NEWS10 is reporting that Stillwater police have arrested horse trainer Joseph DeCarlo for abusing a Standardbred under his care. DeCarlo was charged under Article 26, Section 353 of the Ag and Markets Law (“overdriving, torturing and injuring animals”), a misdemeanor. NEWS10 says that the gelding suffered “severe and extensive internal and external mouth injuries.” More information to come.
Earlier this week, the NYS Gaming Commission and the NY Racing Association announced some “enhanced security measures” for Saturday’s $1 million Travers in Saratoga. Besides the out-of-competition drug testing done on Wednesday, the horses – and their vet treatments – are currently “subject to 24 hour monitoring,” with all “paraphernalia” being examined. Also, all persons entering the horse’s stall must be logged in and out. On raceday, the horses will be “escorted with security to the paddock.” Says Robert Williams, Acting Executive Director of the Gaming Commission, “The security protocols we have implemented here are sensible steps that underscore that New York horse racing operates with the highest integrity.”
Before issuing the protocols, here is what I imagine was said among the racing powers: Gentlemen, we have a serious problem on our hands. Our sport is rife with cheating, and trainers and veterinarians, even at this level, cannot be trusted. Our base, the betting public, is skeptical and eroding; the casinos and lotteries are killing us. The last thing we can afford is a tainted Travers horse. What we need, then, is security of proportions not seen in any other sport. What we need is a three-day lockdown. In public, of course, we’ll call it a “sensible step” underscoring our commitment to “integrity.” But we’ll all know what that means. So go, enjoy the big day, but pray that none of our horses snaps a leg on national tv. Oh, so much to worry about.
It is, sadly, a horseracing truth that the equine obituary roll is never stagnant. Witness Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, or more accurately, Finger Lakes Deathtrack. Having just posted on the unfortunate case of Spanish Luck, a pending retiree who broke down while still being trained, word comes of three more deaths (in two days – 8/16, 8/17) at Finger Lakes, bringing the 2013 Death Toll at this Thoroughbred graveyard to 23.
Inger Management, “pulled up-fx RF leg-euthanized on track”
My Darling Deb, “blind both eyes-euthanized”
Legal Lady, “horse reared and flipped striking head-apparent skull fracture”
Inger Management, who was also still racing while on the adoption block, shared the same trainer as Spanish Luck, Timothy Murphy. It appears that Mr. Murphy and seven-year-old claimers ready for “retirement” are not a good match.
My Darling Deb (pictured above) suffered the following mishap on May 3rd while under the care of multiple stakes-winning (over $8 million career purses) trainer Jeremiah Englehart – who, by the way, has been fined five times in NY, including once for using the sedative acepromazine: “stumbled unseating rider-ran through rail- into car – lacerations to chest and legs–rider treated and released-horse doing well-given several months off.” And now she turns up blind and is euthanized. How did this happen? More to the point, will the NYS Gaming Commission investigate? With the dead horse being a five-year-old claimer with one 2013 start, any scrutiny is likely to be superficial at best. This is horseracing.
Here is the very recent biography for seven-year-old Thoroughbred Jacob’s Dream:
After having been idle for almost a month (and nothing from Oct ’12 till Jun ’13 – where was he?), finished 4th in the 3rd race on August 5th at Suffolk Downs (Boston).
Finished 2nd in the 8th race on August 13th at Suffolk Downs.
Started but did not finish the 3rd race on August 17th at Suffolk Downs. Broke leg. Euthanized. Gone.
For those doing the math, that’s 3 races in 13 days. 3 races in 13 days. The American Association of Equine Practitioners, a professional organization not unfriendly to racing, recommends that “no horse be permitted to race within 10 days of its last start.” This nonbinding “rule” was broken not once, but twice in a fortnight. This is the animal cruelty statute in Massachusetts:
“Whoever overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly beats, mutilates or kills an animal, or causes or procures an animal to be overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly beaten, mutilated or killed; and whoever uses in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race, game, or contest, or in training therefor, as lure or bait a live animal, except an animal if used as lure or bait in fishing; and whoever, having the charge or custody of an animal, either as owner or otherwise, inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon it, or unnecessarily fails to provide it with proper food, drink, shelter, sanitary environment, or protection from the weather, and whoever, as owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal, cruelly drives or works it when unfit for labor, or willfully abandons it, or carries it or causes it to be carried in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon, or knowingly and willfully authorizes or permits it to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty of any kind shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”
Did Jacob’s Dream’s trainer (owner) not “overwork” him, “drive [him] when overworked,” “use [him] in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race”? But also complicit here are the stewards, the racing secretary, and the state vet(s) (lameness exams?), all of whom should have remembered this horse from FOUR DAYS ago. His private vet, too, needs to answer. With racing always talking about improving transparency, perhaps we could take a peek at his medical records. In the end, even by racing standards, there is little doubt that Jacob’s Dream was overworked. But beyond that, it is also highly likely that the excess burden caused, or at least contributed to, his death. Any ambitious prosecutor in the commonwealth listening?