In an article posted on ESPN (“Of Diamonds and Ovals,” 2/15/14), professional handicapper Steve Davidowitz attempts, odiously, to bond his two favorite pastimes – baseball and horseracing. He can do this, apparently, because one, these sports began around the same time (19th Century), and two, a handful of former baseballers find the cerebral challenges of betting (breeding, owning, training) similar to those faced on the diamond, both requiring “focus” and “powers of observation.”

images (13)

By now it should be clear that many in and around racing are not necessarily callous, just delusional. They truly believe this stuff. Their sport is storied, their athletes exquisite. The racetrack, like the ballpark, has sights and sounds that recall a more innocent time, lazy afternoons spent with dear old Dad.

images (6)

But, Mr. Davidowitz, horseracing is no more sport than hunting. Every day, the movable property referred to as born-to-run, love-to-run athletes die on the playing field, after, that is, being trained to submit and whipped to perform. And most of the ones who don’t will end up in some Canadian or Mexican slaughterhouse, shackled by a hind leg, hoisted upside down, slashed, and bled-out. That is horseracing. Like baseball? Just a figment of your imagination. You’re just a gambler, betting on forced “competitions” between nonconsenting animals. Get over yourself.

th (1)


The following racehorses were casualties on American tracks last week:

Felix, Aqueduct, race 6, vanned off
My Jordy, Aqueduct, race 9, vanned off
Last Chance to See, Beulah, race 1, “in distress,” vanned off

Landonmav, Turf, race 8, vanned off

Royalsaintjames, Tampa Bay, race 3, fell

Lieutenant Seany O, Santa Anita, race 6, vanned off

Shelby Scott, Delta, race 2, bled, vanned off
Moscato, Golden Gate, race 7, “went wrong,” vanned off
Optionality, Gulfstream, race 7, bled
Code of Conduct, Santa Anita, race 7, confirmed dead

Dateful Gred, Delta, race 8, vanned off
Blue Blizzard, Golden Gate, race 4, “went wrong,” vanned off
Silver Tactics, Oaklawn, race 2, vanned off
LG Jet, Turf, race 2, broke down

Vero’s Hero, Gulfstream, race 1, broke down
First Prize Prince, Louisiana, race 2, “injured,” DNF

The Daily Racing Form reports that 5-year-old Code of Conduct was killed after a breakdown in Santa Anita’s 7th race Friday. One note from the chart caught my attention: “The stewards conducted an inquiry into the incident before ruling Code of Conduct broke down on his own.” No, he didn’t.

Code of Conduct endured three different trainers – Chad Brown (3 starts), Wayne Catalano (12 starts), and Peter Miller (5 starts) – and was owned first by Gary/Mary West, and at the end by Gary/Cecil Barber. This is horseracing.

In California-racing’s most recent fiscal year (7/1/12-6/30/13), 209 racehorses perished – 90 racing, 56 training, and 63 other (gastro-intestinal, respiratory, etc.). Because this represents a decrease from the previous year (278), the California Horse Racing Board is feeling pretty good about itself. Equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur: “It was a good year. All the efforts we’ve undertaken…I think it’s paid off.” The cheery report, however, conveniently omits the number of California’s “retired” who were auctioned and, ultimately, slaughtered, not to mention the rescued who were eventually euthanized due to old racing wounds. This is a time for back-slapping, not harsh truths.

images (10)

To the horse people, 90 raceday breakdowns (which, by the way, remained roughly unchanged from ’11-’12) weighed against thousands of starts qualifies as some sort of victory, revealing again how morally bankrupt this industry truly is: 90, no, 209 intelligent, sentient beings were sacrificed not for some (what was once thought) noble cause – carrying soldiers or settling a continent – but for $2 bets and pieces of silver. Progress, Dr. Arthur? More like disgrace. And when fatalities rise again – which they will, unless racing continues to contract – what will you say then?