Sulwaan, a six-year-old Irish Thoroughbred who began his “career” in England, was killed Thursday after being injured in a steeplechase race at Belmont Park. Besides the ill-fated gelding, 3 others were official DNFs. Thus far in 2013, with more than a month of racing yet to come, Belmont has lost 23 horses.

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points of interest in the race replay below:

Dr. Skip “spilling” at the 3rd fence (1:12)
Cognashene “blasting right through the [4th] fence” (1:54)
Sulwaan “pulling up” after the 9th fence (3:28)
homestretch “guiding” of the six horses who did finish (around 4:20)

the race… (hit Race Replays, then Thursday, September 19, Race 1)

When I wrote about Belmont’s stellar weekend on Monday, the NYS Gaming Commission had yet to register the Saturday death of a four-year-old named Discreet Code. The gelding, whose last finish was at Saratoga, broke his leg during the 4th race, was “ambulanced off,” and subsequently euthanized. So, in actuality, Belmont Park killed five horses in four days, a pace, surely, NYRA is loath to maintain.

Chris Englehart is a famous Thoroughbred trainer. In fact, he’s one of the best in the business, a virtual winning machine: top-10 five years running, over $33 million career earnings. This being horseracing, however, with success, comes baggage: Among his numerous fines, Mr. Englehart counts five drug-related suspension judgments since 2005, the most recent a NY 60-day TCO2 overage served earlier this year. There’s more, of course. Since 2009, 20 of his charges have perished while training or racing on NY tracks. 20. The latest victim, a four-year-old named Attenborough, fell Saturday at Belmont, Englehart’s second death there in three days (Skiddles n’ Bob).

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But the week’s carnage at Belmont Park was not yet complete. Like Attenborough, the Robert Hess-trained Maui Mark (pictured below), broke and died while “breezing,” an innocuous sounding racing activity that sometimes ends with pentobarbital. For Mr. Hess, himself a wildly successful trainer, that’s three Belmont deaths this year (Spit Ball, Parasol). Belmont Park, one of NY’s racing “jewels,” can now boast 21 dead horses since the beginning of 2013.

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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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