Like Finger Lakes before it, Belmont Park wasted no time in recording its first victim of the 2014 meet: 3-year-old Handstand, being raced for only the third time, broke down in the 6th and was euthanized. This, after he “came under urging at the five-sixteenths.” The complicit connections: jockey Rajiv Maragh, trainer Thomas Albertrani (for all 3 races), and owner/breeder Darley Stable. Handstand was running for a share of $92,400.

Friday afternoon at Aqueduct, 6-year-old Aussi Austin comfortably won the 8th race, earning for his connections a cool $42,600. That, alas, would not only be his last race, but also his last day on this planet. For you see, Aussi Austin suffered a spiral fracture during the race and is now dead. Unsurprisingly, his people first tried surgery – unsurprisingly, because this was Aussi’s third consecutive good-money win ($26,790 at Laurel on January 16th and $33,600 at Aqueduct on March 13th).

Friday’s fatal run was Aussi’s first under trainer/owner David Jacobson, who bought the horse for $50,000 back in March. For Jacobson, this makes 12 NY deaths since 2009. Also complicit: jockey Taylor Rice; Aussi’s three previous trainers – Mark Casse, Giuseppe Iadisemia, Rudy Rodriguez; breeder Gainesway Thoroughbreds; and prior owners.

“THUNDERING HOOVES UNDER THE LIGHTS!”

“Come experience the thrill of live thoroughbred racing – under the lights, all year long! Everything is better at night! As you pick your winners, enjoy fine and casual dining, special events and perks from our rewards club.”

So says the website for the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. What follows is a smattering of that entertainment’s cost, all from last night’s festivities:

4-year-old Fair Fight (2nd race) “retreated around the far turn, bled and was vanned off”

3-year-old Saint On Wings (7th race) “faded abruptly approaching the final turn and came back bleeding from the nose”

5-year-old Big Dividend (8th race) “was up in the final strides and collapsed post-race”

This is horseracing.

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Yesterday in Ohio, “The Sport of Kings” was a five-horse $2,500 claiming race worth $3,000. And now we learn that one of the five, 6-year-old Caverna, never made it out of the arena alive – catastrophic condylar fracture, gone. The jockey was Edgar Paucar; the trainer, Eduardo Caramori; the owner, Equinox; and the breeder, Bobby McIntyre.

On racing’s egregious meter, steeplechasing is practically unsurpassed. These are the kinds of races you watch with an expectation of horses falling – and breaking. This past Saturday saw the 118th running of the Maryland Hunt Cup, a 4-mile race – at times, run at 30 mph – featuring 22 5-foot-high solid timber fences. The final tally: 15 started, 4 finished; of the 11 who did not, 4 fell, 4 “pulled-up,” and 3 lost their riders. The Baltimore Sun reported thus: “The crowd, which covered a hillside overlooking the course, groaned in unison when the first horse fell at the third fence.” When a “sporting event” regularly elicits groans, perhaps it’s time for a bit of introspection.

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