In the 9th at Aqueduct yesterday, Candy Smile was “vanned off.” Today we learn (Gaming Commission) that the 3-year-old colt is in fact dead – “injury to left front.”

This morning, Long Haul Bay was euthanized at Belmont “due to severe colic.” Long Haul Bay was five and coming off a training session just 18 days ago.

Two more dead horses for the “demonstrably safer” New York Racing Association.


Go for Wand broke down in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Belmont Park; she was euthanized where she lay. Sports Illustrated’s William Nack penned a now-famous article entitled “Requiem at Belmont,” with the lede “ON A CALAMITOUS BREEDERS’ CUP DAY, THE CHAMPION FILLY GO FOR WAND SNAPPED HER RIGHT FORELEG, FELL TO THE TRACK AND HAD TO BE DESTROYED.”

“Calamitous,” indeed: Two other horses died at Belmont that day – Mr. Nickerson, of an apparent heart attack (at four), and Shaker Knit, who suffered “a severe spinal injury” after falling over the dying Mr. Nickerson and was subsequently “destroyed” – yes, they still used that word back then. Anyway, here are excerpts from that piece. (Toward the end, the trainer says, “They’ve had too many horses breaking down here lately. That doesn’t happen at Belmont Park. Maybe they’ve got the track too hard or something.” Sound familiar 30 years later?)

“Requiem at Belmont” (Sports Illustrated, 11/5/90)

“Go for Wand was lying on the racetrack near the winner’s circle, her eyes showing panic and rimmed with white, when all at once she stopped struggling and was motionless, except for the rapid rising and falling of her sides, like a bellows.

“Outrider Steve Erck was kneeling at Go for Wand’s head, his right knee pressed into her neck so that she could not rise, while a woman, crying hysterically, pleaded with him from behind a fence a few feet away: ‘Help her…. Please help her….’ It was chilly in the shade at Belmont Park, and steam rose from the filly’s moist, perspiring flank. Erck stroked the 3-year-old’s neck and face, and then he reached over and patted her on the nose. ‘Easy, girl,’ Erck murmured. ‘Just relax. It will just be a few minutes now. It’ll be over soon.’

“Trainer Billy Badgett’s face was ashen as he stared down at his filly. Her right foreleg, from the ankle down, was broken so badly it was bent upward, like the toe of a ski. Badgett knew what had to be done. He turned his back to the scene, and his eyes rolled up as he walked away. ‘Damn!’ he said. Badgett’s bride of three weeks, Rosemary, who is Go for Wand’s exercise rider, broke down and cried when she saw what had happened. ‘My baby,’ she wept. ‘Look at my baby…. I can’t believe this is even happening.’

“Indeed, on Breeders’ Cup day last Saturday at New York’s Belmont Park, an afternoon given over to celebrating the strongest and swiftest performers in thoroughbred racing, the event that everyone had been waiting for, the match between the two best females in the land, champions Go for Wand and Bayakoa, turned into a nightmare, a horror that left horsemen and horseplayers alike weeping openly.

“Just a few minutes earlier, as she was leading Bayakoa by a head at the 16th pole, with only 110 yards to go in the Distaff, Go for Wand suddenly stumbled. She pitched forward onto her knees, catapulting jockey Randy Romero over her head, and then did a somersault, ending up on her back, half under the inside rail, her feet flailing in the air as she struggled to turn over. Finally she righted herself and, as if trying to run away from the pain in her shattered leg, she staggered across the track on three legs and nearly fell. The crowd of 51,000 gasped, some averting their eyes while others watched in stony silence, frozen by the horror of the spectacle. Hundreds of fans pressed against the grandstand apron’s rail, trying to get near her as Erck caressed her and, finally, as a track veterinarian put her to sleep with a lethal injection.

“The Breeders’ Cup series of seven races, each with a purse worth at least $1 million, had begun ominously earlier in the afternoon. In the six-furlong Sprint, one of the fastest racehorses in New York, Mr. Nickerson, apparently suffered a heart attack while racing into the far turn. He collapsed directly in front of Shaker Knit, who fell over the dying horse. Jockey Chris Antley, on Mr. Nickerson, suffered a broken clavicle. Shaker Knit’s jockey, Jose Santos, was unhurt, but his mount, who sustained a severe spinal injury in the spill, was later destroyed. …

“So the Distaff was the race of the day, and until tragedy struck it was the epic race everyone had dreamed it would be. Go for Wand, the 3-5 favorite, dashed to the lead out of Post 2, but Bayakoa quickly joined her on the outside, and the two raced head and head through the first quarter, with Go for Wand a bob in front. They raced as a team down the backside. The filly opened a half-length lead as they passed the five-eighths pole nearing the far turn, but jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. asked Bayakoa for more juice as they made the turn, and the marc, digging down, edged back to within a head of Go for Wand.

“Belmont Park was beginning to rock. … In the grandstand, along the fence near the pole, Badgett strained to see over the crowd as the two horses raced past him. As they rushed past the pole, Go for Wand bobbled once. She grabbed the ground in front of her, as if trying to pick herself up, but then she stumbled again, this time falling to her knees and suddenly spinning, all neck and legs, in the air.

“Trainer Mike Freeman was walking toward the paddock and listening to Durkin’s call and the rising crescendo of noise when, as if someone had turned off a radio, he could hear nothing. ‘The place went silent,’ Freeman says. ‘Just like that. I knew something had happened.’

“In the clubhouse box seats, Mrs. Lunger’s son-in-law and racing manager, Richie Jones, bolted from his chair and sprinted down the aisle toward the staircase. He was screaming, ‘Oh, no!’ … As Romero hit the ground, he rolled over and looked up. He saw her mangled leg. ‘Oh, my god!’ he said. …

“Erck, on his palomino Mikey, was watching the race just past the wire. He saw the filly come to her feet and limp piteously across the track. Erck rode to her side, grabbed her loose left rein and jumped to the ground next to her. Unable to stand, Go for Wand was now on her knees by the outside fence and leaning against Erck. He could see the blood and bone of her dangling right ankle, where the suspensory ligaments had been ruptured and the cannon bone fractured. …

“Jones dashed over to the filly and, seeing the broken foot, put his hands over his ears and reeled back in anguish. Badgett joined him by the filly’s side. One look at the injury was enough. ‘I knew that was it,’ Badgett said. Turning away, he walked over to Romero, who was lying on a stretcher on the track. The rider, while uninjured, seemed to Badgett to be in shock. ‘She stepped in a hole, Billy!’ Romero cried. ‘She stepped in a hole.’ …

“Jones approached a New York Racing Association veterinarian. ‘Get it done,’ Jones told him. ‘Get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible, but get it done.’ Workers set up a large blue screen between the filly and the crowds, and Dr. Neil Cleary administered the injection. The filly was gone within a minute. …

“Dr. Jim Belden, former chief veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, later said that Go for Wand had actually fractured her ankle 12 strides before she went down. ‘Each step compounded the fracture,’ he said. ‘Her momentum, heart and determination carried her those last 12 strides. She sealed her own doom by continuing to run. Had she pulled up and said, ‘I ain’t gonna run no more,’ it might have worked out differently. But that wasn’t Go for Wand.’

“‘This was the soundest horse I ever had,’ Badgett said. ‘I don’t know what’s going on. They’ve had too many horses breaking down here lately. Two broke down in races yesterday. Three yesterday morning, including Gorgeous. That doesn’t happen at Belmont Park. Maybe they’ve got the track too hard or something. I don’t know.’

“Badgett stood in the doorway of his shed. Stall 33, Go for Wand’s place, had a clean bed of shavings. The door was open and the webbing clipped to the door, as if awaiting her return. ‘This is not the way it was supposed to end,’ he said.”

From recently released Steward’s Reports out of Turf Paradise:

Nov 3, race 4 – Dw Carolina Flash “pulled up, lame left front, exam found fractured sesamoid bone, euthanized.”

Nov 10, race 4 – Eva’s Classy Baby “pulled up, lame right front, radiographs show carpus fracture, euthanized.”

Both were three years old. This is horseracing.

It appears officials in Australia “missed” clear signs – welts – of animal abuse inflicted on the winner of this year’s Melbourne Cup. In a new article in Horses and People, Cristina Wilkins writes: “Vow And Declare’s post-race whip welts contradict racing’s official line that padded whips don’t hurt. The welts show up on a number of images we have obtained, as a series of blisters (raised skin lesions), grouped into almost parallel linear patterns that match the site of the whip strikes he received during this year’s Melbourne Cup. His jockey did not breach any whip rules. A veterinary pathologist has reviewed the images and says the raised marks were most likely caused by trauma.” Full article – with pictures – here.

According to the Collins Dictionary, “stupid” is “lacking in common sense, perception, or normal intelligence”; “slow-witted.” With that as backdrop, I call your attention to a recent op-ed from former jockey and current analyst Donna Brothers in the Paulick Report. While the article, which is mostly a diatribe against PETA, should be fully ingested for a true appreciation, here are my highlights (and comments in italics):

“…[on domestication] PETA is on a mission whose end-game is to eventually halt the natural bond between man and animal that has led them to co-exist since before written record!”

There is, of course, nothing natural about domestication; in fact, it is the antithesis.

“Horses have also seen man into civilization; helped them win battles at war…”

In the Civil War alone, the number of equines killed to “help man win battles” is measured in the millions. Scores of patently gentle, innocent animals killed in violent, horrific, and terrifying ways so man could wage war. There’s no glorifying that.

“The thing about horses is that they’re going to run, play, jump, frolic and race across vast fields with or without us. What makes us love them is that they are gracious enough to let us go along for the ride.”

What happens in nature bears no resemblance to what happens at a racetrack, where nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, and perched, whip-wielding humans prompt the “playing” and “frolicking.” “Gracious enough to let us go along for the ride”? Vile.

“And, yes, sometimes horses are fatally injured alone in a field—or on the track—while doing this. It will break my heart every single time, but I know with all that I am, that they love their humans and their sport as much as we love them and this sport that allows us to interact with them in a deeply meaningful and fulfilling way.”

Yes, they “love their humans” – the same humans who lock them in tiny stalls for over 23 hours a day (born to run?); who stick them with needles and beat them with whips; who buy, sell, trade, and dump them like common Amazon products; and who ship them – by the thousands every year – to brutal, bloody, and violent ends. That’s “interact[ing] with them in a deeply meaningful and fulfilling way”? Contemptible, Ms. Brothers.

“Though musculoskeletal injury to a horse during racing is an aberration, it is a gut wrenching event for everyone.”

Yes, that’s right, I’ve documented thousands of “aberrations” on this site.

“Much of what humans know about the care of horses…is owed to private funding from the thoroughbred racing industry. We reduce the likelihood of terminal skeletal injury, and we’re getting better at it all the time. That said, we cannot totally eliminate the evolutionary destiny of horses left to their own accord anymore than we can eradicate all diseases and fractures in man.”

“…the evolutionary destiny of horses left to their own accord” – I’m running out of adjectives.

“It sounds silly to those who don’t follow horse racing, but these horses aren’t just our friends. We work with them day in and day out. Our entire life revolves around their care and they become family. We cheer for them and fear for them. We hope for them, we laugh with them, and we even cry for them.”

Question for Ms. Brothers and her “horse-loving” brethren: Ever dropped a horse in a “claiming race,” thereby putting that “family member” up for sale? Thought so. And can you identify the whereabouts of all your past “family members”? Didn’t think so. And to say you “fear for them” after you yourselves have willfully and unnecessarily put them in harm’s way is but another in a long line of obscenities.

“Compared to approximately 55 training or racing fatalities per month in the U.S. (1.86 per 1,000 starts), there are nearly 3,300 human deaths per month due to automobile accidents. … It turns out that it is actually safer to race our horses than it is to drive our children on the roads…”

First, your number – 55 – is woefully understated; it’s more like 155. As to comparing racehorse kills with automobile deaths, I’d wager that even those children you speak of would grasp the absurdity.

“One of the arguments against racing that I’ve heard is that people can accept injuries in human athletes since they choose to compete, but race horses are forced to race—it’s not their choice. Any horseman reading this can confirm that this is not even possible! … If a horse does not want to race there is no amount of persuasion that will change that horse’s mind. I’ve seen horses that don’t want to race—and we don’t race them! Not every thoroughbred is born with racing on their mind but the vast majority of them are… … Our horses that race, love to race, and we love to watch them—even help them—achieve their best form.”


And finally, this:

“People haven’t domesticated horses, dogs and cats, they’ve domesticated themselves.”

Your capacity for perversion is truly dizzying, Ms. Brothers. Again, I refer to the dictionary: “domesticate: to train or adapt (an animal or plant) to live in a human environment and be of use to humans.” Tamed by man for man, including, of course, your precious horses. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, stupid is as stupid writes.