The following, unless otherwise noted, were “vanned off” American tracks this weekend.

2-year-old Kela Flatts, Charles Town, race 1
2-year-old Petite Chat, Delta Downs, race 5 (not vanned off but “broke through the rail,” DNF)
2-year-old Like a Deputy, Delta Downs, race 5 (not vanned off but “shied from the whip… and lost his jockey,” DNF)
4-year-old South Forty, Golden Gate, race 2 (“pulled up lame,” vanned off)
2-year-old Royal Pop Lbh, Lone Star, race 5 (“broke through gate,” vanned off)
4-year-old Runaway Crypto, Remington, race 6 (“in apparent distress,” vanned off)
5-year-old Centralinteligence, Santa Anita, race 8
9-year-old So Big Is Better, Santa Anita, race 11
3-year-old One Hyde Park, Thistledown, race 1 (broke down)
5-year-old Ragetta, Thistledown, race 8 (broke down)
3-year-old Rocking Ta Mr Dean, Will Rogers Downs, race 7

5-year-old Big and Bright, Charles Town, race 6 (bled, vanned off)
5-year-old Dollicious, Delta Downs, race 1 (lame, vanned off)
4-year-old Indy El Nino, Hawthorne, race 2
4-year-old Regent Fan, Los Alamitos, race 5
4-year-old Maid of Dishonor, Penn National, race 5
6-year-old Cognashene, Pine Mountain (steeplechase), race 3 (not vanned off but fell over 3rd fence, 2nd DNF in last 3 starts)
2-year-old Secret Compass, Santa Anita, race 4 (confirmed dead)
4-year-old Trinniberg, Santa Anita, race 10 (not vanned off but “bleeding from the mouth”)
5-year-old Tanana Tango, Suffolk Downs, race 6 (fell, bled, DNF)

4-year-old Misscomplicated (1st career start), Golden Gate, race 7 (not vanned off but “bleeding from the nose,” DNF)
2-year-old Nothin’ But Tough, Gulfstream, race 6 (not vanned off but “bled while racing” – and winning)
4-year-old Chuvalo, Mountaineer, race 7
6-year-old Fly Away, Portland Meadows, race 8
7-year-old Preacher Willie, Portland Meadows, race 10
5-year-old Big Blue Fever, Thistledown, race 7 (not vanned off but “pulled up lame”)
5-year-old Little Sam French, Thistledown, race 7 (broke down)


In dismissing a lawsuit brought by the HSUS et al. on Friday, U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo opened the door for equine slaughterhouses to resume bloodletting in the U.S. (closed here since 2007). Plants in New Mexico and Missouri are at the ready. To many advocates, this is a crushing defeat. But as a practical matter, the court decision is neutral, neither good nor bad for horses.


A narrow focus on banning U.S. slaughter is misguided. It can’t even be argued that allowing it here will result in more deaths: In the last five years that American houses were operational, the average number of butchered American horses (both here and abroad) was 106,831/year. In the five years since (2008-2012), the average comes in at 132,593. Last year, 176,223 American horses were strung up and slashed on foreign (Canadian and Mexican, mostly) soil. Here or there, nothing changes unless both domestic slaughter and export-to-slaughter end. But what matters most – all that matters, really – is supply and demand.


On this site, we are mostly concerned with the racehorse part of the chain, which at roughly 19% (Thoroughbreds, that is) of the American slaughterbound is not insignificant. But equally in need of a voice are the tens of thousands of wild horses (who should be sterilized), spent beasts of burden (someone needs to tell the Amish that that era of equine servitude ended over a century ago), old trail horses, suddenly inconvenient backyard pets, and “retirees” from other “disciplines” who join racing’s refuse on the kill floor.

On demand, if people want something, business obliges. But if the supply is strained, the price will rise, perhaps discouraging at least some French and Japanese consumers. In the meantime, this is a reminder for horsemeat connoisseurs…

Slaughtering horses is neither necessary nor inevitable. From auction to dinner plate, it is simple commerce; it has nothing to do with humanely ending the lives of unwanted equines. The advocacy group Veterinarians for Equine Welfare says that slaughter is never an acceptable way to end the head-shy, flight-inclined horse’s life: “Rather than aiding horse welfare, as slaughter proponents contend, horse slaughter results in very tangible animal cruelty and suffering while engendering abuse and neglect.” USDA oversight (dubious as that is) or not, nothing can be done to sanitize slaughter. Nothing.

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2-year-old Secret Compass broke down during the running of the Breeders’ Cup $2 million Juvenile Fillies Saturday afternoon, suffering, in the words of the on-call vet (The Washington Post, 11/2/13), “the worst type of injury we get,” a lateral condylar fracture. The child-horse was put out of her misery. Dead.

She crumples at 1:12…

In an AP article (11/2/13), famed trainer Bob Baffert says, “When you lose a horse like that, it just took all the wind out of our sails.” Undeterred, though, Baffert, according to the AP, “was smiling later” when his New Year’s Day won the boy’s version. Win some, lose some, I guess.


5-year-old Centralinteligence (shown below), a Seattle Slew progeny, was vanned off after the $1 million Dirt Mile Grade 1 at Santa Anita. The video, which can be viewed here, shows no ambulance, of course; it’s all smiles and jubilation in the winner’s circle, with Goldencents’ owner calling Doug O’Neill “the best trainer of all time.” Yes, that Doug O’Neill.

photo credit: Breeders' Cup
photo credit: Breeders’ Cup

Later in the Santa Anita day, 9-year-old (54 starts) So Big Is Better was vanned off after winning a non-BC $150,000 Grade 1.