Every once in a while at one of our protests, a trainer or owner will approach me to attest to how well their horses are cared for. Some go even further, declaring their love, assuring that they view and treat their charges as they do their own children. Well, my first response is to ask if they’d ever dropped one of their horses in a claiming race. When, inevitably, they say yes, I then ask if they’d ever put one of their children up “For Sale” – at which point the conversation comes to an abrupt end.

The racehorse Klaatu just recently turned seven years old. On April 5, he was raced at Parx, marking his 62nd time under the whip. That he finished 26 1/2 lengths back is not the focus of this post. What is, is that he was “claimed” – sold – prior to the race. But this wasn’t the first time he was sold. In fact, not including the sale from breeder to first racing-owner, or any sales that may have happened in between races, Klaatu has been sold an astonishing 14 times. In fact, during one stretch, he was sold before each of five straight races. Imagine this poor animal’s anxiety and stress – incessantly being shuffled among various trainers and barns. Is it a wonder, then, that studies show that up to 90% of active racehorses suffer from ulcers?

Follows are Klaatu’s many exploiters through the years. Remember this list the next time an apologist claims how much racing loves their “children.”

owner 1: breeder Cynthia Darrah-Hipple
owner 2: Nicholas Cammarano
owner 3: ABAR PR
owner 4: Ho Dee Boy Stable
owner 5: Victoria Alih Stables
owner 6: Randall/Theresa Hillson, Roy Houghton
owner 7: Daniel Velazquez
owner 8: Rhonda/Theresa Tillson, Roy Houghton
owner 9: Vaccaro Racing Stable
owner 10: Big E Stables
owner 11: Richard Ciavardone
owner 12: Randall/Theresa Hillson, Roy Houghton
owner 13: Vaccaro Racing Stable
owner 14: SAB NC Stable
owner 15: Ho Dee Boy Stable
owner 16 (current): Randall/Theresa Hillson, Roy Houghton

trainer 1: Guadalupe Preciado
trainer 2: Carlos Milian
trainer 3: Joseph Taylor
trainer 4: Jorge Diaz
trainer 5: Roy Houghton
trainer 6: Daniel Velazquez
trainer 7: Roy Houghton
trainer 8: Patricia Farro
trainer 9: Philip Aristone
trainer 10: Robert Mosco
trainer 11: Roy Houghton
trainer 12: Patricia Farro
trainer 13: Michael Pino
trainer 14: Joseph Taylor
trainer 15 (current): Roy Houghton

Over the past two days at Turf Paradise in Arizona, five – yes, five – horses have been ambulanced off the track: 4-year-old Movin’ On Bye, 6-year-old Bonita Redhead, 8-year-old Quality Line (just seven days after his previous race), 2-year-old Ingeniero (very first race), 7-year-old Tammy’s Window (41st race). It is highly likely that most, if not all, of these poor animals are dead as I write. (I will of course find out definitively.)

Also: This from the 4th at Tampa yesterday, as relayed by the chartwriter: “Elusive Road was fractious in the gate, showed brief speed, raced four-wide through
the first turn, was eased through the lane and vanned off.” I don’t know, but do you suppose he was “fractious in the gate” because he was already injured?

This is horseracing.

In the most recent Stewards Minutes from California…

At Golden Gate Apr 1-Apr 4:
14 horses were “scratched” for being sick
1 for being unsound

In addition, one “claim” (sale) was voided because the horse, Rock This Bar, was “unsound.” Rock This Bar, incidentally, had “won” the race – while “unsound.” And, of course, the stewards reported Velocemente’s death: “During the running of the tenth race #5 Velocemente fell near the 5/16 pole while trailing the field. Jockey Assael Espinoza was thrown clear and escaped with only a bruised thumb. Unfortunately, Velocemente suffered multiple fractures and was euthanized by the track vet.”

At Los Alamitos Apr 2-Apr 3:
3 horses were scratched for being injured
2 for being sick
1 for “flipping” in the paddock

At Santa Anita Apr 2-Apr 4:
2 horses were scratched for being injured
2 for being sick
1 for being unsound
2 for flipping

At Cal Expo Apr 3-Apr 4:
1 horse was scratched for being injured
2 for being sick

This, too, is horseracing.

The charts (Equibase) from Oaklawn yesterday:

In the 2nd: “JACKS FIRE BALLS void of speed, was slammed off stride and knocked into the rail by SEA OF HOPE as that one was falling midway up the backstretch…. SEA OF HOPE shortened stride and was being pulled up when he fell into JACKS FIRE BALLS with just over a half mile remaining, bled, [was vanned off].”

In the 9th: “CRITIC stopped badly midway on the final turn, fell, hit rail after
wire…and was vanned off.”

Oaklawn (Arkansas Racing Commission) is notoriously unforthcoming about the fates of the horses forced to race there. That said, I have made inroads over the past couple years with FOIA. So, I hope to be able to update soon.

Pity the poor Standardbreds. When, if at all, the average person thinks about horseracing, it’s images of Thoroughbreds roaring down a straightaway that surely come to mind. Harness racing has just never captured the popular imagination the way the “The Sport of Kings” has. Can anyone out there identify a single famous Standardbred? Meanwhile, Secretariat, Man o’ War, and Citation were feted as three of ESPN’s “Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century.” One breed, “equine athletes”; the other, anonymous gambling chips.

Regarding welfare, while true that Standardbreds are not killed (on-track) as often as their Thoroughbred/Quarterhorse cousins, they are indeed killed (which, of course, we also document). But of more import, life on the harness circuit is just as cruel and mean; in fact, based solely on length of servitude – which can last up to 10 years and beyond – one could make the argument that harness racing is worse. And after the harness people have had their way, the abuse often continues under the heavy hand of groups like the Amish. Then, for many or most, those same Canadian and Mexican abattoirs. So, I’d like to remind people that there is another form of horseracing, and that these beautiful animals, too, are hurting, and suffering.

The following horses were “scratched” because of “injury” at Cal Expo (California) in the first three months of 2021:

Mishindi, Jan 3
Night Girl, Jan 10
Fedex Express, Jan 10
Man of Mine, Jan 23
Bo’s So Hot, Jan 23
Bobs Time, Jan 23
P H Hippie, Jan 23
Steady Breeze, Jan 24
Street Parade, Feb 6
Fear Factor, Feb 6
Sin Machqueen, Feb 13
Teachmehowtotry, Feb 20
Rockinaroundheaven, Feb 27
MD Magic, Feb 28
Bunkerhill Bill, Mar 6
Dependlebury A, Mar 6
Rockinaroundheaven, Mar 7
Dancingonthesand, Mar 7
California Rock, Mar 7
Selma O’Brien, Mar 14
Al’s Briefs, Mar 14
Imma Tank, Mar 20
Exsqueezeme, Mar 20 (“lame”)
Gee Wilikers, Mar 28
HF’s Super Filly, Mar 28

And for “sickness”:

Ramsay, Jan 2
Eddie Brush, Jan 3
Regal Mark, Jan 9
Le Montrachet, Jan 10
Glenferrie Dreamer, Jan 10
Fox Valley Hoss, Jan 16
Arnie’s Army, Jan 31
Door to Door, Feb 5
Always First, Feb 5
Sarah Toga Again, Feb 5
Roaring Home, Feb 5
Keystone Charles, Feb 6
Sneak Peek Hanover, Feb 14
Some Playa, Feb 14
Wet Shark, Feb 14
Witch Hunter, Feb 27
Frisky Angel, Feb 28
Hagginatthebeach, Feb 28
Marys Pretty Girl, Mar 7
I’m an Athelete, Mar 13
Cookiesncream, Mar 20