On November 9, the board of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), a trade group “representing the interests of [NYS] owners and trainers,” issued a statement heralding its support for Mitch McConnell’s “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020.” In a section dubbed “New York’s Standard,” the board writes:

“After our own breakdown crisis in 2011/2012, New York has significantly changed our safety culture. Working together with NYRA and the Gaming Commission, our trainers and NYTHA have created a standard that we feel should be emulated across the country. First off, it’s the right thing to do. But we should not ignore the business case – NYRA, NYTHA and all of our members should demand other jurisdictions implement key safety and medication protocols. When other jurisdictions ignore best practices, it not only puts New York at a competitive disadvantage, but can negatively affect the reputation of the entire industry.”

Well, I’ll give them this: They’re an uncannily confident bunch. To put out a statement like that in the face of easily accessible facts takes, well, you know. Yesterday at Aqueduct, yet another horse was killed. In the 9th race, 2-year-old Thursday, says the chartwriter, “suffered an injury with five and a half furlongs remaining and was vanned off.” According to the Daily Racing Form, Thursday broke a pair of sesamoids and was euthanized. She is the fifth horse killed at “The Big A” in just the past eight days. And now, more of those pesky facts:

This year (covid-contracted, remember), 79 horses have died at the three NYRA tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga); 10 more have died at Finger Lakes, leaving NY’s Thoroughbred owners and trainers with 89 kills on the year. 89. Since their supposed epiphany – “[we’ve] significantly changed our safety culture” – in 2012, here are the death totals (racing, training, stall) for New York’s four Thoroughbred racetracks:

2013: 110
2014: 113
2015: 83
2016: 94
2017: 105
2018: 83
2019: 83
2020: 89 (and counting)

That’s 760 dead horses since NY got its act together and “created a standard that should be emulated across the country.” 760 dead horses since they figured out what is “the right thing to do.” Vile. (Even if NYTHA, which technically only represents the three NYRA tracks, wants to exclude Finger Lakes, they’d still be left with 556 carcasses – 70 per year – to answer for.)

(Please note, the 760 does not represent a full and accurate reckoning: The Gaming Commission only counts horses who die at the track; there are plenty of others who are euthanized – for racing/training injuries or just plain cumulative degradation – back at the trainer’s/owner’s farm or shortly after being acquired by a rescue.)

In addition to a “pulled up, vanned off” (Little Miss Julia) in the 7th at Penn Friday, and various other horses described as “unwilling” or “rank,” there was this for the 3-year-old filly Aamaal in the day’s final race: “AAMAAL was reluctant to load, stopped and was vanned off after the race.” Gee, do you suppose she was “reluctant” to be whip-forced to “race” because she was already injured? The turpitude of this industry knows no bounds. Jockey, Ricardo Chiappe; trainer, Michael Pino.

Let’s start with what we know for sure from yesterday. Because of NY’s (anomalous) public database, we have same-day confirmations on two – yes, two – kills at Aqueduct. In the 3rd, Stay Fond “suffered an injury, was placed to a protective hold, pulled up, vanned off,” and subsequently euthanized. She was six. Trainer, Oscar Barrera III; owner, Three Player’s Stable. In the 6th, Tied Up “returned in distress [and] subsequently collapsed fatally.” She was but five – not done growing yet. Trainer, Jeffrey Englehart; owner, Moshe Mark. For the ever-proud-of-its-“safety record” New York Racing Association, this makes 78 dead racehorses in 2020. 78.

But, of course, there was more. This also happened yesterday (I will, you can be sure, update as information arrives):

Night Candy “vanned off” at Churchill
Kaziranga “pulled up in distress, vanned off” at Churchill
Magnolia’s Hope “vanned off” at Del Mar
Velvet Queen “vanned off” at Del Mar
Durango Kid “vanned off” at Hawthorne
Twirling the Gold “vanned off” at Los Alamitos
More Monique “bled, vanned off” at Mahoning
Little Miss Julia “vanned off” at Penn
Aamaal “vanned off” at Penn
Valentine Divine “bled” at Remington

All in a single day. This, America, is your “Sport of Kings.”

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

“Vanned Off”: horse required an ambulance to get off the track; while not all the “vanned” end up dead, most do, as borne out by my FOIA reports

“Bled”: typically indicates pulmonary hemorrhage

Barcode “suffered a catastrophic injury” at Parx
Expensive Lesson “pulled up in distress, vanned off” at Remington
Yours Completely “in apparent distress, vanned off” at Parx
Operation Stevie “vanned off” at Indiana
Foalsfillyspecial “vanned off” at Penn
Two in the Bush “vanned off” at Charles Town
Jessbye Train “vanned off” at Evangeline
Moochie “injured, euthanized on the track” at Laurel
Ekg Paint Me a Jess “vanned off” at Evangeline
Ho Lotta Patriot “vanned off” at Evangeline
May On the Run “vanned off” at Laurel
Hinton “vanned off” at Hawthorne
Mr. Tag “vanned off,” dead at Aqueduct
Sky of Hook “vanned off” at Aqueduct
R Sea Smoke “went wrong, vanned off” at Gulfstream W
Majestic Maiara “pulled up in distress, vanned off” at Gulfstream W
Jess Agree “vanned off” at Los Alamitos