Saratoga, 2010-2012: 100 Dead or Missing

Coming on the heels of last month’s admission by an industry-connected vet that 10,000-12,000 American Thoroughbreds are being slaughtered each year, some racing people recently got together in Saratoga Springs for a “symposium” on Thoroughbred “aftercare.” Follows are highlights from the area’s two largest papers.

The Times Union:

“Mandatory fees, help from the state Legislature or even tapping video lottery ‘racinos’ or casinos were all trotted out Tuesday as potential ideas to ensure that ailing or aging racehorses enjoy humane retirements rather than being auctioned off to Canadian slaughterhouses or worked to death as farm animals.”

“…rather than being auctioned off to Canadian slaughterhouses or worked to death as farm animals.”

“Participants laid out the challenge in frank terms. Despite the glamor and excitement that surrounds it, racing is a business and owners are under pressure to keep their animals running and turning a profit. Others at Tuesday’s discussion…noted that they are seeing more horses with severe injuries or chronic problems who are kept on the track… The reality is in the lower rungs of the racing world, there are owners and trainers who are barely hanging on financially, thus the pressure to get as many races as they can from their equine athletes.”

“…seeing more horses with severe injuries or chronic problems who are kept on the track…pressure to get as many races as they can from their equine athletes.”

The Daily Gazette:

“The horse racing industry already contributes funds to the care of thoroughbreds after they retire, but the people tasked with preparing horses for life after racing say it’s not enough. ‘We breed 20,000 a year, so if we don’t fund the exit plan, we can’t control the arteries from bleeding out,’ said Stacie Clark, operations consultant for the [industry-connected] Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).”

“…if we don’t fund the exit plan, we can’t control the arteries from bleeding out.”

And perhaps most startling of all, at least as concerning New York State:

“…officials in 2015 sought to track down all NY thoroughbreds that raced between 2010 and 2012. They were only able to identify 1,871 out of the 3,894 horses that raced during those years, or about 48 percent. ‘We will continue to try to locate these New York thoroughbred horses; however, the fact that in two years we have only found about half of the horses speaks volumes about the challenges of just how many retired race horses there are out there,’ said [the Gaming Commission’s] Ron Ochrym. Of the horses identified, 604 were retired to breeding, 422 went on to have second careers, 327 were ‘simply retired,’ 155 were adopted and four were retired to stud, he said.”

First, the “identified” add up to only 1,512 – well short of the 1,871 cited. Second, “retired to breeding” is its own kind of exploitation. And, what is “simply retired”?

Then this:

“Of the 2,023 thoroughbreds that could not be located, 58 ran their last races at Saratoga.” Saratoga, one of the top racetracks in America, with 58 MIA over a three-year period. Combine that with the 40 horses we know died there 2010-12 and you have almost 100 dead or missing in three short (six-week) meets. Remember that when it comes time to pack the coolers and baskets next July. What’s more, if this is happening at one of Racing’s crown jewels, you can imagine what goes on at the Thistledowns and Penn Nationals of the world. As I’ve said repeatedly, carnage.

(full Gazette article)


  1. So much wrong with the “symposium’s” findings that where does one start?…I guess with the elementary – they cannot complete simple addition? Maybe that’s due in part to the uglier percentage of “lost horses” (at least 61%) if they added correctly. Unreal.

  2. Thank you for covering! I had a question… did their “study” include everyone that ran at NY tracks (including Finger Lakes) or did they mean NY bred? Or did they mean only Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct…

    Alarming nonetheless.

    Hadn’t picked up on the point you note that their sums don’t add to the total “located”… wonder if that will ever be explained.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Thanks Patrick for your great Posts that inform people.
    Anybody familiar with this despicable industry knows that the horse racing industry is inept at hiding their dead.
    They’ve been doing it for so long now that it becomes an imposition to them when Blogs like this arise.
    As noted, these figures are minimum at best because training deaths on private training farms are NOT included.
    This is important because many of these “private” training farms are torture chambers for racehorses as if the tracks are not enough.
    These private training farms can do just about anything with zippo oversight.
    Most of them are actually havens for sore, and crippled horses.
    That’s why they are called the euphemistic “lay-up” farms, and they are very busy these days.
    They are havens for horses who have been out of racing for a long time, and not allowed back on a track, but eligible to run.
    As we know, just about any racehorse is eligible to run – HAWKS LINDA LOU – knows all about this.
    As for the meeting?
    I’ve been around this business since the 60’s, and I could rewind to meeting back then and they are all talking about the same issues;doping, and aftercare the predominant ones always because it placates the public.
    These meetings are like a placebo pill for the public, but NOTHING of worthwhile results ever gets done.
    If they wanted something done, this would have been completed years ago, but they don’t give a damn.
    The fact that they give little to nothing (compared to their obscene profits) to aftercare is a disgrace in and of itself.
    What I find so outrageous is that they have the audacity to, once again, pass the buck onto taxpayer coffers and/or people who wager there.
    It’s a revolving wheel of passing the buck while thousands of racehorses are getting dumped every single year.
    The HBPA pulls in billions in wagering profit, and gives little to nothing to aftercare – where in the HELL is that money going, and why is it necessary to get outside financial assistance??
    I don’t even know the last time the IRS has audited the HBPA (tax free money?) or when have they ever opened their books – NEVER that I know of, and anything provided is a joke!
    When has the government reviewed this Interstate Horse Wagering Act, and finally cancel it?
    This industry has been getting away with so much for so many years it’s repulsive, and the worst part is that racehorses are dying!

  4. What does retired to farming mean-bought up by the Amish? We used to own some land in Chautaqua County, NY, which has a sizable Amish population. An Amish family lived next to us and we socialized with them often. They had purchased a number of horses at auctions , mainly Standardbreds who didn’t do well on the track. I never saw either our neighbors or any of their family or friends mistreat their horses, even though most of the “English” think the Amish beat these animals, and work them to death. In reality, the horses are treated well out of comman sense, and respect. After all, you need a calm, intelligent, controllable horse when you are on the road. A mistreated horse, when on the road may do anything from balk, to freeze or panic at the approach of a car. And, there are those idiots who try to “buzz” buggies, trying to scare a horse into bolting. Horses were always turned out in a pasture when visiting, if the visit was going to last longer than a few minutes. So, they got the chance to graze, roll in the dust to scratch their backs and so on. The Amish I met treated all their animals well, and like all of us, thought puppy mills were horribly wrong. When horses were past work, they were turned out to pasture usually, or humanely put down if hopelessly infirm or ill. I wish all racehorses sent to auction would end up with the Amish I met.

    • Karen, there are some Amish people that probably do take care of their horses, but there are plenty who don’t.
      I once lived in an area where there was a large population of Menonites, and we had to constantly file complaints with the Humane Society.
      It’s so unfortunate that many OTTB’s, and OTSB’s end up in neglectful situations.
      Finding that GOOD forever home is almost impossible these days.
      Furthermore, the majority of OTTB/SB’s have pre-existing conditions, which are precisely why they are no longer able to perform on the track.
      So they get sold into situations where they are very sore, in pain, and suffering only to be further abused.
      They end up in the hands of either monsters who intentionally inflict pain or somebody who has good intentions, but are not knowledgeable when it comes to identifying issues that would be obvious to an experienced horse person or vet.
      Since there are so many OTTB/SB’s being dumped by this industry their chances are slim.
      So it seems obvious that in order to completely prevent these situations from happening – STOP THE BREEDING to fill races, and increase wagering profits.
      In the meantime, hold this industry, it’s participants, and supporters fiscally responsible for the horses that they exploit.
      Very simple solution that will save thousands of lives both on and off the track.

    • Karen, the Amish establishment could be different in New York but, here in Ohio, the Amish are responsible for a great deal of animal abuse. Amish run the vast majority of puppy mills and those mills are a huge industry in Ohio plus the Amish use their horses up and then discard them. An Amish buggy horse has a rough life. The horse pulls the buggy, at a trot, 20 miles out and 20 miles back in all types of weather. Some are thin and unkept. I adore the Standardbred breed and, earlier this year, had three that were ALL rescued from an auction….Shipshewana and Sugarcreek. All three would have gone to slaughter if I hadn’t opened up my barn to them. I am now down to two Standardbreds since my old mare was euthanized a few months ago due to a tumor in her bladder. Now, I’m not saying that every single Amish person treats his animals poorly, but the vast majority of them do and, in general, I have no use for them.

      • Exactly what I was thinking, Mary. The ones by me are “swartzentruber” Amish- they are considered the lowest class of Amish and generally nomadic and poor. Most of the horses I have seen are bone thin with burrs and knots in their manes, dirty, and hooves so split and overgrown the splits were up to the hairline. They didn’t clean their stalls or brush them much either. I’ve seen them going down the road hopping because they were so lame. Now the ones down toward geauga county, for the most part, were better kept, but then those Amish are actively involved in breeding and racing at northfield park too.

  5. Yeah, there are probably a lot of cruel Amish out there, just like in any population. I know there are so many different sects out there too- the Amish by us (the Sherman, NY area) were allowed to use propane for everything, the first year of a married couple living in their own house. after that, they could use propane to power a business. So you find a lot of Amish women who sell pies etc out of their homes. That way they can use propane stoves for everything. A sneaky wAy to get around the rules and the bishop can’t say anything about it! This sect could also use cell phones for a business. The Amish nearer to my home use regular cash registers in their businesses, so they are using electricity. Then again, you have sects that use no propane, and make no allowances for any electrical use. The guy next to us in Sherman was a logger and had a team of Percherons. He had an English partner who had the truck and trailer to get the horses to jobs. They went all over Western MY doing jobs. My dad hired him to get rid of some dead trees in the woods on our land and you wouldn’t have known they’d been working in there. That’s why a lot of people hire them, no tire ruts from log skidders and so on. This team of horses were treated so well. I never saw harness sores on them and their feet looked great, they were always neat and brushed, and turned out to pasture when it working, just as the “road” horses were.

    • Karen, they are no excuses to use animals for work anymore – none.
      Religion and/or culture should never justify using horses for hard labor.
      These horses were NOT treated well, in my view, because they were forced to do work so I don’t agree with what you are saying whatsoever, and this type of work is over loading.
      It’s so stressful on any horse to be riding in traffic with cars going by just ask the New York carriage people who have horses go down all the time.
      For example, many of these horses are tethered to the wall of their stall ALWAYS with no chance of laying down and getting the weight off of their sore feet.
      I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
      I even witnessed a broodmare giving birth in one of their barns, and they wouldn’t let her lay down because they had her tied – if you can imagine that.
      So I suggest you spend some money to get some dirt fill in all those ruts that machines evidently leave or clear those dead trees yourself then tell me how good you feel.
      We are now in the 21st century where animals are not ours to be used, abused, and/or exploited.

  6. Newsflash to those “good folks” in racing: regarding all of your industry’s “beloved athletes” being found in kill pens – day after day after day – all over the country…your tweets and FB messages aren’t doing a damn thing to halt the discarding and slaughtering. Because your precious industry doesn’t give a damn…IT DOES NOT give a damn about the 10K to 12K Thoroughbreds shipped to be butchered every year. The asinine comments, especially asinine coming from those who are BREEDING more horses; “I don’t know how to stop this [racehorses being sent to slaughter]!” – are you without a single brain cell? – the industry has a “surplus” of used-up and unwanted horses, but then you are part of MAKING MORE?

    And your “watch-lists” – wow, you folks are something…defend horseracing but bitch & moan about the countless racehorses that shouldn’t be racing anymore (and WE’RE crazy?).

    To those who support the horses and abhor the industry that exploits them, just watch…observe…read – the self-incrimination by those who LOVE this industry is something to behold.

  7. It really is very simple to figure out where the “missing” horses went folks – they rode on the trucks to be slaughtered or as some say to be “processed”.
    How people can look at the foals they breed year after year and know full well the probability is favorable they will end their relatively short lives on the kill floor of some slaughterhouse.

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