Forced – by media reports – to respond to 12 dead horses in Saratoga, NYRA issued the following statement Friday:

“Although New York State has made significant progress in reducing injuries and preventing the inappropriate use of medication in racehorses, the job of equine safety is never done. There will be challenges along the way. We are experiencing such a challenge during the 2014 Saratoga meet. A thorough investigation of all of the racing fatalities…is being conducted.

We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to identify the causes of death in all racing fatalities in New York. As stewards of the racehorse, we have a duty to do all that we can to honor and protect these incredible athletes.”

When it gets hot – post Barbaro/Eight Belles, Aqueduct ’11-’12, Saratoga/Del Mar ’14 – the industry talks of amping up its commitment to the “incredible athletes” – improved track surfaces, more stringent drug policies, lower purse-to-claim ratios, “safety stewards.” Yet even when “reforms” are implemented, the killing continues, virtually unabated. It continues because it’s built into the system.

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Racehorses are legally and morally regarded as pieces of movable property, things to be exploited. Property by definition has no serious interests to respect; exploitation by definition seeks to maximize the exploiters’ gain. So, they intensively train and race bred-for-speed horses on immature bodies. This will not change. So, they trade equines like pork belly futures, shuffling them from barn to barn, vet to vet, treatment philosophy to treatment philosophy. This will not change.

So, except for a reproductive-worthy few, they do not retire at the first sign of trouble, trouble that is patent to any experienced horseman. This will not change. So, they send the vast majority of the has-beens or never-were to the claiming game, which not only serves as the backbone (70%) of American racing, but is also where most of the dying occurs. This will not change. Racing, by its very nature, kills horses. And they know it.

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Horseracing, we are told, is a proud sporting fraternity, an extended family, if you will, comprised of both people – breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, etc. – and the equine “athletes” themselves. So when the House of Saratoga lost yet another of its daughters on Thursday (victim 7 on the meet), surely a wake or a funeral or, at the very least, a suspension of the day’s activities was in order. Alas, for 3-year-old filly M B and Tee, who collapsed and died after winning the 7th race, not even the perfunctory moment of silence. The show, as it were, went on, with the last three races of the day going off sans delay.

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So, horseracing, enough with your declarations of equine love. For each time one falls, your entire corrupt “family” betrays its true colors: This month’s other Saratoga casualties (listed below) became instant refuse, replaced, ever so easily, by brand-new cogs in the gambling machine. Your “sport” is inherently cruel and regularly deadly. And you know it.

4-year-old Lifeguard On Duty
3-year-old Double Gold
3-year-old Father Johns Pride
3-year-old Lavender Road
2-year-old Sir William Bruce
4-year-old Regretless

On Sunday, the Erie Times-News published an article by John Guerriero: “Despite horse injuries, Presque Isle Downs’ safety record remains good.” In it, Guerriero touts Presque Isle’s supposedly lower-than-national-average breakdown rate (despite, that is, seven kills in the current meet, which, Guerriero concedes, represents an “uptick” from last year’s five). I say supposedly because Presque Isle doesn’t identify its dead; it offers but a raw number that cannot be verified.

As for the horses who do die for $2 bets, Guerriero writes: “Martinez [Joe of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association] said that horse racing is an extreme sport that sometimes leads to injuries, just as some athletes in other sports suffer career-ending or even life-ending injuries.”

Mr. Martinez, do tell which other sports regularly lose their athletes on the field. Major League Baseball? One death (from a beaning) in 140 years. The National Football League? One death (from advanced arteriosclerosis) in 95 years. The National Basketball Association? Zero deaths in 70 years. This year alone, some 2,000 “equine athletes” will perish on American tracks, making your comparison both dishonest and obscene. Oh, and not to mention that troublesome little matter of consent.

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Guerriero continues: “Martinez said it’s heartbreaking when a horse goes down. ‘We cry about it at times, and we always feel bad. No one feels worse for the animal than we do,’ he said.” First, I’m quite sure that animal advocates feel worse about dead horses than you do. But beyond that, if you do indeed grieve for the fallen, stop doing what you’re doing – it’s just gambling, after all. As for you, Mr. Guerriero, act like a real journalist and report the truth – about racing, that is. Stop peddling their Big Lie.