On January 24, Nicole and I (with other HW volunteers) lobbied for the subsidy bill at the NYS Capitol. We visited all 213 legislative offices, dropping off educational materials (below) and engaging in many constructive conversations. Wednesday, Governor Hochul’s budget proposal was unveiled, and it included a massive ($455 million) bond package that the New York Racing Association (NYRA) would use to renovate Belmont Park. The money, as previously reported, would be repaid with the subsidies NYRA is already receiving. Talk about a sweetheart deal. So, we will head back down in the next couple weeks. Because this lobby day will be squarely focused on the bond proposal, follows is an ugly, inconvenient truth on Belmont and Aqueduct (the new Belmont would absorb all of Aqueduct’s racedays).

From 2009 through 2022, 854 horses died at Belmont/Aqueduct – an average of 61 per year. With history as our guide – and why shouldn’t it be – we can reasonably expect another 1,800 or so horses to perish at the new Belmont over the life of the bonds (30 years). Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds more beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive beings sacrificed for $2 bets – and all of it coming on the public’s dime.

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Yet another of Burton Sipp’s abused slaves, Captain D, was put to the whip Monday at Mountaineer: dead-last, 33+ lengths back. Sipp, of course, laughed all the way to the bank, as Mountaineer, being a taxpayer-subsidized operation, paid him anyway.

In light of the above, and everything else written on this hellhole of a track, I thought it might be instructive to share this email I received from a reader who made calls to West Virginia, specifically to Joe Moore, the Racing Commission’s executive director.

Hello Patrick. I phoned Joe Moore regarding Mutashabeh and Salt On the Rim. His response in regard to Sipp’s suspension was that his permit in WV is in order and any suspension elsewhere has no bearing at Mountaineer.

I addressed the egregious brutality in continuing to race Mutashabeh, who obviously can no longer race. He answered that if a horse passes the veterinary pre-race exam, he can legally enter the race. I told him that Mutashabeh cannot be in good health and could not pass other than a cursory exam, if that.

I informed Moore that I have rescued numerous OTTBs for many years. I stated that he is literally running for his life, akin to being enslaved, and that a pre-race exam cannot reveal a horse’s true health. I also addressed Salt’s advanced age. He responded that her age was irrelevant as she had placed second in a previous race. Regardless, he said he could do nothing.

And there it is.

Long in decline, NY’s harness-racing industry is currently kept afloat by state subsidies. In fact, if not for this welfare, all seven harness tracks would have closed years ago. (The seven harness tracks and Finger Lakes receive roughly $100 million in annual support payments.) And they look like the moribund businesses they are.

A couple weeks back, HW activists visited Vernon Downs in western NY. The place, as attested by the photos below, is dreary and decrepit. And desolate: Decades ago, it was not uncommon for Vernon to draw thousands on a Friday night. On this Friday, most of the grandstand was curtained-off and the “picnic” area sparsely populated – in all, less than a hundred souls, most of them old, inveterate “horseplayers” (bettors).

And finally, here is a brief clip of the stretch run of one of the races that night. Note the whipping of (and yelling at) the lead horse: