Want to know how the racing industry massages its numbers to make things appear less bad than they actually are? Here’s one trick: Rock N Warrior sustained a fracture while training at Belmont November 1. She was then, the Gaming Commission says, “sent to Ruffian for repair; however, poor prognosis caused euthanasia.” This was today, almost two months after the initial break. Leaving aside for the moment that her suffering was extended almost two full months, her death, according to the official record (Commission), has been classified “other” – meaning not track-related, meaning it will not be reflected in the New York Racing Association’s “catastrophic breakdown rate.” In other words, they’re cheating. (Not that matters, for all deaths – whether on track or in stall – are industry deaths; there’s no distinction to be made.)
Not to be lost, too, is that the 2-year-old Rock N becomes the 53rd kill at Belmont Park this year. 53rd. Please, please disregard the “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.” Reform is a ruse; safety is a lie. In truth, horseracing kills horses, inherently. From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs); to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until six; the typical racehorse begins training at 18 months); to the incessant grinding of those bodies (if they’re not racing, they’re not earning); to forcing them to “race” at an unnatural rate (breakneck), in an unnatural way (always counter-clockwise), through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans); to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold several times over the course of his “career,” making his long-term well-being of no concern to his current people) – horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees.
Belmont Park is one of America’s elite racetracks, if not Santa Anita’s equal, pretty close. Yet somehow, while Santa Anita’s bloody spring of 2019 garnered international attention (even though they were killing at the same rate they always have), this year’s far worse carnage at Belmont has, with few exceptions, flown under the radar. Last Wednesday, the Gaming Commission is only now reporting, Vermont Billy “sustained LF leg injury while training” at Belmont – “euthanized due to poor prognosis.” He was three years old. With this, Belmont now counts 52 dead horses on the year – over 20% more than SA in 2019. Quite a standard to emulate, New York.
The Commission has also just released a death at Tioga Downs – from September. Gold Star Babs, they say, was “unresponsiove [sic] to treatment…subsequently euthanized due to colitis.”
Ebeko, a 2-year-old colt under the whip for the 8th time, was killed today in the 3rd race at Santa Anita. He is the 20th (that we know about) dead horse at that track this year and 96th for California as a whole.
In the 7th at Gulfstream yesterday, Dudes Got Game, says Equibase, “appeared to take a bad step and fell…then was vanned off.” He is in fact dead, as confirmed by the Daily Racing Form’s Mike Welsch: “Sad to report track officials have just confirmed that Dudes Got Game suffered a heart attack during the running of today’s 7th race and has died.” So, it was not a “bad step” after all; rather, a “heart attack.” But here’s the thing, Dudes Got Game was but two years old – on the maturation chart, the rough equivalent of a first-grader. Sick. Sicker yet was the addendum to Welsch’s tweet: “Condolences to his connections, owners Kuehne Racing and trainer Ralph Nicks.”
And the replies that followed:
“That’s awful…the owners are great people that can’t seem to catch a break lately.”
“Tragic! RIP Dudes Got Game.”
“Run free in Equine Heaven, friend…you will be missed….”
“So sorry. Condolences.”
“RIP and run free.”
“So sorry, condolences to the connections.”
“Rest easy, Dudes Got Game. Condolences to the connections.”
“So sorry for all who loved and cared for him. R.I.P. Dudes Got Game.”
This is how the chartwriter described Tormenta’s run in the 1st at Churchill September 27: “tracked the pace early on, was off the rail into the lane, was pulled up in distress down the lane and vanned off after the race.” We now know (Racing Commission) she was “vanned” to her death; the cause of her “distress”: “displaced condylar fracture and sesamoid fractures [with] severe soft tissue damage.” The 3-year-old, says her trainer, “was quite a nervous filly.” Which brings me to a final note from the necropsy. This “nervous filly” – a babe, really – also suffered from “extensive ulceration of the stomach.” (Actually, studies show up to 95% of all racehorses suffer from ulcers.) A brief, mean existence; a painful, terrifying end. This is horseracing.