Tim Wilkin is a fine sportswriter, even if one of his duties is to cover horseracing for the Albany Times Union. (Of course, horseracing is as out of place on the Sports pages as blowing away Whitetails in autumn.) But his latest contribution (“Loss Leaves Empty Feeling,” 8/27/13) on the aftermath of Sunday’s 9th race in Saratoga almost seems written with the express purpose of eliciting sympathy for those at the heart of this exploitative business. Pity the poor horseman, for he so loved his former charge.

Wilkin on Charlie LoPresti, trainer of the late Kris Royal: “His heart was breaking because of stall 16. It was empty. Kris Royal, a 5-year-old chestnut gelding who was there on Sunday, was gone on Monday.” Little, Wilkin says, can “soothe [LoPresti’s] aching heart.” And LoPresti himself: “It just makes you sad, number one, because he’s just a neat little horse if you knew him. If you look there and you see his empty stall … what a nice little horse to be around … a fun little guy … he never bothered anybody … he tried. It really makes you rethink what you do. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘It didn’t really happen, did it?'”

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Perhaps, Wilkin writes, the rain-starved fast turf was simply too much for these horses. LoPresti, however, magnanimously refuses to blame anyone. His “fun little guy” just took a “bad step,” “hit a rough spot.” But if you delve a little deeper, certainly far beyond what this article is willing to reveal, you’ll find the root of snapped Thoroughbred legs everywhere: $2 bets and the resultant pots of gold that men like LoPresti relentlessly chase. The tragedy here, is horseracing itself.

“Today was just so quiet. Looking over at the turf remembering that’s the spot where it happened and it’s all mangled up.” (Maxine Correa, exercise rider for trainer Nick Zito, Daily Racing Form, 8/27/13)

Ms. Correa’s somber tone comes from an accident that occurred yesterday at Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track. According to the DRF, Raymond Bulgado, a fellow Zito rider, suffered a broken neck when his mount, Ricochet Court, crumpled under the weight of two broken front legs. Mr. Bulgado remains at Albany Medical Center. The horse is dead. As of this writing, nary a word on the NYRA website. This is horseracing.

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Four-year-old Sarava’s Dancer and five-year-old Kris Royal each fractured a leg yesterday in Saratoga. In the same race. Both were euthanized on-track. Watch Sarava’s Dancer (#7), leading at the half-mile mark, “pulling up.” And then, within a matter of seconds, Kris Royal (# 1), making a bid for the lead (“like a shot”), “fell, may have clipped heels.” That’s track-speak for two geldings snapping bones and suffering excruciating pain. To all who placed bets on this lazy, sun-soaked afternoon, for shame.

Wisdom Seeker, yet another seven-year-old forgotten claimer at Finger Lakes Deathtrack, has been euthanized after suffering an undisclosed injury on August 12th. Running in a $4,500 claiming race – the highest level she attained in her 3 1/2-year “career” – for $9,000 in purse money, Wisdom Seeker, Equibase reports, “ducked out at the start bumping with Emotional Trainwreck, saved ground and tired.”

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Jill Golden, four, is also dead at Finger Lakes, euthanized Friday for what’s termed a “non-racing” issue. The filly last raced on June 18th – “no factor and was eased over the wire.” With these two, Finger Lakes can now boast 25 dead horses in the current meet. And just think, we have until December.

It is, sadly, a horseracing truth that the equine obituary roll is never stagnant. Witness Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, or more accurately, Finger Lakes Deathtrack. Having just posted on the unfortunate case of Spanish Luck, a pending retiree who broke down while still being trained, word comes of three more deaths (in two days – 8/16, 8/17) at Finger Lakes, bringing the 2013 Death Toll at this Thoroughbred graveyard to 23.

Inger Management, “pulled up-fx RF leg-euthanized on track”
My Darling Deb, “blind both eyes-euthanized”
Legal Lady, “horse reared and flipped striking head-apparent skull fracture”

Inger Management, who was also still racing while on the adoption block, shared the same trainer as Spanish Luck, Timothy Murphy. It appears that Mr. Murphy and seven-year-old claimers ready for “retirement” are not a good match.

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My Darling Deb (pictured above) suffered the following mishap on May 3rd while under the care of multiple stakes-winning (over $8 million career purses) trainer Jeremiah Englehart – who, by the way, has been fined five times in NY, including once for using the sedative acepromazine: “stumbled unseating rider-ran through rail- into car – lacerations to chest and legs–rider treated and released-horse doing well-given several months off.” And now she turns up blind and is euthanized. How did this happen? More to the point, will the NYS Gaming Commission investigate? With the dead horse being a five-year-old claimer with one 2013 start, any scrutiny is likely to be superficial at best. This is horseracing.