“It must be accepted that in some sports sometimes lives will be lost.” (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Inc., The New Zealand Herald, 2012)

“A jumps race is a licence for animal cruelty.” (Eliot Pryor, campaign director for SAFE, Voxy, 9/27/13)


Two Thoroughbreds died yesterday as the New Zealand “2013 Jumping Programme” came to a close at Waikato. Seven-year-old Yangming and ten-year-old Roberty Bob fell in separate races, bringing the season’s death toll to ten. This figure, which outpaced last year, means that New Zealand can proudly boast a race-with-a-fatality rate of 10% (there were 99 events listed on the NZTR website). Imagine that. Here is the 2010-2013 victim roll. Broken shoulders, snapped legs, fractured spines, burst arteries.

The replays from yesterday (click on “video”)…

Race 1: Yangming, obviously tiring after having relinquished the lead, goes down at 2:26.

Race 6: Roberty Bob at 2:45, followed by two more at 5:02 and 5:46. When Mister Deejay crashes (5:02), the announcer says “it sold the farm,” apparently confusing his idioms. This race covered 3 miles, 22 hurdles (24 were scheduled, but the falls intervened), and took six minutes to run.

Yesterday’s Stewards Report (jud 29 Sep 2013) includes the following: “began awkwardly,” “fell heavily [Yangming],” “hit the second fence hard,” “landed awkwardly,” “misjudged the final fence,” “hit the fence…dipped on landing,” “stumbled badly,” “put in a poor jump…landing awkwardly and falling,” “underwent a post-race [exam] which showed signs of mild lameness,” “put in a poor jump…was humanely euthanzied [Roberty Bob],” “It’s A Monty lay on the track for a short period,” “Bold Mariner brought down by [It’s A Monty],” etc.. In all, I count 16 different horses as falling, hitting a fence, pulling up, or being “excessively whipped.” Madness.

Friday at Aqueduct, eight-year-old Slight Fever “was found dead in his stall after having been treated for colic.” For Joseph DeMola, a graded stakes winning-trainer, this represents no great loss – in four years under DeMola, Slight Fever earned less than $50,000, or roughly 3% of the trainer’s career total. As with any “non-racing” death, there are questions, which, of course, shall remain unanswered. For me, though, I can’t help but think that an eight-year-old claimer’s aftercare is monitored just a tad less than a two-year-old rising star’s. In other words, this poor horse needn’t have died this way, scared and not a soul around to assuage his suffering. This is horseracing.

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On Wednesday, Emma’s Secret, a four-year-old filly from Finger Lakes Racetrack, died in what is termed a “non-racing” accident. Apparently, the young horse (roughly the equivalent of a human teenager) “bolted out of [her] stall, out of [the] barn, ran into [a] gate” and suffered “severe head trauma.” She died alone. No family. No friends. Even her “connections” were unfamiliar, having just been claimed on September 17th.


And so the question remains, why? Perhaps the anxiety of having to adjust to yet another “handler” – her 4th in two years – caused a single moment of panic. Then again, this may be nothing more than one horse’s way of saying, “Enough.” Enough. Goodbye, Emma’s Secret. Your shackles of servitude are gone forever.

Say this about NY, at least it has the courage (relative, that is) to record and publicly post all racehorse injuries and deaths from its 11 tracks. Alas, nothing of the sort exists in another tradition-rich state, Kentucky. But every once in a while, usually when a jockey gets hurt, a racing death makes the news. This past Saturday, during the 4th race at Churchill Downs, jockey Joe Rocco Jr took a spill, prompting a precautionary trip to the hospital. Rocco appears to be fine. His mount, however, did not fare as well, suffering “a catastrophic fracture” before being euthanized on-track. Wash Park, dead at six.

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The Race Replay (Wash Park crumples at 1:12)

For the rest of the six-minute video, we get slow-motion replays of the finish, a “good-news” update on Rocco, and a lead-up to the winner’s circle and trophy presentation, complete with birthday wishes. Not another word on the dying Wash Park. This left me wondering: How can people – track announcer, Churchill officials, “connections” of the winner – who probably consider themselves decent, even ethical, continue with the merrymaking as decidedly unnecessary pain and destruction goes on behind them? It’s a question, I suppose, better left to the psychologists.

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)