Two-year-old Charmed Hour, running only her 2nd race, shattered her right front cannon bone during Sunday’s Grade 2 Adirondack (for fillies) in Saratoga. She was euthanized on the track. With the added intrigue of a winner disqualification, Charmed Hour’s fall was barely mentioned by media outlets: The Saratogian, 1 paragraph in 12; the Paulick Report, 1 sentence in 21; the Times Union, 2 sentences in 14; and The Daily Gazette, which, in addition to a similar disparity, reported that “the fatality was the first of the meet, in either racing or training.” Not true, and something the newspaper should have known. 2013 death count at sunny Saratoga: 2.
Animal Aid (UK) reports that over 1,000 racehorses have died on British tracks since 2007. This total, however, is significantly understated (by up to 30%) as horses receiving “elective euthanasia” at the racetrack are not included in the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) official figures. It appears that the jump-race horse is the most vulnerable, with, according to Animal Aid, a 1 in 42 chance of dying over the course of a year. Animal Aid’s Dene Stansall says (The Guardian, 8/3/13), “…punters should be aware of a basic truth. And this is that betting on horses means horses will suffer and die.” A BHA spokesman counters, “Racing is a sport that carries risk, and British racing is honest and open about the risks involved.” So once again, here we are in the year 2013 still talking about “sport” and death. Public, awake.
Melodeeman was a seasoned veteran who had amassed over $250,000 in earnings when he entered the gate at frigid Penn National on January 21, 2010. Running for $18,000 (thanks to racino money) in a $4,000 claiming race, the Thoroughbred, who was, according to an exercise rider, “clearly lame” prior to the race (NY Times, 4/30/12), broke his cannon bone on the homestretch. He was euthanized at the track. The necropsy revealed what his owner (his sixth) and trainer probably already knew: This horse was damaged goods. In addition to degenerative joint disease in both front legs, there was this (graphic). Oh, and he also had the banned sedative fluphenazine in his system. Now we know why.
On a cold winter night in Central Pennsylvania, with only hardcore gamblers there to watch, Melodeeman, almost ten full years into his servitude, died. This is horseracing. (For further reading on the racino effect, see this NY Times article.)
This much should be clear: Horseracing people are involved in horseracing for money, fame, and glory. They race horses for themselves, not out of some sentimental attachment to equines. The opening sentence in Ray Paulick’s recap of the recently departed Monzante’s career says it all: “Just about everyone made money off Monzante….” Read his transaction history and a tragic truth emerges: Monzante was but an instrument in achieving human ends, a common slave.
In an interview with the Daily Racing Form, Monzante’s last owner, Jackie Thacker, said this when discussing the decision to euthanize, “Lord knows we loved that horse. He’d been good to me. It was like he was part of the family.” It is precisely comments like these that arouse such contempt for “The Sport of Kings.” Declarations of love, “part of the family”? I’m fairly certain that shooting up one’s child to mask pain while whip-forcing him to perform (Monzante was injected with the painkiller bute 36 hours before his last race) or selling him off when he becomes unproductive would provoke public indignation, not to mention criminal prosecution. Thacker went on to say, “I don’t know what I could have done. If I could have, I would have done it.”
You, Mr. Thacker, are a fraud; you didn’t care a whit about Monzante beyond his ability to earn for you. Had you the moral spine, you could have retired Monzante to the spacious grounds I’m sure you own. Better yet, you and your entire corrupt industry can, once and for all, stop exploiting a weaker species. Let them be.
Monzante, a former Grade 1 winner and half million dollar lifetime earner, is dead after breaking down at Louisiana’s Evangeline Downs on July 20th. He was nine. A onetime celebrated champion, the gelding, “talent” eroding, had descended to the lowest rung of competition, the decidedly unglamorous claiming race ($4,000, in this case). Monzante was traded three times in the last two years, with each new owner, like a used car shopper, hoping to squeeze out just a few more miles. A simple commodity. In truth, Monzante was worked to death, an ignominious fate surely awaiting many of this summer’s Saratoga starters.
photo credit: Daily Racing Form