Saturday, the Houston Chronicle ran an article entitled, “At Sam Houston, only one horse fatality this meet.” The writer, Hal Lundgren, opened it thus: “Texas tracks have avoided the frightening number of horse fatalities that have darkened racing at Santa Anita in California.” Lundgren then went on to cite a statistic in support: “In 2018, the four horse tracks under Texas Racing Commission jurisdiction suffered a combined 20 horse fatalities.” Only one problem: He’s off – way off.
Just last month, I posted my Texas 2018 report. The numbers, which, of course, I received direct from the Racing Commission, went like this: 21 killed racing, 14 killed training, 6 died off-track. That’s 41 dead racehorses. I can only surmise – my emails and phone calls to the Chronicle went unanswered – that Mr. Lundgren decided to count only raceday kills (one horse, the Commission reported, was euthanized on May 22 for “race-related lameness” from a March 16 race, but was listed on the spreadsheet as “non-racing”; that’s a racing kill to me – hence, my 21 total). But to simply say his story is misleading does not go nearly far enough. (By the way, if indeed he did use just racing kills, comparing that to the 22 killed at Santa Anita, which includes both racing and training, is yet another deception, unwitting or not.)
Since I began my FOIA reporting in 2014, last year’s Texas total was that state’s highest yet. Yes, that’s right, not only was 2018 far worse than what Lundgren portrays, it was the worst, both in terms of on-track kills and total deaths:
2014: 27 dead racehorses – 24 on-track, 3 off
2015: 36 dead racehorses – 28 on-track, 8 off
2016: 32 dead racehorses – 28 on-track, 4 off
2017: 30 dead racehorses – 24 on-track, 6 off
2018: 41 dead racehorses – 35 on-track, 6 off
Look, I don’t know anything about Hal Lundgren. Perhaps he’s an old racing fan and was hoping to create a bit of positivity for an industry that so desperately needs it. Or perhaps his only offense is a lack of clarity, disseminating a woefully incomplete picture. Regardless, what matters here is setting the record straight: Texas Horseracing kills horses – and it’s not getting any better.