By now, many of you have heard about the heartrending saga of 4-year-old Creative Plan, who was euthanized this past Friday at a California rehab. Creative was last raced on January 7 at Turf, finishing last, 22+ lengths back. The owner of the rehab posted this the day after Creative was euthanized:

“Upon our veterinarian’s evaluation yesterday which included X-rays, it was determined Creative Plan never should have been allowed to run at Turf Paradise on 1/7/2022 and would never be able to live a life without pain, even as a pasture pet. I asked [the vet] so many different ways [if the horse could be rehabilitated], he started looking at me like I had lost my mind.

“Creative Plan’s ankle had no support of ligaments or structure and was merely skin holding everything together, so much that it had started ‘weeping’ as the skin was beginning to split. One wrong step and it would have been catastrophic. There was only one…thing to do for this sweet boy, and that was to put him out of his misery.”

There is, of course, more to the story, including Creative landing at an auction where, apparently, a kill-buyer bid on him. But for this post, I’d like to focus on Turf’s reaction to the swirl of negative publicity, more specifically track GM Vince Francia’s take:

“If anything, Creative Plan has been the great wake-up call for all of us. This is an opportunity for us to get it right.”

Okay. Here are Turf’s kill totals for the past five calendar years (still waiting on 2021 final numbers), plus the beginning of this year:

2017: 40 dead horses
2018: 45 dead horses
2019: 43 dead horses
2020: 17 dead horses (significantly impacted by covid)
2021: 39 dead horses (with more to come)
2022: 12 dead horses – in barely over a month

So, Mr. Francia, it took this one death – as opposed to the hundreds (Francia has been GM since 2010) that came before – for you to achieve your “great wake-up call”? Only now comes the “opportunity to get it right”? Are these people really that daft? More important, do they really think that we are?

Other recent posts on Turf:
“We’re still killing horses at a terrible rate out there, and I’m sick of it.”

“Oh what the hell happened? That horse is dead. That horse is dead dead. Sweet Jesus.”

“I mean if I had a horse go out and fall down and break a leg, I’d probably have to go drive to my house, get a gun and shoot that horse because there’s not a vet on the grounds.”

Addressing Turf Paradise’s recent “safety” record at an Arizona Racing Commission meeting yesterday, Commissioner Rory Goree spoke more bluntly and more scathingly than any racing official in recent memory. Some of his comments:

“We’re still killing horses at a terrible rate out there, and I’m sick of it. [H]ere we are, still with the same problems we had in 2017. And I’m disgusted about it.”

On the multiple ambulance failures: “One of them, a horse was picked up improperly. Another time…the ambulance became inoperable and was unable to assist a horse on the track. The third time, an incident in the paddock in what was described to me as, quote, ‘a shit-show with the ambulance unable to get into the paddock until the 10th try and an incompetent track vet.'”

And then wrapping it quite succinctly: “We keep killing horses like this, we’re going to be out of business.”

So what exactly is that record? Well, here is the report I filed for Jan-Apr, 2021 (26 kills to be precise). Then there was the trainer who said of Turf’s lack of vets: “I mean if I had a horse go out and fall down and break a leg, I’d probably have to go drive to my house, get a gun and shoot that horse because there’s not a vet on the grounds. [The vet] comes in at like 7 in the morning, and he can’t handle 700 horses by himself.” And, of course, the track announcer’s comments as Naughty Swagger collapsed and died in December: “Oh what the hell happened? That horse is dead. … That horse is dead dead. Sweet Jesus. Hey, do not show any replay, a horse is dead.”

To all that, I add the following 21 kills since the start of the current meet in October:

Florida Two Step, Oct 28, training – “fetlock fracture”
My Proposition, Oct 29, training – “shoulder fracture”
Cats Blame, Nov 9, racing – “fetlock fracture”
Ambers Storm, Nov 10, stall – “colic”
Half Cocked, Nov 30, racing – “fetlock fracture”
Wasjuannowpaul, Dec 6, stall – “accident”
Naughty Swagger, Dec 14, racing – “collapse”
Originate, Dec 17, training – “[multiple] fractures”
Midnight in Maui, Dec 20, stall – “ataxia”
Alleyesfollowbelle, Dec 27, training – “fetlock fracture”
Tazeeti, Dec 27, stall – “flipped – head injury”
Midnight Luck, Dec 29, racing – “ligament rupture”
C Dub, Jan 10, stall – “pleuritis”
Pay Tavasco Rent, Jan 13, stall – “colic”
Raagheb, Jan 14, racing – “fracture, rupture”
Tamarando’s Mine, Jan 17, racing – “carpus fracture”
Adorable Brittany, Jan 17, racing – “fracture, luxation”
Wed O’s Champ, Jan 19, racing – “fracture, rupture”
Aries, Jan 21, stall – “colic”
Lily Malacara, Jan 21, stall – “colic”
Circus Ride, Jan 27, racing – “[injured in] gate”

This is Turf Paradise. This is horseracing.

Back in November, I reported on the goings-on in Oregon, where Grants Pass owner and coffee mogul Travis Boersma is hoping to install slot machines (he calls them “Historical Racing Machines”) to prop up the state’s only remaining commercial racetrack. (I had written on this before – here, here.) As I wrote, Boersma’s plan is being fought by the state’s Indigenous tribes, who rightly claim they alone are legally permitted to operate casino gaming, which is exactly what those “HRMs” would be.

Now, owing to a delay by the Racing Commission so they can consult (per the advice of the governor) with the tribes and get Justice Dept. approval, Boersma is acting the part of spoiled brat. This from Oregon Live: “In an interview Monday, Boersma issued an ultimatum to state leaders: Approve his plan or he shuts everything down. The races won’t begin in April as scheduled, and the operation’s workers could be headed for the unemployment line. ‘If we don’t get approval, we’re going to lose 156 jobs…and horse racing in Oregon will be dead,’ Boersma said.”

Give me my millions (slots are lucrative) or I’m taking my ball and going home, and when I do workers will be “headed for the unemployment line.” The man is shameless. Anyhow, here’s a reminder of what the industry Boersma wishes so fervently to continue has wreaked in Oregon over the past few years.

(This list is quite obviously not a complete reckoning.)

Hawks Main Interest, killed racing at Grants Pass: “open, comminuted fracture”
Jemsek, killed training at Grants Pass: “severe fracture; severe hemorrhage”
Papa Said Ya, killed racing at Grants Pass: “multiple traumatic fractures”
I’lbeamonkeysuncle, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “vessel ruptures in lungs”
Four Times Lucky, killed racing at Harney Fair: “internal bleed”
Sexy Momma, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “ankle fracture”
Captain Shaddock, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “ankle fracture”
Storm the Channel, killed training at Portland Meadows: “fractured cannon bone”
Memphis Mobster, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “pastern fracture”
Bellicose Boy, killed training at Portland Meadows: “cannon fracture”
Ozark Daredevil, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “injury, [euthanized] a week later”
Hot Tub, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “ankle fracture”
Coming in Hot, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “sudden death”
To the Brink, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “shoulder injury”
Polished Rock, killed training at Portland Meadows: “fractured ankle”
Gold On Tap, dead at Portland Meadows: “died in stall”
Cinematic Cat, dead at Portland Meadows: “colic”
Rome New York, dead at Portland Meadows: “tibial fracture”
Semiprecious, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “limb fracture”
Regalstone, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “carpal fracture”
Stardemalion, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured leg”
Chick Meter, killed racing at Oregon Livestock: “collapse – sudden death”
Jess a Lil Lacey, killed racing at Grants Pass: “fractured leg”
Itsastormynight, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured leg”
Wizsito, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured leg”
TNT Party, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured [both] front legs”
Fnf Bruja, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured leg”
Rolling Thunder, killed racing at Portland Meadows: “fractured leg”
Penny’s Maeham, killed racing at Oregon Livestock
Stormin Angel, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Tsunami Kidd, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Papa’s Angels, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Cu At Sunup, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Joanie’s Ticket, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Cowboy Clyde, killed racing at Portland Meadows
Corporate Comet, dead at Portland Meadows
Hye Choose Hope, dead at Portland Meadows
I Got My Wings, dead at Portland Meadows
Alota Action, dead at Portland Meadows
Special Cafeina, dead at Portland Meadows
Really a Hero, killed racing at Oregon Livestock
Demetrius, killed racing at Portland Meadows

At last week’s monthly CHRB meeting, it was Golden Gate Fields’ turn in the crosshairs. Against a backdrop of four kills in eight days in November, the Board debated shortening the track’s usual six-month license to three. They stuck with six, but Chairman Greg Ferraro issued a “warning”: “We can’t ignore these injury rates. Personally, whether it’s three months or six months, we have the ability to stop it. We can come back and make a motion to stop racing.”

Of course to anyone who has been following this, especially in California, this new “scrutiny” of Golden Gate is almost risible (I say almost because this is a deadly serious matter). Why? Because two out of the other three commercial tracks there have recently been where GG is now. A year ago, after a kill-filled 2020, it was Los Alamitos, and we all remember Santa Anita in the spring of ’19. And yet, the killing continues. Here are the totals for this year, starting with the current leader:

Golden Gate: 26 dead horses
Santa Anita: 22 dead horses
Los Alamitos: 13 dead horses

Throw in the 6 dead at less-active Del Mar and 5 at training facility San Luis Rey, and California Racing currently boasts 72 kills on the year. (While I’m typically loath to engage in speculation, I do believe that the true toll is being suppressed: e.g., horses being dragged offsite to be euthanized away from the glare, “off the record.” In fact, as of this morning, there has not been a single death reported at a California track in 16 days; there was a 17-day gap Aug 12-Aug 29 and 22-day gap Apr 30-May 22. Please.) Is this what is to pass for “progress,” California, 72 dead animals so that some men may gamble, others chase pots of gold?

California Racing’s Victims, 2021:

Bowies Hero, Jan 2, Santa Anita R (euthanized Jan 18) – “laminitis”
Cali Caliente, Jan 9, Santa Anita T – “collapsed, got up, did circles, collapsed, death”
Noor Khan, Jan 17, Los Alamitos T – “staggered, collapsed, [died]” (four years old)
Don’t Stop Lookin, Jan 17, Los Alamitos T – “[multiple] fractures, [multiple] ruptures”
Scat’s Choice, Jan 23, Santa Anita R – “[multiple] open fractures, [multiple] ruptures”
Staredown, Jan 28, Golden Gate T – “massive hemorrhage, muscles severely torn”
Natural History, Feb 6, Santa Anita T – “[multiple] open fractures, complete ruptures”
Black Badge, Feb 8, San Luis Rey T – “rider heard ‘loud pop’ – catastrophic breakdown”
Munny, Feb 11, Golden Gate S – “surgery on 2/10…found deceased this morning”
Sweet Boy, Feb 20, Golden Gate T – “galloped out and fell over dead” (three years old)
My Three Kids, Feb 21, Golden Gate T – “musculoskeletal”
Okoye, Feb 23, Golden Gate T – “ran into rail – penetrating wound, collapsed lung”
Rustic Canyon, Feb 26, San Luis Rey T – “collapsed, sudden death, spontaneously”
Squeaky Cheeky, Feb 28, Santa Anita R – “[multiple] open fractures/ruptures”
One Famous Prize, Mar 2, Los Alamitos T – “[multiple] fractures, [multiple] ruptures”
Surfside Sunset, Mar 5, Santa Anita S – “[stomach] rupture”
Squiggy, Mar 10, Golden Gate S – “spinal cord completely severed”
Mantra, Mar 21, Santa Anita R – “fractured ankle”
John’s Jewel, Mar 24, Golden Gate S – “pleuropneumonia” (two years old)
Nomadess, Mar 30, Los Alamitos T – “pulled up, dropped dead” (two years old)
yet-to-be-named, Apr 1, Golden Gate S – “accident”
Velocemente, Apr 3, Golden Gate R – “went wrong”
Call Sign Lucky, Apr 3, Los Alamitos T – “hit rail: open, displaced fracture”
My Child Sbud, Apr 17, Santa Anita R – “fracture of the LF ankle while racing”
Lady of the House, Apr 18, Golden Gate R – “went wrong”
Multiplier, Apr 18, Santa Anita R – “fractured ankle”
Champagneformybaby, Apr 20, Golden Gate S – “musculoskeletal”
Steamy, Apr 30, Los Alamitos R (euthanized May 4) – “compress[ed] spinal cord”
Noodles, May 22, Los Alamitos S – “pneumonia”
Big Wish, May 31, Golden Gate R – “went wrong crossing the finish line”
Agamemnon, May 31, Santa Anita R – “[multiple] fractures, [multiple] ruptures”
Meet At Dudley’s, Jun 9, Santa Anita T – “fractured [both] forelimbs”
Registrant, Jun 12, Los Alamitos R – “sudden death” (three years old)
Pushing Sixty, Jun 13, Santa Anita R – “fractured LF ankle…humane euthanasia”
Music Babe, Jun 16, Golden Gate T – “sudden death”
Snazzy Cazzy, Jun 17, Golden Gate S – “sudden death” (three years old)
Uncle Boogie, Jun 27, Santa Anita T – “fractured humerus while galloping”
Gutz, Jul 4, Santa Anita T – “fractured ankle…unrecoverable injury”
Square Dreamer, Jul 10, Golden Gate T – “musculoskeletal”
Needless to Say, Jul 18, Del Mar T – “apparent heart attack” (three years old)
Arson, Jul 18, Del Mar T – “fractured leg, euthanized”
Arjun, Jul 28, San Luis Rey T – “musculoskeletal”
Bruce, Aug 2, Los Alamitos S – “sudden death – aortic rupture”
Shesgotattitude, Aug 6, Del Mar R – “flipped, struck head, euthanized”
Mark Whats Mine, Aug 12, Golden Gate S – “accident”
Moonlite Promise, Aug 29, Del Mar T – “musculoskeletal”
Esperada, Sep 5, Golden Gate T (two years old, being prepped for debut)
Honor Award, Sep 6, Del Mar R – “musculoskeletal”
Holdfast, Sep 16, Golden Gate T – “sudden death” (five years old)
Stopdropandroll, Sep 19, Golden Gate T – “musculoskeletal”
Left Alone, Sep 19, Golden Gate T – “sudden death”
Seven Summers, Sep 30, Santa Anita T – “musculoskeletal”
Fight On Ron, Oct 1, Santa Anita R – “musculoskeletal”
Made in Karoo, Oct 7, Golden Gate S – “neurological”
Kakistocracy, Oct 14, Santa Anita T – “sudden death”
Favorite Doc, Oct 16, Los Alamitos R – “sudden death” (three years old)
Electric Ride, Oct 16, Santa Anita T – “non-musculoskeletal”
Luca’s Ride, Oct 17, Los Alamitos R – “fell, sudden death” (four years old)
Major Cabbie, Oct 23, Santa Anita R – “musculoskeletal”
Star of Africa, Oct 31, Santa Anita T – “pending”
Set the Tone, Nov 3, Del Mar T – “hit pole”
Storm Spun, Nov 3, San Luis Rey T – “musculoskeletal”
Racer, Nov 6, Golden Gate S – “gastrointestinal, colic”
Galloping Slew, Nov 14, Golden Gate T – “musculoskeletal”
Ima Rumbler, Nov 16, Golden Gate T – “musculoskeletal”
Inimitable, Nov 19, Golden Gate R – “fell…euthanized on the track”
Mary’s Great Hope, Nov 21, Golden Gate T – “pending”
Barbwire, Nov 21, San Luis Rey T – “musculoskeletal”
Restiany, Nov 25, Santa Anita T – “musculoskeletal”
Conchita, Nov 28, Los Alamitos R – “fell”
Not This World, Nov 28, Los Alamitos R (euthanized Dec 1) – “pending”
Medina Spirit, Dec 6, Santa Anita T – “collapsed and died” (three years old)