Wednesday, I reported on the 18 kills sent to me by the Arkansas Racing Commission for the recent Oaklawn meet. The Commission, however, also sent along this proviso:
“The ARC Vet, who is present on the track each race day, becomes involved in these incidents only when blood is drawn from the injured horse or there is reason to suspect a rule violation. The ARC has no other information responsive to your request.”
So, if the Commission vet (who, I’ve been told, is the sole keeper of records for the state) is only “becoming involved” under certain circumstances, it stands to reason that there were even more victims at/of Oaklawn – e.g., those euthanized back in the barn, where, presumably, no blood is drawn; those euthanized off premises entirely. With that in mind, here is a list of horses “vanned off” at Oaklawn this year but not reported dead by the Commission. All, as of this writing, remain missing in action.
A J Rock, Jan 31 (not “vanned” but “pulled up, DNF”)
Spunky Town, Feb 2
Caddo Daddo, Mar 7
Twin Farms, Mar 22
Railman, Mar 29
Mighty Manfred, Apr 3
Replete, Apr 9
Lieutenant Powell, Apr 16
Slovak, Apr 26
Then there’s this: Last year, the Commission disclosed 11 deaths. This year – one year after Santa Anita and all the supposed reform and hyper vigilance that that intense scrutiny engendered – 18. (I have actually confirmed 19: one – Spirogyra on Feb 2 – did not appear on the FOIA document; I confirmed through another source.) That’s a 64% increase. 64%. And this, at one of America’s premier tracks.
Look, I know this gets monotonous, folks, but “we can fix this” is a lie. While the numbers will fluctuate from meet to meet (I don’t expect Oaklawn to have a similar increase next year, or even an increase at all), track to track, state to state, death for the industry in the aggregate is unfailingly constant and, more or less, consistent (see my annual killed lists). Sure, there are things that can be done that would mitigate the killing somewhat, but because of horseracing’s very structure – how they’re bred, when they’re first put to work, what they’re forced to do, how and how often they’re forced to do it, etc. – not in any meaningful way. In short, horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees – for, I remind, nothing more than $2 bets.