The Vileness of “These are our children”

Sunday, Horseracing Wrongs was again out in force for our weekly protest at Saratoga Race Course. And again, the regional media was all over it. This, of course, allows us to reach exponentially more consumers – literally, hundreds of thousands of people. In short, the momentum here is going but one way.

Spectrum News

CBS6 News


The Daily Gazette

Inevitably, though, the other side is afforded ample space to respond (most of the time, greatly exceeding our own). Sunday was no different. First, Gary Contessa, $80 million career-earning trainer, reacting to my own comment about Racing being cruel, said this to Spectrum: “These are our children. These are our pets.” Well. Mr. Contessa entered two horses at Saratoga Sunday, Will Do It in the 2nd, Truly Courageous (who ended up being scratched) in the 10th. Both races, as it happens, were of the “claiming” variety, meaning both of Mr. Contessa’s “children” were, or would have been, “For Sale” prior to (prior to, that is, being put to a whip).

Worse still, another of Contessa’s horses, 3-year-old Charlonique, was killed training at Belmont just yesterday. Look, we’ve long since known that these people are callous – the evidence of cruelty and killing is overwhelming – but what this quote also betrays is an utter contempt for the public. They’re playing us for fools.

Then came this statement from NYRA, in response to our protest:

“There is no issue more important to NYRA than the safety of our equine and human athletes. That is why NYRA has implemented extensive reforms and made significant investments since 2013 to improve track surface conditions, upgrade equipment, provide vets with more authority to monitor thoroughbred health, establish committees to oversee safety measures, and actively seek out advice and guidance from independent experts and scientists. We remain steadfast in seeking to continuously improve the safety of our racing operations and will never waver from this commitment.”

Well. Since 2013, the year these supposed improvements began, both total deaths and racing-only deaths are up (11% and 20%, respectively) at the three NYRA tracks. Yes, that’s right, there were more dead horses in 2017 than in 2013. I say again, ignore their pony and pony show. Horseracing kills horses, always has, always will.


  1. Anyone who believes that those immersed In racing love their horses like their “children” will also believe that the earth is flat. One caveat to that…yes, the owners/trainers do love their horses as long as those horses are generating a paycheck. Once the flow of money is disrupted, the family member is put up for sale via a claiming race or handed off/sold into the slaughter pipeline. The sad truth is that there is absolutely no dignity for those animals who have kept their exploiters employed and made them money.

    Now, I’m sure the apologists will come on this blog and attempt to twist and spin the truth by babbling about the “many” aftercare programs available for the horses at the end of their racing careers. Anyone who believes that will, once again, also believe that the earth is flat. Try getting an older, barren broodmare into a TB rescue. Try getting a twelve year old
    TB pony horse or a low level claimer into a rescue. It is virtually impossible. It is similar to looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack and it sickens me….yes, sickens me….that the freaking 40 BILLION dollar industry has lied to the public. There are few options for the horses that have put their “lives on the line” in order for egos to be stroked and money to be made. Again, whenever you mix gambling and animals, the animals end up losing 99% of the time. Good odds if you exploit animals through the betting process.

    • OMG — WELL SAID, Mary! It sickens me too…and I literally cry every single day over these horses…as well as having nightmares about the ones that end up in the slaughter houses. Learning about all of this has actually ruined my life. My outlook on the world and the people inhabiting it has descended into darkness. I don’t believe in the old axiom anymore that mankind is basically good. Poppycock! Yes, there ARE many, many good people who DO care, but unfortunately, I think the number of cruel, heartless, greedy people is starting to OUTNUMBER good people.

  2. I stand in awe admiring all of you – every single one of you because I know that your demonstration is effective.
    A huge shout out to all of you.
    To Gary Contessa, and the NYRA: if your so interested in taking care of your “family members” then RELEASE YOUR DOPING/VET RECORDS TO THE PUBLIC instead of guarding them like Ft. Knox so that your transparent to the wagering public and to other members of the public who want a NEUTRAL investigation into how your are treating your “family members.”
    Provide ALL doping/vet records for any horses running especially in the claiming ranks so they can follow that racehorse to identify what exactly is going on with the horse.
    Now, the reason why you won’t release this information is because you don’t give a damn about the racehorses because if you did you wouldn’t be running them with chronic conditions that require them to rest.
    Instead, you risk their life every day, send them out for a buck and if they die – who cares?
    There’s plenty more to replace them right??
    Go take your lies, your delusions and your cover-ups and throw them in the manure pile where they belong.
    There are no amount of fancy hats, “entertainment” banners, lip service, equipment, track surface upgrades that will miraculously eliminate the sad truth about this business: racehorses dying for your stupid bets.

    • I have on occasion have had a chance to meet Gary Contessa in person,as I spoke to him,I found him to be an honest,caring and as he say’s he feels for his horse’s like they were his children and I believed every word he was saying,he came across as a generous,genuine caring individual not found too often on the racetrack.What an ASSHOLE I was he’s no different than the majority of scumbags you’ll find on most racetracks.My question is how does one business attract the worst of the worst existing in mankind,this goes for women kind also,lowlife has no gender preference.If you believe anything coming from most trainers and you happen to be an owner of horse’s trained by any trainer,you can’t believe a word they say,honesty is definitely not part of their belief system.You will never know what is really going on or what your bills really are.Some trainer’s may even have you paying for someone else’s feed bill,vet bill,blacksmith bill,there is no way to tell,these are consummate con artists.Who know’s there maybe even some way (it’s way over my head)there are ins.scams,ponzi scheme’s,I’m not accusing any particular trainer,but it just seem’s the possibilitie’s are endless for the creative trainer.But let’s not single out Gary Contessa.

  3. Patrick – I didn’t even realize you had protesters out in force at the race tracks. BRAVO!!!!!! Your article, “The Vileness of ‘These Are our Children” is EXCELLENT! It vividly portrays the hypocrisy of race horse owners and trainers. This is obviously such an uphill BATTLE to save horses because horse racing is all about the MONEY-MONEY-MONEY! Nothing else! They don’t give a damn about their so-called ‘children’. When did people in this world become so G-R-E-E-D-Y??? They only use and abuse horses to make more and more and more MONEY, and they seem totally CLUELESS that they are all criminals of animal cruelty. Sad, disgusting, abominable!

  4. Gary Contessa: “They are our children”…

    Mr. Contessa, you purchased then raced Vinnie Van Go – 20 races over nearly 2 years. You put him up for sale in a 25K claiming race when the bay gelding started to struggle – no takers. Another claiming race with a 15K tag – still no takers. Thirteen months later, Vinnie Van Go is running at Finger Lakes in a $7500 claiming race for a new owner and trainer…you had finally gotten rid of him. In April of this year, he was standing in a kill pen.

    THAT is what you do to your children?

  5. I’ve been reviewing some data on Gary Contessa and I’ve concluded a very suspicious killing pattern on racehorses under his “care.”
    It’s a known fact in the industry what trainers will do ANYTHING (including killing) to a racehorse to either win or recoup large money investments for owners under equine insurance companies.
    They seem to know which trainers will take care of “business” and which trainers won’t.
    Here’s just one link to equine deaths on just one PRO-INDUSTRY blog!!!

    BEAR’S SPIRIT “royally-bred” by industry standards.
    Purchased by BEAR STABLES for $190,000 – probably had an equine insurance policy in place especially with this ownership group who has a history of buying expensive racehorses with plenty of them dying.
    Assuming that it’s the same Bear Stables ownership group at Woodbine Racetrack these people have been operating in an unethical manner for many years.
    An investigation that was supposed to start never did and then they branched out at other tracks.
    As long as an owner is spending big bucks then this industry intentionally turns a blind eye to what seems to be obvious to others.
    We know that trainers who kill racehorses (intentionally or not) are revered by this industry with most inducted into the Racing Hall of (SH)ame.
    These racehorses don’t stand a chance as long as this vile business continues to operate.
    Shut it down.

    • Follow-up.
      If you click on the link provided in the above comment and scroll down people that actually work in the stable area with these racehorses are depending on THIS HRW BLOG to confirm whether a racehorse has died!
      Patrick, who are doing an amazing job – thanks to Nicole and all supporters of this blog.
      They claim that Bear’s Spirit was not insured, but is unable to confirm whether this is true or not.
      This trainer, Gary Contessa, has been killing racehorses for years.
      Furthermore, he was charged with animal cruelty charges years ago for denying food to a racehorse in his “care” and this vile business STILL provided him with a license to abuse, and kill more.
      This business is so horrific it can’t shut down soon enough for the racehorses and for those of us who truly love racehorses.

    • Joy… this is Shirley Blades, one of your fb friends!! lol. What became of Vinnie, the one standing in a kill pen? Did someone ever save him from slaughter?? My gosh!! How cruel and mean this race horse world is! I have friends close by that have them and I have hauled them several times but I have been given a few that had quit running or crippled but probably don’t want to know anything else! He has been training for years and his son is sort of taking over😎😎

      • Well HELLO, Shirley! Vinnie was bailed from the kill pen – there were a few of us who made some calls/sent some messages, so as soon as the bail was met and sent, I bowed out. But yes, Vinnie was rescued.

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