The 5th at Los Alamitos Friday was 2-year-old Equilibrio’s first time under the whip. It was also his last. On Equibase, he was “injured, pulled up”; at Los Al, “injured” almost always means dead. And indeed he is, as confirmed in an email from the CHRB: “This horse was euthanized.” “This horse” is the 25th dead one at that track this year.

Meanwhile, the Belmont kill-machine keeps humming, too. Yesterday morning, the Chad Brown-trained Option Value “sustained injury while breezing, [was] vanned off and euthanized.” He was three and had been raced once, way back in August of last year at Saratoga. Not to be outdone, Belmont now stands at 26 killed.

That’s 51 dead racehorses at just two tracks, in this, a covid-contracted year. Reform is a lie. To stop this carnage, horseracing must end. To effect that, we must apply unrelenting pressure on the powers that be.

California:
Governor Newsom
Senator Feinstein
Senator Harris
California state legislators

New York:
Governor Cuomo
Senator Schumer
Senator Gillibrand
NYS Senators
NYS Assemblymembers

“[A] good race can chart multiple arcs: the frontrunner, the disappointment, the underdog. Who holds its stride when a competitor is on its heels? Who gets in whom’s head and falls apart? Who finds out its extra gear has an extra gear? No matter who you are, there’s a horse for you.” – Seerat Sohi, Yahoo Sports

It’s rare these days that a racing article can still make me angry. But last week, Yahoo Sports published a piece by Seerat Sohi, (mostly) an NBA writer, that did just that and more. Its title: “Why horse racing can appeal to a younger crowd and overcome its ugly past.” Yes, it is as horrible as it sounds – at once, tone-deaf, ignorant, and obtuse.

(Note: I held off writing in the hope of reaching the author; I did not succeed.)

Sohi opens by explaining how, sports-starved during the pandemic, she turned to racing, albeit with low expectations: “Let’s be clear. I wasn’t planning on liking horse racing. Even though I thought it would be tedious…I was ready to play the ponies.” But then, “a dozen beautiful horses leaped from the gates, and I was entranced. I was shocked by how entranced I was.” From there, it was waxing (poetic) time:

“Watching my first race was like grazing the edges of an ancient stone, feeling its power, its ancestry, that sense of entering into an ancient lineage. … The sight of a horse on the run is life-giving, inspiring. It sets off something carnal. The way they tried to best each other, stride by stride, made me want to run.”

She then laments that, despite being “tailor-made for a generation that needs a break to check its phone every 90 seconds,” Racing is not drawing the young. And though she cites “attitudes toward animal cruelty” as a factor – the last of seven mentioned, one of which was “Netflix” (?) – it’s quickly dismissed: “I’m not sure how much that applies to an audience that tunes in every Sunday to watch men mash their heads against each other.” Not the same at all, of course, something the kids surely know. Still, she says, “It isn’t a failure of the product itself. The races are invigorating.”

Of the gambling component, she asks: “But does horse racing even need to hitch itself to gambling?” It’s not, after all, like poker, “because horse racing is a real sport. There’s intrinsic pleasure in watching it. Gambling lubricates the experience, but isn’t dependent on it.” Did I not promise obtuse?

And then, because it seems everything nowadays must be reduced to this, race:

“But the more I read about the mainstream narrative of horse racing, the more disconnected I felt from the races, and it occurred to me why…it took a pandemic and a white boyfriend for this 26-year-old Canadian woman of Indian descent to finally tune in: modern horse racing isn’t designed to appeal to me. The heroes in American horse racing culture are almost always white. That’s on purpose. … Young equestrians are now questioning the horse racing world’s lack of response to George Floyd’s homicide…challenging the sport they love to tackle diversity problems and its deep-seated white privilege.”

So, horseracing is racist. Not speciesist (she probably doesn’t even know what that word means), but racist. Precious.

She closes thus: “If you’ve never watched horse racing…there are races everywhere, all the time. Check one out. Watch the way the horses move. It’s for you.”

Vile – from start to finish.

Of the charges leveled above, however, the most unforgivable is ignorant. Ms. Sohi is a paid journalist. It’s her job to know her subject. And no, providing Wikipedia-like snippets of racing history or citing the number of black jockeys in the 1875 Kentucky Derby doesn’t cut it. Had she done a modicum of research, she would have found that contemporary racing is in the news because of on-track kills, slaughter, whips, drug scandals, and federal indictments – none of which she mentions. At all. (And no, she doesn’t get credit for the “ugly past,” as article titles typically come from editors.)

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s not ignorance at all. Perhaps Ms. Sohi is very much aware that over 2,000 horses die, horrifically, on American tracks each year; that 10,000-15,000 more are violently bled-out and butchered at horseracing’s singular retirement facility, the slaughterhouse; that racehorses are kept locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day; that they are bought, sold, traded, and dumped like common Amazon products; that 90-95% of them have ulcers; that – well, you know the drill. Perhaps Ms. Sohi knows all this – and just doesn’t care. But either way, gross incompetence or simple heartlessness (she does refer to the horses as “its” throughout), for shame, Seerat Sohi (and, of course, Yahoo Sports). For shame.

(full Yahoo article here)

The CHRB has disclosed two more deaths at Los Alamitos: Leggolas while training June 18. He was two years old and had been put to the whip twice. Young Dasher back in his stall June 23. He, too, was two and had been under the whip twice. That’s two more equine babies sacrificed for gambling. In the 21st Century.

Voice your outrage: Link this post. Cite data from this website (Los Alamitos now stands at 24 dead on the year; 56 at all California tracks). Tell them horseracing is animal cruelty; horseracing must end.

Governor Newsom
Senator Feinstein
Senator Harris
California state legislators

Last year, the Oregon racing people were super excited in announcing that Grants Pass Downs would fill some of the void that was left when Portland Meadows, Oregon’s sole commercial track, closed. Horseracing lives in “The Beaver State”! Which, of course, means that horses will continue to die. This week, two have – so far.

Tuesday, Hellagood collapsed and died, says the Mail Tribune, “on his way back to the barn” after the 4th race. Although the temp at the track Tuesday hovered around the 100-degree mark, track vet Jack Root says it was a “busted aneurysm” that killed Hellagood, with the left chest “just full of blood.” Root: “This horse was likely born with a defect…and it was just a matter of time, no matter what. Then, of course, the exertion of a race raises the blood pressure and busted an otherwise very weak place.”

The next day, Hawks Main Interest, three, “broke down,” crumpled to the dirt, and was ultimately euthanized. Kills on back-to-back days, but this should make us activists feel better: “It’s one of those things that just breaks everybody’s heart,” said Root (who, by the way, has also been an owner, breeder, and trainer). “Everybody’s really bummed about it, to be honest with you. It’s a tragic loss that kind of sets everybody back.” He then added, “Fortunately, it hardly ever happens.” Liar. Liar.

Bonspiel, a 3-year-old being prepped for his debut, broke down training at Belmont Tuesday and was euthanized after emergency surgery failed. He is the 25th kill at Belmont this year. Now, juxtapose that what-should-be shocking number with this from a USA Today article (in which I was quoted) ahead of last week’s Belmont Stakes:

The New York Racing Association…is considered an industry leader in safety efforts and its high-profile tracks remain less deadly than other comparable tracks in the U.S….. “The safety and welfare of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority,” the NYRA said in an emailed statement. “That is why NYRA is committed to providing the safest possible environment for racing and training by adopting and implementing the best proven safety practices in consultation with independent experts, veterinarians, horsemen and regulators.”

“industry leader in safety efforts”

“less deadly than other comparable tracks”

“safety and welfare…is our highest priority”

“best proven safety practices”

America, you’re being taken for a ride.

The Belmont Dead, 2020

Yorkiepoo Princess, Jan 3, Belmont S – “severe laminitis…euthanized in her stall”
Jewel Can Disco, Jan 20, Belmont T – “sustained an injury while breezing…euthanized”
A Freud of Mama, Jan 24, Belmont T (euthanized Feb 8) – “passed after complications”
yet-to-be-named, Jan 30, Belmont T – “shaft fracture…euthanized on the track”
Krugerrand, Mar 9, Belmont S – “severe laminitis” (two years old)
Starting Point, Mar 22, Belmont T – “sustained leg injury – euthanasia”
Peter’s Project, Apr 1, Belmont S – “colic, worsened throughout day…euthanasia”
Pals Invader, Apr 17, Belmont T – “sustained leg injury at the 7/8 pole”
Appealing Briefs, Apr 23, Belmont S – “euthanized due to poor prognosis of cellulitis”
O’Bushido, May 4, Belmont S – “found deceased in stall”
Call Paul, May 6, Belmont T – “sustained injury to LH leg…necessitating euthanasia”
Schiller’s Lit, May 18, Belmont T (euthanized May 21) – “acutely lame”
Lil Morning Star, May 21, Belmont T – “injury to left front leg”
Shock Therapy, May 25, Belmont S – “pleuropneumonia, laminitis”
Bluegrass Jamboree, May 28, Belmont T – “cardiovascular collapse – expired on track”
Truck Salesman, May 31, Belmont T – “leg injury while breezing, euthanized on track”
Brahe, May 31, Belmont T – “injuries to both front legs…euthanasia on track”
Abraxan, May 31, Belmont T – “leg injury necessitating euthanasia”
Too Fast to Pass, Jun 3, Belmont R (euthanized Jun 12) – “injury to left front”
Chouchou de Boo, Jun 4, Belmont T – “several injuries…euthanized”
Freedom Prince, Jun 5, Belmont S – “taken to hospital…euthanized”
Talako, Jun 7, Belmont R – “catastrophic injury…euthanized on track”
Mystical Song, Jun 17, Belmont S – “found dead in stall…gastrointestinal disease”
Smidge, Jun 18, Belmont R – “sustained injury to left rear leg”
Bonspiel, Jun 23, Belmont T – “fracture, surgical repair failed, euthanized”