Chris Englehart is a famous Thoroughbred trainer. In fact, he’s one of the best in the business, a virtual winning machine: top-10 five years running, over $33 million career earnings. This being horseracing, however, with success, comes baggage: Among his numerous fines, Mr. Englehart counts five drug-related suspension judgments since 2005, the most recent a NY 60-day TCO2 overage served earlier this year. There’s more, of course. Since 2009, 20 of his charges have perished while training or racing on NY tracks. 20. The latest victim, a four-year-old named Attenborough, fell Saturday at Belmont, Englehart’s second death there in three days (Skiddles n’ Bob).
But the week’s carnage at Belmont Park was not yet complete. Like Attenborough, the Robert Hess-trained Maui Mark (pictured below), broke and died while “breezing,” an innocuous sounding racing activity that sometimes ends with pentobarbital. For Mr. Hess, himself a wildly successful trainer, that’s three Belmont deaths this year (Spit Ball, Parasol). Belmont Park, one of NY’s racing “jewels,” can now boast 21 dead horses since the beginning of 2013.
Scott Jagow of the Paulick Report filed this “video postcard from Saratoga”…
From racing patrons in the video:
“And it’s just something so special, that you can take your kids out in the ‘backyard’ with a cooler and have a picnic…and it’s all good.”
“It’s maybe the only place on Earth I know where people actually walk around with smiles on their faces all the time, win or lose.”
“This cocktail of great racing, an enchanting town, the history, it all adds up to be just a great experience every day.”
The mawkish piano music at the video’s end reminds viewers that the bittersweet farewell has arrived once more. Here, though, is my return postcard to all those who long ago succumbed to the rotten bill of goods that is horseracing. The videos below may be called many things, but “surreal” and “calming” are not among them. This is the fate awaiting many, if not most, of Saratoga’s darlings, who upon arrival at places like Bouvry Exports must wonder, in their own equine way, wherever the adoring eyes of summer have gone.
Roughly 30,000 Thoroughbreds die like this each year, a real-life consequence of an enchanting day at the old racetrack…
Wisdom Seeker, yet another seven-year-old forgotten claimer at Finger Lakes Deathtrack, has been euthanized after suffering an undisclosed injury on August 12th. Running in a $4,500 claiming race – the highest level she attained in her 3 1/2-year “career” – for $9,000 in purse money, Wisdom Seeker, Equibase reports, “ducked out at the start bumping with Emotional Trainwreck, saved ground and tired.”
Jill Golden, four, is also dead at Finger Lakes, euthanized Friday for what’s termed a “non-racing” issue. The filly last raced on June 18th – “no factor and was eased over the wire.” With these two, Finger Lakes can now boast 25 dead horses in the current meet. And just think, we have until December.
It is, sadly, a horseracing truth that the equine obituary roll is never stagnant. Witness Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, or more accurately, Finger Lakes Deathtrack. Having just posted on the unfortunate case of Spanish Luck, a pending retiree who broke down while still being trained, word comes of three more deaths (in two days – 8/16, 8/17) at Finger Lakes, bringing the 2013 Death Toll at this Thoroughbred graveyard to 23.
Inger Management, “pulled up-fx RF leg-euthanized on track”
My Darling Deb, “blind both eyes-euthanized”
Legal Lady, “horse reared and flipped striking head-apparent skull fracture”
Inger Management, who was also still racing while on the adoption block, shared the same trainer as Spanish Luck, Timothy Murphy. It appears that Mr. Murphy and seven-year-old claimers ready for “retirement” are not a good match.
My Darling Deb (pictured above) suffered the following mishap on May 3rd while under the care of multiple stakes-winning (over $8 million career purses) trainer Jeremiah Englehart – who, by the way, has been fined five times in NY, including once for using the sedative acepromazine: “stumbled unseating rider-ran through rail- into car – lacerations to chest and legs–rider treated and released-horse doing well-given several months off.” And now she turns up blind and is euthanized. How did this happen? More to the point, will the NYS Gaming Commission investigate? With the dead horse being a five-year-old claimer with one 2013 start, any scrutiny is likely to be superficial at best. This is horseracing.
With Saratoga garnering all the attention this time of year, I thought it appropriate to update readers on the goings-on elsewhere. This is the current list of Thoroughbred deaths at Finger Lakes Racetrack near Rochester (“Come discover the electricity and excitement of live thoroughbred racing in Western New York!”):
3/25/13…Norlou (“fistulous whithers-euthanized”)
4/2/13…Johar Beauty (“large colon torsion with displacement-euthanized”)
4/25/13…Pax (“suffered dislocation fx LF fetlock-euthanized”)
5/3/13…This Is Somuch Fun (“unresponsive LF lameness-possible infection with severe pain and discomfort-euthanized”)
5/14/13…Dry Humor (“pulled up – vanned off – fx RF Sesamoid – euthanized”)
5/25/13…Rifle (“suspected fx R carpal bone-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Kodiak Kid (“severe colic-unresponsive to medical treatment-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Moyer’s Pond (“unseated rider-horse fell exiting track-fx L shoulder-euthanized”)
6/20/13…City Glee (“suffered an apparent cardio vascular event after being washed off”)
6/20/13…Love Our Grandkids (“fell-vanned off-RF swelling-developed severe cellulitis RF lower leg-signs of laminitis LF leg-euthanized 6 days later”)
6/26/13…Bully Around (“pulled up while breezing – dropped & died on track”)
6/27/13…Midnight Monarch (“stumbled unseating rider- fx RF Ankle-euthanized”)
6/29/13…Maple Leaf Racer (“vet called – found dead in stall”)
7/13/13…Asweetkitty (“RF bilateral sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/16/13…Golden Jewel (“rupture LF suspensory & sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/22/13…Werblin Phone (euthanized)
8/1/13…Alpha Galpha Gold (“infection RF leg unresponsive to treatment – euthanized”)
That’s 17 dead horses at Finger Lakes and the meet still has several months to go. When Aqueduct’s death rate doubled in ’11-’12, NYRA was forced (by the Governor’s office) to investigate. But who is to be tasked with exposing the carnage at the state’s eight non-NYRA tracks? The likely answer, sadly, is no one, for deaths like these are typically considered an unfortunate cost of doing business, and tracks like Finger Lakes usually fly under the radar. But This Is Somuch Fun and Love Our Grandkids (aren’t the names so witty?) were no different, except for running speed perhaps, than Saratoga’s Black Rhino and Charmed Hour. They lived, suffered, and died so men could gamble and all they received in return is a single line in a state database.