Through a phone call to the racing office, I have confirmed that Mystery Taste, listed as “broke down, vanned off” Tuesday at Beulah Park, is, in fact, dead. The 6-year-old career claimer was running her 53rd race, a $2,000 claiming for a $2,800 purse. It was her first under trainer Thomas Lehman (and owner Eleanor Lehman), having previously served Larry Bryant and Jeff Bryant a combined 33 times.

At Thistledown in October, Mystery Taste finished last (12th), 23 1/4 lengths back. In the subsequent four races leading up to Tuesday, she won a combined $1,100 and was for sale at an average price of $2,750. While these races are the lowest of the low end, consider this: Of the 55 U.S. Thoroughbred races Tuesday, 78% were claiming.

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The exploitation of Mystery Taste began when she was but two, in 2009 at Churchill Downs. From there, it was steadily downhill, culminating in Tuesday’s breakdown. This mare was spent and died at an age when horses are just rounding into full maturity, an age, that is, analogous to a college freshman. This is horseracing.

St Nicholas Abbey, a much-celebrated former champion, has died from colic. As previously covered, the 6-year-old Irish Thoroughbred underwent several procedures – which included 20 screws, 2 plates, a steel pin, and a bone graft – after breaking his pastern in July. All, in a cruel and shameful attempt to preserve him for breeding. And all, for naught. Not that more evidence is needed, but these comments from the Paulick Report lays bare, yet again, how delusional the racing “fan” truly is…

“Heartbreaking news. Condolences go out to everyone at Ballydoyle/Coolmore who moved heaven and earth to care for this magnificent champion.”

“As Shakespeare said (Hamlet) – ‘Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angles sing thee to thy rest.'”

“Utterly heartbreaking–much love and hugs to everyone at Coolmore, especially those who cared for St. Nick. My prayer, too, is that God someday wipes the scourge of laminitis and colic from this planet.”

“Bless his owners and all who gave him every humane chance to survive.”

“Tears and heartbreak. All my heart to this magnificent horses owners and all the people who took care of him and loved him.”

“Fly with the angels, handsome boy. I thank Coolmore for trying so very hard to save him, and I cry with all his fans and friends.”

“My condolences to Aidan and Joseph O’Brien, Coolmore, and everyone who loved and cared for St. Nicholas Abbey.”

“I feel as if I hit rock bottom with this news. …Sincere condolences to all those in his immediate circle and, to all the fans that loved him so, fondest memories.”

“I send my deepest sympathies and warmest hugs to everyone at Coolmore, especially Joseph and St. Nic’s lads.”

“Sadly, even today with so many impressive scientific and technological advances and accomplishments, men still have only limited power against grave injuries and the powerful, brutally humbling forces of nature especially when dealing with fragile horses.”

“Oh so sad – heartbreaking. Run free, precious St. Nicholas Abbey, in the Great Green Paddock.”

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Wow. Where to start? First and foremost, the unbridled love, warm hugs, and deep gratitude are meant for St Nicholas’ final owner, Coolmore, the world’s largest Thoroughbred breeder. Surely, the grieving can’t be that naive. But beyond that, Shakespearean quotes, tears, “rock bottom,” God, angels, and “the Great Green Paddock”? In a word, repugnant.

Each year, thousands of pedestrian racehorses, many pumped full of drugs to mask debilitating pain, shatter bones while “competing” and are summarily destroyed. Each year, tens of thousands of former racehorses are hung upside down and bled-out in grisly abattoirs. For those, (virtually) no press, no outrage, no heartbreak. This, not the anomaly of SNA, is horseracing. Finally, to those who lament man’s “limited power against grave injuries” to “fragile horses,” we simply say, stop racing them. Stop racing them.

Go Canes Go, a 3-year-old gelding who could not finish his last race on December 29th (and came in second-to-last, 15 1/2 lengths back the start before that), broke his leg yesterday while breezing at Belmont and was killed on-track. He was trained by David Cannizzo and owned by ZRJ Stables.

Also at Belmont yesterday, 5-year-old Shertzer, trained by Robert Barbara and owned by Vincent Scalcione, died from an infected leg. NY’s 2014 Death Toll: 5.

The following, unless otherwise noted, were “vanned off” American tracks last week.

Monday:
Stolicknaya, Hialeah, race 1 (not vanned but “bloody RF hoof” after “stumbling badly”)
Blonde for Ever, Parx, race 3 (confirmed dead)
Clodhopper, Turf, race 3 (“broke down”)

Wednesday:
Practice Squad, Delta, race 2
Devils Afleet, Turf, race 3 (“broke down”)
Shoeless Jackson, Turf, race 9

Thursday:
Casey Lynn, Delta, race 1 (confirmed dead)
Battle Silk, Delta, race 9 (confirmed dead)

Friday:
Havanadaydream, Calder, race 6 (not vanned but bled)
Holy Waters, Charles Town, race 4
Minister Machine, Los Alamitos, race 1
Slick Invader, Los Alamitos, race 7

Saturday:
Skip the Limit, Charles Town, race 6 (“broke down”)
Trukarma, Fair Grounds, race 3
Flat in Charge, Gulfstream, race 6
Danderek, Santa Anita, race 7 (“vanned off after the winner’s circle picture”)
Golden Archway, Tampa Bay, race 3 (“broke down”)
Lea’s Exchange, Tampa Bay, race 7

Sunday:
Pass the Tap, Aqueduct, race 8
Lady of Athens, Golden Gate, race 4 (not vanned but “bled from nostril”)
Ambassy, Los Alamitos, race 1
Penamaniac, Sunland, race 2
Cute N Famous, Sunland, race 5
Wakati, Sunland, race 9