To the uninitiated, the Racing marketing department can be awfully convincing. Especially when faced with crisis – coverage of what is perceived to be an inordinate amount of dead horses – the polished industry pros are quite adept in the art of reassurance. We’ve got this; no stone will be left unturned. More vets, tighter prerace exams, stricter drug regulations, transparent medical records, “continuing ed” for trainers, and my personal favorite – super-diligent surface testing (“cushion depth,” “moisture content,” “ground-penetrating radar”). And yet.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) – covering Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga – does the above, including massaging the numbers, with the best of them, and they’ve been doing it for years. “Demonstrably Safer Racing,” they’re fond of saying. Sunday, according to the Gaming Commission, a young filly christened Darken a Day “sustained [an] injury on [the] Belmont training track requiring euthanasia.” In the process, she became the 34th dead horse at Belmont alone this year – and 54th at the three NYRA tracks combined. How’s that for a “commitment to equine safety”?

Incidentally, Darken a Day was trained by Gary Contessa, who, you may recall, referred to his horses as “children.” Well, Mr. Contessa can now boast 10 dead children (in just NY) over the past four years. Vile.

The Belmont ’19 Carnage:

Doyouknowsomething, Jan 8, stall – “sustained left elbow injury in stall”
Speke, Jan 19, training – “suffered a fracture to his right shoulder”
Catpsalm, Jan 29, stall – “protozoal myeloencephalitis”
Miss Marion, Feb 3, training – “fractured cannon bone…euthanized on track”
Chronos, Feb 3, training (euthanized Feb 4) – “fractured right front leg”
For Pops, Feb 26, training – “collapsed and died” (four years old)
Queen Bode, Mar 3, training – “euthanized at hospital”
Mighty Zealous, Mar 10, stall – “severe respiratory distress…euthanized”
Miss Marilyn, Mar 23, training – “leg injury…euthanasia on the track”
Miss Mimosa, Mar 28, training – “cardiovascular collapse” (three years old)
Pretty Enuff, Apr 1, training – “suffered a leg fracture…euthanized”
Luz Mimi, Apr 4, training – “suffered a leg fracture…euthanized”
La Manche, Apr 11, training – “suffered a fracture…and was euthanized”
Noble Cause, May 11, racing – “injuries necessitating euthanasia”
Anne’s Song, May 24, racing – “ambulanced off, euthanized due to poor prognosis”
Successful Mission, Jun 9, training – “sustained fractures while breezing”
Inflection, Jun 9, racing – “euthanized due to poor prognosis”
Ro Bear, Jun 16, stall – “died in the barn from an apparent impaction colic”
With Caution, Jun 28, training – “P1 fracture…died complications from anesthesia”
Fancy Persuasion, Jun 30, racing – “cardiovascular collapse” (two years old)
yet-to-be-named, Jul 11, training – “fractured sesamoids…euthanized”
La Fuerza, Jul 27, training – “fractured humeral, ambulanced to barn, euthanized”
Royal Inheritance, Sep 6, training – “collapsed and died” (five years old)
Passporttovictory, Sep 6, racing – “bad steps”
Mo Moxie, Sep 7, training – “sustained a fracture and was euthanized on track”
Deft, Sep 12, racing – “broke front leg and was euthanized on the track”
Rhode Island, Sep 14, racing – “was vanned off…subsequently euthanized”
Coffee Crush, Sep 19, training – “cardiovascular collapse”
Have Another, Sep 20, stall – “severe laminitis”
Meet Me in L A, Sep 21, racing – “went wrong…euthanized”
E Z for You to Say, Oct 10, stall – “severe laminitis [both front] feet” (two years old)
Mo Fun, Oct 14, training – “suffered a cardiovascular collapse” (three years old)
Kid Robin Hood, Nov 2, training – “sustained a fracture at the 5/16 pole”
Darken a Day, Nov 10, training – “sustained injury to leg requiring euthanasia on track”

In the most recent Stewards’ Report from Turf Paradise, it was revealed that Saltarin broke a fetlock in the 7th October 28 and was euthanized. All was not lost, however, as the 3-year-old “won” the race, bringing home $4800 for his exploiters. One last act of giving before dying. This is horseracing.

In a recent The Racing Biz article, pro-racing (obviously) writer Teresa Genaro perfectly relays the moral qualms an ever-increasing number of lifelong racing fans are experiencing these days. She explains that in the “dreadful” Aqueduct winter of 2012, “the one in which so many horses died,” she began an “unconscious practice” of listening to races rather than watching them, for fear, of course, of breakdowns. She writes: “That winter induced a sort of PTSD that made me keep my head down until I felt confident that the horses were all going to come home safely.”

“…a sort of PTSD that made me keep my head down until I felt confident that the horses were all going to come home safely.”

Last Saturday, she went on to say, “that old feeling returned,” so at first she only listened to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But the allure proved too strong and she began watching. Then this from the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman hit her Twitter feed:

Mongolian Groom was dead, and she, along with millions of others, was left to grapple with her conscience:

“…when I watched Vino Rosso, gleaming in the Santa Anita gloaming, triumphantly find redemption at the finish line of the biggest race of his life, I push aside, at least for a little while, my awareness of the risks inherent in the sport that I love. But the next time the starting gate opens, that awareness comes rushing right back, and I wonder how long I’ll be able to live with that.”

Look, if you feel the need to avert your eyes at a show because there’s a good chance one of the (nonconsensual, it must be noted) performers may die, you already have your answer. Follow your heart – not the heart that “loves” things like Thai food, long weekends, baseball, or Thoroughbred horseracing; rather, the heart that houses empathy, kindness, and compassion. In the final analysis, Ms. Genaro, your continued support of an industry that maims and murders multiple thousands (let’s not forget the ones bled-out and butchered at “career’s” end) of fully sentient beings annually in the name of “sport” and “entertainment” is morally indefensible. And you know it.

Last week in U.S. Thoroughbred and Quarterhorse races

TBird Encore “fell, DNF” at Indiana
Peekachika “fell, DNF” at Indiana
Moondance Joy “vanned off” at Aqueduct
Blushing Owen “fell and was euthanized on the track” at Charles Town
Reffine “[bled] from the nostrils, vanned off” at Del Mar
Zyanara “vanned off” at Delta
Twirling Tiger “vanned off” at Del Mar
Cajun Star “pulled up in distress…euthanized” at Delta
First True Heart “bad step, pulled up” at Lone Star
Coincidentally “injured past the wire” at Mahoning
Fleet Warrior “vanned off” at Aqueduct
Royal Mesa “bled” at Churchill
Princess Dorian “vanned off” at Del Mar
Ghost Street “vanned off” at Del Mar – subsequently confirmed dead
Prayer Warrior “vanned off” at Del Mar – subsequently confirmed dead
McT War Zone “vanned off” at Los Alamitos
Eva’s Classy Baby “vanned off” at Turf

“Vanned Off”: unable to walk off course under own power; many of these horses will resurface on my FOIA kill-reports

“Bled,” “Returned Bleeding From Nostrils”: usually indicates pulmonary hemorrhage

(source: Equibase)