To “distract,” says the American Heritage Dictionary, is “to attract (the attention) away from its original focus; divert.” The original focus regarding Santa Anita was (is) 22 on-track kills since Christmas, 26 dead racehorses overall. The distraction is Lasix, and the ban thereof (The Stronach Group, Santa Anita’s owner, has announced that it and California trainers and owners have reached agreement on a phased-in ban, the particulars of which are wholly irrelevant). Don’t believe me? Fine. Here is how the California Horse Racing Board’s chief vet, Rick Arthur, explained it to the LA Times:

…there “is virtually no relationship whatsoever” between Lasix and catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries, the almost universal cause of breakdowns on the track.

And Stronach COO Tim Ritvo: “Everyone has advised [Belinda Stronach] that that’s not the case. Lasix has not contributed to breakdowns. Lasix does not mask pain. I think we all know that.”

This is so grossly transparent that even a 10-year-old should be able to see through it. They distract, deflect, deceive, and dissemble because when your product is intrinsically cruel and deadly, what other choice do you have?

Mr. Marvin in the 2nd at Charles Town last night: “MR. MARVIN chased the pace in the three path, showed no response to steady urging from the head of the lane, pulled up short past the wire because of a fatal injury and was euthanized” (Equibase).

“showed no response to steady urging…pulled up…euthanized”: was whipped before dying. Mr. Marvin was eight; ’twas his 14th time under the whip.

In addition on Saturday:
Giant Dilemma “went wrong and was vanned off” at Gulfstream (one source has him dead but I will await further confirmation)

Bobs Gold “was vanned off sore” at Charles Town
Sweet Richter “was injured and had to be vanned off” at Fonner
Gracioso “weakened, pulled up, vanned off” at Golden Gate
Ferarri Lx “fell after wire, bled, vanned” at Remington
Mr Klee “vanned off” at Sunland
My Chinumado “vanned off” at Tampa Bay
Bert’s Baby “raced in unsound fashion, vanned off” at Turf

One day – this is horseracing.

Back in December, the Daily Racing Form ran an article entitled “Symposium attendees hear strategies on avoiding dog racing’s fate.” It began thus: “One of the topics being discussed among racing officials over the past two days outside the conference rooms at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing and Gaming is whether the recent popular vote in Florida to ban dog racing could happen to horse racing in one or more states soon. And many of those racing officials are now acknowledging openly that they are increasingly anxious that it could.”

Two years ago, this same symposium hosted a panel on how best to combat protesters at racetracks – a direct result of our success at Saratoga that summer. At the time, I wrote how sensibilities toward animal exploitation, especially regarding “entertainment,” are changing, and I mentioned Ringling elephants being “retired,” SeaWorld ending its captive-breeding of orcas, and the word “vegan” no longer sounding so alien. Since, more progress:

May 2017 – Ringling Bros. closes shop for good, ending 146 years of animal abuse

Aug 2017 – Illinois becomes first state to ban the use of elephants for entertainment

Oct 2017 – New York becomes the second

Mar 2019 – The city of Los Angeles stands ready to ban rodeos

And, as mentioned in the quote above, the November referendum vote in Florida that will end greyhound racing in that state by the end of next year. (Florida, a state that cannot seem to definitively agree on anything, passed this by over 2-1.) This one cannot be overstated. Florida is home to 11 of the final 17 dogtracks in the nation. When this ban is fully effected (some tracks have already closed, ahead of the deadline), greyhound racing in America will be in its death throes. Truly historic, and for that we owe the lion’s share of gratitude to Grey2K, a group we’ve long admired.

In addition: The National Aquarium will release all its remaining dolphins to a sanctuary by 2020; SeaWorld is still in decline; animal “actors” are ever-increasingly being replaced by CGI; and veganism grows annually – one study has the number of U.S. consumers identifying as vegan increasing some 600% between 2014 and 2017.

Economically, Floridians had grown weary of propping up the moribund dogracing industry with subsidies. And this, though maybe not to the exact same extent, is the horseracing story. Most of U.S. horseracing – including almost all of the harness variety – receives corporate welfare; I’m fully confident that once the public understands this, like Florida with dogracing, the tide will turn. In other words, that “increasing anxiety” within racing circles is well-founded.

But above all, this is a moral matter, and as the above clearly illustrates, those winds, as they are wont to do, are blowing in but one direction. How can horseracing “avoid dogracing’s fate”? Short answer: It can’t; it won’t. But it’s not enough to simply say that, to passively wait for the demographics to do their thing (horseracing is a middle-aged man’s “sport”; the younger generations, on the whole, eschew it), for horses are suffering and dying now; they need our action now.

In the spring of 1865, with Lee’s army and the Confederacy hanging by a thread, President Lincoln was not content to just wait it out. In a famous telegram to General Grant, he wrote: “Gen. Sheridan says ‘If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.”

Let the thing be pressed.

In the wake of the 26th dead racehorse (since Christmas) at Santa Anita yesterday (two broken legs), and faced with an unprecedented media-fueled national outrage, the track’s owner, The Stronach Group, announced, among other things, an immediate ban on raceday drugs. Complicating things, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, immediately praised the action – thereby helping this vile industry recover from its current PR disaster.

On the move itself, the primary target, Lasix, has long been controversial within racing ranks. Some consider it a simple performance-enhancer (the diuretic causes horses to shed water weight; lighter equals faster), while others say it’s necessary to control the pulmonary bleeding that as a matter of course is caused by forcing horses to run very fast. (Really, I’m not making this up.) In any event, file this in the “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” category. The weather? The track surface? Congestion during training? Now, Lasix? C’mon, folks, wise up.

Horseracing – because (for speed) it breeds animals with big bodies but spindly legs and fragile ankles; because it trains and races them long before their bones are done growing, plates done fusing; because it compels them to run at a decidedly unnatural pace; and because it commodifies them – is inherently deadly. In other words, there’s no fixing this. It must end. Full stop.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign these petitions for California and New York.

Please call Governor Newsom’s office directly. No more PETA-style equivocating. Demand (respectfully, of course) an end – a final, irrevocable end – to this madness: 916-445-2841 or email

Closed since March 5, Santa Anita resumed training this week. This morning, another kill. Princess Lili B, three, broke both of her front legs and was euthanized. Both front legs. Imagine that. Wait, no need, the video can be seen here.

While most of the media declares this the 22nd kill at Santa Anita since December 26, in truth the total now stands at 26. What’s more, it’s 34 since the end of September. 34 dead horses. For gambling. Shut it down – now.

The Santa Anita Carnage:

unidentified, September 24-September 30
unidentified, September 24-September 30
unidentified, October 8-October 14
Beau Square, October 18
Tariq, October 26
unidentified, October 22-October 28
unidentified, October 22-October 28
unidentified, October 29-November 4
Psychedelicat, December 30
Tank Team, January 4
Unusual Angel, January 4
Derby Treasure, January 11
unidentified, January 7-January 13
Noise Mandate, January 18
Amboseli, January 20
unidentified, January 14-January 20
Like Really Smart, January 21
Last Promise Kept, January 21
unidentified, January 21-January 27
unidentified, January 21-January 27
unidentified, January 21-January 27
Kid Cantina, February 2
unidentified, January 28-February 3
unidentified, February 4-February 10
unidentified, February 11-February 17
Hot American, February 22
Battle of Midway, February 23
Just Forget It, February 23
Charmer John, February 24
Eskenforadrink, March 2
unidentified, February 25-March 3
unidentified, February 25-March 3
Lets Light the Way, March 5
Princess Lili B, March 14