Horseracing apologists are forever crying how unfair it is for us to characterize stall deaths as industry casualties. These deaths, they say, can and do happen to horses everywhere horses are kept. Well, leaving aside that racehorses are enslaved – yes, I realize that’s inflammatory, but it is what it is – and anything that happens to a slave is the slaveowner’s responsibility, we do have science to bolster the case.

The three most common causes of stall deaths are colic, laminitis, and pleuropneumonia. Yes, of course horses die of these the world over, but…

Colic: A study by Dr. Nathaniel White, professor of surgery at Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, identified risk factors for developing colic. There were only three that presented a “higher than normal” risk: fed grain before hay at meals; horses in training for racing or eventing; horses confined to stall more than 12 hrs/day. In addition, gastric ulcers are, at the very least, associated with colic; research indicates that up to 90% of active racehorses suffer from ulcers, most chronic, many severe.

Laminitis: According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, three of the most common causes of laminitis are: excessive concussion to the feet (like the pounding a racehorse’s feet are forced to absorb); excessive weight-bearing on one leg due to injury of another leg (see Barbaro); severe colic (see above).

Pleuropneumonia: From the Merck Veterinary Manual: “Race and sport horses are particularly at risk [of developing pleuropneumonia]. The majority of horses with pleuropneumonia are athletic [emphasis added] horses younger than 5 years old.”

And that, is that.

The charts (Equibase) from Oaklawn yesterday:

In the 2nd: “JACKS FIRE BALLS void of speed, was slammed off stride and knocked into the rail by SEA OF HOPE as that one was falling midway up the backstretch…. SEA OF HOPE shortened stride and was being pulled up when he fell into JACKS FIRE BALLS with just over a half mile remaining, bled, [was vanned off].”

In the 9th: “CRITIC stopped badly midway on the final turn, fell, hit rail after
wire…and was vanned off.”

Oaklawn (Arkansas Racing Commission) is notoriously unforthcoming about the fates of the horses forced to race there. That said, I have made inroads over the past couple years with FOIA. So, I hope to be able to update soon.

Ryan Goldberg is one of America’s finest long-form journalists; on this issue, horseracing, he is quite simply without peer. Having already covered slaughter (Deadspin, 2019), the anti-racing movement (Deadspin, 2019), and doping (Vice, 2020), Ryan has now turned his withering pen on subsidies, the giant elephant on Racing’s turf. As usual, his writing is clear, fluid, and exhaustive – easily the best treatment on the subject yet. It was so good, in fact, that even for someone who considers himself well-versed on racing economics, there were parts that left me agape.

Thank you, Ryan.

Please read and share, especially with our elected leaders, for nothing this big changes unless we force it.

“Is Horse Racing Still Too Big To Fail?”

Pity the poor Standardbreds. When, if at all, the average person thinks about horseracing, it’s images of Thoroughbreds roaring down a straightaway that surely come to mind. Harness racing has just never captured the popular imagination the way the “The Sport of Kings” has. Can anyone out there identify a single famous Standardbred? Meanwhile, Secretariat, Man o’ War, and Citation were feted as three of ESPN’s “Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century.” One breed, “equine athletes”; the other, anonymous gambling chips.

Regarding welfare, while true that Standardbreds are not killed (on-track) as often as their Thoroughbred/Quarterhorse cousins, they are indeed killed (which, of course, we also document). But of more import, life on the harness circuit is just as cruel and mean; in fact, based solely on length of servitude – which can last up to 10 years and beyond – one could make the argument that harness racing is worse. And after the harness people have had their way, the abuse often continues under the heavy hand of groups like the Amish. Then, for many or most, those same Canadian and Mexican abattoirs. So, I’d like to remind people that there is another form of horseracing, and that these beautiful animals, too, are hurting, and suffering.

The following horses were “scratched” because of “injury” at Cal Expo (California) in the first three months of 2021:

Mishindi, Jan 3
Night Girl, Jan 10
Fedex Express, Jan 10
Man of Mine, Jan 23
Bo’s So Hot, Jan 23
Bobs Time, Jan 23
P H Hippie, Jan 23
Steady Breeze, Jan 24
Street Parade, Feb 6
Fear Factor, Feb 6
Sin Machqueen, Feb 13
Teachmehowtotry, Feb 20
Rockinaroundheaven, Feb 27
MD Magic, Feb 28
Bunkerhill Bill, Mar 6
Dependlebury A, Mar 6
Rockinaroundheaven, Mar 7
Dancingonthesand, Mar 7
California Rock, Mar 7
Selma O’Brien, Mar 14
Al’s Briefs, Mar 14
Imma Tank, Mar 20
Exsqueezeme, Mar 20 (“lame”)
Gee Wilikers, Mar 28
HF’s Super Filly, Mar 28

And for “sickness”:

Ramsay, Jan 2
Eddie Brush, Jan 3
Regal Mark, Jan 9
Le Montrachet, Jan 10
Glenferrie Dreamer, Jan 10
Fox Valley Hoss, Jan 16
Arnie’s Army, Jan 31
Door to Door, Feb 5
Always First, Feb 5
Sarah Toga Again, Feb 5
Roaring Home, Feb 5
Keystone Charles, Feb 6
Sneak Peek Hanover, Feb 14
Some Playa, Feb 14
Wet Shark, Feb 14
Witch Hunter, Feb 27
Frisky Angel, Feb 28
Hagginatthebeach, Feb 28
Marys Pretty Girl, Mar 7
I’m an Athelete, Mar 13
Cookiesncream, Mar 20