On Saturday, 4-year-old Flashy in Pink “suffered a fracture to her right front leg while breezing on the training track” at Belmont. She is dead. The Richard Metivier-trained mare last raced at Saratoga in August. NY’s 2014 Death Toll: 10.

Also on Saturday, 3-year-old filly Kiss a Rose (below) collapsed and died after finishing last in a race in Caulfield, Australia. Although it was hot (about 80), officials insist heat was not a factor, instead attributing it to “sudden death.”

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The following racehorses broke down this weekend:

Tizardo, Saturday, Oaklawn, race 9

The following racehorses, unless otherwise noted, were vanned off this weekend:

Divine Daniell, Friday, Delta, race 1
Chilean Brothers, Friday, Gulfstream, race 1 (not vanned but “bled from the nostrils”)
Cartel Tease, Friday, Hialeah, race 9 (not vanned but bled)
Awesome T, Friday, Santa Anita, race 8 (not vanned but “returned bleeding in the mouth”)
Dinkers Sunshine, Saturday, Beulah, race 8
Warrior’s Image, Saturday, Fair Grounds, race 9
Fin Du Monde, Saturday, Golden Gate, race 8
Lelaps, Saturday, Gulfstream, race 8
Big Time Jp, Saturday, Hialeah, race 4 (not vanned but bled)
Rockets Double Digit, Saturday, Hialeah, race 8 (not vanned but bled)
Anzaki, Saturday, Sunland, race 10
Tones, Saturday, Turf, race 5 (won; “vanned off while bleeding”)
Miss Eliza, Saturday, Turfway, race 1
Schnell Flitzin, Saturday, Turfway, race 4

The following racehorses broke down this week:

Royal Affair, Wednesday, Beulah, race 1

The following racehorses, unless otherwise noted, were vanned off this week:

Nicholas Cajun, Monday, Turf, race 4

Also, two more horses perished in NY: Yesterday, 2-year-old Valar Dohaeris (owner, Weatherwatch Farm) broke his leg while training at Belmont and was killed on-track. In his last race on January 2nd, Valar Dohaeris finished 9th (of 10), 19 3/4 lengths back. His trainer, Bruce Levine, also lost Discreet Code at Belmont in September. On Tuesday, an unnamed colt trained by Chandradat Goberdhan died at Aqueduct. This is Goberdhan’s second death there in six weeks (Frau Louise in December). NY’s 2014 Death Toll: 9.

Attempting, somewhat, to succeed where HBO’s “Luck” failed (canceled after three horses died in production), the Esquire Network has debuted a new reality show called “Horseplayers.” As the title indicates, it’s about the bettor, and as The New York Times reminds, it’s strictly entertainment. What is interesting, and noteworthy for our purposes here, is the closing paragraph of The Times’ review (1/20/14):

“There is no hint, at least in the first episode, of horse racing’s negative aspects: drugging, animal cruelty, gambling addiction and so on. And only the largely empty grandstands at the racetracks testify to the sport’s troubles attracting fans.”

Animal cruelty? Empty grandstands? See, it’s not just us.

photo credit: Esquire Network
photo credit: Esquire Network

Sunday’s Akron Beacon Journal tells an all-too-familiar tale (New York, West Virginia, Indiana, etc.) of a “drying up” racing industry being propped by the corporate welfare that is euphemistically referred to as a “state-business partnership.” It goes something like this: Horseracing, especially harness and claiming, is finding it increasingly hard to compete with full-service casinos and state lotteries. But instead of quietly fading away like so many other industries that time passed by, racing demands, arrogantly, to be saved.

In 2011, Ohio racing found itself on the brink. Enter Video Lottery Terminals, and the birth of Ohio “racinos.” From the article: “Thanks to big dollars being pumped into the sport by slots-like video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the state’s horse tracks, the Ohio horse racing industry is rebounding after at least a decade on the wane.” The “big dollars,” a 9%-11% cut of VLT operations, are funneled directly to race purses. So purses that were once $2,000-$5,000 are now $5,000-$25,000. People come to play slots and – unwittingly, for the most part – line horsemen’s pockets. Nice deal if you can get it.

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Of course, anytime subsidies are questioned, racing indignantly reminds that the industry is more than breeders, owners, and trainers. Kill the subsidies, so their argument goes, kill a host of workingman jobs – farriers, groomers, walkers, farmers, tack dealers, etc. Even the white-collars would suffer. One veterinarian from the article, Dr. Michael Latessa, happily reports that the new economic model is a boon to his profession: “As far as our business, we’ll be busier as vets obviously because there will be more horses coming in.” More racing: more prescriptions, more injections, more injured bodies, more euthanasias. Hard to imagine anyone going to vet school for that.

Yes, jobs are at stake, but let’s not pretend that the horsemen care about anyone’s economic future but their own. The larger point, however, is that industries come and go; if your product is no longer viable, find a new product, a new line of work. It’s not within government’s charter to revive the obsolete. In fact, it’s patently unfair. Grant the casino licenses, but without the mandated percentages to those who have done nothing to earn them. This would leave more for education, the intended beneficiary of state-sanctioned gambling. Let racing, like the vast majority of American businesses, fend for itself.