I recently came upon a 2007 article on the role of “On Call” vets at big Racing events – there as a liaison to the media, to communicate and explain injuries to horses during races. As this was published by dvm360, a vet magazine, the article was mostly about that profession and the standards they supposedly aspire to. But a couple of quotes from Dr. Larry Bramlage, the “On Call” vet present when George Washington broke down and was euthanized at the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, caught my eye.

The magazine led in with this: “Desensitizing the public to the injury was one of Bramlage’s and McIlwraith’s objectives in describing to reporters what was taking place.” Then Bramlage:

“If you give them the information and the prognosis, they don’t leave the telecast with those vivid pictures as they did at the 1990 Breeders’ Cup where there was no one officially to talk about the injuries or the horses. All they could do was show the pictures over and over…”

“Our whole job is to have people leave the telecast remembering it for the races, not the injuries. I think we accomplished that. The right information puts people’s minds at ease and sometimes even if the news is bad, they can feel bad but don’t continue to agonize over it.”

Imagine that. One of the vet’s primary objectives – or, even, “whole job” – is to “desensitize the public” after a horse is killed; to make sure “[fans] don’t leave the telecast with those vivid pictures”; “to have people remembering the races, not the injuries”; to “put people’s minds at ease.” No “agonizing” over dead horses here.

What a twisted, sordid state of affairs. Veterinarians, men and women whose actions are supposed to be wholly informed by care and compassion for their voiceless, vulnerable patients, are, by “desensitizing the public,” actively aiding and abetting an industry that maims and destroys said patients as a matter of course; by glossing the ugliness, they are helping to guarantee that Racing’s (inherent) abuse and cruelty continues ad infinitum. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised, for this is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s first principle on animal welfare:

“The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.”

Exploit away. For shame.

Last week in U.S. Thoroughbred and QuarterHorse Racing (Equibase)

Caroline’s Over It “vanned off” at Louisiana
Phil’s Cocktail “fell, vanned off” at Thistledown – subsequently confirmed dead
Portedor “vanned off” at Remington
G P’s Girl “bled…fell…died” at Arlington
Show Court “fell, DNF” at Belmont
Ricochet Bay “went wrong, vanned off” at Churchill
Loose “vanned off” at Belmont – subsequently confirmed dead
Conquest Hiosilver “went wrong” at Churchill – subsequently confirmed dead
Peter the Great “vanned off” at Churchill
Grand Nene “vanned off” at Gulfstream
Affirming “vanned off” at Remington
Storm Quest “vanned off” at Albuquerque
Lime Crush “vanned off” at Charles Town
Romantic Cork “vanned off” at Charles Town
Medlin “went wrong, vanned off” at Churchill – subsequently confirmed dead
DJ Advantage “bled” at Finger Lakes
Won’t Burn “appeared in distress” at Finger Lakes
Mia Valentina “vanned off” at Indiana
Why Nott Me “vanned off” at Lone Star
Johnny Jean “vanned off” at Will Rogers
O What a Night “vanned off” at Albuquerque
Superfly in the Sky “vanned off” at Albuquerque
Mightys First Corona “vanned off” at Albuquerque
Tap Show “vanned off” at Churchill
Lilt “went wrong, vanned off” at Churchill
Altamura “vanned off” at Laurel
Sterling Wager “returned bleeding from the nostrils” at Los Alamitos

Medlin, three, was euthanized after “[going] wrong” in the 1st at Churchill yesterday, multiple sources confirm. The kill comes a day after 6-year-old Conquest Hiosilver also “went wrong” at Churchill (race 5); of that one, the Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee said: “[the] race [was] marred by the mid-turn breakdown of Conquest Hihosilver [sic], who surely will have to be euthanized.” Kentucky, it should be noted, is notoriously tight-lipped about its dead racehorses, but I will follow up via FOIA.

Loose, four, is dead after breaking down (“bad steps,” says the chartwriter) in the 1st yesterday at Belmont. She was under the whip for the 15th time. To date, 20 racehorses have lost their lives at Belmont Park this year:

Steve’s Image, January 7, “horse died in stall from apparent colic”
Alex the Terror, January 9, “fx sesamoids while galloping, vanned off – euthanized”
Old Dubai, January 19, “fell breezing – euthanized on track due to compound fx”
Ciaran, March 6, “suffered a fx breezing – vanned off and euthanized”
Anchor, April 6, “horse was found dead in stall”
Belt High, May 3, “fx cannon/sesamoids – euthanized on the track”
Desert Affair, May 6, “fatal musculoskeletal injury – euthanized on the track”
Terry O Geri, May 18, “found dead in stall two days after having colic surgery”
Mark My Style, May 24, “suffered a soft tissue injury breezing – euthanized”
Overdraft, June 3, “euthanized for a fx pelvis”
Montauk, June 7, “suffered a fx shoulder while breezing and was euthanized”
Classy Cara, June 14, “ambulanced off the track; fx to leg – euthanized”
Freeze the Account, June 17, “fx cannon/sesamoids – euthanized on the track”
New Pass, June 23, “suffered fx cannon – euthanized on the track”
Luzinski, June 27, “was pulled up in the vicinity of the 1/4 pole – euthanized on track”
Charlonique, July 30, “fx cannon and sesamoid breezing – euthanized”
Gabriella, August 6, “sustained pelvic fx while training, vanned off – euthanized”
Northernstreetgal, September 7, “chronic septic tendon infection – euthanized”
Quaff, September 8, “removed from track via horse ambulance – euthanized”
Loose, September 21, “fx sesamoid – euthanized”

This, for 5-year-old GP’s Girl in the 5th yesterday at Arlington (Equibase): “sat well rated off the pace while running in the two path, bled and was eased in the final furlong, fell after the finish and died.” Bled first, then fell and died.

According to a trusted source, Phil’s Cocktail, a “fell past the quarter pole, vanned off” in the 8th at Thistledown Monday, is in fact dead – apparently from a heart attack. Phil’s Cocktail was six – an age when a horse is just emerging from puberty. Heart attack. Then again, perhaps the 48 times under the whip and the myriad substances pumped into his body over the past four years had something to do with it.