An Eyewitness Account of Heartspoke’s Death

An eyewitness to Heartspoke’s death at Saratoga Wednesday:

“Earlier today I believe I witnessed a horse die on Saratoga Race Course. I was there, despite having mixed feelings about going, for my company’s annual picnic at the track. I didn’t actually see the horse fall… I was too busy eating, drinking, socializing and hoping for ‘my’ horse to pay out a tiny little profit on my $2 bet. Then I heard the crowd gasp and when I looked, I saw the horse lying on the track, not moving a muscle. A flurry of track workers surrounded the horse – but it didn’t look like they were able to revive her, and I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention. A big blue curtain was placed in front of her; someone said ‘I think they’re going to put the horse onto that,’ but I think its actual purpose was to shield us from having to watch a euthanasia procedure. One that probably wasn’t necessary, in any event.

And apart from the crowd’s brief gasp, it was otherwise business as usual. The announcer kept chattering, the tellers kept taking bets, the next horses kept moving forward to enter the track for the next race. And it didn’t seem to matter that this particular horse had just given all she had left to give in the service of our quaint little blood sport, and now was being unceremoniously loaded into a truck and moved out of the way. I left after that, unable to stomach the idea of placing any more bets – or even staying there another minute. I don’t think I will be back.” – Tony from Albany


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  1. Tony – thank you for sharing your account of what you saw. Your account is pretty much identical to what I witnessed at a small harness track near me when a filly dropped dead last December. I know I wont be going back this year.

  2. When your company offers their free day at the track: say no thanks. Also tell them why.
    These horses are running their hearts out… literally. The drugs, the heat and our ignorance are killing horses all over the world——it is a “teachable moment” to explain the tragedy that is horse racing. You can enlighten the ignorant with your story.

  3. “And apart from the crowd’s brief gasp, it was otherwise business as usual.”
    Exactly, and that’s precisely why the announcers (most likely in their contracts) are to immediately take focus away from the racehorse(s) writhing in pain, down in the dirt, waiting for the needle.
    It’s also why the cameras are immediately redirected away from the racehorse who is dying in the dirt.
    Of course the tarp is the finishing touch.
    Please folks, don’t be seduced by the fancy hats and “entertainment” banner because when you take that away this business is nothing more than legitimized animal cruelty involving the massive pain and suffering of racehorses.
    They suffer before they die, and they suffer if they make it off the racetrack.
    Most end up in neglectful situations or on the slaughterhouse floor.
    This is horse racing, and it’s vile.

  4. I HATE this track! I was outraged when the chamber of commerce was lobbying to bring Justify, even with the knowledge that he was injured!
    Thank you for your account of this horrendous death.

  5. The night before opening day at “Call to the Post” event @ Saratoga the Chamber said Saratoga’s more than a horse racing town….. Yes it is. Let’s make that happen.

  6. Until you witness a horse laying on the track and the rider too IN person don’t “get the full” impact.
    I saw it at Del Mar in 2004 and that is the last horse race I went to. Horrible and made me sick to my stomach.
    when the screen comes up they are putting the horse down..THAT is IT!…they are shielding you from
    it..But it never goes away in your MIND. my final comments, Rose in Sacramento, CA

  7. I too witnessed the death of Heartspoke. My guess is that I work for the same company as Tony….as we were on a company annual outing. I went begrudgingly, and will never step foot at a track again. I did not wager, and spent my time at the rail at the completion of each race to see how the horses looked after the race. I did not like what i saw. I was at that rail when she slowed, stutter stepped and fell. I can’t erase this from my mind. The following morning, the local albany news ran a story about “sad news in the racing world”. It was not about Heartspoke, but rather that the triple crown winner was retiring to stud, and would not run in Saratoga. Not sure how that is sad news. I am glad to have found this page….and plan to get involved. I am looking for suggestions to find a way through actions and/or donations to honor the life of this horse. To read that she may have been unnecessarily euthanized makes it even worse. Bill

    • Thank you for sharing, William. Just to be clear, I believe Tony was referring to the fact that Heartspoke may have already been dead (cardiac), and therefore didn’t require euthanasia. Would it be okay to have Nicole contact you about getting involved?

  8. We were there, too… right along the rail. We were 6 adults and 7 kids under 11. It happened right in front of us, but I noticed it around the turn. The horse was having trouble for a while, and the jockey knew it. In am amazing twist, it looked as if the horse got the jockey off of him to prevent collapsing on the leg of the jockey. So sad and the kids were mortified

  9. Horse racing and dog racing are not sports. They are cruel and heartless and should be stopped. So many horses killed. So many dogs run to their deaths. All for making their owners rich. Their owners could care less about the poor animals. All they care about is money!!!!

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