On Thursday morning, Belmont Park claimed its first two victims of the Fall Meet. Three-year-old Mentor Cane, who finished 2nd in a Grade 1 at Saratoga last month, “suffered a right-hind lateral condylar fracture and a comminuted right-hind P1 fracture” while training and was euthanized on the track. The other, five-year-old Skiddles n’ Bob, was also training when misfortune (snapped sesamoids) struck. Curiously (not really), while the passing of budding star Mentor Cane (pictured below) is prominently noted on NYRA’s website, career claimer Skiddles, who had a combined 10 different trainers and owners in two short years, receives nary a mention.

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Like clockwork, the usual odious comments from “family” (the horses’ people, at least the most recent ones) and “friends” (gamblers) have arrived: Mentor Cane’s trainer, John Shirreffs, says (Daily Racing Form, 9/12/13), “It’s heart-breaking.” And jockey Edgar Prado: “It’s a shame because he could’ve had a great future.” Some tweets on Skiddles: “Condolences to all the connections. That’s tough.”; “Im so sorry. Its so hard when these things happen.. My Condolences…”

When reading the fans’ lament, I am almost invariably left dumbfounded, wondering how otherwise intelligent, educated people can be so blind. Well, once again, here is the simple and irrefutable truth: Each and every horseplayer is complicit in each and every death. Tragedies like Mentor Cane and Skiddles n’ Bob end only with shuttered betting windows.

“A full gate of nine young, conditioned trotters are lining up….” And so began the track announcer’s call of Saturday’s 1st race at NY’s Tioga Downs. In a couple short minutes, one of those finely-tuned horses would “collapse and die” after finishing 3rd, the victim, as the Gaming Commission puts it, of a “probable sudden cardiac event.” A young “athlete” suffering a fatal heart attack, one assumes, is cause for a serious inquiry. But I am quite certain nothing of the sort is coming, for “Volare TZB” was just another anonymous, easily-replaced Standardbred toiling away on some nondescript American track.

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In addition to Sarava’s Dancer, Kris Royal, and Saginaw, a two-year-old filly named Ocean Breeze also broke down and died last week in Saratoga. But because the child-horse was only training, attention was noticeably lacking. Still, I believe the Times Union, as a racing apologist, was being less than truthful when it called Saginaw’s “the fifth race day death of the Saratoga meet.” Technically correct, but were not Black Rhino, Ricochet Court, and Ocean Breeze also Thoroughbred “athletes” who perished at the Saratoga Race Course? The 2013 Death Count stands at 8.

When a racehorse breaks down, especially one as popular as former-claimer-turned-stakes-winner Saginaw, the garbage starts to flow. In the Times Union account of Friday’s death in the 3rd race at Saratoga, jockey Junior Alvarado said, with “tears in his eyes,” “It’s very sad, there are just no words to explain it. It’s just very sad for everybody. When there were horses going by him, he tried to chase them. In his mind, it was ‘run, run, run.’ I wish I could have helped him, but there was nothing I could do. I knew it was bad.”

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Saginaw, the TU reports, “was visible in the ambulance, his eyes looking out at the applause that followed him down the track.” Mike Repole, a competing owner, “lost interest in the race after he saw the breakdown.” He said: “It’s a tough sport. These athletes are going 45 miles an hour on legs that are the size of my wrist. An NBA player tears his ACL, he comes back a year from now. These horses break a leg, he never comes back. He doesn’t always survive. It’s sad.”

Twice in the past week, the Times Union (“Grieving for Kris Royal”), being a publication clearly sympathetic to racing, has attempted to manipulate readers by underscoring the horsemen’s sorrow. See, they cry when their horses break; their hearts ache when the pink courses; they struggle with their professions. The horse people care. Meanwhile, the utter insanity in “athletes” whip-forced to go, as owner Repole helpfully reminds, “45 miles an hour on legs that are the size of my wrist” gets glossed over, whitewashed. “His eyes looking out at the applause”? Times Union, have you no shame?

To Charlie LoPresti, Junior Alvarado, Mike Repole and everyone else in and around horseracing: Your “sport” is not a sport. These “accidents” are not accidents. And your “love” is not love. Racehorses are slaves and you are their masters. If you truly wish for no more broken sesamoids, cease and desist. Cease and desist.

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.