While NYRA and Saratoga Race Course are busy celebrating “another successful season,” here was the cost of that success, courtesy of our own Linda Rydant. (The Borough Boy replay – 1:45 mark – alone should be enough for all Americans of good conscience and compassion to forever forswear this vile business.)

Forced (by the media – thank you) to answer for the nine dead horses so far at Saratoga – on pace to easily outstrip its historical average of 14 per summer – NYRA propaganda czar Patrick McKenna, according to the Times Union, “said the Saratoga meet has been safe [and] points out that of the nine horse deaths, only one [italics added] was during racing.” In other words, the other eight dead horses – five training, three back in their stalls – are not germane to the topic of “equine safety,” even though McKenna goes on to cite “the daily inspection and testing of racing and training [bold added] surfaces and inspections of equine athletes [bold added]” as the primary reasons for the “demonstrably safer” NYRA tracks.

Last year, I compared 2013 – the year of NYRA’s supposed safety overhauls – with 2017; the results speak for themselves. And while the numbers dropped a bit in 2018 – only 59 deaths at the three NYRA tracks – here we are in 2019 sitting at 35 – with almost five full months to go. And no, Mr. McKenna, it matters not a whit where or how an active racehorse dies. Every death in the industry is by the industry.

The Saratoga ’19 victims:

Golden Julia, May 30, stall, “found distressed in stall; referred to Rood & Riddle, whereafter horse died from acute blood loss”; Golden Julia was two years old and coming off a training session (at Saratoga) just five days prior

Investment Analyst, Jun 7, training, “sustained leg injury necessitating euthanasia”; Investment Analyst was two years old; he was being prepped for his first race

Gattino Marrone, Jul 3, training, “fractured sesamoids, euthanized”; Gattino Marrone was three years old and had been put to the whip 6 times

Fight Night, Jul 12, racing, “fell heavily after the wire, euthanized on track”; Fight Night was three years old, and this was her 5th time under the whip

Total Fidelity, Jul 14, training, “suffered fracture to LF sesamoids, euthanized”; Total Fidelity was two years old; she was being prepped for her first race

Overlord, Jul 15, stall, “developed post-op complications (colonic rupture), euthanized”; Overlord was three years old and coming off a training session (at Saratoga) just one week prior

Verravanni, Jul 25, stall, “diagnosed with pleuropneumonia 7/11, euthanized on 7/25 due to lack of positive response to treatment”; Verravanni was two years old and coming off a training session (down in Kentucky) just eight days before diagnosis

Misspent Youth, Jul 27, training, “cardiovascular collapse breezing on Oklahoma turf course”; Misspent Youth was five years old and had been put to the whip 13 times

Umetuka, Jul 31, training, “injured galloping on main track, vanned off for x-rays, euthanized”; Umetuka was four years old and had been put to the whip 9 times

Perhaps the most common counter to our abolitionist position is the economic argument: If horseracing were to disappear so, too, would many jobs (never mind that most are low-wage); ancillary industries – feed suppliers, vets, farriers, breeders, of course – would also take a hit. Similarly, there are a handful of towns that have come to be identified by, or have intentionally set out to identify themselves with, the local racetrack. Saratoga Springs is perhaps the most prominent example.

While protesting at Saratoga Race Course, we are frequently asked how our goal – to close the track – would impact the environs. First, I say that money should not factor into questions of morality. If something is wrong, jobs are not relevant. Beyond that, however, I tout the town, pointing to all the wonderful things it has to offer that does not include exploiting, abusing, and killing horses. A recent NYRA ad in the New York Post makes my case – racing and track particulars redacted, of course.

“The graceful, cosmopolitan city of Saratoga Springs, nestled in upstate New York just north of Albany and full of Victorian charm, is a destination filled with fabulous dining, bountiful boutiques, relaxing day spas, lavish golf courses, thriving nightlife, beautiful state parks [and] a variety of shops and restaurants that fuel the thriving downtown business community.

No matter your summertime craving, the main stretch of Saratoga Springs offers plenty of possibilities. Once you’ve taken your last bite [visit] Caroline Street, known for its row of bars and pubs, to keep the night going. There you’ll experience New Orleans vibes, with the party often spilling out onto the sidewalk. Or enjoy an evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which features an outdoor amphitheater with expansive lawn seating for rock, classical, and jazz concerts in addition to world-class ballet.

The wide array of offerings provides something for everyone and the charming city of Saratoga Springs will make you feel as though you’ve traveled much farther than upstate New York.”

Exactly – and it can all be had sans animal cruelty.

Through a request to the California Horse Racing Board, I have been able to confirm the names of the six heretofore unidentified dead horses at Santa Anita this meet:

Henry, Jan 14
Ponchito, Jan 22
Mongolian Hunter, Jan 28
Cooney, Mar 4
Rolling Shadow, Apr 4
Current Times, May 27

For a historical parallel on these “non-racing” deaths: Roughly 620,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. That’s a fairly well-known number. But what most don’t know is that roughly two-thirds of those died of disease. And they don’t because no moral distinction is – or should be – drawn between those felled by dysentery and those by gunshot. Simply, the War was responsible for all. Similarly, every death in horseracing is by horseracing. Cooney, Battle of Midway – not a scintilla of difference.

Yesterday, the LA Times Editorial Board weighed-in (again) on Santa Anita, calling (again) for the track to shut it down. Fine, but its reasoning is terribly flawed, its outrage (“we’re appalled”) unforgivably overdue.

Santa Anita should close, says the Board, until “an investigation into the mysterious spate of deaths that has bedeviled the track” is complete. “It’s reckless,” they say, “to keep racing before the park has all the information it needs.” Okay, here we go again. Going back to 2007, Santa Anita has averaged 50 dead horses annually. 50. 48 died there just last year. We’re currently at 35 (yes, it’s 35, not 29). No “spate,” no “spike” – in fact, right on schedule. To that, where was this rebuke back in 2018? 2015? 2007? Ever? And what, pray tell, about Los Alamitos’ 257 dead horses the past five years, or Golden Gate’s 180? Or California’s over 5,000 since 1998? If Santa Anita “should not risk any more horses’ lives” by continuing to race, shouldn’t those other tracks (because dead horses are a guarantee) close too?

As to the “mysterious” nature, the Board would do well to read some of the highlights from the already-in 2018 necropsies. No mystery here.

Still, the Board got one thing right. At the end, it says, “Over time, Americans have to decide how much death they are willing to tolerate in this ancient sport.” Indeed, how many, America? How many?