In horseracing, there is abuse – you know, the everyday stuff – and then there is extraordinary abuse. The “career” of a horse named Porfido (below) would fall into the latter. 11-year-old Porfido began racing before Barack Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator. Nine years and 73 starts later, his exploitation continues, and there are no indications that current masters (Porfido has been bought and sold at least four times) Dan McFarlane and James Taplin have any retirement plans in the works, at least not while he’s still earning – Porfido last raced just this past Saturday at Turf, finishing fourth and winning $1698 for his “connections.”


Like any for-profit business, horseracing expends its assets to the last. Anyone care to speculate on the condition of this asset’s joints?

Last Friday, a nondescript horse named Cooper River ran a $5,000 claiming race at Laurel Park. (In fact, he was claimed.) The chart had the 6-year-old “very rank leaving the starting gate,” showing “poor action,” unseating his rider, and falling. Officially, a DNF. Watch (pick up video at 2:00 mark) as the throwaway claimer tries desperately to right himself while jockey Yomar Ortiz tries desperately to win some cash.

On Thursday, 2-year-old Uncle Betty broke down in the 5th race at Charles Town. Although calls to the racing office have proved fruitless, it is safe to presume her as dead. In all, four horses were involved in Uncle Betty’s fall (click “Track,” Thurs Mar 13, race 5).

Horses, the apologists say, are born to run, love to run; the modern Thoroughbred is the most exquisite of athletes, sleek and powerful, with, most importantly, an instinctive will to compete. Ignore, they continue, the diminutive humans perched atop, for both the jocks and their snapping appendages serve merely as guides. In short, you can’t force a racehorse (or any horse) to do something he doesn’t wish to do.

It matters not whether the above springs from conditioned naivete or deliberate dishonesty. It’s pure, unadulterated bunk. Of course horses are compelled to race, a compulsion that often ends in calamity. Witness Sunday’s 1st race at Fair Grounds, when a 3-year-old named Sweet Basil suffered the following under the guiding Richard Eramia:

After gaining “under a right-handed whip in upper stretch, [she was] switched to a left-handed whip outside the sixteenth-pole, drew alongside the winner late and just missed then pulled up in heat distress and was vanned off.” Whipped with both hands, heat distress, ambulanced off. Chasing – for her jockey and “connections” – a $41,000 purse. The athlete as slave. That is the racehorse.

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Yesterday afternoon at slippery Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, the pace car lost control soon after the start of the 5th race and swerved, gate extended, into six horses, the last flipping onto the vehicle. Though an “initial inspection,” according to Freehold, found the horses “okay,” time will tell. Technically an accident (racing calls all casualties accidents), those horses would not have been there, bunched together in proximity to a car, if not for horseracing. In other words, racing is responsible for this: