Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Justify failed a drug test after winning a 2018 Santa Anita race – about one month before the Kentucky Derby. Assuming the Times’ information is correct, had the results been expeditiously disclosed and the matter prosecuted according to the rules in place at the time, Justify’s win would have been vacated, and he would not have qualified for the Derby. Hence, no Triple Crown. But things moved at a snail’s pace and eventually – months later – the case was dropped altogether. What’s more, in October of that year, the penalty for the drug in question – scopolamine – was significantly reduced by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), making it appear it wasn’t that bad a violation to begin with.

The above, of course, should come as no surprise, as horseracing is fundamentally incestuous: The CHRB’s chair, Chuck Winner, owns horses trained by Justify’s Bob Baffert; at least two other board members, including vice-chair Madeline Auerbach, are also still very much active in the very industry they’re tasked to regulate. And given Racing’s declining fortunes and desperate need for a media “superstar,” there was little chance the CHRB was going to take any action that would have prevented Justify from running at Churchill – in fact, the full board wasn’t even notified of the positive till after the Kentucky Derby – and zero chance it was going to act in a way that could have stripped Justify of the Triple Crown. Corrupt, to the core.

(full NY Times article)

Follows are some of the heartening comments and emails I have received. Progress.

“I was at the Saratoga Race Track this past Monday and I am never ever going back there. I am traumatized for life. I love all animals and thought horse racing was so much fun, seeing these beautiful creatures racing, the whole horse racing experience, ladies in hats and people from around the world. A stunning town added to the beauty. Until Borough Boy took a bad step and had to be put down right in front of the crowd. The poor boy was trying to walk and could not. I will never bet on a horse or go to a race for the rest of my life. I saw 10-year-old girls crying their eyes out after seeing that horrible sight. Poor horses.” – Lisa (last name withheld per wishes), 9/4/19

“My pops introduced me to the industry back in 2002 (Breeders’ Cup), and I picked a winning exacta with a longshot, Volponi, on top. I visited the otb every 2 weeks in Oak Brook, Ilinois, as I loved to handicap a race. But I stopped for a few years. Since 2012, I began with the hobby again, even after being informed of the cruelty. Well, the last year my conscience has been getting to me and about 4-6 weeks ago I placed a longshot at Saratoga. Well the [horse] I bet pulled up around the turn. I hit a point and came across this website. I had enough, and being an animal lover, prior owner of a 17-yr-old shih tzu, knew it was time to finally think of each and every horse instead of my selfishness. The thrill of handicapping is gone as I read your website daily.

The death on tracks, in the stalls or slaughterhouses is the reason why this industry must end. I came across information that South Korea has been purchasing horses at Keeneland sales or claiming horses from races. The horse will immediately run and if money isn’t won, off to slaughter, with countless whippings to the head prior to the execution. These are 2, 3 yr olds and they were simply born to be beaten for a nickel. I looked up Volponi recently and after making over $3M for his [connections], the last owner sold him to South Korea in 2005. He was unsuccessful in breeding, and that is where his information ends. It’s apparent what happened to him, just like the ’86 Derby winner, Ferdinand. If I ever have the urge to try and win a little money I will take up a few scratch-offs. Thank You Patrick for your hard work and effort to finally end this so called sport.” – John Negrete, 9/2/19

“I was at Lone Star on June the 8th. A horse named Moro Chief died in race 4. They didn’t state what happened, but to me he tripped and broke his neck or broke a leg and went down. Moro Chief lifted his head once and then I am almost positive he passed away immediately. The track hands brought out the green sheets and the truck and trailer and he was driven away. It was a horrifying scene. It just bothered me heavily that this horse died and was swept away never to be mentioned again.

I love horse racing but this was the last straw for me. This is my first time at the track in a year and as an Agriculture major who teaches high schoolers about horses, and as a horse owner myself, I just can’t stomach the death anymore. It’s so hard for me because my grandfather loved racing and he taught me what to look for and how to read a program before he passed a few years ago. I view it as a way to remember him. But this just blows me away. I rescued a spotted saddle horse earlier last year who was two days away from shipping to Mexico, and that really opened up the awareness of just how many registered OTTBs are dying every year for this sport. Thank you for exposing how many horses die every year.” – Tiffany Logan, Princeton, Texas, 6/10/19

“I was actually at this race and saw it happen. I happened upon this website because I was searching for information about the status of Cruzin Wrangler. Justa Minyun did bounce up after the crash and walked on its own after the jockey was thrown. I was surprised to see that both horses were put down. Anyway, after seeing something like that in person I will not bet on horse racing again. I was actually surprised to see on this website the number of horses that are put down each year. Please keep educating the public!” – name withheld per wishes, 9/16/18

“Two decades ago, I went to work at Saratoga Race Course. I had no experience with racehorses, but a summer job ‘walking hots’ was easy to find – I held horses for their baths after exercise, and walked them in a circle until they were cool.

Back then, there were few, if any, organized protests against horseracing. At larger races I would sometimes see a protestor or two, but even though their presence made me uncomfortable, they didn’t stop me from going. ‘The thing they don’t get,’ a coworker told me, ‘is that these horses wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for racing.’

I don’t remember if I thought of those words the first time I saw a horse fall, but I do remember the horse. He went down in front of the grandstand. Some fans gasped, while others cheered the dramatic turn of events and their resulting good fortune. I felt ill as the veterinary ambulance pulled its curtain. I said nothing to my friends. The sun was shining, the drinks were flowing. We were having a good time.

Over the years I witnessed dozens of accidents at Saratoga and other tracks, but the last involved a mare who spent 23 hours a day confined to a stall at a training facility near Finger Lakes Racetrack. During her 20 minutes of daily exercise in the EuroXciser – a rotating carousel of stalls – her hind leg lodged between panels. The stalls kept moving, and panicked horses cantered over her. The mare’s leg sustained massive damage, and she was euthanized later that day.

It’s taken years to admit my responsibility in the mare’s death. I had led her from stationary stall to mobile one, yanking her over-the-nose chain to make her behave. I didn’t like her much; she was angry, bored, and difficult to groom. In retrospect, her defiance reflected what I was slow to admit: that I was complicit in her suffering.

Afterwards, I had nightmares not only about the horses whose deaths I had seen, but about those who weren’t good enough, who didn’t win, who stopped winning. Some were sold to breeding facilities, while others were ‘repurposed’ as riding or show horses. Others were too broken to be of use, and I knew they had gone to slaughter.

I understand now that my coworker was right to say that racehorses wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for racing, though not in the way she thought she was. I no longer agree that any life is better than none, or that the horses I saw fall were lucky to have lived. About 2000 Thoroughbreds die annually on U.S. tracks; an estimated 15,000 are shipped to slaughterhouses when they’re no longer useful. Some argue that the solution is to strengthen rehoming efforts, but because the lifetime care of a horse is prohibitively expensive and requires appropriate facilities and experience, there are never enough homes to absorb the industry’s excess.

Hundreds of protestors are expected at this year’s Travers Stakes in Saratoga. No matter their numbers, it’s unlikely that devoted fans of the track will be dissuaded, though I hope that casual attendees who have yet to understand the darker side of horseracing will reconsider their patronage. Saratoga and other tracks will perpetuate exploitation as long as people attend. The longevity of horseracing depends upon the consumer. Years ago, I went to the Travers as a fan and NYRA employee; this year I’ll be joining Horseracing Wrongs in protest.” – Ashley Pankratz, August 2018

“My name is Laura. I have always been a lover of all creatures, vegetarian since age 4, and highly sensitive to any stories of animal mistreatment. Until last Sunday, I knew almost nothing about the horse racing industry. It has been a very heartbreaking week.

My Dad used to work at a track when he was a teenager, and since we moved to Los Alamitos last year, he has wanted us all to go together to see some races. My life partner and I are expecting, and so we decided to take my parents there for dinner and share our happy news.

The night began innocently enough. We marveled at the beautiful horses, enjoyed our dinner, and laughed as my Mom picked a winner five times in a row. It was down to the final race of the night, and for the first time all night, I did not put my $2 on the horse with the greatest odds stacked against him, Unusual Kiddy.

What happened seconds after the horses left the gate has replayed in my mind hundreds of times this week. Unusual Kiddy tumbling several times before coming to a motionless stop. Ambulances. The winner being called over the speakers, no discussion of the carnage on the track. Watching through my tears. A silent drive home. A sickening feeling of guilt and despair. A sleepless night.

When I called in to the racetrack the next morning, the person who answered the phone was sympathetic to my teary request to know what happened. They called me back within the hour with the awful truth: Unusual Kiddy had broken his neck when he had fallen. He was paralyzed and lost consciousness on the track, was transferred to the ambulance and euthanized.

I have spent the better part of this week reading about horses and horse racing, and sharing this story with whoever would listen. I found your site, and wanted to share this poor animal’s story. Sunday I am going to a rescue sanctuary and sponsoring a racehorse that was saved from shipment to a slaughterhouse. This small intervention does not even dent how helpless I feel.

Thank you for all of your efforts to call attention to the dark side of this industry. I wish I could help save them all. The cruelty of human beings towards animals truly breaks my heart. Please feel free to put this story on your website so that this animal may be remembered.” – Laura Snoussi, 8/3/18

“Earlier today I believe I witnessed [Heartspoke] die on Saratoga Race Course. I was there, despite having mixed feelings about going, for my company’s annual picnic at the track. I didn’t actually see the horse fall… I was too busy eating, drinking, socializing and hoping for ‘my’ horse to pay out a tiny little profit on my $2 bet. Then I heard the crowd gasp and when I looked, I saw the horse lying on the track, not moving a muscle. A flurry of track workers surrounded the horse – but it didn’t look like they were able to revive her, and I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention. A big blue curtain was placed in front of her; someone said ‘I think they’re going to put the horse onto that,’ but I think its actual purpose was to shield us from having to watch a euthanasia procedure. One that probably wasn’t necessary, in any event.

And apart from the crowd’s brief gasp, it was otherwise business as usual. The announcer kept chattering, the tellers kept taking bets, the next horses kept moving forward to enter the track for the next race. And it didn’t seem to matter that this particular horse had just given all she had left to give in the service of our quaint little blood sport, and now was being unceremoniously loaded into a truck and moved out of the way. I left after that, unable to stomach the idea of placing any more bets – or even staying there another minute. I don’t think I will be back.” – Tony P., 7/25/18

“Hello Patrick…I am glad you try to inform people of the cruelty of horseracing. I was an avid rider and racing fan from age 11 to my early 20’s. I am now 67. I adore horses. I watched the Belmont out of curiosity and was glad no one was injured. I remember the Ruffian Filly match race in the 70’s when she broke down and had to be euthanized. So sad. I eventually started to realize I did not enjoy watching races. Horses have done so much for humans over the centuries and should be respected as a dear friend as a dog is. They are pushed too hard too early, their legs are too skinny for the half-ton bodies and the tracks made scientifically very ‘fast.’ It is all about $$$$.

I have a dear friend who worked at Aqueduct back in the 70’s and she said the abuse and corruption was appalling! Horses bleeding from nostrils, icing their legs to numb the pain before a race, etc. We live in a world that does not care about ‘human rights’ so what can we expect of ‘animal rights’? People would rather be blind than face facts. All the best and I wish I had the $$ to rescue a horse from the track!” – Vicky Cosgrove, New York, 6/10/18

“I saw Boom Boom Bango break down in the 9th at Santa Anita on March 18th. Looked bad and threw the rider. I am hoping the worst is not true. The track announcer and camera crew are trained to de-emphasize the event. Follow-up news updates are intentionally almost non-existent and information is always minimal. I am hoping I do not see Boom Boom Bango on your list tomorrow [she is in fact dead]. …I am not going back there.” – Randy Bramstedt, 3/18/18

“I don’t bet on racing anymore. I’m saving my money to help rescue those who have been shipped to sale auctions for slaughter.” – Tonya Stephenson, 3/17/18

“I started watching horseracing occasionally years ago beginning with the triplecrown won by the great Secretariat. Recently we moved to New Jersey and we began to attend Saratoga racecourse once a year. Then I discovered TVG. I enjoyed watching the beautiful horses parading in the paddock, and picking winners. Then one day early in 2018 I saw a beautiful gray horse, Electric Alphabet, in the parade. I watched during his race as he took a ‘wrong step’ and went down. I waited to hear from the announcer what had happened. No word except that the jockey was ok. That’s when I found your website and confirmed what I dreaded. He had been euthanized. He was 12 years old and still racing?

I read comments from your site and realized this was not an occasional thing. I still couldn’t believe it. I watched more, horses kept getting hurt, announcers kept under-reacting. The last straw was this weekend. Through sheer luck I did not see the horse collapse at Gulfstream. In what other ‘sport’ do you witness death on a daily basis and think that’s acceptable? Do baseball players going for a long fly hit the outfield wall and slump over, dead? We would surely all be horrified. What if a downhill skier lost control and we witnessed her or his detached leg flying down the mountain alone? I don’t think anyone would enjoy that. But horses collapsing at an astonishing rate is ok? Shame on us.” – Linda Murphy, 2/26/18

“I read your posts and I decided I would not support horse racing anymore. So I am totally out of any industry that promotes gambling or mistreats animals. I would feel good about horse racing going out of business. Thank you.” – Richard Tindall, 11/19/17

“Thanks for your blog. If more people knew about the mistreatment of these beautiful animals they would choose to spend their money on other forms of entertainment. I joined a friend at Lone Star Park last night because she wanted to see the horses in person for the first time. This will be her last trip to the racetrack. In race three the winner broke down right at the wire and was euthanized on the track in front of hundreds of horrified spectators. I saw several children in tears as the curtain came out to hide from view what I knew was going to be the unfortunate death of another race horse. You can see the replay at the Lone Star website. The name of the horse is Hidden Talent. Something was hidden alright, and that was the cover up of this innocent victim dying in front of our eyes. There was no mention after the event of the unfortunate demise of an unwilling participant – only the condition of the jockey. This is horse racing. I won’t be back.” – Brad Forster, 10/1/17

“I was at Laurel Park on December 31st, placed a bet on Just Jack, and watched the race at the rail. Not only was I shocked and heartbroken when he fell and died, but something in me changed forever. I’d seen horses fall before but had continued to enthusiastically ‘follow’ (wager on) thoroughbreds, visiting tracks from Saratoga to Santa Anita, living under the rationalizations that ‘horses live to compete’ and that since we eat cows that betting on horse racing is somehow ethical. That’s all behind me. I will never wager on horse racing again. I used to soothe my guilt with donations to equine rescues, but I was working at cross purposes. Just Jack was whipped mercilessly in the stretch and he died as a result. It is one thing to kill an animal for food, but it is quite another to kill one for entertainment. I could not believe the patrons at Laurel quietly went back to the buffet after the race and then prepared their bets for the next race.

Those in the industry will say that better regulation can prevent these events. They are completely wrong. I have followed this industry for 40 years and it has not really improved. The only way to prevent such hideous cruelty is to stop wagering on horse racing, just as we stopped wagering on greyhound racing in most states. I still feel sick about my presence at Laurel, and in fact I have always felt somehow ashamed of my wagering. I can now look forward to a clearer life and limit my involvement with horses to supporting them in the most positive ways.” – name withheld per wishes, 1/3/17

“I’m a longtime writer and a former horse owner, and I’ve been following Horseracing Wrongs for a couple of years. I wanted to say thank you for the work you do – painful though it is to keep track of these stats, what you’re doing is extremely important, especially in an industry that refuses any form of transparency. I’ve been posting on social media and sending messages to friends and family, to encourage others to spread the word about the atrocities of the racing industry. Some of my friends are following suit, and I hope the movement will grow. If there’s anything else you can think of that we might do to make a difference, I’d be happy for the information.” – name withheld per wishes, 8/27/16

“I came across your website last night trying to research the horse in the subject line. In the 4th race at Emerald Downs on July 1, 2016, Corporal Agarn fell and, to my untrained eye, clearly broke one of his front legs. The only information I know about him now is that he was ‘vanned away.’ I am quite sure he was euthanized. You seem like you are well on top of things, and I commend you for the research you’ve done on your website. I just want to make sure this one doesn’t fall through the cracks – and I’d like to be absolutely sure of what happened to him. As a member of the betting public for the past three years, it was easy for me to justify the risks of this form of entertainment. It’s a lot harder now, seeing it live in real time.” – name withheld per wishes, 7/2/16

“Hello Patrick, I love what you post, you post the truth and only the truth. I am so sick of hearing of the horse deaths. I ride and ride for fun, Thorougbreds, Quarters, etc. My last race was Del Mar 2000, horse went down. Seeing it live was horrible. Never went back, but still ride and love horses. Thank you for posting and saying ‘the truth.’ I hope it helps. Live in Sacramento, CA.” – name withheld per wishes, 5/21/16

“I am writing you because I saw what you posted about Mariano Intheninth. My family and I live in Louisville. I have never been a huge fan of horse racing but my family got free tickets to the track that day and were taking my 85 year old grandma for a day out. I was there when Mariano Intheninth broke his leg…about 30 feet away from me. I will NEVER forget it. Everyone was worried about the Jockey while I was concerned about the poor horse who was obviously afraid and in pain. I have not stopped thinking about it since.

I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging his existence and short life as well as the hundreds of others who have pointlessly lost their lives. I for one will NEVER return to Churchill Downs or any other track ever again, and this experience has only further opened my eyes to this disgusting ‘sport.’ I wish everyone knew the truth. Thank you again Patrick.” – Meghan in Kentucky, 6/15/15

The following letter-to-the-editor appeared in The Sun September 7 and the Press-Republican September 5:

This year, 58 horses have already died on New York state race tracks. Ten have died at Saratoga Race Course since April.

Horseracing is cruelty and violence disguised as sport and entertainment. It is predicated on the exploitation of sentient beings as gambling instruments. Horses are moneymakers in a morally bankrupt industry that disposes of them when their returns diminish. The idea that running is natural for these horses is a fallacy blithely repeated to reassure people of their right to participate in this exploitation, and to assuage their guilt about the subsequent deaths, injuries, and miserable, unnatural existence these animals must endure.

Racehorses are bred as investments and begin “training” at 18 months and racing at 2 years old, even though they do not reach musculoskeletal maturity until around age 6. There is nothing natural about horses being kept isolated in stalls for up to 23 hours a day, deprived of social interaction.

There is nothing noble in forcing horses, through violent whipping while perched on their back, to run at perilous speeds around a track, often in extreme temperatures, and in dangerous proximity to one another. They suffer horrific fractures, head-on collisions, pulmonary hemorrhages and myriad other dreadful injuries that lead to the same outcome – their untimely deaths at the hands of humans. Tens of thousands are ultimately “retired” to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico.

The time has come to shut down this abhorrent travesty. Join a group like Horseracing Wrongs to educate, agitate, and advocate. Do not stand idly by while others bet on lives that are being sacrificed for entertainment. Do realize that the pain, suffering and killing of these horses make for a terrible backdrop to afternoon picnics in fancy clothes. You can like horses. You can like horseracing. You can’t like both.

Christina Holland
Plattsburgh

Thank you, Christina.

This letter appeared in the The Patriot-News May 24:

Horseracing Wrongs reports 2,000 horses die racing or training on American tracks each year, and thousands more are confined, whipped, and drugged, suffering painful injuries. This figure does not represent the horses that did not make the grade because they were not fast enough, got injured, as the majority are just very young – or the rough equivalent of a kindergartner, and their bones are not fully developed. Horse racing is described as an institutionalized exploitation of baby horses. Those no longer [profitable] are sold like junk, in the back of the tracks, abandoned by their owners. The vast majority of the 15,000 “retired” racehorses are trucked to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico to be violently slaughtered and multiple thousands are strung-up and bled-out annually.

Horse racing is confinement and isolation, buying and selling, needles and syringes, bits and whips. And it is so very deadly. Hundreds more perish from what the industry craftily dismisses as “non-racing” causes – things like colic and laminitis, or simply “found dead in stall.”

The U.S. horse racing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Horse racing is an exploitation of a weaker species for $2 bets and frivolous entertainment. For more information go to Horseracing Wrongs.

Silvie Pomicter
South Abington Township, Lackawanna County

Thank you, Silvie.

This letter appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune May 3:

The Union-Tribune asks if it is time to end or alter horse racing, suggesting that this “sport” can perhaps be cleaned up, as racing officials have recently opined, so as to become a safe enterprise for horses. But to accomplish that would require the elimination of greed, cruelty, stupidity and callous disregard for animal welfare – all of which are prominently on display in racing.

Horse racing is, of course, not a sport at all. It is a gambling operation with the animals bearing the mortal risks. And it is no mystery why horses “break down.” Equine veterinarians explain that catastrophic injuries are preventable but inevitable when the industry demands ever more speed in younger horses whose bones are not fully developed, whose minor injuries are masked with drugs to keep the animal performing and who are often viciously whipped.

This is not how anyone treats an animal loved and valued beyond its potential to make one rich. Spare us the hand-wringing and boo-hooing from racing officials about Santa Anita’s recent 20-plus deaths. About 2,000 horses are killed while racing or training in the U.S. yearly, and everyone involved in the industry knows it.

I have protested against horse racing at Del Mar for 30 years, and have observed that many racing enthusiasts are unmoved by the painful, violent injuries and deaths at the track. I ask patrons, “How many horses have to die before you will turn around?” My query is often met with a raised middle finger, but the few who answer tell me there is no number that makes a difference. They come to make money and be entertained; the rest does not matter to them, any more than it does to the breeders and buyers and sellers. It is all about money, and many admit it without shame.

It took many years for the public to realize the truth about the excesses and abuses in marine parks, circuses and dog racing, but these businesses are now on the wane and horse racing will eventually meet the same ending. Hopefully, in San Diego, the media will stop glamorizing opening day as the social event of the year, where a ridiculous hat is more newsworthy than the ugly truth about the racing industry. Meanwhile two out of three retired racehorses are abandoned, euthanized or sold to slaughter – the aftermath of two-dollar bets.

Abolish horse racing. You can’t “clean up” a mess this big.

Jane Cartmill
Encinitas

Thank you, Jane.

Monday, one of the two quietest (races run) days of the racing week, this:

In the 5th at Belterra, 2-year-old Carol Marie “took a bad step at the quarter pole, lost her rider, and unfortunately perished on the track” (Equibase).

“took a bad step and unfortunately perished on the track”

In the 4th at Delaware, 3-year-old Tricky Rose “went wrong in the right front entering the backstretch, was pulled up, and had to be euthanized.”

“went wrong and had to be euthanized”

Two more dead fillies. For $2 bets. America, are we not better than this?

In the 6th at Los Alamitos Saturday, Free Ricky was said (Equibase) to have taken a “bad step” – “vanned off.” Having done this for six years, I have a pretty good feel for the various styles of the various chartwriters. At Los Alamitos, “injured, vanned off” and “bad steps, vanned off” are, as a rule, ominous. So, I reached out to the CHRB and can now confirm that Free Ricky is indeed dead – euthanized for undisclosed injuries.

Los Alamitos’ 2019 Dead (14, and counting):

unidentified, Jan 5, training – “catastrophic right front fetlock breakdown”
Adroit, Jan 6, racing – “catastrophic injury…euthanized on track”
unidentified, Feb 19, training – “catastrophic right front fetlock breakdown”
Rosiescruella, Feb 24, racing – “vanned off, euthanized”
unidentified (could be Yes I’m Ready), Mar 15-Mar 17, racing
unidentified, Apr 5-Apr 7, racing or training
unidentified (good chance Bos Dream), Apr 26-Apr 28, racing
unidentified, Apr 26-Apr 28, racing or training
unidentified, May 14-May 19, racing or training
unidentified, Jul 8-Jul 14, stall
Cuervo Foose, Jul 20, racing – “shoulder fracture”
Always Checking, Aug 17, racing – “injured, vanned off, euthanized”
Da One Two Special, Sep 1, racing – “injured, vanned off, euthanized”
Free Ricky, Sep 7, racing – “took a bad step, vanned off, euthanized”