Through a FOIA request to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture, I have confirmed the following kills at that state’s tracks through June 30. In the wake of Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to strip (and redirect to education) the corporate welfare currently propping up Pennsylvania Horseracing, I think it a good idea that this list be sent (by as many advocates as possible) to each and every member of the General Assembly.

Senate Contacts
House Contacts
And to reinforce his enlightened position: Governor Wolf’s contact

Caught by Surprise, Jan 10, Penn T – “complete fracture of the humerus, multiple small fragments of bone, severe soft tissue damage and hemorrhage”

Ebo Strong, Jan 11, Penn R – “[multiple] fractures with tearing of suspensory ligament”

Stella B., Jan 28, Parx T – “severely comminuted fractures with numerous small bone fragments into the cartilage; severe, chronic stomach ulcers”

On Thunder Road N, Feb 4, Pocono R – “severely comminuted fracture; cartilage erosions” (ten years old)

Tiki Thomas, Feb 8, Penn T – “[multiple] fractures, [one] into more than 25 fragments”

Graveyard Shift, Feb 17, Parx R (euthanized Feb 18) – “[multiple] fractures; chronic, traumatic osteoarthritis”

Homeboy, Feb 18, Parx T – “severely comminuted fractures with numerous missing/displaced bone fragments…one protruding through the skin; chronic, traumatic osteoarthritis; stomach has extensive ulcers” (three years old)

Better Song, Feb 22, Meadows T – “sudden death – artery rupture”

Proud Supporter, Feb 24, Parx R – “severe, acute, comminuted, displaced pelvis fracture with extensive hemorrhage and soft tissue trauma”

Winning the Medal, Feb 29, Parx R – “fractures; cartilage ulcer; traumatic osteoarthropathy; severe, chronic-active gastric ulcers”

Imasuperstar, Mar 2, Parx S – “infection”

Rydell, Mar 2, Parx S – “torn ligament, lacerated tendon; chronic, traumatic osteoarthritis” (had been raced 58 times)

Diva Drama, Mar 2, Parx T – “thoracic vertebral fracture with spinal cord compression; acute hemorrhage; chronic, traumatic osteoarthritis; stomach ulcers; cartilage erosions” (three years old)

C C’s Cup of Tea, Mar 6, Parx T – “[multiple] fractures and lacerations”

Florida Boys, Mar 12, Penn R – “[multiple] fractures”

Play Me a Memory, Mar 18, Parx T – “severe open fracture with bone fragments protruding through the skin and dirt embedded in the wound”

Winning Knockout, Mar 23, Penn T – “[multiple] fractures”

Midday Prayer, Mar 24, Parx T – “this horse was found dead in her stall – cecal rupture”

Lay It On the Line, Apr 3, Parx S – “illness”

Mimi and Charley, Apr 3, Parx T – “[broken] femur”

Cabot Cove, Apr 16, Penn T – “[multiple] fractures”

Anita Lucky Break, Apr 17, Penn T – “fractured shoulder”

Harpy Eagle, May 4, Penn T – “hoof”

War Bridle, May 8, Parx T (euthanized May 12) – “acute catastrophic slab fracture; severe cartilage ulcers; gastric ulcers”

Echo Bay, May 10, Penn S – “colic”

Gracias Adios, May 14, Parx T – “this horse collapsed and died during training” (five years old)

Bronze Star, May 30, Penn T – “[multiple] fractures”

Autobahn Express, Jun 13, Parx T – “collision with another horse: numerous comminuted, displaced vertebral fractures – multiple fragments; fractured ribs; stomach erosions/ulcers”

Pajama Tops, Jun 16, Penn T – “[multiple] fractures”

Huntington Drive, Jun 24, Penn R – “[multiple] fractures, torn ligament; severe osteoarthritis of most appendicular joints; severe, widespread, chronic gastric ulceration; [multiple] cartilage erosions”

Blissful Breeze, Jun 27, Parx T – “[multiple] catastrophic fractures with extensive soft tissue damage; ligaments completely ruptured; chronic, traumatic osteoarthritis”

Bucky Be Lucky, Jun 29, Parx R – “[multiple] severe fractures with detached fragments and free-floating bone gravel”

From Canada, the worst abuse – in terms of duration – I’ve yet seen. The gelding Eighty Eight is 14 years old and has been put to the whip 155 times. Take a moment to allow that to sink in – 14 years old, 155 races. And: After having not been raced since last October, he’s slated for # 156 Sunday at Lethbridge (Alberta). That race, by the way, will be a $2,000 “claiming” (in Canadian currency, that is; it’s even lower in U.S. dollars). About as cheap as you will ever see. In short, that this poor, pathetic creature is still on the track is an outright obscenity.

Voice your outrage: Lethbridge Race Track (Rocky Mountain Turf Club): 403-380-1905 (The trainer/owner is Rusty Smith; I have no contact info for him.)

“Death is delivered pink.” And so begins an ESPN The Magazine article (5/4/09) on the track veterinarian’s unenviable role as killer of the broken. Racing calls it euthanasia, of course, but that’s simply self-absolution. In any event, this is no indictment of the vets, for as long as they continue to hold races, someone must do the dirty work.

The article follows Lauren Canady, the vet at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, early in 2009. In the first race, Canady is summoned, like a medic to the battlefield, by the radio call “A horse is down!” 4-year-old Heelbolt’s ankle has snapped. It is a horrific injury, ankle “dangling and shattered, attached only by skin,” arteries split, and “blood everywhere.” As Canady pulls up, Heelbolt is still calm, the severe pain not yet arrived. On a 0-5 scale, this is a 5. Definite euthanasia.

The scene is set: “His eyes, once coldly fixed on the track, are teary and dilated. His breathing, once quick, has quickened even more. His coat, once shiny from the pumping of oil and sweat glands, has dulled.” The vet goes to work. Stroking “his neck to say good-bye,” she administers a mix of pentobarbital, for deep sleep, and succinylcholine, to shut down the heart and brain.

And then: “Heelbolt falls under the railing, landing shoulder first, his nose in the dirt. He blinks rapidly for 10 seconds or so until his eyes, once beautifully alert, are blank. As his fellow horses, having just finished the race, jog by, his life is measured in shallow breaths – until he is no longer breathing, until he is just 1,200 pounds of expired muscle, his bloody, shattered leg hooked on a railing. It’s hard to know what a peaceful death looks like, but this isn’t it.”

Horses are not, as the author declares, “born to compete,” and heartbreaking stories like Heelbolt’s should not be found on the pages of ESPN. For all our moral posturing, especially concerning animals, passive acceptance of this quote from the article proves that some of our sensibilities remain frozen in antiquity: “…and we’re reminded that one of our country’s oldest sports is one in which the athletes sometimes die during competition.” Deaths on the playing field? Is this 21st Century America or 1st Century Rome? I half expect Rod Serling to appear.

The 10th at Kentucky Downs Sunday was dubbed the “More Than Ready Juvenile Stakes for Two-Year-Olds.” If there is a more obscene, more disgusting name for a horserace, I’ve yet to see it. “More than ready”? A 2-year-old horse is a child, on the maturation chart the rough equivalent of a first-grader. His bones will not be done growing, his plates will not be done fusing, for years. Hell, he still has his baby teeth. So is it any surprise, then, that one of those “juveniles” did not survive the day?

Snake Doctor, already under the whip for the third time, “went wrong and fell,” says Equibase, and, I have confirmed, is dead. The breakdown is horrific (aren’t they all?). Equally, are the beatings administered to the other babes down the stretch. And even as one of their “athletes” lay dying out on the “field,” these morally-stunted people continued with their “Winner’s Circle” celebration.

The video begins with the breakdown, then the stretch-run whipping, then slow-motion of that whipping, and finally the celebratory pose…