As I’ve reported ad nauseum on these pages, the racing industry has a tried-and-true modus operandi in dealing with negative media coverage (on kills): feign shock and outrage, promise intensive investigations, and most important, assure that “safety” and “welfare” are its highest priorities.

Because of activist pressure, Mahoning Matters has, of late, been reporting deaths at Ohio’s Mahoning Valley. Wednesday, the paper wrote: “Racing Commission Executive Director Chris Dragone said the commission has raised concerns about the race track conditions, since it’s unusual to have four horse deaths in two months – and that’s a higher rate compared to 2020 and 2021. The racing commission is now paying closer attention to Mahoning Valley Race Course fatalities, he said.”

Okay. Recent kill totals at Mahoning (note: the track is only active six months/year):

2017: 13 dead horses
2018: 23 dead horses
2019: 17 dead horses
2020: 22 dead horses
2021: 28 dead horses

“Unusual to have four horse deaths in two months,” Mr. Dragone? “Higher rate compared to 2020 and 2021 [22 and 28 kills, respectively]”? Now you are “paying closer attention”? They, and yes this includes regulators like Dragone, deceive, distract, dissemble – dare I say, lie – because they have to. Their product kills, as a matter of course. Now, to get the media to pay closer attention…

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