at the eighth pole when he broke his right front leg and also had to be put down.”

An “ugly” kill(s) in full view of families – presumably with children – “taking in breakfast.” What more could I possibly add?

“‘It is tragic,’ Violette said. ‘You don’t want to get out of bed the next day, but you have a business to run, a responsibility. If my knuckles are dragging on the ground, so is the help. I hate even talking about it.'”

“Tragic.” “Don’t want to get out of bed.” “Knuckles dragging.” “Hate even talking about it.” Sounds like Mr. Violette is suffering from a bit of depression. But then, you’d think he’d be well-practiced by now, having gone through this with 10 other NY horses – including two last year – since 2009.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, on the deaths of two of his horses (Marshall Plan, Munjaz), killed on back-to-back August days: “On the track, things happen.” Enough said.

On the propaganda front, Dr. Scott Palmer, NY’s equine medical director: “The Gaming Commission’s ongoing goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero.” Never gonna happen, not even close. We know it; he knows it; the whole industry knows it. Death at the track, is.

And finally, back to Violette: “That is why it is so frustrating. There are no black and white answers. We might never find out.”

But there is (a black and white answer), Mr. Violette. Your business kills horses as a matter of course. It is inherent to what you do. Own it.


    • Yep. The same Rick Violette who pulled rank with Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and had TAA threaten to withdraw funding from an organization I worked for (one that provides permanent sanctuary to a dozen lame and maimed OTTBs), if I did not remove my facebook posts about his deleterious disposal and failure to track FINANCIAL MOGUL. Yep, that same Rick Violette who claims to care about Thoroughbreds.

      • Susan, and didn’t one of his supporters (Ms. Molloy) defend the bastard here on this blog? Care about TB’s? Nope, Violette, just like so many other exploiters in his industry, cares about the MONEY. It is a business for him, first and foremost.

  1. Taking large insurance money insentives out of the equation, is one suggestion. Would euthanization be less desirable to the racing owners if the max they could get was fifty or one hundred dollars for a horse’s death? It almost seems these “horse deaths” are planned by the unscrupulous owners and trainers. This vile industry, which is all about money, can drug a horse
    and run him in a race knowing the combination will be fatal to the animal. Then the big “pay out” from insurance is the owner’s “reward.” Almost like winning the “race.” The drugging, ignorance, lack of any professional medical supervision for the horse, is a sure way for the horse to lose his/ her life. Insurance pay outs for racing horse deaths should be minimum.

  2. I was in the game most of my life and I find the recent sheer numbers of fatalities staggering. There are so many reasons for this. Employees and trainers often can’t recognize a problem to start with. Grooms although caring are unable to see an issue about to happen. That is because the old good horsemen of the past have died off. No one is there to teach the next generation of horsemen. Some racetrack superintendents don’t have the experience or training to care for the racing surface. Owners sometimes put undue pressure on everyone and managements are hungry for entries. Racing officials don’t consistently enforce drug violations. Horseman organizations are paralyzed to take a stand for the fear that most of the board members could lose their stalls if not following the will and whim of racetrack managements. In my opinion this has created the perfect storm for rampant fatalities…Thoroughbred Racing needs a Racing Czar backed by federal regulations with teeth and local racetracks need a federal animal control officer to keep the malcontents in line….Then maybe the horses would have some protection. Otherwise it is the luck of the draw as to what horse dies next.

  3. So sorry for all the victims of Saratoga up until this point – so incredibly tragic.
    The pathetic excuses coming out of these trainers mouths are unimaginable, and it clearly shows just how delusional these apologists are.
    Rick Violette Jr. has been or still is deeply entrenched with the HBPA like many trainers are.
    Like most HBPA trainers he has a huge allotment of stalls.
    Abbreviate his name to Rick Vile, and there you have it.
    The stable area is one big secret empire with the abusers, and the enablers of the abuse protecting the deep dark secrets of the corner cobwebs of the stalls.
    They have it all wrapped up because their victim, the racehorse, is a voiceless defenseless being that they can count on to keep their secrets until they die in the dirt.
    This is a racehorse’s final rallying cry as they lay writhing in pain waiting for the needle.
    Even in their death, this vile business protects their secrets as they eliminate breakdown segments on race replays or erase it entirely – whatever it takes to keep this exploitation, and abuse going,
    Then there are the “secret” medication records so that nobody really knows what the hell they put into their veins before sending them out to their death.
    These are not people who “care” and “love” their horses.
    These are people who intentionally exploit a weaker species for their own gain.
    This is the ugly world of horse racing.

  4. ‘He took a bad step, and it was ugly,’ said Violette. Those “pesky” bad steps….here, there and everywhere! Of course, we know that the bad step is a “myth” in the vast majority of the cases. Too bad a trainer, such as Rick Violette, hasn’t been able to grasp that so perhaps one of his supporters could share this article with him. One is NEVER too old to learn.

    • You were fortunate to be able to post the Horse link. The original Bloodhorse article on the Horse cannot be found! How convenient.As regards shock wave therapy, we have seen it used EVERYDAY on a race horse up to and including the day the mare broke both legs in the race she died in 2004. That crummy trainer is still running horses today on the “B” circuit tracks or bush league tracks of which our region is great at having. Recently our local HBPA and the state 1/4 horse association have come out AGAINST any new regulation of racing! Our state breed association,gutless and political as they are, will take a neutral position of course! We celebrate the fact that Patrick is now over 500 followers and gaining readers practically every time we read his new articles.We left racing FOREVER in July 2005 after having experienced a very personal devastating event in May of 2004 and being told ” the same thing will happen again if you try to train your horse here yourself again” The foal #`s are declining DRASTICALLY in our state! If it was not for all the imported horses coming from out of state this abusive business would fold up. Sadly many of those horses arrive from the Keeneland sale with their hip #`s still on them after being shipped hundreds of miles to our western state.The buyers are to lazy / incompetent to even remove the hip #`s! Maybe its for bragging rights to other horse people we honestly don`t know..Most of the horses are purchased for about $1,000 or at most a few thousand dollars.

  5. Shame on the city ofSaratoga. For not demanding answers.
    This suppose to be a place that love theirhorses. Shame Shame

  6. The HBPA is, from my experience, a corrupt entity on racetracks.
    They allegedly finance trainers who end up owing them favors.
    They allegedly control the outcome of races while controlling billions in wagering profits.
    Rick VILE = HBPA..
    Linda Rice strong ties to HBPA.
    The HBPA has control of allegedly 70% of stalls, the trainers, and the racehorses who fill the races for them.
    Then when one of their trainers get caught cheating they defend them!
    Another thing, they make MILLIONS every single day with no legally mandated aftercare contributions.
    Then they go to the taxpayer and/or casino money troughs, and GET MONEY to support this carnage!!!
    Where are the BILLIONS in wagering profits going via the Interstate Horse Wahering Act??
    Why should taxpayers and/or casinos support this??
    In my opinion, they are racketeers well protected by that little thing called the Interstate Horse Wagering Act which was supposed to be scrapped years ago.
    There is a strong connection between this and racehorses dying because they are nothing more than gambling pawns, losing their life for wagering profits!
    The delusional trainers are pawns themselves and don’t even realize it in many cases.
    This is the ugly world of horse racing.

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