Forced (by the media – thank you) to answer for the nine dead horses so far at Saratoga – on pace to easily outstrip its historical average of 14 per summer – NYRA propaganda czar Patrick McKenna, according to the Times Union, “said the Saratoga meet has been safe [and] points out that of the nine horse deaths, only one [italics added] was during racing.” In other words, the other eight dead horses – five training, three back in their stalls – are not germane to the topic of “equine safety,” even though McKenna goes on to cite “the daily inspection and testing of racing and training [bold added] surfaces and inspections of equine athletes [bold added]” as the primary reasons for the “demonstrably safer” NYRA tracks.

Last year, I compared 2013 – the year of NYRA’s supposed safety overhauls – with 2017; the results speak for themselves. And while the numbers dropped a bit in 2018 – only 59 deaths at the three NYRA tracks – here we are in 2019 sitting at 35 – with almost five full months to go. And no, Mr. McKenna, it matters not a whit where or how an active racehorse dies. Every death in the industry is by the industry.

The Saratoga ’19 victims:

Golden Julia, May 30, stall, “found distressed in stall; referred to Rood & Riddle, whereafter horse died from acute blood loss”; Golden Julia was two years old and coming off a training session (at Saratoga) just five days prior

Investment Analyst, Jun 7, training, “sustained leg injury necessitating euthanasia”; Investment Analyst was two years old; he was being prepped for his first race

Gattino Marrone, Jul 3, training, “fractured sesamoids, euthanized”; Gattino Marrone was three years old and had been put to the whip 6 times

Fight Night, Jul 12, racing, “fell heavily after the wire, euthanized on track”; Fight Night was three years old, and this was her 5th time under the whip

Total Fidelity, Jul 14, training, “suffered fracture to LF sesamoids, euthanized”; Total Fidelity was two years old; she was being prepped for her first race

Overlord, Jul 15, stall, “developed post-op complications (colonic rupture), euthanized”; Overlord was three years old and coming off a training session (at Saratoga) just one week prior

Verravanni, Jul 25, stall, “diagnosed with pleuropneumonia 7/11, euthanized on 7/25 due to lack of positive response to treatment”; Verravanni was two years old and coming off a training session (down in Kentucky) just eight days before diagnosis

Misspent Youth, Jul 27, training, “cardiovascular collapse breezing on Oklahoma turf course”; Misspent Youth was five years old and had been put to the whip 13 times

Umetuka, Jul 31, training, “injured galloping on main track, vanned off for x-rays, euthanized”; Umetuka was four years old and had been put to the whip 9 times

As all familiar with this site know, I estimate that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year. One of the factors affecting my estimate is the missing data on morning training (some states claim that those kills are not reportable events). As if to confirm my assessment, a racing fan whose wife works in the industry took to Twitter a couple weeks back:

Ironically (though other adverbs apply), this guy cautions the industry about these things – dead horses in the morning, that is – going public, publicly. Wow.

In a recent CNN piece that, for the most part, zeroed in on wayward trainers, racehorse owner Scott Herbertson had this exchange with journalist Nick Watt:

Watt: “When Jerry Hollendorfer claims one of your horses?”

Herbertson: “You just cringe.”

Lost, I’m sure, by practically all casual viewers, and further buried by the controversy of Hall of Famer Hollendorfer being banned from Santa Anita the day after CNN first ran the story, is the fact that this whistleblowing would-be good guy had his horses, including the now-dead Kochees, up “For Sale” in the first place, leaving them utterly vulnerable for anyone, including Racing’s current persona non grata, to snatch up. Above all else, it is this, the claiming race – where every horse is on the market prior to, and by far the most common type of race run in the U.S. – that exposes the lie of “they’re like our children.” In other words, there’s no meaningful difference between the Hollendorfers and Herbertsons of the racing world. Exploiters, all.

I respect hard work, always have. Much of this appreciation for industry stems from my childhood and the indelible influence of my grandfathers. Both arrived at Ellis Island as boys – not knowing a stitch of English and with but an elementary-school education. They took what jobs they could in order to survive and, eventually, advance. They were and remain my role models and heroes.

Similarly, I respect the ethic of the racing industry’s backstretch community. They rise early, quit late – and mostly for modest (if we’re being charitable) pay. That said, this campaign – our campaign – to end horseracing precludes any and all discussion of “economic impact.” More to the point, in considering whether the abuse and killing of horses should continue, the jobs of free, autonomous human beings – who can and will find other employment; for perspective, see any one of the myriad industries that have come and gone in our nation’s history – are, or at least should be, irrelevant. And, yes, I would feel the same if it were my immigrant grandfathers working those stables.