Last week on U.S. flat tracks (racing only):

Thousand Percent “vanned off” at Parx
Launch Light Dream “fell, DNF” at Zia
Jj Shazoomin “vanned off” at Evangeline
Violent Surprise “returned bleeding from the nostrils” at Mahoning
Half Cocked “vanned off” at Turf
Irish Knockout “limped back to the paddock” at Charles Town
Jla Louisiana Flirt “vanned off” at Evangeline
Ole Town Road “bled, vanned off” at Turf
Elvis Just Elvis “bled, vanned off” at Turfway
Miss Pinkerton “vanned off” at Turfway
American Essence “vanned off” at Aqueduct
First Empress “fell, DNF” at Delta
American Eagle V “fell, DNF” at Lone Star
Hubbadahubbadaboom “vanned off” at Remington
Storming Warrior “bled” at Golden Gate
Navajo Creed “vanned off” at Gulfstream

While not all the “vanned” end up dead, most do, as borne out by our year-end FOIA reports. But even if death is not the ultimate result, the above are victims nonetheless, suffering painful injuries – in the case of the bleeders, pulmonary hemorrhage – so that some men may gamble, others chase pots of gold. (For any new confirmed deaths during the week, please see our running annual list.)

As I wrote yesterday, Laurel Park is the latest track to come under the gun for killing horses, with racing temporarily halted there while the track surface gets dissected – which is all, as we know, for show. Look, I know this gets repetitious, but: From breeding for speed, to employing pubescent bodies, to the incessant grinding – not to mention commodification – of those bodies, to forcing them to run at an unnatural rate, in an unnatural way, and through unnatural means, horseracing guarantees killing. Guarantees. That’s not to say the industry can’t take steps to prevent some deaths, but as a general principle, killing is built into the system.

Every once in a while, one of the exploiters unwittingly acknowledges some of this truth. In a Baltimore Sun article on Laurel’s crisis, trainer Gary Capuano, after noting that he’s “not happy about [the deaths]” and has incurred “a lot of sleepless nights lately,” said: “The horses are running a lot faster than they’re usually capable of doing.” Now, I know what he meant – it is this particular, supposedly “too hard” track that is making the horses run faster. But the truth is, Mr. Capuano, they are always running faster than they should be, and that, as mentioned above, because you and your brethren are forcing them to do so. So let’s not pretend here: It is you, the racers, who are responsible for the killing. Not the track, not the weather, not “bad steps” or “freak accidents” – you, greedy, selfish human beings.

The Thoroughbred Daily News (TDN) reports that a “cluster of deaths” at Laurel Park has left the track scrambling, with racing canceled this weekend. According to the paper, eight horses have died racing or training there this fall – seven just since November 6. For their part, Laurel officials are focusing on the recently-installed track surface. Says TDN: “A portion of the surface has been dug up in mid-stretch to allow an influx of track maintenance consultants to try and discover if there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.”

Later in the article, there was talk of “colder weather” and “moisture” as possible factors. And as usual, the track people are throwing around loads of technical verbiage to project confidence, to assure the public that they’re “on this,” “no stone will be left unturned.” An example from Laurel’s track superintendent: “[The clay content in the new track] is higher than was anticipated, so we’ll be adding straight silica sand, which is 100% pure and has smaller grains. It will help break up the material a little bit, help loosen up the track, and help dry it out quicker. Moisture stays underneath, and the material is bonding, so we’ll introduce silica sand to break it up…. Silica sand is aggressive…so we’re going to do the process really slow.”

Does all this sound familiar? It should, for this is racing’s MO every time dead horses receive a bit of scrutiny. In fact, the surface (and how the weather affected it) was the exact same storyline – indeed, as here, the very first potential culprit – coming out of Santa Anita during its PR nightmare in the spring of 2019. Coincidentally (or not), Laurel and Santa Anita are both owned by The Stronach Group. In any event, here are the kill figures for Laurel over the past four full years:

2017: 34 dead horses
2018: 39 dead horses
2019: 29 dead horses
2020: 30 dead horses
thus far this year (with my FOIA for the second half still to come): 18 dead horses

In other words, this – this latest batch of kills – is business as usual, just as it was at Santa Anita. Here are those new kills as confirmed by the Racing Commission:

Kyosha, killed racing Oct 3
Bella Thyme, killed training Nov 6
Gale Winds, killed racing Nov 19
Moquist, killed training Nov 21
Golden Sky (sic), killed training Nov 27
American Playboy, killed racing Nov 28

(I already had Bust’em Kurt on Nov 13, and Manicomio on Nov 25.)