Horseracing, of course, pounds horses into the ground as a matter of routine. It’s what they do. But every once in a while, I come across a case of such egregious abuse that a separate post is practically compelled. The horse named Bank of Dad is currently laboring in Ohio and West Virginia. He is 13 years old, and this past Monday he was put to the whip for the 127th time. Please take a moment to allow those numbers to truly register: 13 years old, 127 races. And how, you may ask, is he “faring” these days? At Thistledown Monday, he came in last of 11 in a $5,000 claiming race; the race before that, a $5,000 claiming at Mahoning, 9th of 10.
In what is most certainly not a coincidence, the bottom-of-the-barrel tracks Bank of Dad is being raced at are racinos, meaning the slots cash keeping the racing operations alive also allows first-through-last paydays. In other words, his current people have every incentive to keep running him out there because all he has to do to “earn” is cross the line. And if he dies in the process, well, he was old (by racing’s standards) and worth only about the going price of meat anyhow.
Look, this is abuse – pure and simple. But like all things racing, this is not about an isolated bad apple. Yes, Bank of Dad’s trainer/owner for the past 18 months and 24 races, Sara Stanoszek, is rotten to the core. But what of the stewards at Mountaineer, Mahoning, Thistledown; the vets, private and track alike – men and women who are supposed to be bound by medical ethics; his many prior trainers and owners; the jockeys? All, to a person, complicit in this tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.