From Finger Lakes comes word that 5-year-old Very Very Grateful was euthanized Tuesday after x-rays revealed a fractured leg. But here’s the thing: The Gaming Commission notes that trainer Enrique Hernandez had the horse for only a week when he “noticed a problem.” So, the question becomes: When did this poor creature break? In an August 20th claiming race when he “stopped,” finishing 25 lengths back? In an October 14th claiming race when he “stopped,” finishing 30 lengths back? Or was it in a November 9th claiming race when he “showed little” in finishing dead last? Hard to say, of course.

Here’s the other thing about Very Very Grateful: His sole owner, Carlos Milian, changed his handler four times in an 11-race career – Eli Betancourt to Marcos Zulueta, Zulueta to Alberto Plaza, Plaza back to Betancourt, and Betancourt to Hernandez. What each knew (knows) we will likely never know, but in my mind, at least, all of these men – plus breeder Shirley Lojeski and various whip-wielding riders – had a hand in this horse’s death. And imagine, right now on some ridiculous Facebook page condolences are going out to them. Horseracing: corrupt and deluded.

I have confirmed that 6-year-old Mad Magic was euthanized on-track after snapping her ankle in last Friday’s 1st race at Pimlico. In a 3 1/2-year career spanning 41 starts, Mad Magic was shuffled among nine different trainers – Sandra Adkins, Eric Reed, Herbert Reed, Louis Linder Jr, Marya Montoya, Steve Kelsaris, Michael Pino, Michael Moore, and finally, Scott Lake. Nine trainers. The replay, of course, shows nothing of the ugliness. The announcer, of course, says only that Mad Magic “pulled up.” This is horseracing.

What most NY citizens do not know, by design, is that Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), or slots, directly subsidize the state’s racing industry. Here’s how it works: As a condition for securing VLT licenses, track owners are required to continue running horseraces, whether profitable or not. But more importantly, a sizable chunk of slots revenue is funneled into the racing industry – higher purses, breeding supplements. If not for this largess, much of NY racing, especially the harness variety, would have vanished by now. In general, racing can no longer subsist on product alone, as evidenced by declining handle and attendance.

Currently, 9 of the 11 NY racetracks are set up as racinos – racing plus VLT gaming. (Although Saratoga and Belmont are not racinos, they, being under the NYRA banner, still benefit from Aqueduct’s.) But with four brand-new full-service casinos on the horizon, the horse people are justifiably worried. Even though the law requires new casinos to continue subsidizing horsemen, any casino built on a non-racetrack site will be sending less than what is currently gifted. That, coupled with a virtual certainty that casinos (up to seven have been approved) will obliterate one-dimensional racinos, explains the hand-wringing.

(News that the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway are looking elsewhere to open a casino – Rensselaer County, Orange County – prompted this response from Betty Holt, executive director of Harness Horse Breeders of New York State (Times Union): “I hear a lot of people saying this is the beginning of the end for us.”)

At some point, the ball will be securely back in the Legislature’s court. Its two options: continue propping an increasingly irrelevant industry or act in accordance with one of our founding economic principles and allow the market to be what it will be. If the latter, the good bet is that all nine racino racetracks in NYS – the seven harness plus Aqueduct and Finger Lakes – will become but a memory. Imagine that.


The following racehorses were casualties on American tracks last week:


The Commerce Comet, Will Rogers, race 2, vanned off

Tazman Green, Charles Town, race 1, vanned off
Our Painted Veil, Indiana, race 3, “bled outwardly”
Ardency, Suffolk, race 6, “returned bleeding from the nostrils”

Summer in Bali, Belmont, race 2, vanned off
Ravens Terms, Charles Town, race 5, “came back bleeding from the nose”
A Noble Calling, Evangeline, race 10, vanned off
It’s Too Easy, Lone Star, race 7, vanned off
Sofos Quick Logic, Santa Anita, race 2, “bleeding from the nostrils,” vanned off
Nightfall, Santa Anita, race 5, broke down

Paco Smart, Charles Town, race 8, vanned off
Humor Me Doc, Gulfstream, race 1, vanned off
Looks Like a Saint, Indiana, race 6, broke down
Turbalo, Lone Star, race 7, vanned off
Brighterthanthesun, Los Alamitos, race 4, vanned off
Mad Magic, Pimlico, race 1, broke down
Miss Hard Ten, Pimlico, race 5, fell, DNF
Curl Del Rey, Remington, race 9, vanned off
Jess a Charmer, Sam Houston, race 3, vanned off
Kitellas Gal, SunRay, race 4, vanned off
A Dash of Classs, SunRay, race 6, fell, DNF
Movin Maxine, SunRay, race 8, vanned off
Looch’s Only Son, Thistledown, race 6, fell, DNF

Ashley’s Posse, Belterra, race 1, “in distress,” vanned off
Molly Z, Churchill, race 10, vanned off
Houdini’s Muse, Evangeline, race 9, vanned off
Aztec Secret, Louisiana, race 3, confirmed dead
Molotof, Percy Warner, race 7, vanned off
Here Comes Mikey, Pimlico, race 1, vanned off
Gigi’s Alina, Prairie, race 5, “in distress,” vanned off
Gameboy Luke, Santa Anita, race 4, confirmed dead

Rohver Girl, Parx, race 1, “in apparent distress,” vanned off
Joduku, Sam Houston, race 6, vanned off
Tiz Molly, Santa Anita, race 8, hit gate, vanned off
Mr Lemon Tree, Santa Anita, race 9, vanned off

Yesterday afternoon at Louisiana Downs, 3-year-old Aztec Secret was killed in the 3rd race. Complicit in his death: jockey Richard Eramia, trainer Jonas Gibson, owners George and Adam Ackel, and breeder I. Lee Lange. This was Aztec’s first race under Gibson, having run all seven previous starts for the equally complicit Corale Richards.

Later on Saturday, Gameboy Luke, another 3-year-old gelding, died at Santa Anita (race 4). The chart reads: “Gameboy Luke broke down on his own.” Imagine that. Complicit: jockey Rafael Bejarano; trainer Mark Glatt; owners Norman Stables, William Branch, Robert Gramer, David Pycz; and breeder Machmer Hall. This is horseracing.

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