The following picture was posted by “Eddie C,” horseracing guy:

Two days after this picture was snapped, Pleasure Luck was mortally injured in a race at Saratoga; she was euthanized a day later. So I wonder, Eddie, did you arrange an opportunity for your nephew to view the lifeless body? A chance to stroke the mane of the athlete-turned-carcass? Did you explain that this scene plays out almost six times on American tracks every single day? No, didn’t think so.

John Cherwa’s “Racing!” newsletter in the LA Times has come to an end (“business decision,” he’s calling it). In the penultimate edition, he offered his opinion on what needs fixing in racing. Included among things like “get rid of the Rainbow Six,” “free parking at all race tracks all the time,” and “the press box elevator at Del Mar [needs] to work on opening day,” is this:

“Horse racing needs to take a stand against Saudi money. The influence of Saudi money is huge in this sport, but racing doesn’t seem to care about the human rights issues that engulf the region. Lest you forget, they kill journalists and, according to a British court, kidnap and silence family members who speak out. Despite the $20-million price tag, I will never cover the Saudi Cup, even if assigned. Don’t you wish someone in racing would take a stand and say human rights’ principles are more important than a big payday.”

Yes, “take a stand” against the Saudis for human-rights violations, but utterly ignore the fact that the rest of your vile industry abuses other sentient beings as a matter of course – confinement, isolation, drugging, doping, whipping, etc. – and kills by the boatload: between on-track, stall, and the slaughterhouse, we’re talking some 15,000 American racehorses every single year. But by all means, go after the Saudis, Mr. Cherwa. What a (bad) joke.

I’ve often said that the likes of John Cherwa and Joe Drape (NY Times) are more dangerous (to horses, that is) than the Bob Bafferts of the world. Cherwa and Drape are accomplished journalists writing for major publications; they lend respectability to horseracing. What’s more, by being frequent critics of the industry that they in no way wish to see end, they convey to the masses that all that’s needed is a bit of tidying up – that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with breeding, exploiting, and killing horses for gambling. So, good riddance to “Racing!” and bravo to the Times for (though long overdue) bringing this blot to a close.

Horseracing, if not with its back against the wall, is certainly in retreat, and has been for some time now. (The reason for this is twofold: exposure and public engagement, both of which, I write proudly, HW has been a driving force behind.) As such, industry rhetoric has grown increasingly desperate; in the face of facts and truth, their “arguments” have been rendered hollow and specious. Follows are some of those arguments, and our responses. Consider it a cheat sheet, if you will, for the next time you find yourself confronted with apologist inanity.

On “reform,” “safety,” “striving toward zero deaths”:
Horseracing kills horses, inherently. From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs, fragile ankles), 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 run 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 multiple times, making long-term health of little concern to current “connections”), horseracing guarantees killing. Guarantees.

On “our horses are part of the family,” “like our children”:
Nothing says “love” like I own you and won’t hesitate to sell you. Nothing says “care” like I will keep you locked, alone, in a tiny room, pump you with drugs, and have you flogged. Nothing says “part of the family” like the slaughterhouse.

On “isn’t it better that these horses were given a chance to live, have a job?”:
Subjecting a sentient being to a life of abject suffering and often gruesome death is evil. Never having created that life in the first place is nothing, neutral, victimless.

On “what will happen to all the horses if racing is banned?”:
Racing will not suddenly come to a close overnight. It will contract, or to be more precise, continue to contract: Since 2000, U.S. Racing has suffered a net loss of 38 tracks. The annual “foal crop” – new Thoroughbreds entering the system – is roughly half what it was in 1990. All other relevant metrics – racedays, races, “field sizes,” etc. – are also down. As this contraction continues, so too will the breeding; when that last group of tracks closes, there will be ample space and funding to care for what’s left. But more to the point, where do spent racehorses go now? For most – thousands annually – the slaughterhouse. In other words, this query is grossly misdirected.

On the “pampered athlete”:
Racehorses are confined (alone, to tiny 12×12 stalls, for over 23 hours a day), commodified (tattoos, auctions, “claiming” races), controlled (cribbing collars, lip/nose chains, tongue ties, eye blinders, mouth bits), and cowed (whips). Bought and sold multiple times over the course of his so-called career, the typical American racehorse lives a stressful, tenuous existence that in and of itself causes pain. In fact, studies show that up to 90% of active racehorses suffer from chronic ulcers.

On jobs being lost as tracks close:
First, the pari-mutuel employees can easily be transitioned to jobs in the burgeoning casino and sports-betting industries. Second, racetrack properties are extremely valuable; they can and will be redeveloped – office, retail, industrial, restaurants, parks, desperately needed housing – creating new jobs (and opportunities for other workers, like those on the backstretch) and new tax revenues. For proof, see this list of shuttered tracks that have been, or are in the process of being, reimagined.

“Reckless practices…that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby.” – statement from Churchill Downs Inc. Wednesday

By now, most of you have heard that the split-sample from Medina Spirit confirmed the presence of betamethasone on the day of the Kentucky Derby; accordingly, trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from racing at Churchill for two years.

Look, I’m no apologist for Bob Baffert, but this is clearly just a dog-and-pony show. Horseracing has been under steady siege for a couple years now. With more bad press after its biggest race, it had to do something. And Baffert, the most successful and conspicuous trainer on the planet, makes for an easy target (see also: Jerry Hollendorfer during the Santa Anita crisis). But let’s not pretend here. This is a relatively inconsequential drug positive; Medina Spirit did not win the Derby because of betamethasone. Want to really impress me, Churchill? How about suspending the licenses of those involved in deaths at your track? Punishing the trainers and owners of horses who were actually killed on your track? Or, for that matter, how about suspending yourself, shutting Churchill down for “investigation”?

So, in that spirit, here are 27 of Churchill’s dead just from last year. (The “connections” of the horses killed training were as of most recent race. But you get the idea.)

Alittlevodka, killed racing May 31 – “comminuted fractures”
owner: Bob Lothenbach; trainer: Neil Pessin

Bold Esther, killed training Jun 13 – “sudden death”
owners: Lawrence Kahlden, Brett Wiener; trainer: Matt Shirer

Gold Credit, killed training Jul 3 – “sesamoid fractures”
owner: Michael House; trainer: Philip D’Amato

Censored, killed training Jul 22 – “humeral fracture”
(connections not listed)

Chainsthatbindyou, killed training Aug 21 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

yet-to-be-named 2-year-old, killed training Sep 8 – “MTIII fracture”
(connections not listed)

Kowalski, killed training Sep 10 – “comminuted sesamoid fractures”
owner: White Birch Farm; trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Glissando, killed training Sep 12 – “sudden death”
(connections not listed)

Urbana, killed racing Sep 17 – “[multiple] fractures, massive soft tissue damage”
owners: Lawana and Robert Low; trainer: Steve Margolis

Tour Spuzz, died in stall Sep 26 – “laminitis”
(connections not listed)

Lucky Asset, killed racing Sep 26 – “fractures, tearing of tendons, rupture of ligament”
owner: James Spry; trainer: Pavel Matejka

Tormenta, killed racing Sep 27 – “[multiple] fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Sandra Nava; trainer: J. Larry Jones

unidentified, died in stall Oct 8 – “neurological”
(connections not listed)

Pow Wow Indian, killed training Oct 18 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Uncle Robbie, killed training Oct 31 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Sir Winsalot, killed racing Oct 31 – “fracture, large amount of hemorrhage”
owners: Sherri McPeek, Tommie Lewis; trainer: Kenneth McPeek

Rebuff, killed racing Nov 5 – “multiple open, disarticulated fractures both front legs”
owner: Juddmonte; trainer: Brad Cox

Here Comes Josie, killed training Nov 7 – “comminuted P1 fracture”
owners: Wayne Sanders, Larry Hirsch; trainer: Brendan Walsh

Juggernaut, killed training Nov 7 – “[multiple] fractures”
owner: Big Chief Racing; trainer: J. Keith Desormeaux

Uni the Unicorn, killed training Nov 8 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Winning Impression, killed racing Nov 12 – “comminuted fractures, hemorrhage”
owner: West Point Thoroughbreds; trainer: Dallas Stewart

Binge Watch, killed training Nov 14 – “open, disarticulated fracture”
owner: WinStar Stablemates; trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Tenace, killed training Nov 24 – “P1 fracture”
(connections not listed)

Night Candy, killed racing Nov 27 – “comminuted fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Jerry Caroom; trainer: Thomas Vance

Alexander Hamilton, killed training Nov 29 – “fracture, ruptured ligaments”
owner: JSM Equine; trainer: Norm Casse

Eclipse the Moon, killed training Dec 12 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

Sharp and Strong, killed training Dec 16 – “open fracture”
(connections not listed)