Bonspiel, a 3-year-old being prepped for his debut, broke down training at Belmont Tuesday and was euthanized after emergency surgery failed. He is the 25th kill at Belmont this year. Now, juxtapose that what-should-be shocking number with this from a USA Today article (in which I was quoted) ahead of last week’s Belmont Stakes:

The New York Racing Association…is considered an industry leader in safety efforts and its high-profile tracks remain less deadly than other comparable tracks in the U.S….. “The safety and welfare of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority,” the NYRA said in an emailed statement. “That is why NYRA is committed to providing the safest possible environment for racing and training by adopting and implementing the best proven safety practices in consultation with independent experts, veterinarians, horsemen and regulators.”

“industry leader in safety efforts”

“less deadly than other comparable tracks”

“safety and welfare…is our highest priority”

“best proven safety practices”

America, you’re being taken for a ride.

The Belmont Dead, 2020

Yorkiepoo Princess, Jan 3, Belmont S – “severe laminitis…euthanized in her stall”
Jewel Can Disco, Jan 20, Belmont T – “sustained an injury while breezing…euthanized”
A Freud of Mama, Jan 24, Belmont T (euthanized Feb 8) – “passed after complications”
yet-to-be-named, Jan 30, Belmont T – “shaft fracture…euthanized on the track”
Krugerrand, Mar 9, Belmont S – “severe laminitis” (two years old)
Starting Point, Mar 22, Belmont T – “sustained leg injury – euthanasia”
Peter’s Project, Apr 1, Belmont S – “colic, worsened throughout day…euthanasia”
Pals Invader, Apr 17, Belmont T – “sustained leg injury at the 7/8 pole”
Appealing Briefs, Apr 23, Belmont S – “euthanized due to poor prognosis of cellulitis”
O’Bushido, May 4, Belmont S – “found deceased in stall”
Call Paul, May 6, Belmont T – “sustained injury to LH leg…necessitating euthanasia”
Schiller’s Lit, May 18, Belmont T (euthanized May 21) – “acutely lame”
Lil Morning Star, May 21, Belmont T – “injury to left front leg”
Shock Therapy, May 25, Belmont S – “pleuropneumonia, laminitis”
Bluegrass Jamboree, May 28, Belmont T – “cardiovascular collapse – expired on track”
Truck Salesman, May 31, Belmont T – “leg injury while breezing, euthanized on track”
Brahe, May 31, Belmont T – “injuries to both front legs…euthanasia on track”
Abraxan, May 31, Belmont T – “leg injury necessitating euthanasia”
Too Fast to Pass, Jun 3, Belmont R (euthanized Jun 12) – “injury to left front”
Chouchou de Boo, Jun 4, Belmont T – “several injuries…euthanized”
Freedom Prince, Jun 5, Belmont S – “taken to hospital…euthanized”
Talako, Jun 7, Belmont R – “catastrophic injury…euthanized on track”
Mystical Song, Jun 17, Belmont S – “found dead in stall…gastrointestinal disease”
Smidge, Jun 18, Belmont R – “sustained injury to left rear leg”
Bonspiel, Jun 23, Belmont T – “fracture, surgical repair failed, euthanized”

Statements from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the self-styled “nation’s most effective animal protection organization”:

“We’re not against racing. We want it done well and humanely … HSUS isn’t an anti-racing organization.” – former president and CEO Wayne Pacelle

“This is a national industry, and like football or baseball or other major American sports…we need national standards….” – Pacelle

“[T]he racing industry [is] now enjoying the increased enthusiasm a new superstar [Justify] brings to the sport.” – current president and CEO, Kitty Block

“First, I want to clarify the Humane Society of the United States’ position on horse racing…. We are not, in principle, opposing horse racing.” – Block

“The widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs imperils an industry that employs 400,000 Americans.” – Block

“The Horseracing Integrity Act would – as its name suggests – begin to restore some integrity to horseracing, helping…the business.” – Block

“This bill [HIA] is a gamechanger for equine athletes. It is a pro-animal, pro-industry measure that will not only help restore fairness to the sport….” – Block

(Note: The Horseracing Integrity Act would be bad for horses.)

“Racehorses are incredible athletes.” – former senior adviser Marty Irby

“The widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs is KILLING [his voice inflection in the video] an industry that employs 400,000 Americans.” – Irby

“Horseracing is a $40 billion a year industry that fuels our economy.” – Irby

(Note: Those employment and economic-impact numbers come directly from the industry and are basically pulled out of thin air.)

As an advocate, I recognize the great challenges presented by food and testing. It’s why I understand, though remain conflicted on, a subtler, more incremental approach: “Meatless Monday,” “Replace, Reduce, Refine.” But animal entertainment – that is, the enslavement, exploitation, and sometimes killing of animals as a way to pleasantly pass time? We – 21st Century America – should be ashamed at even having this conversation. It must end. Yesterday. Thing is, the HSUS agrees as it pertains to…

Circuses, Acting: “The HSUS opposes the use of captive wild animals as performers in circuses, film, television and commercials.”

Marine-Mammal Shows: “It is unacceptable for marine mammals to be held in captivity for the purpose of public display. [I]t should be rejected outright.”

Bullfighting: “The HSUS opposes bullfighting.”

Rodeos: “The HSUS opposes rodeos as they are commonly organized, since they typically cause torment and stress to animals, expose them to pain, injury or even death and encourage an insensitivity to and acceptance of the inhumane treatment of animals in the name of sport. Accordingly…we oppose bull riding, bronco riding, steer roping, calf roping, ‘wild horse racing,’ chuck wagon racing, steer tailing and horse tripping.”

and…

Greyhound Racing: “The HSUS opposes greyhound racing. This practice leads to an unacceptable level of greyhound exploitation and suffering solely for profit. The industry promotes and tolerates an overproduction of dogs, resulting in an annual surplus numbering in the thousands, many of whom will end up being destroyed. The sheer waste of life is a scandal.”

Everything, that is, except horseracing, even as all it’s written on dogracing (and, as a matter of fact, the rodeo) clearly – at least to those with functioning brains – applies to the equine version. (Actually, I would argue that horseracing is worse because of slaughter. Talk about “scandal.”) The why here isn’t important. What is, what matters most, is what this says about the HSUS.

Horseracing is, by any and all definitions, animal exploitation. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally. Exploitation necessarily involves suffering of some kind. Exploitation, then, must be called abusive. Animal exploitation, then, is animal cruelty. By (very publicly) stating it is not philosophically opposed to horseracing, the HSUS is (very publicly) stating it is not philosophically opposed to all forms of animal cruelty. By actively trying to help Racing survive (thrive), the HSUS, with its enormous influence and reach, is abetting the continued condemnation of countless horses to lives of crushing negation and gruesome, terrifying deaths. And all for nothing more than $2 bets, entertainment. To say the HSUS is no friend to horses doesn’t quite capture it. What the HSUS has done/is doing to these beautiful animals is downright criminal.

(As if the above weren’t enough, consider these figures from 2018, the most recent available on GuideStar: In that year, the HSUS took in over $100 million in contributions and grants, had a payroll of almost $40 million, and was sitting on almost a quarter-billion dollars in assets at year-end. Imagine if just a portion of that were used on ending horseracing. Criminal, indeed.)

In the 6th at Santa Anita Saturday, Strictly Biz was “vanned off” after finishing 6th (and “winning” $500 for his people). Then this, according to the track’s website:

“Fracture of the right knee on the gallop out after the race. Horse was transported to the Equine Hospital. After diagnostics and x-rays were performed, it was determined to be an unrecoverable injury and, per recommendation from the attending veterinarian, the horse was humanely euthanized.”

“unrecoverable”

“humanely euthanized”

This is horseracing.

Last week on U.S. Flat (Thoroughbred/Quarterhorse) Tracks:

King Creed “returned bleeding from the nostrils” at Thistledown
Lichita “fell, DNF” at Indiana
For D’s Knight “went wrong, fell, vanned off” at Lone Star
G C Cam “vanned off” at Belmont
Tf Dashin Runaway “vanned off” at Delta
Champagne Moment “in distress, vanned off” at Evangeline
Conquest Big E “fell, DNF” at Prairie
Mucho Macho Dan “fell, vanned off” at Prairie
Rare Stripe “fell heavily, vanned off” at Belmont
Congratulated “vanned off” at Churchill
Nerissa “vanned off” at Gulfstream
The Magical One “pulled up lame, vanned off” at Laurel
Daddy Lane “vanned off” at Ruidoso
Henny’s Treasure “vanned off” at Gulfstream

“Vanned Off”: exactly how it sounds – the horse was unable to walk off the track on his own and required the “equine ambulance.” While not all of these horses end up dead, most do, as borne out by my year-end FOIA reports.

“Bled/Returned Bleeding From Nostrils”: typically indicates pulmonary hemorrhage.

(source: Equibase)

Tun Tun’s “participation” in the 1st at Charles Town last night, as conveyed by the Equibase writer: “sprinted clear soon after the start, set the pace along the rail, took a bad step in deep stretch, lost the rider, returned lame and was euthanized on the track.” Tun Tun was three years old; ’twas his third time under the whip. Oh, and he was also “For Sale” (at the used car tag of $5,000) immediately prior to dying.

This is horseracing.