I have confirmed that 3-year-old Run Albert Run is dead after breaking down last weekend at Penn. The gelding had been under his fourth different trainer/owner team in nine months: Michael Pino/Run Horsey Run for two races, Robert Mosco/Jack Armstrong for one race, Chris Landicini/Carl Hess for two races, and Kimberly Graci/Carl Hess for two races, including the fatal one. Bought and sold, bought and sold, bought and sold. Dead.
Also, 5-year-old Frannie G (trainer Wayne French, owner Dennis Lovell) is dead from a pre-race fall at Churchill Downs on September 21st. Apparently, she reared after jockey Didiel Osorio mounted, fell, hit her head, and died instantly. This is what the industry calls a freak accident, a “non-racing” fatality. But, horseracing, your turn as Pontius Pilate fools no one: This mare’s death cannot be cleansed from your hands.
In an Erie Times-News article on Pennsylvania racing deaths, Penn National spokesman Fred Lipkin says, “In a perfect world, we would have zero breakdowns. … And I’m sure in the National Football League and the (National Basketball Association), they would hope that nobody ruptures an Achilles tendon. It’s the price of the sport when you’re dealing with 1,000-pound or 250-pound athletes.”
By now it should be clear that horse people are either delusional, ignorant, dishonest (most likely), or a combination thereof. The rational among us know that an autonomous human athlete does not equate in any way to an indentured horse. (And Aaron Rodgers is in no danger of being “put down” should he rupture his Achilles tonight.) But the most vile part of the quote is the last: “It’s the price of the sport…” Mr. Lipkin, that “price” you speak so casually about were once intelligent, sensitive creatures, and their grossly premature deaths are not innocent, unfortunate byproducts of sporting competition.
As for the numbers, according to the article, in the recently completed Presque Isle meet, 13 horses lost their lives – 10 while racing, 2 while training (heart attacks), and 1 “found dead in the stall.” (Presque Isle, long touted as one of the nation’s “safer tracks,” surpassed its kill total from last year.) Through August 27th, 33 have died at Parx – 24 racing, 8 training, and 1 from a fractured spine after flipping in the paddock. (Parx lost 44 in 2013.) And at Penn, through August 8th, 41 dead – 20 racing, 12 training, 9 “other.” (89 – yes, 89 – died there in 2013.) So, this year, in Pennsylvania alone, 87 horses have been sacrificed for Mr. Lipkin’s “sport.” This is horseracing.
An unraced 2-year-old by the name of Here in a Hurry fractured his shoulder – “after a bad step” – during morning practice at Belmont today and was euthanized. He is the 30th equine athlete killed at that esteemed track this year. This is horseracing.
Pity the poor Standardbred: With practically zero mainstream coverage – you won’t see Bob Costas at Yonkers Raceway – and no chart clues to decipher, the story of his exploitation and abuse goes mostly untold. But owing to the only-one-in-the-nation NY database, we occasionally unearth a bit of harness hell.
Last Thursday at Vernon Downs, a 2-year-old Standardbred by the name of Monsterinthepaint died “after being removed from [the] trailer”; autopsy revealed “colonic ulceration with colitis.” Officially, this gets filed under “non-racing” fatalities. But in truth, all racehorse deaths – whether from colitis, colic, laminitis, snapped bones, failed hearts, or slashed carotids – are Racing Deaths. All of them.
After the Del Mar summer of failed hearts, snapped bones, and pentobarbital injections, California racing could ill afford more bad press. Alas… Over the weekend in Stockton, three were killed in the final two days of the San Joaquin County Fair:
Saturday, 3-year-old Showmewhatyougot broke down after finishing 2nd in the 6th. On Sunday, 3-year-old Get Your Praise On and 4-year-old Secret Memo snapped legs in back-to-back races.
Larry Swartzlander, chief operating officer of the California Authority of Racing Fairs (The Record): “If you want to look for excuses, it’s too much strain and something’s got to give. These horses have been racing all summer and some of them may have been put out there when they probably shouldn’t have.” (The Bruce Dillenbeck-trained Get Your Praise On was being raced for the third time in three weeks.)
The Record summed it up thus: “Racing officials, jockeys and racing fans were left shaking their heads and heartbroken once again, with widespread comments of ‘not again’ and ‘that’s unbelievable’ heard among the estimated crowd of 2,000.” Well, to all those “left shaking their heads and heartbroken,” we say, cease and desist.
Cease and desist.