The Fiery Deaths of 4 Thoroughbreds in Kentucky Are the Industry’s Responsibility

Monday, four Thoroughbreds died when a trailer fire broke out on a Kentucky parkway. The horses were in the process of being delivered from California to Lexington. One of the dead, turns out, was Respect the Code, who had last been raced in May and was to be sold at Fasig-Tipton in July (presumably, that’s where the others were going, too).

Two things: First, all you need to know about how racing truly sees its “equine athletes” is perfectly illustrated by some version of this line making the rounds in the racing rags: “The estimated combined value of the perished horses was $750,000.” That’s it. Assets lost. Money.

Second, while there are plenty (including, maybe, some regular readers of this site) who will say this was but an unfortunate accident, a tragic yet blameless event, I say rubbish. Yes, fires can and do happen anywhere, but if not for racing, those poor, terrified horses would not have been in that place at that time. And, lest we forget, as domesticated (enslaved) animals, they were trapped – figuratively and literally – on that trailer, wholly dependent on humans for everything, including their lives. And that is a cruelty in and of itself. So yes, this is a tragedy, but the larger tragedy is the industry that made it possible.

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  1. It seems like a reputable company that transports horses would be much more meticulous in how they keep their equipment in safe, operable condition. I suspect that someone was careless in how they went about their business.

  2. TB racehorses are often referred to as agriculture commodities thus expendable such as cattle, sheep, and pigs raised for profit. The term “crop” (not the riding whip) is also applied to TBs as in the recent “crop” of foals as if they are a crop of wheat, soybeans, or any other agriculture commodity.

    § 780.122 Activities relating to race horses.
    Employees engaged in the breeding, raising, and training of horses on farms for racing purposes are considered agricultural employees. Included are such employees as grooms, attendants, exercise boys, and watchmen employed at the breeding or training farm. On the other hand, employees engaged in the racing, training, and care of horses and other activities performed off the farm in connection with commercial racing are not employed in agriculture. For this purpose, a training track at a racetrack is not a farm. Where a farmer is engaged in both the raising and commercial racing of race horses, the activities performed off the farm by his employees as an incident to racing, such as the training and care of the horses, are not practices performed by the farmer in his capacity as a farmer or breeder as an incident to his raising operations. Employees engaged in the feeding, care, and training of horses which have been used in commercial racing and returned to a breeding or training farm for such care pending entry in subsequent races are employed in agriculture.

  3. The language used in activities relating to race horses (Agricultural Bill 780.122) is as antiquated as the bill itself. “Exercise boys” = exercise riders and are not gender specific.

  4. I fail to see the problem, here, folks, because, hey, what’s the big deal? The insurance will cover all the costs and lost revenue! Yeah! We can always buy new equipment, new trailers, and yes, new horses, as well, with the insurance money!

    Note: of course, sarcasm, irony, fully intended, here!

    – but also DISGUST – because this is exactly how the industry thinks of its ‘athletes’ -not even as chattel, slaves, no, even worse- these horses are treated no better than mere objects like a car, an air conditioner, a working appliance – just some ‘thing’ that makes money for them, and to be discarded once “it’s” outlived “it’s” usefulness..

    AND that’s why they’re insured.

    There’s no love of the animal as a living, sentient being among these characters – only as a toy, as a plaything.

    While the industry boasts that something like 95+% of all races are run without incident, we know that they fudge the numbers – but it’s still too many dead ‘athletes’ for anyone’s taste who has even a modicum of kindness and compassion.. I must say, though, that I was quite unware of the actual picture that’s going on in horse racing until I started visiting this site. But I must also say, that most of the general public who does NOT have any interest in horse racing are also pretty much in the dark about the conditions around the racetrack as well.

    Things are changing, though. The industry knows it and they’re running scared. Never saw anything like this in all my years of following horse racing.

    And the fire? Tragic, unnecessary, and a horrible, horrible death for these kind, living creatures. IMHO, I think I’ll side with Mr. Battuello on this one – and while I may have once thought that this was not a ‘racing’ death, and just a sad, unfortunate incident – I think otherwise now. Particularly when you consider the insurance payout, It IS a sin.

  5. My young nephew, [married with one & one-on-the-way!], who is a Firefighter, is learning, fast, that being burned to death is, hands-down, ………… a **beyond-horrific** way to die.
    Less seriously, since 2nd or 3rd degree burns are one of the MOST painful things for humans to experience —[and I’ve cared for patients with 2nd and 3rd degree burns; plus, I’ve actually had severe 2nd degrees burns myself, *a.r.r.r.r.g.h.*!]— sometimes I wonder, Patrick, whether, [in ​**ANY OF** the News Reporting], if the newscasters would, at the very LEAST, ~o.b.j.e.c.t.i.v.e.l.y.~/matter-of-factly “reference” what really bad burns —[i.e., which can sometimes go through to the muscle and, in some cases, even down to the bone]— not only feel like to HUMANS, but also what really bad burns …………………… must THEN feel like to HORSES, as well.

    Most folks are indeed kind and compassionate to animals; *Y.E.T.*, as you know, there’s still WAY-too-many folks out there —[e.g., like those who are involved, in any way, in Horseracing!!]— who are genuinely LACKING in kindness and compassion to animals. In my opinion, if a person doesn’t initially START OUT with some empathy, though, …………………… the kindness and compassion are unlikely to follow.

    In other words, since we don’t/can’t just “ask” a horse how it feels to be burned ~OR~ injured in other ways, I personally feel that it’s “fair play,” simply by default, to then ~(very specifically/very objectively/graphically )~ describe how those same burns and/or injuries FEEL LIKE TO US, AS HUMANS, i.e., in an effort to …………………… ***scratch-out/eke-out*​** a little bit of empathy, [which’ll, hopefully, lead to some kindness and compassion!] …………………… FROM those who are involved, in any way, in Horseracing, you know.

  6. As a horseplayer for many years, it seemed completely incongruous to me that the majority of horses, particularly the well-bred stakes contenders would be so poorly treated and regularly abused. After all, well-to-do owners will often pay millions of dollars for just ONE horse, more than an average luxury vehicle or any fairly upscale home might cost.

    Why, on earth, would anyone think that these animals would get anything BUT the absolute best of care – let’s face it, these are extremely high-value investments! Doesn’t it stand to reason that anyone who might be involved in such high-risk, expensive investments would see to it that their investment was well – cared for? Isn’t that, at the very least, basically a logical assumption?

    Apparently, in the horse racing world, logic and reason, along with kindness and compassion, take a second, or even third, fourth or fifth place to the ultimate god of racing – winning.

    Yes, winning. Trainers will do anything for a win. The horse, the owner, the rules, the law, all of it be damned. It took awhile for that to sink in for me, but sadly, that IS the bottom line with horse racing. Win. Win at all costs. No matter what it takes. No matter who gets hurt.

    When your ethics and morals take a back seat, which, is what seems to be a regular occurrence in the world of horse racing, the helpless are the first to suffer. Yes, the horses.

    It bears repeating, that I never realized how deep the corrupt, dishonorable, contemptible and vicious behavior extended. It also bears repeating that the general public is also mostly unaware of the dark underbelly of horse racing.

    • Thanks for saying that, Joe, because it is mind-boggling to understand that what you (and many other people) believed to be true (about the accepted methods of handling horses humanely) turns out to be false in the world of horse racing and wagering.
      I knew (decades ago) that there were some things definitely wrong about this business of starting immature colts and fillies out under saddle at the age of approximately 18 (eighteen) months and then not letting up on them but to keep pushing them until they break down catastrophically on the racetrack or the training track.
      Some people start horses out teaching them certain things that a young horse is ready to learn at around 18 (eighteen) months of age, but they don’t force them to carry over a hundred pounds on their backs and run at a full gallop almost every morning and then confine them to a stall for 23 (twenty-three) hours a day every day at a racetrack, as is the daily routine in the racing industry.
      This industry has been allowed to “police” itself for a very long time. It has become more and more obvious to more and more people how faulty this type of “policing” is for the horses as well as for the gambling public. This criminal activity in the horseracing industry is not good for society and more needs to be done to punish the people who commit heinous acts of cruelty against the horses and the outright fraud committed by the RACING Commissioners as well as the trainers and everyone else connected to this criminal enterprise.
      Look at the case of Linda Rice as an example of fraudulent activity inside the horseracing industry in New York. She isn’t nearly as high profile as the Hall of Fame/Shame trainers, at least from my point of view.
      You got burned by the Baffert scandal in connection with MEDINA SPIRIT, but how many people got burned by Linda Rice?! Look at the numerous other trainers and their human connections that continue to routinely abuse and brutalize horses day after day. Our society is getting burned every day. The propping up of this subculture of organized crime exploiting horses must be stopped. The horses don’t deserve this egregiously barbaric exploitation. There are honest ways to make a living and the world of horse racing is not an honest way to make a living.

  7. Wanda, sometimes it’s very difficult or someone to come to the actual realization that everything you thought was true was actually WRONG – dead wrong -and that is so apropos for me in the case of horse racing.

    You mention Linda Rice, who I met, along with many other high-profile trainers in New York, California and Florida when I was betting. Trainers often “befriend” some of the bigger bettors, because they know that without us, the industry would decline even more rapidly that it is. Take a look at the $455 million handed to NYRA, and that’s in a large part because many big bettors, like myself, have decided to take their gambling business elsewhere.

    Anyway, back to Ms. Rice. She accomplished the unique feat of the “Linda Rice Superfecta” at Saratoga a few years back when her four horses entered in one race finished 1st ,2nd, 3rd, & 4th in that exact order. The payout was in the thousands of dollars for a 10c bet! Note: no, I didn’t have it! Ms. Rice also told me that she never bets on her own horses. Calls it “unlucky”. She was also the only female trainer to ever win the trainer’s title at Saratoga. And, when things started getting rough, and she was no longer flying high, she also got caught receiving illegal pre-race information, but none of her horses were ever disqualified after-the-fact – like Baffert’s.

    According to the Paulick Report, she was fined $50,000 and her license revoked for three years. But, here she is, folks, back at training again.

    Still: that is devious, criminal, illegal, unethical and immoral behavior, and that’s only what she got CAUGHT at. God knows, like all these other characters, what else goes on behind the scenes that we’ll never be aware of?

    Like almost all trainers I’ve met, she was gregarious, friendly, poised and seemed quite open to discussing her charges and their chances in a particular race to us. Most every other trainer I’ve met has had the same demeanor as her. I believe this is called “putting your game face on”.

    Perhaps when horse racing finally shuts down for good, these people can find work in Hollywood. Lord knows, they are certainly very good actors.

  8. A person can know enough bad things about horseracing to where it causes a person to “think twice” multiple times over and over again. I believe that a lot of people are, or have been, in a state of denial, some for many years, of the harsh realities about the dark underbelly of this industry of exploiting horses for racing and wagering. It comes back to the saying that you can love horseracing or you can love horses, but you can’t love both. That’s one harsh reality about horseracing!
    Being in denial doesn’t help to stop the abuse, brutality or cruelty to horses in horseracing that is so widely overlooked and ignored by so many people.

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