Brave Spirited in the 5th at Charles Town last night, as relayed by Equibase: “Brave Spirited chased the pace inside, was taken in hand past the quarter pole, collapsed midway on the turn and died on the track.”

“Collapsed…and died on the track” – Brave Spirited was but three years old. ‘Twas his first time under the whip.

And yet another at Saratoga. So Surprising broke down training yesterday morning. She was two and being prepped for her debut (probably at Belmont). For Saratoga, that’s 15 dead – now above its historical average – and counting:

Golden Julia, May 30, stall, “found distressed in stall…died from acute blood loss”
Golden Julia was two years old and coming off a training session just five days prior.

Investment Analyst, Jun 7, training, “sustained leg injury necessitating euthanasia”
Investment Analyst was two years old; he was being prepped for his first race.

Gattino Marrone, Jul 3, training, “fractured sesamoids, euthanized”
Gattino Marrone was three years old and had been put to the whip 6 times.

Fight Night, Jul 12, racing, “fell heavily after the wire, euthanized on track”
Fight Night was three years old, and this was her 5th time under the whip.

Total Fidelity, Jul 14, training, “suffered fracture to LF sesamoids, euthanized”
Total Fidelity was two years old; she was being prepped for her first race.

Overlord, Jul 15, stall, “colonic rupture, euthanized”
Overlord was three years old and coming off a training session just one week prior.

Verravanni, Jul 25, stall, “pleuropneumonia”
Verravanni was two years old and coming off a training session just eight days prior.

Misspent Youth, Jul 27, training, “cardiovascular collapse”
Misspent Youth was five years old and had been put to the whip 13 times.

Umetuka, Jul 31, training, “injured, vanned off, euthanized”
Umetuka was four years old and had been put to the whip 9 times.

Divine Miss Grey, Aug 3, racing (euth Aug 26), “complications [after] surgery”
Divine Miss Grey was five years old, and this was her 26th time under the whip.

Sundae On Sunday, Aug 4, racing, “collapsed, euthanized”
Sundae On Sunday was ten years old, and this was his 61st time under the whip.

Go Big Or Go Home, Aug 28, racing, “went wrong, euthanized”
Go Big Or Go Home was five, and this was his 22nd time under the whip.

Sister Beauty, Aug 31, training, “ambulanced to [hospital], inoperable, euthanized”
Sister Beauty was two years old and had been put to the whip twice.

Borough Boy, Sep 2, racing, “took a bad step, fell heavily”
Borough Boy was three years old, and this was his 6th time under the whip.

So Surprising, Sep 7, training, “fractured sesamoids, euthanized”
So Surprising was two years old; she was being prepped for her first race.

Belmont, after grabbing the NYRA baton from Saratoga, opened yesterday – with a kill. In the 3rd race, Passporttovictory, says Equibase, took some “bad steps” and was “vanned off”; the Gaming Commission confirms the 5-year-old mare dead. But there’s more. Earlier in the Belmont day, Royal Inheritance “collapsed and died while training” – she, too, was but five years old. This makes 24 dead horses at Belmont Park on the year – with almost four full months to go.

Meanwhile, yet another dead horse at Saratoga. Sister Beauty, two, broke down training August 31 – officially, “ambulanced to Rood & Riddle; inoperable fracture – euthanized due to poor prognosis.” That’s 14 dead for the “oldest sports venue in the nation” – right at its historical average. For all three NYRA tracks (including Aqueduct), 42 dead horses thus far in 2019. Juxtapose that with this from NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna in the Times Union Saratoga recap:

“Safety at all levels is our highest priority. NYRA has a broad-based safety program and employs industry-best equine safety practices at all of our racetracks. These include measures such as the daily inspection and scientific analysis of all racing and training surfaces; examinations of equine athletes who must be cleared by NYRA veterinarians to race and a variety of capital improvements designed to enhance safety.”

Yet again, I implore the NY media to become more cynical. This is a rich, old industry well-schooled in the art of propaganda. But please, just follow the facts: “Demonstrably safer” is a lie, and horses will continue to die, guaranteed.

In a recent Paulick Report article on the annual meeting of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), it was revealed that “The Stronach Group, TOC and [the] California Thoroughbred Trainers separately hired crisis management consultants,” and that “the Breeders’ Cup and Keeneland have retained the same crisis management firm that helped the NFL deal with the concussion crisis in football.” First, this speaks to the palpable desperation – “crisis management” – of an industry exposed. But of more import, later Paulick gives us a window into their strategy:

“One thing [TOC CEO] Avioli said he’s learned is that ‘the argument that horses love to run doesn’t work’ in swaying public opinion. Promoting therapeutic aftercare programs…is a stronger message, he said, as is putting forth the economic importance of the horse industry in supplying jobs for a largely Hispanic workforce.”

Yes, “love to run” is falling a bit flat these days. Perhaps because the public is becoming clued in to the unremitting confinement to a tiny 12×12 stall? Or perhaps it’s those ubiquitous whips that prompt any running that is allowed to occur?

More shameful, and surprising (stupid) in that Paulick and the racing people would allow it to become public, is the plan to (further) exploit the industry’s low-page workers and, more shameful yet, their ethnicity. Ah yes, we mean-spirited activists are out to take jobs away from hard-working “hispanics.” We must, then, be racist. Shameful doesn’t quite cover it – obscene is more apt.

Look, as I’ve written, I respect hard work, especially among the recently-arrived to this country; this is not personal. But in the end, this is a moral matter – animal cruelty – and jobs should not be a part of that conversation. That said, this industry is already in decline, with a net loss of 35 racetracks just since 2000. Where did those workers go? Perhaps on to other jobs? Imagine that – worker mobility in a capitalist society. In addition, all those erstwhile track-properties became something else – with attendant new job opportunities. Let’s look at one.

When 75-year-old Hollywood Park outside of Los Angeles closed in 2013, there was great angst. What about the lost jobs, racing people asked? Well. According to a CurbedLA article from last September, “When fully finished, the new Hollywood Park will be made up of 2,500 units of housing, 620,000 square feet of retail space, a ‘social hub’ with a ‘culinary marketplace’ and ‘giant outdoor movie screen,’ a 300-room luxury hotel, and a revamped Hollywood Park Casino.” And get this, an NFL stadium, to boot. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Now obviously not all tracks sit on as valuable, or as large, a plot of real estate, but you get the idea. Redevelopment means new opportunities.

The redevelopment of properties is, of course, just one manifestation of our free-market system at work. That system has seen myriad, yes myriad, businesses and industries come and go through our nation’s history. As demands and appetites change, as new technologies are born, our economy adapts. One of the more famous examples also involved horses: the horse-and-buggy being supplanted by the automobile – which, as we soon found out, came with a plethora of new (good) jobs.

In addition, to help prepare the backstretch communities for a post-racing life, we fully endorse job retraining – at the industry’s expense. Follows is a list of the top-earning trainers in 2018. The numbers speak for themselves:

Yes, retraining of their mostly minimum-wage workforce is the least these millionaires, in this multi-billion-dollar industry, can do. But in the end, I return to where I started: The preservation of jobs, no matter the number, no matter the quality, should not come at a (continued) cost of cruelty and killing. While it is dubious that Gandhi ever actually said the following, the words, whoever first uttered or wrote them, remain no less true: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

In one of my recent “Weekly Reports,” I noted that Mr. Frank “fell after crossing the finish line and was vanned off” at Golden Gate August 18. In fact, he is dead, with KRON noting “Mr. Frank had a cardiac event, possibly a heart attack.” Mr. Frank was three years old. Yes, three years old – “cardiac event,” “possible heart attack.”

While the station rightly points out that Mr. Frank is the 10th horse killed on-track (racing or training) at Golden Gate this year, there have been six other deaths – back in the stalls – at the Berkeley track, bringing the true toll to 16 thus far.