Just a couple days after this picture made the rounds, another example of industry callousness surfaces. The following video is of Irish jockey Rob James mounting a 5-year-old mare who had just collapsed and died while training in 2016:

For his part, James said this to The Irish Field:

“I have become aware of a video circulating of me on social media. I would just like to apologise for my actions which were wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to a lovely five-year-old mare, who unfortunately suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while at exercise earlier that morning, April 30th, 2016.

“To try defending my stupidity at the time would add further insult and hurt to the many loyal people that have supported me during my career. I have caused embarrassment to my employers, my family and most importantly the sport I love. I am heartbroken by the damage I have caused and will do my best to try and make amends to those hurt by my conduct.”

My take: It’s not the specific act here – the horse is already dead; it’s the attitude. The laughing. The indifference. The casual disregard. That’s what enrages. But make no mistake, this is horseracing. For further proof, I refer back to this 2013 undercover video of (Hall of Famer) Steve Asmussen’s barn (at Churchill and Saratoga, no less):

And the transcript:

Trainer Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s top lieutenant:

“Fuck these horses. These motherfuckers. They’ll fucking break your fucking heart every fucking day, these cocksuckers. There’s always something wrong with ’em.”

“You ought to see these limping motherfuckers. I see this son [of] a bitch out here [Saratoga] jogging every day.”

“You could not believe how many [horses] they hurt and kill before they ever even get to the racetrack.”

Farrier working on 5-year-old Nehro, one of Asmussen’s charges:

“That’s all missing! His foot is a little bitty nub. [H]e lost Z-bars on both feet multiple times until he had bloody holes in the bottom of his feet. He doesn’t even have a pulse in this one, and he’s barely got one in the [other]. Stick your thumb in there. Right there in that frog. [I]t’s been like that for three months…it rotted.” Blasi: “Listen…I know the fucker hurts.” Farrier: “Let me show you this hole. This is treacherous. We’ve tried superglue in that hole.”

Blasi, to Nehro:

“Quit being such an asshole…aggravating son of a bitch.” A few days after this exchange, Nehro died of colic. Blasi: “I have seen a lot of shit. That is the most violent fucking death I have ever seen.”

Blasi on “shockwave therapy,” which is used to deaden pain:

“It fucking hurts like hell. I can’t believe them fucking sons a bitches can take it.”

Blasi on electric shockers, which are used to “motivate” horses to run faster:

“I’d tell [jockey Ricardo Santana Jr], ‘You got the maquina [shocker]?’ ‘Boss, I got the maquina.'”

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens:

“So, long story short, I win the race…and I reach over to pull this off, and I, I shock the shit out of myself [audible laughing around the table].”

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas:

“Well, we used to go behind the gate at Ruidoso. And it was just like it was a full-blown orchestra. Zzz. Zzz. Zzz. Zzz. Everybody had one [shockers]. Everybody had one.”

Blasi, after losing an underperformer – a “rat” – to a claim:

“I could just do a fucking cartwheel right now.”

As I wrote at the time, and certainly remains true today:

From calling them “rats,” to laughing at electric shockers, to casually discussing a horse’s deformed foot, to casually discussing that same horse’s excruciating death, some prominent racing people at some prominent American tracks betray what the racing-horse represents to them – a means to an end. Respect for intelligent, feeling beings with intrinsic worth? Please. In fact, Asmussen says the sole reason Blasi was fired is because he disrespected an owner. (Blasi was, of course, rehired shortly thereafter.) So to me, it matters not a whit what the investigation concludes (no charges were ever brought against either Asmussen or Blasi); horseracing’s true colors have, yet again, been put on full display for all to see.

The CHRB has disclosed the training death of One Famous Prize this morning at Los Alamitos. He had just turned two – an equine babe – and was being prepped for his first race. He is the 3rd dead horse at Los Al this year, 15th (that we know about) at all California tracks. They can’t stop the killing, folks. It’s built into the system.

Through a FOIA request to the Maryland Racing Commission, I have confirmed the following kills at that state’s tracks in 2020. It should be noted that in the wake of Santa Anita, Maryland began releasing much more detail. Because these details, including vet testimony, are so powerful (and damning), I will post in multiple installments so as to give each death its proper due.

As always, please consider contacting Maryland politicians and media. Nothing as entrenched as horseracing will change without unrelenting pressure. The message need not be long; in fact, shorter is better – e.g., “Horseracing is animal cruelty, no different than dogracing, which has been banned on moral grounds in 41 states.” Then, copy and paste this list (and the other Maryland reports). Thank you.

Governor Hogan: contact form; twitter; instagram
Senate Majority Leader King: nancy.king@senate.state.md.us; 410-841-3686
House Speaker Jones: adrienne.jones@house.state.md.us; 410-841-3800
Senate members
House members

The Baltimore Sun: newstips@baltimoresun.com; 410-332-6100
ABC Baltimore: newsroom@wmar.com; 410-435-TIPS
CBS Baltimore: 410-578-7568
NBC Baltimore: newstips@wbaltv.com; 800-677-WBAL
Fox Baltimore: news@foxbaltimore.com; 410-467-5595

Lotto, Mar 21, Pimlico S – “chronic respiratory disease; chronic left hock, developed laryngeal paralysis”; also: “[previous surgery] – shin had two screws” (four years old)

Unbridled Outlaw, Mar 23, Pimlico S – “severe degenerative joint disease; suspensory tear” (Unbridled changed hands – was sold – in his final race, Feb 14)

Dr. Daniel (commission vet): “The horse had significant degenerative joint disease in both ankles that was being managed by the previous connections. New connections chose NOT to manage this horse and euthanize him.”

Dr. Meittinis (private vet): “Basically, bad claim of a cheap horse.”

Gotaheadache, Apr 22, Laurel T – “returned to barn in distress, collapsed and died”

Dr. Daniel (commission vet): “She had very large volumes of blood in both thoracic and abdominal cavities.”

Federal Walk, May 5, Laurel S – “colic, twisted intestine”

Long March, Sep 7, Pimlico T – “flipped over and struck his [head] on the starting gate – trauma was so severe that Long March was immediately euthanized on the track” (Long March was being prepped for his debut when he died)

Bullets Child, Sep 20, Laurel T (euthanized Sep 21) – “fractures to [both] knees”

Dr. Lockard (private vet): “The horse ran the week before I injected the right knee. He came back with heat in both knees. We took radiographs and then injected the right knee.” (not sure when this was)

When asked if horse had any history of chronic injury, trainer Damon Dilodovico said, “Knees always an issue.” And: “The last time the horse had a race, noticed a stiffness in the knees.” In his last race, August 14 at Laurel, Bullets finished dead last, almost 37 lengths back. In addition, Bullets was “scratched” for “lameness” just eight days before that August 14 race. Three days after being scratched, he was back training. Then this: The Commission noted that Bullets had surgery on both knees in Jun 2019.

Tiz Mine, Sep 26, Pimlico T – “comminuted pastern fracture”

Built Like an Ox, Nov 8, Laurel T – “catastrophic [shoulder] fractures with attendant hemorrhage”; also: “chronic gastric ulcers suggest chronic pain/stress, and the degenerative joint disease in fetlock, elbow, and middle carpal joint may have all contributed to this filly’s stress” (three years old)

Dr. Feelgood, Nov 19, Laurel T – “[multiple] devastating fractures, bone protruding through skin, copious amount of blood”; also: “chronic degenerative arthritis in all limb joints; extensive scar tissue around tendons; previous surgery RF ankle” (five years old)

Just Ribbing You, Nov 28, Laurel T – “compound fracture left tibia with the sharp end of a bone fragment protruding through the ruptured skin”; also: “chronic degenerative joint disease affecting most joints; history of bowed tendons; previous surgery RH ankle” (four years old; hadn’t yet been raced because of those tendons)

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard that Churchill Downs Inc. is planning on selling the property on which Arlington Park sits, making this year’s meet Arlington’s last. This, of course, should come as no surprise, for Churchill is a publicly-traded company, meaning it answers to its shareholders, meaning decisions come down to numbers (profits and losses, and pesky little things like that). And horseracing without state subsidization is, as a rule, a loser in the 21st Century.

Even if some of Arlington’s dates are absorbed elsewhere, this is a big deal: Arlington was once a pre-eminent track. Saturday, the Daily Herald pointed to this and also provided a nice little summary of other prominent closures…

“With thoroughbred racing struggling to find fans and facing increasing competition for the gambling dollar, Arlington Park will be just the latest in a long line of once iconic tracks shuttered and redeveloped for a more lucrative purpose. Here’s a list of some of those tracks, as well as some onetime Illinois racing ovals, and what became of them:

“Hollywood Park: Opened in 1938 and host to the inaugural Breeders Cup in 1984, the Los Angeles oval held its last race in December 2013. The track’s grandstand was imploded two years later to make way for a $5 billion-plus development highlighted by SoFi Stadium, home to the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

“Suffolk Downs: Opened in 1935 just outside Boston…the track closed after a six-day meet in 2016 and its site was offered as the potential home for a second Amazon headquarters in 2018. That bid failed and other redevelopment proposals are under consideration.

“Bay Meadows Racetrack: Opened in 1934 on the site of an old airfield outside San Francisco, Bay Meadows…hosted its last race in August 2008, and its site is now a mixed-use development of homes, offices, retail shops and parks.

“Garden State Park: Opened in 1942 in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, the track…survived a devastating fatal fire in 1977, but not the competition from Atlantic City casinos. It ran its final race in May 2001 and is now home to a high-end “town center” of stores, restaurants and multifamily housing.

“Calder Race Course: Opened in 1971 just north of Miami, Calder was considered a blue-collar racetrack, compared with more glamorous South Florida venues like Hialeah Park and Gulfstream Park. Churchill Downs Inc. bought the track in 1999 and slowly shifted its focus to a casino opened in the site in 2010. Calder ran its last race in November, but the casino continues to operate.

“Sportsman’s Park: Initially opened as a dog racing track in 1928 by notorious gangster Al Capone, Sportsman’s Park in Cicero began hosting horses in the early 1930s. It closed in 2002 after a disastrous attempt to make it a combination horse and auto racing track. The grandstand was demolished in 2009, and the land is now home to a Walmart and a corporate center for Wirtz Beverage Illinois, the family-run alcohol distribution company that owns the Blackhawks.

“Balmoral Park: Opened as ‘Lincoln Fields’ in 1926, the track near South suburban Crete became Balmoral Park after a change in ownership in 1955. After another sale in 1967, it was converted from thoroughbred to harness racing. It held its last race the day after Christmas 2015. Later turned into a horse-jumping facility, the 200-acre property went on the market in December.”

Our more complete lists:
Shuttered Tracks
Shuttered Tracks Redeveloped

After a day of uncertainty, the following photo showing the hugely successful (multiple Grand National wins) Irish trainer Gordon Elliott nonchalantly sitting astride one of his dead horses has been confirmed – by the trainer himself – genuine.

In a statement, Elliott said:

“I would like to address the speculation and rumours that have been rife since an old photo of me began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon. Firstly, I apologise profoundly for any offence that this photo has caused and can categorically state that the welfare of each and every horse under my care is paramount and has been central to the success that we have enjoyed here at Cullentra.

“The photo in question was taken some time ago and occurred after a horse had died of an apparent heart attack on the gallops. I appreciate that an initial viewing of this photo suggests it is a callous and staged photo but nothing could be further from the truth.

“At what was a sad time, which it is when any horse under my care passes away, my initial reaction was to get the body removed from where it was positioned. I was standing over the horse waiting to help with the removal of the body, in the course of which, to my memory I received a call and, without thinking, I sat down to take it. Hearing a shout from one of my team, I gestured to wait until I was finished.

“Such background information may seem trivial at this time and will not allay the concerns of many people both within and outside the world of horse racing. However, I feel it is important to provide people with some context surrounding this photo. To the racing community, to anyone who has worked with and loves horses and to anyone offended by this image I cannot apologise enough.”

“I received a call and…sat down to take it.” And that, is that.