Delta Outlaw was bred into existence by Blue Heaven Farm on February 15, 2012. At some point, probably before his first birthday, he was SOLD. He was first put to the whip, at the tender age of two, at Monmouth in September 2014 under trainer George Weaver and owner R. A. Hill Stable. He was raced 14 more times for them, then SOLD.

Then this:

Raced on October 5, 2017 under trainer Assaf Ronen, owner Everything’s Cricket Racing. Three races followed, then SOLD.

Raced on January 15, 2018 under trainer David Jacobson, owner River Card Stable. Three races followed, then SOLD.

Raced on March 25, 2018 under trainer Scott Lake, owner Home Team Stables. Seven races followed, then SOLD.

Raced on October 25, 2018 under trainer Bernard Dunham, owner Belair Stables. Eight races followed, then SOLD.

Raced on August 3, 2019 under trainer Hugh McMahon, owner Larry Rabold. Two races followed, then SOLD.

Raced on November 10, 2019 under trainer Michael Catalano, owner Princess K Racing. Then SOLD.

Raced on December 3, 2019 under trainer/owner Jennie Wilhelm-Saldana. Then SOLD.

Three days ago at Parx, he was raced again, this time under trainer Joseph Taylor and owner John Fanelli. In this one, before which he was “For Sale,” again, Delta Outlaw was “vanned off” and, I have confirmed, subsequently euthanized. Dead. At seven.

In all, Delta Outlaw (below) was put to the whip 46 times, at 12 different tracks, in 7 different states, for 9 – yes, 9 – different trainer-owner teams. A mere thing to be used, a piece of chattel, a means for human ends.

Imagine the hours, the years, this poor animal suffered – alone – in tiny stalls.

Imagine the amount of drugs that coursed through his system.

Imagine the number of lashes his sensitive hide was made to absorb.

Imagine his fear at being prodded, pulled, pushed, wrenched, jerked, and yanked.

Imagine his stress and anxiety – anyone care to bet on whether he died with ulcers? – at being shuffled from trainer to trainer, barn to barn, track to track, state to state.

Imagine his life. Imagine his death. But while doing so, remember that this is no isolated incident: There are tens of thousands of Delta Outlaws out there; they, not the American Pharoahs and Justifys, are the real horses of horseracing.

“After a thorough investigation and review of the evidence, the District Attorney’s Task Force did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct relating to the equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park.” – LA County DA Jackie Lacey’s report on Santa Anita

And so ends the much-ballyhooed investigation into the now-infamous Santa Anita spring (while the report covered fiscal year ’18-’19, it was prompted by the 36 deaths earlier this year). Nothing – but some safety “recommendations.” And we should not be surprised in the least. The key words above are “criminal” and “unlawful,” as in nothing to see here, according to California law. And technically, Lacey is right: These cruelty laws, woefully inadequate as most are, are designed to protect only some animals (i.e., our pets), while the others, unconscionably, are left to twist in the wind.

Regarding the treatment of animals in animal-exploitative industries, the law almost invariably defers to “common industry practice.” It’s why factory-farmed animals can be dehorned, debeaked, docked, branded, and castrated without anesthesia. It’s why breeder dogs can be kept in tiny cages for their entire lives. It’s why grisly scientific experiments can be conducted on primates. It’s why, for fear of the fully legal instrument of torture, the bullhook, Ringling elephants were known to defecate upon hearing their trainers’ voices. It’s why perhaps the most public form of animal abuse – the rodeo – merrily persists with impunity. And it’s why you can whip a horse at a racetrack but that same act done to a dog in the park would land you in jail.

What this report is really saying is that horseracing has a license to kill because one, it’s a legal enterprise, and two, because a certain level of death is understood (and accepted) by all. Indeed, the DA said as much: “Horse racing has inherent risks but is a legally sanctioned sport in California.” Risks, like the risk of a snapped neck, severed spine, or shattered leg. Risks, like the risk of “cardiovascular collapse” or “exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.” Risks, like the risk of terrifying colic or excruciating laminitis. And risks, like the high risk of exsanguination at career’s end.

Lacey added: “The District Attorney’s Office lacks legal jurisdiction to regulate the horse racing industry.” So right back to the industry (as represented by the CHRB) it goes – the fox guarding the henhouse, just like those other animal industries.

On another note, I think it high time that every person and every organization – PETA, HSUS, et al. – be made to answer this simple question: Is horseracing wrong? Not are some parts of it wrong, but is it fundamentally wrong? If the answer is no, fine, at least we know where you stand (but please dispense forevermore with your hollow declarations of equine love and specious claims of “advocacy”). But if yes, then act like it. Stop issuing equivocal, confusing statements; stop “partnering” with industry interests; stop debating the relative merits of various “reforms”; stop compromising what are supposed to be your core values. If you deem horseracing animal cruelty, then get off the proverbial fence and say so. Enough already.

(One final note: In the report, the DA cited this passage from California’s penal code: “[A]nimal cruelty exists when a person subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal.” Well, if $2 bets and entertainment does not meet the definition of “needless” or “unnecessary,” I’m not sure what does.)

In a column in HorseRace Insider Tuesday, (racing) journalist and lifelong handicapper Mark Berner renounced his beloved “sport” – yes, renounced, as in he’s done. And here are some of his reasons why:

“The horseracing industry runs on a pack of lies, a bunch of swindles, hidden information, and many corrupt and illegal activities for the love of money, not for love of the horse.”

“I will no longer support a fractured industry of disparate alphabet organizations now guided by greed. You have killed the game for me.”

“It does not matter if you knew Mongolian Groom. I did not. But I did know horses now buried in infields of racetracks and in Claire Court at Saratoga Race Course. I walked shedrows and I pet them on their heads. Now they are dead. It has happened a thousand times before and will again.”

“It happened slowly over the past few years as I wrote about rescue, slaughter and drugs. What put me off most is the great number of industry people who favor the latter two.”

“The game is rigged at every level, with rampant cheating its finest art form.”

“I am done supporting a sport that kills its stars.”

Just a few questions, Mr. Berner. You admit to it – dead horses – “happen[ing] a thousand times before,” with horses “buried in infields of racetracks” the country over – and yet it has taken you this long, 44 years, to get out? Or are you suggesting that this – dead horses – is but a recent thing? Please.

What “put [you] off most is the great number of industry people who favor [slaughter]”? “Put you off”? Not revolt you to your core? Nonetheless, thank you for the quote. It’ll make a great addition to this list.

And finally, you are deluding yourself if you think there was a golden age of horseracing; age, as in the inexorable aging of the human brain, has a way of doing that (“I remember when…”). Horseracing is animal exploitation, animal cruelty, and animal killing. Ever it was, and ever it will be (until, that is, we send it to the same ash heap in which Ringling Bros. currently resides). So again, thank you for hammering one more nail by getting out so very publicly. Would that others of your ilk – old men fervently and desperately clutching their DRFs – follow suit. (As Berner was managing editor and “one-third of its staff,” this might be the end for HorseRaceInsider – “The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing” – too. ‘Twas a good day indeed.)

“Those who think they can simply wish away a legal, multibillion-dollar enterprise with a rich history that employees thousands, supports local economies and is enjoyed by millions are fooling themselves. … The reality is that, for now, no matter how many horses stumble to their deaths at Santa Anita; no matter how much protesters shout at racing fans as they pull their coolers through the gates of the Saratoga Race Course; no matter what kind of negative press follows the industry’s safety record, labor practices and administration, the Sport of Kings will see another summer. And another summer after that. Bet on it.”

And so begins a shallow and terribly misleading editorial by The Daily Gazette (Schenectady) editorial board last Sunday. Most glaringly, it utterly ignores the sea changes in the “animal-entertainment” sector over just the past few years: Ringling shuttered, SeaWorld exposed and in decline, rodeo prohibitions spreading, and most relevant to the issue at hand – dogracing in its death throes.

When Floridians voted overwhelmingly to outlaw dogracing last November, they did so because it was rightly deemed cruel, wrong, unethical, or whatever term you care to use. In fact, dogracing is outright banned in 41 states – banned, as in rejected by the people as morally intolerable. The board, I’m sure, is very much aware of this, but lacks the courage to declare what any intelligent, objective person can easily discern – in regard to the welfare of the animals involved, horseracing is dogracing. No need to guess, however, whence comes this cowardice – money, as the board makes clear at the top. Dogracing is seedy tracks, lowlife bettors, hand-to-mouth owners – a two-bit gambling business. Horseracing is Churchill Downs, Tom Brady, Stronachs and sheikhs – “The Sport of Kings.”

Locally, horseracing is the Saratoga behemoth, with its teeming turnstiles and bustling boutiques. Never mind the 14 horses who perish there every summer. There’s cash to be had and jobs to be filled, and far be it from us, a mere local newspaper, to get in the way of that. But here again, the board fails to present a full and honest picture: Relative to the industry at large, Saratoga is an aberration. It, and maybe five or six other tracks – out of about 100 – are financially sound. Most of the rest are being wholly propped up by subsidies, and for a good portion of those – including all of the harness variety – everything said about dogracing above fully applies.

The editorial goes on to cite the latest desperate attempt by the industry to assuage an increasingly uneasy public: the “Thoroughbred Safety Coalition.” “Encouraging progress,” they call it. Again, a bit of homework by the board would have revealed that this is what Racing does each and every time the heat gets hot – Eight Belles in ’08, Aqueduct in ’12, Del Mar in ’15 and ’16, Saratoga in ’17 – promise “reform” and a “commitment to equine welfare,” and all the while the bodies continue to pile up.

As to the aforementioned “shouting,” since it is us (HW) doing the protesting, I deeply resent both the characterization and the imagery it evokes. We are there to educate. We do this by holding fact-based banners and signs; respectfully offering informational leaflets; and, yes, by chanting – which as even a middle-school student could tell you is a time-honored tool of protest employed by every great social-justice movement in our nation’s history. This past summer, any shouting that did occur came at the provocation of patrons – more specifically, men getting in the faces of some of our female protesters and calling them the vilest of names. And I for one will push back on that every single time.

Look, I know there are lots of people out there who think we have no chance, that Racing is too big, too powerful, too entrenched. I know there are others who simply deride us as “extremists.” When I hear this, I think of Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – “At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. … But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist.” – and take solace in the knowledge that all social-justice activists who went before were, too, dismissed as crazy (“Gay marriage?” “You must be joking!”). Truth is, once begun, these fights for rights – be they labor, civil, gender, sexual, etc. – go one way. And so it will be with animal rights, including those of enslaved racehorses, no matter how hard the small-minded reactionaries resist. In fact, it’s happening as we speak.

Whipping a racehorse is the most conspicuous form of animal abuse this side of bullfighting and basically every rodeo “competition.” No need for undercover cameras here. Because of this – or to be more accurate, because of Santa Anita thrusting all things racing into the spotlight – the industry is desperately scrambling. What to do about something that has been a fundamental part of racing since time immemorial.

For most in racing, however, whipping is but a problem of perception. Indeed, at the monthly CHRB meeting just two days ago, new board member Wendy Mitchell said this: “The optics on it [whipping] are bad.” The “optics.” Not that we agree it’s cruelty, mind you; it just looks bad. Well. Back in ’15, the ABC (Australia) ran a piece on this very subject. The whole thing (below) is worth watching, but a couple quotes stand out.

Dr. Lydia Tong, veterinary pathologist, on the relative skin thickness of horses and humans: “The really interesting part is that right up in the epidermis, which is the top layer and that’s where the pain-sensing C fibres are, in the human specimen that’s thicker than the horse’s. So by the old argument of horse’s skin is thicker and they feel it less, actually you could argue human’s skin is thicker.” So have someone take a horse whip to your leg (which was done in the show) and report back.

Then this on horse nature: “If a prey animal shows its pain very overtly, they are more likely to then be noticed and picked out by a predator. So actually often prey animals they kind of shut up and put up.”

And finally, this from Australian Racing’s Peter McGauran: “That [not shifting from pain] would have been learned behaviour, agreed. Under the old days [prior to new whip/whipping rules] I concede that the horses learnt to absorb the punishment afforded them.”

The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years prior, his jockeys inflicted “punishment” on his horses – punishment, by the way, seemingly well-“absorbed” due to learned helplessness. Imagine that. Yet I wonder, Mr. McGauran, does this mean that back in the “old days” you were sharing that opinion far and wide, or were you, like the rest, singing that decades-old industry line of the whip as “painless guide”? Please.

Oh, and one final note, Mr. McGauran: There is no past tense about this (“it was broken, so we fixed it”); as the piece (science, common sense) makes abundantly clear, a whip in the hands of a racehorse jockey will always be an instrument of intimidation, conveyor of pain. Put another way, your kinder, gentler whipping is a lie. To steal a line from Clinton ’92, it’s animal cruelty, stupid. And ever it will be.