For the second consecutive day, I am reporting a death at the hallowed Saratoga Race Course. Yesterday, in a Grade 1 (the richest kind) steeplechase race, 12-year-old Divine Fortune “fell heavily” (Equibase) at the final jump, was “vanned off,” and eventually euthanized for a broken shoulder back in the barn. Pictures here. Not surprisingly, that race’s replay is conspicuously missing on NYRA’s website.

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As the region grows increasingly giddy over American Pharoah and tomorrow’s Travers, I am here to remind that support for this industry – through attendance, through wagers, through racino slots – directly results in dead horses. Lots of them:

My 2014 KIA list currently stands at 966. But for various reasons, which are discussed on the page, that number could easily and reasonably be doubled, leaving us with roughly 2,000 track-related (racing or training) kills last year.

The current year’s tally grows with each passing week – and will grow exponentially when I again begin FOILing state racing commissions in January.

Last year, 126 racehorses perished at NYS tracks; to date this year – 73.

Last year, 14 racehorses fell at Saratoga; to date this year – 11.

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How many more must be sacrificed under the guise of “sport”? When is enough enough? In an America abounding with myriad entertainment options – museums, theaters, concerts, real sports involving autonomous human beings – and other highly visible, readily accessible gambling outlets – full-service casinos, state lotteries – the excuses have run dry. We can do better. We should do better.


6-year-old mare Darling Bridezilla’s “career” defines mediocrity: In 33 starts, she only briefly escaped the claiming ranks, earning, along the way, a modest sum for her “connections.” Her last start was at Saratoga on August 3 – a $12,500 claiming race worth $25,000 (a pittance at this upper-crust track). So it is of little surprise that her death Tuesday garnered practically zero coverage from the racing press. In this world, Darling Bridezilla was a relative nobody.

As for the death itself, according to the NYS Gaming Commission, she was felled, presumably in her Saratoga stall, by a “cardiac incident.” Yes, the infamous “cardiac incident” – failed heart. (These not uncommon deaths – among, I remind, supposedly supremely conditioned, in-their-prime equine “athletes” – almost invariably remain unexplained.) The Commission, of course, wasted no time in relegating this to the “non-racing” bin, implying that its (Racing’s) hands are clean. Well, they’re not. Racing made this horse. Racing exploited this horse. Racing killed this horse. Period.

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Most of the time, the racing industry deflects, distracts, spins, and deceives. But every once in a while, some raw truth finds its way to the surface. Witness this from Equibase’s account of 2-year-old (a child) Sky Devil’s run at Presque Isle Sunday – his first-ever race, by the way:

short note – “hard whipping”; long note – “bumped hard at the start, angled out and rushed between horses, angled out sharply in the final furlong and was put to very hard punishment.” This, for a 5th-place finish, 8+ lengths off the pace.

Rationalize that, apologists.

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