With Saratoga garnering all the attention this time of year, I thought it appropriate to update readers on the goings-on elsewhere. This is the current list of Thoroughbred deaths at Finger Lakes Racetrack near Rochester (“Come discover the electricity and excitement of live thoroughbred racing in Western New York!”):

3/25/13…Norlou (“fistulous whithers-euthanized”)
4/2/13…Johar Beauty (“large colon torsion with displacement-euthanized”)
4/25/13…Pax (“suffered dislocation fx LF fetlock-euthanized”)
5/3/13…This Is Somuch Fun (“unresponsive LF lameness-possible infection with severe pain and discomfort-euthanized”)
5/14/13…Dry Humor (“pulled up – vanned off – fx RF Sesamoid – euthanized”)
5/25/13…Rifle (“suspected fx R carpal bone-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Kodiak Kid (“severe colic-unresponsive to medical treatment-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Moyer’s Pond (“unseated rider-horse fell exiting track-fx L shoulder-euthanized”)
6/20/13…City Glee (“suffered an apparent cardio vascular event after being washed off”)
6/20/13…Love Our Grandkids (“fell-vanned off-RF swelling-developed severe cellulitis RF lower leg-signs of laminitis LF leg-euthanized 6 days later”)
6/26/13…Bully Around (“pulled up while breezing – dropped & died on track”)
6/27/13…Midnight Monarch (“stumbled unseating rider- fx RF Ankle-euthanized”)
6/29/13…Maple Leaf Racer (“vet called – found dead in stall”)
7/13/13…Asweetkitty (“RF bilateral sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/16/13…Golden Jewel (“rupture LF suspensory & sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/22/13…Werblin Phone (euthanized)
8/1/13…Alpha Galpha Gold (“infection RF leg unresponsive to treatment – euthanized”)

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That’s 17 dead horses at Finger Lakes and the meet still has several months to go. When Aqueduct’s death rate doubled in ’11-’12, NYRA was forced (by the Governor’s office) to investigate. But who is to be tasked with exposing the carnage at the state’s eight non-NYRA tracks? The likely answer, sadly, is no one, for deaths like these are typically considered an unfortunate cost of doing business, and tracks like Finger Lakes usually fly under the radar. But This Is Somuch Fun and Love Our Grandkids (aren’t the names so witty?) were no different, except for running speed perhaps, than Saratoga’s Black Rhino and Charmed Hour. They lived, suffered, and died so men could gamble and all they received in return is a single line in a state database.

Following is NYRA’s official replay of Sunday’s 9th race at Saratoga, the one that left a young filly named Charmed Hour dead. The race, of course, was noteworthy because of the bumping going on at the end and ultimately a disqualification. As you watch, please bear in mind two salient points: One, in an 8 1/2-minute video, Charmed Hour was mentioned only once, as bringing up the rear. Nothing on her breakdown. Two, thanks to the controversy, we have been blessed with several slow-motion replays showing, among other things, the incessant whipping administered to the five two-year-olds who did finish. Racing calls them budding stars (this was a Grade II); nature calls them children.

2013 Adirondack Stakes

By any measure, Thoroughbred trainer Don Roberson has been successful in his chosen profession: 1,190 wins, almost $11 million in career purses, and 27 in-the-money finishes this year alone. But it’s equally safe to call him a cheat, a cheat who puts the animals in his charge at grave risk. Roberson has just begun serving a two-year suspension in Delaware for a July 13th stable search that yielded “injectable medications, syringes, and needles.” This, though, should not surprise: According to the website Thoroughbred Rulings, Roberson has been fined multiple times in multiple states for various administrative infractions. And for drugs…

9/30/08, West Virginia, phenylbutazone (or bute) overage, Seaboard (who finished 1st)
5/29/10, Iowa, phenylbutazone overage, Black Gulch (who finished 1st)
2/19/11, Louisiana, methocarbamol present, Smokey Belle (who finished 2nd)
6/17/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Christina’s Dream (who finished 2nd)
6/28/11, Iowa, failure to declare correct medication, Pick a Tizzy
8/13/11, Iowa, methocarbamol present, Let’s Get Crackin (who finished 2nd), suspension
6/22/12, California, phenylbutazone overage, Karen’s Good Boy (who finished 1st)

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Because horseracing leaves each state to do its own thing, Roberson’s abuses of the pain-killing, injury-masking bute were reported and penalized as “first offenses” – $200 in West Virginia and $250 in Iowa, no suspensions. And in California, since trainer Roberson had “no similar violations during the last 365 days [and promised not to do it again], an official warning was given.” Not even a fine. This is just one of the ways trainers mock the “system.” While good that one state has finally banned him, Mr. Roberson remains free to practice everywhere else. This is horseracing.

Two-year-old Charmed Hour, running only her 2nd race, shattered her right front cannon bone during Sunday’s Grade 2 Adirondack (for fillies) in Saratoga. She was euthanized on the track. With the added intrigue of a winner disqualification, Charmed Hour’s fall was barely mentioned by media outlets: The Saratogian, 1 paragraph in 12; the Paulick Report, 1 sentence in 21; the Times Union, 2 sentences in 14; and The Daily Gazette, which, in addition to a similar disparity, reported that “the fatality was the first of the meet, in either racing or training.” Not true, and something the newspaper should have known. 2013 death count at sunny Saratoga: 2.