It has long been the prevailing wisdom of those familiar with this hideous industry that thousands of “retired” Thoroughbreds end up brutally slaughtered in abattoirs north and south of these united states each year. Having written extensively on this issue, I believe that it is in fact a majority. Yes, a majority. But until now, I had yet to see anyone closely associated with racing go on the record with a number. Then this in yesterday’s Daily Gazette, in an article about “Thoroughbred aftercare”:

“This is a particularly cogent point when considering numbers Dr. [Patricia] Hogan – one of the most prominent equine veterinarians in the U.S., and [someone who] works closely with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association – cited with regard to horse slaughter for human consumption. Despite laws banning it in the U.S., horses still make their way to abattoirs in Canada and Mex¬≠ico. While foal crops these days number around 20,000 per year, 10,000-12,000 off-the-track thoroughbreds are vanned across borders to be slaughtered.”

In prior posts I have cited a Wild for Life Foundation study that estimated that 19% of the American horses slaughtered each year are Thoroughbreds. According to the Equine Welfare Alliance, 114,091 U.S. horses were slaughtered in 2016. 19% of that is roughly 21,000 (Thoroughbreds only, not including Quarterhorses and Standardbreds). Obviously, 21,000 is far greater than Ms. Hogan’s 10,000-12,000. But is there a meaningful difference, the kind of difference that would make one say, that’s a whole other story? Of course not. The story here, the big, bold, screaming headline here, is that thousands – multiple thousands – of used-up “equine athletes” are being bled-out and butchered – after, that is, enduring terrifying treks across our borders – every single year. Racing’s dirty, blood-drenched little secret.

So remember this the next time someone says that an afternoon at the track is but an innocuous passing of time – good, clean, family fun. All actions have consequences, and the consequence of $2 bets, admission tickets, and pulls of racino slots is killing, is carnage. In a word, it’s unconscionable.

As the dead horses pile up – 17 as I write – at Saratoga, the industry responds with utterings ranging from the befuddled to the just plain loathsome, with a (typical) dash of duplicitous thrown in. From Sunday’s Times Union (please take the time to watch the attached video covering many of this summer’s kills):

From the dazed and confused category, this from jockey Javier Castellano: “Maybe it could be the track. It has to be something, it has to be the track. That’s all I can say.”

“Maybe” the track – well, “it has to be something.” On second thought, yes, it’s the track. And why not, the “track” is definitely the summer’s villain du jour.

As to the vile, how’s this: “‘He was a sweetheart,’ [trainer Rick] Violette said [of Howard Beach, killed July 29], shaking his head while standing outside his office at his summer barn on the Saratoga backstretch. ‘He took a bad step, and it was ugly,’ said Violette. The breakdown happened in front of families who were taking in breakfast at the track and watching workouts. On that same morning, a 3-year-old gray gelding named Positive Waves was victim to a nasty accident at the eighth pole when he broke his right front leg and also had to be put down.”

An “ugly” kill(s) in full view of families – presumably with children – “taking in breakfast.” What more could I possibly add?

“‘It is tragic,’ Violette said. ‘You don’t want to get out of bed the next day, but you have a business to run, a responsibility. If my knuckles are dragging on the ground, so is the help. I hate even talking about it.'”

“Tragic.” “Don’t want to get out of bed.” “Knuckles dragging.” “Hate even talking about it.” Sounds like Mr. Violette is suffering from a bit of depression. But then, you’d think he’d be well-practiced by now, having gone through this with 10 other NY horses – including two last year – since 2009.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, on the deaths of two of his horses (Marshall Plan, Munjaz), killed on back-to-back August days: “On the track, things happen.” Enough said.

On the propaganda front, Dr. Scott Palmer, NY’s equine medical director: “The Gaming Commission’s ongoing goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero.” Never gonna happen, not even close. We know it; he knows it; the whole industry knows it. Death at the track, is.

And finally, back to Violette: “That is why it is so frustrating. There are no black and white answers. We might never find out.”

But there is (a black and white answer), Mr. Violette. Your business kills horses as a matter of course. It is inherent to what you do. Own it.

In the 7th yesterday at Laurel, Credit Ready “broke down approaching the eighth pole” (Equibase). (“Broke Down,” for the uninitiated, is racing-speak for dead.) Here is the official “Maryland Racing” replay:

Note that the video cuts out right as CR was about to break down; the audio doesn’t return till the happy – complete with children – “Winner’s Circle” shot.

This is horseracing.