7-year-old Makari, recently imported from Britain, is dead after breaking his neck in a steeplechase (race 1) this afternoon at Saratoga. Jack Doyle rode, Elizabeth Voss trained, and Merriebelle Stable owned. Curiously, the replay is missing from the NYRA website – broken necks, I suppose, are bad for business.
3-year-old Elena Strikes is dead after breaking a leg while “breezing” yesterday morning. She is the third Todd Pletcher-trained horse to be killed in Saratoga practice sessions (Lucky for You, Kamarius). For Saratoga ’14, this makes 11 dead athletes and counting:
4-year-old Lifeguard On Duty, July 24, training
3-year-old Double Gold, July 25, training
3-year-old Father Johns Pride, July 28, race 7
3-year-old Lavender Road, July 30, collapsed after being scratched
2-year-old Sir William Bruce, August 2, race 5
4-year-old Regretless, August 11, race 4
3-year-old M B and Tee, August 21, race 7
2-year-old Kamarius, August 23, training
2-year-old Ludicrous, August 23, race 4
3-year-old Elena Strikes, August 24, training
7-year-old Makari, August 25, race 1
There is bad, then there is really bad. Friday at Clonmel Racecourse in Ireland, five, yes five, horses were killed steeplechasing. According to Irish Racing, here’s how it unfolded:
“Ballintotty Boy was the first casualty in the opener when the ground was described as good. Milan Elite fell at the fifth in the fifth and he sadly failed to rise, with the ground changing to good to firm after that contest. The third fatality came in the seventh with Oscar Pearl having to be put down after she pulled up injured before four out. Two more came to grief in the bumper with newcomers Lisgreen Lad and Areyouforreal both picking up fatal injuries.”
“Two more came to grief.”
In response comes this excrement from “Clerk of the Course” Lorcan Wyer:
“Obviously we were facing into 22 degree heat [72 F] and a very warm dry evening and there is always an element of risk with summer jumping. The track as it opened up during the day obviously dried and that may have been a factor. Obviously our sympathies go out to all the connections. We at Clonmel, and at all times and at all tracks, do our best to get everyone home safe both horse and rider. Unfortunately we have had five fatalities this evening and we will look back and assess what happened.”
What happened, Mr. Wyer, is your wicked institution.
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.
While this page holds that all horseracing is wrong, there is perhaps no more vile form than the steeplechase (“jumps”), the kind of animal competition that comes with an expectation of bodies falling, breaking, and dying. And so it was last week at the Cheltenham Festival 2014 in England. Four days, four kills (one was in a flat race under National Hunt rules): Our Conor (broken back), day 1; Akdam (fractured leg) and Stack The Deck (fractured knee), day 2; Raya Star (fractured spine), day 4.
The meet’s leading jockey, Ruby Walsh, said this after Our Conor’s death (The Telegraph, 3/12/14): “Horses are horses. You can replace a horse.” Walsh, in a bit of poetic justice, would break his arm later in the Festival when his horse, Abbyssial, took this fall…
And this from the RSPCA’s “equine consultant,” David Muir: “If a horse has broken its leg, we have to look at the reasons why and see what we learn from it.” If the RSPCA still has more to “learn” from racing kills, then it should cease calling itself an animal protective organization. Take a stand – work to end horseracing.
And finally, the British Horseracing Association: “Despite the best efforts of all involved, as with participation in any sport involving speed and athleticism, there remains an inherent risk of injury.” More fatuous words were never spoken.