“Broke Down,” of course, is the racing industry’s euphemism of choice for dead. But Churchill Downs, apparently hoping no one would notice, prefers the even more euphemistic (and downright nebulous) “went wrong.” Beginning last Thursday, four horses “went wrong” there over four consecutive days. All four are dead.
Sep 20: “RICOCHET BAY went wrong in the turn then was pulled up and vanned off.”
Sep 21: “CONQUEST HIOSILVER went wrong midway through the turn and lost rider.”
Sep 22: “MEDLIN went wrong near the quarter pole, lost rider and was vanned off.”
Sep 23: “LILT…went wrong and was pulled up and vanned off after the race.”
As you might imagine, this latest spate has caused quite a bit of consternation in Kentucky Racing circles. Dr. Mary Scollay, medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, to the Daily Racing Form:
“It is clearly an unacceptable rate of occurrence. We’re accumulating evidence right now and looking at it very hard.” The article went on: “Scollay said that racing regulators continue to conduct aggressive pre-race examinations, and that Dr. Mick Peterson, a professor at the University of Kentucky who is an expert on racing surfaces, has surveyed the Churchill Downs racetrack.”
Sound familiar? It should, for this is every official’s perfunctory response when clusters occur (which is to say, quite often, except the media only covers the ones that occur at elite tracks and glitzy meets like Churchill or Saratoga). As the powers that be scramble, Lilt’s trainer, Brendan Walsh, sums it thus: “Who knows? It’s very hard to assess stuff like this. Unfortunately these things happen, and they happen everywhere.” Yes, how “unfortunate” that horses must be enslaved, exploited, abused, beaten, and regularly killed for – gambling. Wake up, America.