The California Horse Racing Board reports that 2-year-old The Heisman Kid “broke down” in Los Alamitos’ 3rd race November 15. “Immediately after the break,” say the stewards minutes, The Heisman Kid “appeared to break his back.” This is horseracing.
The following article, which I present in its entirety, should be required reading for all who cling to the obscenity of horseracing-as-sport.
From The Guardian, November 23 (by Andrew Stafford):
He was the horse no one had ever heard of. The undistinguished battler who never captured the nation’s heart. Indeed, he failed to capture anyone’s, except perhaps his owners, until they too fell out of love with him; their dreams of riches and reflected glory dashed.
Unlike Kingston Town, Black Caviar or Red Cadeaux, Poor Ned occupies no special place in racing history. He never even reached the track: for all the frenzied efforts of his trainers, no whisper in Poor Ned’s ear or whip on his hindquarters could spur him to go any bloody faster.
No one sent cards or flowers wishing him luck. No ashes were to be scattered at Flemington, where he never appeared. No one ever cheered him down a home straight anywhere. He never grew to be an old warrior. He was just another two-year-old nag who wasn’t good enough.
He wasn’t handsome enough for dressage and he couldn’t jump to save himself. He was too nervous for kids to ride on. Even professional jockeys found him hard work. The best that could be said about Poor Ned is that no one other than his owners ever lost money on him.
He was, in all respects, a disappointment. So his owners regretfully made the decision that, all agreed, was in their best interests. After all, he was costing them around a hundred bucks a day. And Poor Ned was high maintenance. He couldn’t cope with the stalls and he wasn’t much more docile in the stables.
He never gave anyone any joy. He competed with no distinction; in fact he was so lacking in distinction that he never competed at all. He was fragile and cranky, and no one will miss him, because no one other than his owners and handlers knew he ever existed. He served no useful purpose whatsoever.
No one ever turned out in their finest for him. No jewellery was flashed; no top hats or tails were worn; no ostentation of any kind was ever required. At least, being no peacock, he never had to put himself on display either. No one ever cooed their admiration at his perfect physique before he took to the track.
So to the knackery he went, unmourned. They led him to the kill-box and humanely euthanised him with a bullet to the head. Red Cadeaux was the third horse in two years to die after the Melbourne Cup. Poor Ned was just another horse that never made it.
There’s more where Poor Ned came from, though. About 15,000 thoroughbred foals are bred each year in this country. Some of them are bought for millions; when they fail, they might fetch a couple of hundred in the saleyards. But gambling is big business. Sometimes you have to cut your losses.
They ground Poor Ned up for dog food, but no one ever got attached enough to him to care. No one outside of his connections knew his name, and nobody in his industry’s governing body recorded his fate. He wasn’t even a statistic, because no official statistics on horse wastage are recorded.
Apparently there are roughly 10,000 Poor Neds a year. Horses that simply didn’t have the necessary fast-twitch fibres, lacked the temperament for racing, or just broke down injured. Or they were just too much trouble. 10,000 horses that the nation never stopped for.
For further reading, please see my 2013 post “From Wastage to Dinner Plate”.
Below, aftercare for an anonymous erstwhile athlete – a has-been, or, like Poor Ned, a never-was. (While this scene comes from Australia, the prevailing wisdom is that most “retired” American racehorses meet a similar end.)
The following horses were casualties on American racetracks last week:
“Broke Down” (read: dead); “Collapsed and Died”; “Humanely Euthanized”
Beauregard Sopo, Delta
Richter Con Jar, Delta
Sweet Baby Gaines, Fair Grounds
“Vanned Off” (carted away by ambulance, better-than-even chance dead)
Rye Frost, Parx (“in distress”)
Ghost Realms, Zia
Stormin Angel, Portland
Fiddlers Elbow, Charles Town
The Road Not Taken, Churchill
Gem of a Gal, Golden Gate
Explosive War, Charles Town
Il Est Beau, Fair Grounds (“in distress”)
Allison Cole, Los Alamitos
Ko Style, Zia
Monument, Del Mar
Collect On Seven, Gulfstream W
Appolitical Dynasty, Los Alamitos
Moonlight Heat, Zia
“Bled”; “Returned Bleeding From Nostrils”
Hall of Fame, Remington
El Posole, Parx (not bled, but “respiratory distress”)
One afternoon at an American horseracing track – Parx, Sunday (Equibase):
In the 2nd, 3-year-old Ourtaleoftwocities “returned bleeding.”
In the 3rd, 3-year-old El Posole “was reported to be in respiratory distress.”
In the 4th, 3-year-old Our Lukester “walked back…lame.”
In the 5th, 4-year-old Bright Skies “returned lame.”
Good, clean family entertainment.
From Friday’s Paulick Report:
“A racemare walking back to her barn after schooling in the paddock Thursday night at Delta Downs got loose and drowned in a retention pond.”
That mare was 7-year-old Cajun Chu Chu. She was last raced in May, but was slated to be run in a cheap ($4,000) claiming race Friday night. In all, she was put to the whip 27 times. As for her death, trainer Karl Broberg had this to say: “It was as freak an accident as you’ll ever see. There’s definitely no fault to blame anywhere. If there’s a way to get hurt, they’re going to find it. What can you say?”
And reactions from Paulick readers:
“There is a fence around it…it is called the inside rail, which evidently didn’t work…not being rude…just that some horses cannot stand prosperity.”
“Anyone who has been around horses at all knows that they live by Murphy’s Law. The list of predicaments, incidents, and just plain odd accidents that they can get into is almost unending. The horse was the only causality, but as bad as that was, it could have been so much worse.”
“A seven year old schooling before a Thursday race at Delta Downs? She must have been a real problem.”
“I had a mare jump into Ruth Lake.She sank like a rock. When we finally found her body she had a front leg through the throat latch of her bridle.”
…no fault to blame anywhere
…if there’s a way to get hurt, they’re going to find it
…some horses cannot stand prosperity
…could have been so much worse
…she must have been a real problem
…what can you say?