“Reckless practices…that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby.” – statement from Churchill Downs Inc. Wednesday

By now, most of you have heard that the split-sample from Medina Spirit confirmed the presence of betamethasone on the day of the Kentucky Derby; accordingly, trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from racing at Churchill for two years.

Look, I’m no apologist for Bob Baffert, but this is clearly just a dog-and-pony show. Horseracing has been under steady siege for a couple years now. With more bad press after its biggest race, it had to do something. And Baffert, the most successful and conspicuous trainer on the planet, makes for an easy target (see also: Jerry Hollendorfer during the Santa Anita crisis). But let’s not pretend here. This is a relatively inconsequential drug positive; Medina Spirit did not win the Derby because of betamethasone. Want to really impress me, Churchill? How about suspending the licenses of those involved in deaths at your track? Punishing the trainers and owners of horses who were actually killed on your track? Or, for that matter, how about suspending yourself, shutting Churchill down for “investigation”?

So, in that spirit, here are 27 of Churchill’s dead just from last year. (The “connections” of the horses killed training were as of most recent race. But you get the idea.)

Alittlevodka, killed racing May 31 – “comminuted fractures”
owner: Bob Lothenbach; trainer: Neil Pessin

Bold Esther, killed training Jun 13 – “sudden death”
owners: Lawrence Kahlden, Brett Wiener; trainer: Matt Shirer

Gold Credit, killed training Jul 3 – “sesamoid fractures”
owner: Michael House; trainer: Philip D’Amato

Censored, killed training Jul 22 – “humeral fracture”
(connections not listed)

Chainsthatbindyou, killed training Aug 21 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

yet-to-be-named 2-year-old, killed training Sep 8 – “MTIII fracture”
(connections not listed)

Kowalski, killed training Sep 10 – “comminuted sesamoid fractures”
owner: White Birch Farm; trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Glissando, killed training Sep 12 – “sudden death”
(connections not listed)

Urbana, killed racing Sep 17 – “[multiple] fractures, massive soft tissue damage”
owners: Lawana and Robert Low; trainer: Steve Margolis

Tour Spuzz, died in stall Sep 26 – “laminitis”
(connections not listed)

Lucky Asset, killed racing Sep 26 – “fractures, tearing of tendons, rupture of ligament”
owner: James Spry; trainer: Pavel Matejka

Tormenta, killed racing Sep 27 – “[multiple] fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Sandra Nava; trainer: J. Larry Jones

unidentified, died in stall Oct 8 – “neurological”
(connections not listed)

Pow Wow Indian, killed training Oct 18 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Uncle Robbie, killed training Oct 31 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Sir Winsalot, killed racing Oct 31 – “fracture, large amount of hemorrhage”
owners: Sherri McPeek, Tommie Lewis; trainer: Kenneth McPeek

Rebuff, killed racing Nov 5 – “multiple open, disarticulated fractures both front legs”
owner: Juddmonte; trainer: Brad Cox

Here Comes Josie, killed training Nov 7 – “comminuted P1 fracture”
owners: Wayne Sanders, Larry Hirsch; trainer: Brendan Walsh

Juggernaut, killed training Nov 7 – “[multiple] fractures”
owner: Big Chief Racing; trainer: J. Keith Desormeaux

Uni the Unicorn, killed training Nov 8 – “[multiple] fractures”
(connections not listed)

Winning Impression, killed racing Nov 12 – “comminuted fractures, hemorrhage”
owner: West Point Thoroughbreds; trainer: Dallas Stewart

Binge Watch, killed training Nov 14 – “open, disarticulated fracture”
owner: WinStar Stablemates; trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Tenace, killed training Nov 24 – “P1 fracture”
(connections not listed)

Night Candy, killed racing Nov 27 – “comminuted fractures, severe soft tissue damage”
owner: Jerry Caroom; trainer: Thomas Vance

Alexander Hamilton, killed training Nov 29 – “fracture, ruptured ligaments”
owner: JSM Equine; trainer: Norm Casse

Eclipse the Moon, killed training Dec 12 – “tibial fracture”
(connections not listed)

Sharp and Strong, killed training Dec 16 – “open fracture”
(connections not listed)

It looks as though harness racing in Florida is soon to be dead. A bill that will decouple – free the track owner from having to hold and subsidize horse races – Pompano Park has now passed the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature. Harness Link put it succinctly: “[This bill] will most likely end pari-mutuel harness racing in the state of Florida, thus bringing an end to Pompano Park after 57 year of harness racing.” In other words, Florida harness people, the jig is up. Your (lucrative) spigot – gaming revenue that should have been going back to the state for education and the like – has been cut off. And that, my friends, is progress. Now, on to the Thoroughbreds.

(The SunSentinel says that a redevelopment plan from Pompano’s owner, Caesars Entertainment, “calls for transforming the Pompano Park property into an upscale retail, dining, office and entertainment hub.” Now doesn’t that sound a mite better than a dirty, seedy racetrack that abuses and kills horses?)

And so, Preakness Day arrives. Surely, the focus, for the media and masses alike, will be almost entirely on Bob Baffert and a relatively inconsequential drug positive in the Derby two weeks ago. As advocates, it falls to us to shift that focus – to the everyday cruelty and the incessant killing of the U.S. horseracing industry. When they say “Baffert,” you say “solitary confinement”; when they say “betamethasone,” you say “chattel”; when they say “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” you say “slaughter” (on which the HISA has absolutely nothing to say). Remind them that over 2,000 horses are killed racing or training across America every year. Remind them that hundreds more die back in their stalls. Remind them that most of the horses being raced on U.S. tracks today will eventually have their lives snuffed by the butcher’s blade.

And you can also reacquaint them with some of the horses killed at Pimlico, the host of today’s big race, over the past two years:

Seeking the Sunset, May 17, 2019, racing
“vanned off, later collapse[d] in his stall – multiple pelvic fractures with severe acute hemorrhage”; also: “degenerative joint disease in fetlocks”

Congrats Gal, May 17, 2019, racing
“artery rupture with severe internal hemorrhage”
Dr. Daniel: “When she collapsed after the wire in right lateral recumbency, my initial thought was exhaustion or heat stroke. We quickly got cold water on her, tack off, and after a few minutes, attempted to get her sternal. She rolled back, her heartbeat became harder to feel, and she developed nystagmus. Within 30 seconds she started taking agonal breaths and died on her own.”

String Bean, May 23, 2019, racing
Dr. Walsh: “On the morning she broke down, she was being her usual, high strung self and bucked/jumped down the shed row instead of jogging. The groom had to place a lip chain on her to jog her. When the jockey was pulling her up before the wire, I immediately called the horse ambulance for her as she had an obvious left front lameness. Palpation and visualization showed a displaced mid body sesamoid fracture with the proximal piece comminuted and beginning to swell.

“The filly was being difficult to hold still and examine. I asked [owner/trainer] if he wanted me to have her taken to the barn so he could get radiographs and see if she was savable or if he wanted to have her euthanized. He said she would be difficult to keep quiet to rehab, he didn’t want to fool with it, and elected euthanasia. For safety of all involved and to allow the horse to settle, she was vanned to the pen for euthanasia verse [sic] doing it on the track so that she could be safely restrained….”

Polite Pearl, Nov 7, 2019, training
“RF leg fracture; subcutaneous hemorrhage on [both] sides of the cannon bone; blood and foam were coming from the nostrils; severe bruising over the right eye, right side of poll and neck and right side of head; right hock showing some degenerative joint disease; left hock showing some degenerative joint disease; LF fetlock showed advanced cartilage erosion/bone cyst; stomach had gastric ulcers present”

Yukon Eric, Jan 3, 2020, training
“horse pulled up and appeared to be exhausted…fell to the track and died – apparent heart attack”; also: “stomach: acute ulcers – presumptive stress” (just two years old)

Supercross, Mar 18, 2020, training
Dr. Meittinis: “The horse died on his own from head trauma before I could get there.”

Lotto, Mar 21, 2020, stall
“chronic respiratory disease; chronic left hock, developed laryngeal paralysis”; also: “[previous surgery] – shin had two screws” (just four years old)

Unbridled Outlaw, Mar 23, 2020, stall
“severe degenerative joint disease; suspensory tear”
Dr. Meittinis: “Basically, bad claim of a cheap horse.”

Long March, Sep 7, 2020, training
“flipped over and struck his [head] on the starting gate – trauma was so severe that Long March was immediately euthanized on the track”

Talent Scout, Sep 24, 2020, racing
“blunt trauma, catastrophic fractures, LF fetlock; open wound into joint, copious amount of blood, RF fetlock” (that’s both front ankles); also: “significant, chronic degenerative joint disease in both radiocarpal joints”
Dr. Daniel: “The horse was unstable and in severe pain. He was euthanized on the track.”

This is one of the 2019 deaths at Pimlico’s sister Maryland track, Laurel Park (same owner, The Stronach Group):

After announcing in February that the upcoming Thoroughbred meet at Marquis Downs in Saskatchewan would be canceled (again) because of covid, Prairieland Park, owner of the property, went one better Friday. From a press release:

“Prairieland Park is excited to be a part of the discussion/negotiation with the Canadian Premier Soccer League (CPL) and Living Sky Sports and Entertainment to bring Saskatchewan’s first, and only, professional soccer league to Saskatoon.

“At the same time the Board of Directors of Prairieland Park has come to the difficult decision to permanently cancel Thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs after a 50-year relationship with the sport.

“The decision to end Thoroughbred Horse racing was not come to lightly, however, the opportunity presented by CPL and Living Sky Sports will help lead Prairieland into the future, and the board felt it was the time to transition the track space at Marquis Downs to accommodate this new venture.” (emphasis added)

Hear, hear. I particularly like this photo from the website CanadianThoroughbred. Though I’m sure it wasn’t their intention (they are, after all, pro-racing), the juxtaposition – the future, the past; a real sport and a lie – couldn’t be any more trenchant. Marquis Downs: good riddance to bad rubbish.