Last week’s U.S. horseracing casualties.

Reported as Dead or “Broke Down” (racing-speak for dead):
Play Maker, Dec 20, Los Alamitos (T) 9
Oh Juliet, Dec 21, Fair Grounds 5

“Vanned Off” – horses who required an ambulance (in crudest sense of the word) to leave course; a better-than-even chance of dead:
Freights Bay, Dec 16, Gulfstream 2
War Classic, Dec 16, Gulfstream 9
Bunuska, Dec 17, Charles Town 4
Jawain, Dec 17, Hawthorne 8
Born to Sail, Dec 17, Laurel 3
Miss Black Ice, Dec 17, Penn 5
Hourly Appointment, Dec 18, Fair Grounds 3
Sarah’s River Girl, Dec 18, Fair Grounds 9
Nevada, Dec 18, Penn 6
Bowman’s Boy, Dec 18, Penn 9
Esther Carl, Dec 19, Delta 8
Warren’s Fantasy, Dec 19, Los Alamitos (T) 1
Wallyanna, Dec 20, Gulfstream 8
Headstart, Dec 20, Hawthorne 9
Hugger of Trees, Dec 20, Laurel 2
Back At You, Dec 20, Los Alamitos (Q) 1
Quatro Eagle, Dec 20, Sunland 2
Cold Cat, Dec 20, Tampa Bay 7
Dragon Dance, Dec 21, Los Alamitos (Q) 3
His Own Beat, Dec 21, Tampa Bay 2

Other:
It Is What It Is, Dec 15, Parx 1, “pulled up in distress”
TJ’s Folly, Dec 16, Mahoning 5, “stumbled badly,” DNF
Mississippi Stud, Dec 17, Evangeline 8, “pulled up lame”
Up to Mischief, Dec 19, Charles Town 4, bled
River City Girl, Dec 20, Mahoning 3, “stopped badly”
Ford Nation, Dec 21, Gulfstream 3, “bled while racing”

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California has disclosed the following dead racehorses at Golden Gate Fields:

3-year-old Mapping broke down while being trained on December 3rd (trainer, Steven Miyadi). 8-year-old Suzettes Friend broke down while being trained in November – euthanized December 4th (trainer, Jerry Weaver). 2-year-old Mission Street was “found dead” in his stall on December 9th (trainer, Greg James). 5-year-old Justalittleloopy broke down while being trained on December 13th (trainer, Steve Sherman). Also, one anonymous death was reported at Los Alamitos for w/e 12/7.

Every once in a while (Aqueduct ’12, Saratoga and Del Mar this summer), the industry and its mouthpieces are forced to address the giant elephant in the room: their dead horses. But even when discussing hard numbers – at least the ones they begrudgingly concede – they distract and deceive like seasoned politicians. In a Friday DRF article, David Grening writes: “The recent fatalities [at Aqueduct] have brought the number of equine deaths suffered at [NYRA’s] three tracks in 2014 to 33…” Yes, if we ever so conveniently ignore the training kills. The true 2014 toll:

19 dead at Aqueduct (2 more “non-racing”)
31 dead at Belmont (10 more “non-racing”)
14 dead at Saratoga

64 dead at NYRA tracks – 76 if we appropriately include the “non-racing” deaths.

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But it gets worse: “NYRA officials…expressed concern about the recent fatalities but maintain that the number of catastrophic racing injuries – which they put at 22 – equals the second smallest in a quarter-century. Nine of the 33 fatalities, NYRA officials said, are classified as ‘sudden death’ from something such as a cardiovascular collapse or a broken neck suffered in a fall where the horse was not euthanized. NYRA classified two additional deaths as being unrelated to racing.”

And this from NYRA’s chief vet, Dr. Anthony Verderosa: “When horses are at speed, and you got 18,000 starts a year, you’re going to have some unfortunate incidences, and the numbers right now – and I hate to put it in those terms – are not that bad.”

How bankrupt are these people? First, in a contemptible attempt to shift some of the blame (to whom remains a mystery), they use the qualifier “catastrophic racing injuries,” thus excluding not only training deaths, but broken necks and “cardiac events” as well. Never mind that broken necks are caused by in-race collisions and falls; never mind that adolescent equines shouldn’t just drop dead. If it’s not an in-competition euthanasia, it doesn’t count; if it doesn’t count – progress.

Second, while the exploiters dismissing the destruction is to be expected, what are we to make of the state’s top medical professional, a person who has supposedly dedicated his life to helping animals, calling the gambling-induced deaths of 64 intelligent, sentient beings “not that bad”? In a word, revolting.