Del Mar: Backslapping at “Only” Six Dead

“In many ways, you might call this one of the very best meets we’ve ever had here.” – Del Mar president Joe Harper, from the track’s website

As Del Mar is busy congratulating itself on losing “only” six horses in the just-completed meet (Joe Harper in Blood-Horse: “I just want to thank [the track superintendent] and his crew for doing an amazing job…”), a response is in order. Let me start by saying that given the way Del Mar has been hammered the past couple summers – and the large amounts of money at stake – a healthy dose of cynicism on this – just six? – is wholly warranted. That aside, two points.

First, I have long maintained that these kill numbers tend to ebb and flow from year to year – with the only constant being that multiple horses die at every meet run in the U.S. (excluding, perhaps, a county-fair calendar that is measured in days rather than weeks or months). Follows are Del Mar’s dead since 2011 (Stewards Minutes):

2011: 18 dead
2012: 15 dead
2013: 9 dead
2014: 15 dead
2015: 14 dead
2016: 21 dead (Blood-Horse says 17, contradicting the minutes)
2017: 6 dead

Saratoga, another elite meet, has a perfectly random up/down pattern since 2009 (Gaming Commission):

2009: 11 dead
2010: 15 dead
2011: 9 dead
2012: 16 dead
2013: 9 dead
2014: 14 dead
2015: 13 dead
2016: 16 dead (actually 19, but for this purpose I’ll go with the database’s number)
2017: 19 dead

So you see, they may dip in a given year but chalk that up to dumb luck. Granted, 21 (or 17) to 6 is a large decrease, but up until last year, Del Mar had averaged about 14 deaths a summer, which is right about Saratoga’s number. In other words, stay tuned. Best guess: Del Mar will find itself back in the shoes Saratoga now occupies – battling a PR nightmare – soon enough, perhaps as soon as this Fall. Reversion to the mean.

Second, but far more important: Morally speaking, what does it matter what the final count is? 6, 10, 15 – not a whit. Bottom line here, several intelligent, sensitive beings are dead because of Del Mar. Dead so that some might gamble, others be entertained. Viewed in this context, how is even one acceptable? It is not, America.


  1. Given the dirty tactics of this rotten business, I don’t for a moment believe these figures.
    I think they are much higher, and they have figured out a way to circumvent the FOIA requests.
    It’s hard to prove my notion here, but those are my thoughts.
    Nevertheless, any racehorse dying is unacceptable, and racehorses will continue to die at Del Mar and all other venues because dying is inherent in horse racing.

  2. 2016 was actually 27. 17 in the summer meet and another 10 in the fall meet. Education at the gate (protesting), and pressure on the acts that normally play concerts there and the general awareness being gleened from social media have driven down their numbers despite the food truck festivals, burgers and bews, BBQ contests and concerts. They have found a creative way of whitewashing the number of deaths at Del Nar but we know from trainers on the inside that it is business as usual and the number of deaths is no lower this year than any other year. Del Mar tries very hard to muzzle us, to control us, to push us in a corner, but we will always speak the TRUTH. Horse racing is a deadly, antiquated past time that needs to see its end.

  3. Let’s destroy this sadistically cruel, immoral & unconscionable business — Let’s set up a FUND where the world can DONATE to those wonderful organizations who rescue these magnificent horses. — These horses can either remain with them OR they can be adopted out for a wide variety of purposes — as long as all are horse-lovers, we can DO this. Simultaneously, continue getting the word out on how depravedly immoral & evil this industry is — in this way, more & more will NOT attend the races — complete success will not occur overnight, BUT we must keep at it. In the meantime, we keep rescuing these horses by funding horse-loving organizations.

  4. Bet some horses at Del Mar were scratched due to them being high risk of becoming a death statistic.
    Similar strategy was put in place a few years ago in jumps racing in Australia.

  5. Never mind “Backslapping” these scum bags need a good “Faceslapping”.Why we think we have the right to use and abuse all animals is beyond me.They are not here to “Entertain” twisted people who love to see them suffer.

  6. Dog racing has been banned for cruelty, why not this “Sport of Kings”? The numbers are appalling, I had no idea.

  7. These people running the tract are despicable and pathetic. This needs to stop!
    Makes me sick……how can these people support such a criminal event.
    I’m disgusted with anyone who would go and support this insane “entertainment”…as they call it.

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