The NYS Gaming Commission has finally confirmed the death of Cajun Commander, an “injured/placed in protective hold/vanned off” at Aqueduct Nov 12. He was four years old; ’twas his 13th time under the whip.

The New York Racing Association is now responsible for 60 dead horses (35 at Belmont, 13 at Saratoga, 12 at Aqueduct) this year, and 1,053 since 2009. And yet, this killing machine has the audacity (I’m trying to keep this post professional) to ask the state for a half a billion in state-backed bonds to renovate Belmont – with, even worse, the bonds being repaid with the corporate welfare they’re already receiving.

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At Aqueduct today, Stormy Lass, under the whip for the very first time, came in last, some 40 lengths back. Then, she collapsed and died. Collapsed and died – at the age of two. While this is the 84th NY kill on the year, it should only take this one – a baby crumpling, dying in her first race – for all New Yorkers of good conscience to forever forswear this rotten industry. As a postscript, the chartwriter also notes that Stormy was “fractious in the gate.” “Fractious,” because she knew her body was about to give out? Unfathomably cruel. Unspeakably sad. Horseracing.

The first time I wrote on Salt On the Rim was in June. At the time, the 12-year-old mare had been raced 101 times. Since then, nine more – that makes it 110 turns under the whip. Now, I know what the officials at Mountaineer, her almost-exclusive track for the past three years, would say (and in fact have said): Salt is still “competitive,” finishing second in her most recent race three days ago. But should that be the only yardstick, what you can see, including results, on the outside?

In the states that give us full necropsies, we are seeing that a majority of not-yet-fully-mature horses (under five) are dying with chronic conditions like osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease – clear evidence of the incessant pounding their young bodies were forced to absorb. Again, these are pubescents/adolescents with, often, just a dozen (or even less) races on their resumes. Salt On the Rim will turn 13 in January. Her primary abusers remain Lois Meals and Country Acres Stables.

West Virginia Executive Director Joe Moore: 304-558-2150; joe.k.moore@wv.gov
West Virginia Commissioners: phones, emails
Mountaineer Chief Steward Jim O’Brien: 304-387-8371; jim.o’brien@wv.gov
Mountaineer Investigator Bret Smith: 304-387-8530; bret.smith@wv.gov
Mountaineer Contact Form; 800-804-0468 (ask for racing office)