It is an unequivocally ominous sign when a horse cannot leave the track under his own power – is “vanned off.” Taken a step further, this space holds that (easily) more than half of those carted away end up euthanized for their injuries.

In the 8th Saturday at Gulfstream, 3-year-old Wallyanna was reported as pulled up-vanned off. But because this was the $75,000 “Tropical Park Derby,” the Daily Racing Form felt obliged to offer an update: Dead. This is horseracing.

California has disclosed the following dead racehorses at Golden Gate Fields:

3-year-old Mapping broke down while being trained on December 3rd (trainer, Steven Miyadi). 8-year-old Suzettes Friend broke down while being trained in November – euthanized December 4th (trainer, Jerry Weaver). 2-year-old Mission Street was “found dead” in his stall on December 9th (trainer, Greg James). 5-year-old Justalittleloopy broke down while being trained on December 13th (trainer, Steve Sherman). Also, one anonymous death was reported at Los Alamitos for w/e 12/7.

Every once in a while (Aqueduct ’12, Saratoga and Del Mar this summer), the industry and its mouthpieces are forced to address the giant elephant in the room: their dead horses. But even when discussing hard numbers – at least the ones they begrudgingly concede – they distract and deceive like seasoned politicians. In a Friday DRF article, David Grening writes: “The recent fatalities [at Aqueduct] have brought the number of equine deaths suffered at [NYRA’s] three tracks in 2014 to 33…” Yes, if we ever so conveniently ignore the training kills. The true 2014 toll:

19 dead at Aqueduct (2 more “non-racing”)
31 dead at Belmont (10 more “non-racing”)
14 dead at Saratoga

64 dead at NYRA tracks – 76 if we appropriately include the “non-racing” deaths.


But it gets worse: “NYRA officials…expressed concern about the recent fatalities but maintain that the number of catastrophic racing injuries – which they put at 22 – equals the second smallest in a quarter-century. Nine of the 33 fatalities, NYRA officials said, are classified as ‘sudden death’ from something such as a cardiovascular collapse or a broken neck suffered in a fall where the horse was not euthanized. NYRA classified two additional deaths as being unrelated to racing.”

And this from NYRA’s chief vet, Dr. Anthony Verderosa: “When horses are at speed, and you got 18,000 starts a year, you’re going to have some unfortunate incidences, and the numbers right now – and I hate to put it in those terms – are not that bad.”

How bankrupt are these people? First, in a contemptible attempt to shift some of the blame (to whom remains a mystery), they use the qualifier “catastrophic racing injuries,” thus excluding not only training deaths, but broken necks and “cardiac events” as well. Never mind that broken necks are caused by in-race collisions and falls; never mind that adolescent equines shouldn’t just drop dead. If it’s not an in-competition euthanasia, it doesn’t count; if it doesn’t count – progress.

Second, while the exploiters dismissing the destruction is to be expected, what are we to make of the state’s top medical professional, a person who has supposedly dedicated his life to helping animals, calling the gambling-induced deaths of 64 intelligent, sentient beings “not that bad”? In a word, revolting.

In a claiming race last Wednesday at Mahoning, Sky Kerridge “stumbled badly and went to his knees at the start, stopped on the turn then was eased to the wire.” Officially, a DNF. In most cases, this would have been the final word, with us left waiting for the 4-year-old’s next entry or, possibly, disappearance from the charts. But this time, there was a postscript: I have learned that Sky Kerridge collapsed and died on his way back to the barn – no necropsy forthcoming. In his penultimate start a month ago, the John Myers-trained gelding finished last of 9…32+ lengths back.

Also, yesterday at Belmont, Deckers, an unraced 2-year-old colt trained by Jason Servis, shattered sesamoids while training and was euthanized. With this death, NY has surpassed last year’s kill total of 122. And there are still two weeks left.