“THUNDERING HOOVES UNDER THE LIGHTS!”

“Come experience the thrill of live thoroughbred racing – under the lights, all year long! Everything is better at night! As you pick your winners, enjoy fine and casual dining, special events and perks from our rewards club.”

So says the website for the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. What follows is a smattering of that entertainment’s cost, all from last night’s festivities:

4-year-old Fair Fight (2nd race) “retreated around the far turn, bled and was vanned off”

3-year-old Saint On Wings (7th race) “faded abruptly approaching the final turn and came back bleeding from the nose”

5-year-old Big Dividend (8th race) “was up in the final strides and collapsed post-race”

This is horseracing.

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Yesterday in Ohio, “The Sport of Kings” was a five-horse $2,500 claiming race worth $3,000. And now we learn that one of the five, 6-year-old Caverna, never made it out of the arena alive – catastrophic condylar fracture, gone. The jockey was Edgar Paucar; the trainer, Eduardo Caramori; the owner, Equinox; and the breeder, Bobby McIntyre.

On racing’s egregious meter, steeplechasing is practically unsurpassed. These are the kinds of races you watch with an expectation of horses falling – and breaking. This past Saturday saw the 118th running of the Maryland Hunt Cup, a 4-mile race – at times, run at 30 mph – featuring 22 5-foot-high solid timber fences. The final tally: 15 started, 4 finished; of the 11 who did not, 4 fell, 4 “pulled-up,” and 3 lost their riders. The Baltimore Sun reported thus: “The crowd, which covered a hillside overlooking the course, groaned in unison when the first horse fell at the third fence.” When a “sporting event” regularly elicits groans, perhaps it’s time for a bit of introspection.

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5-year-old Cuban Devil died in the 5th race at Atlantic City last night. His last six starts prior to Sunday – all under trainer/owner Bryant Taylor:

12/30/13, claiming race at Parx, 10th of 11
01/12/14, claiming race at Parx, last of 7, 37 3/4 lengths back
01/27/14, claiming race at Parx, 8th of 11
02/25/14, claiming race at Parx, 9th of 12
03/22/14, claiming race at Parx, last of 8
04/12/14, claiming race at Parx, last of 9

In total, the hapless gelding earned $1500 for Taylor over those six races – $250 each time out. Mr. Taylor, this horse was abused to death. The other complicit connections: jockey Jason Nguyen, breeders Stephen Quick/Donald Schmidt/WynOaks Farm, and all who once had a hand in Cuban Devil’s servitude. For shame.