Grieving for Kris Royal

Tim Wilkin is a fine sportswriter, even if one of his duties is to cover horseracing for the Albany Times Union. (Of course, horseracing is as out of place on the Sports pages as blowing away Whitetails in autumn.) But his latest contribution (“Loss Leaves Empty Feeling,” 8/27/13) on the aftermath of Sunday’s 9th race in Saratoga almost seems written with the express purpose of eliciting sympathy for those at the heart of this exploitative business. Pity the poor horseman, for he so loved his former charge.

Wilkin on Charlie LoPresti, trainer of the late Kris Royal: “His heart was breaking because of stall 16. It was empty. Kris Royal, a 5-year-old chestnut gelding who was there on Sunday, was gone on Monday.” Little, Wilkin says, can “soothe [LoPresti’s] aching heart.” And LoPresti himself: “It just makes you sad, number one, because he’s just a neat little horse if you knew him. If you look there and you see his empty stall … what a nice little horse to be around … a fun little guy … he never bothered anybody … he tried. It really makes you rethink what you do. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘It didn’t really happen, did it?'”

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Perhaps, Wilkin writes, the rain-starved fast turf was simply too much for these horses. LoPresti, however, magnanimously refuses to blame anyone. His “fun little guy” just took a “bad step,” “hit a rough spot.” But if you delve a little deeper, certainly far beyond what this article is willing to reveal, you’ll find the root of snapped Thoroughbred legs everywhere: $2 bets and the resultant pots of gold that men like LoPresti relentlessly chase. The tragedy here, is horseracing itself.

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  1. These guys go through horses like they would disposable commodities because that’s what they are to them. How many “nice little horses” has LoPresti gone through ? Further, the chances for geldings having a life after the track are slim even if they manage to retire sound. They usually wind up on a one way trip across the border. That is the reality of what happens to these horses.
    This kind of reporting is an attempt at whitewashing the dark side of the racing industry. Difficult to say, but maybe death on the track is better than the trip to slaughter.

    • Rose, I couldn’t agree with you more. Yes, there will be a bit of sadness at the sight of the empty stall but then it will be business as usual. It is all about the money since racing is a gambling industry. It isn’t about the horses who are running their hearts out day in and day out at tracks throughout the country. However, to stop this insanity, we must not bet on horse racing. Let this “sport” die a quick death. Better for the sport to die than for the horses to die.

  2. Dan, first of all, without racing, the breeding of TB’s would decrease significantly. Approximately 50% of the TB foal crop is slaughtered every year. Therefore, it just makes sense that one of the problems is the over breeding of horses with the hope of producing a champion. Also, TB’s make excellent hunters, jumpers, eventers and pleasure horses so there are other options for people who prefer the TB as a breed. .

    • You are right. The slaughter of these young horses is kept very quiet. And as you said, there lots of “jobs” for Thoroughbreds besides racing. The breed is very versatile.

  3. I feel it is a quixotic aspiration to try and snuff out breeding altogether. It is in the DNA of many Kentuckians. Back in 2006, a two-year-old in training named The Green Monkey sold for $16 million in an auction. He never won a race and has since been an unremarkable sire standing in Florida. To spend that much on an unproven race horse sickens me, and it happens time and time again. To think another appropriation of that money could have gone to ensuring retired race horses a more certain fate and temporarily curing some of the ills of the industry.

  4. Saginaw, a successful NY-bred 7-year-old gelding, who won his last 5 races, was pulled up in today’s third race at the Spa, vanned off to a round of applause from Saratoga’s clueless faithful, and later euthanized. The two handicappers who dissect every race while the horses are in the paddock, failed to mention Saginaw before the following race. Not even a “crossing our fingers for Saginaw.” Here’s a wager I’m willing to make: NYRA prohibits any mention of their fatally maimed athletes if at all possible. Picture this in another sport: Adrian Peterson breaks a leg, a tarp is pitched and he’s euthanized right there on the field. Or, Clayton Kershaw tears a ligament in his elbow, a tarp covers the pitcher’s mound, and he is put down. A reliever comes in and the announcers proceed as if nothing has happened. Sounds ludicrous in the NFL or MLB, but it’s par for the course in racing.

  5. Change will not come from within this industry. There is a distinct effort at all levels in racing to cover up anything that could be perceived as bad publicity. Horses not only die on the track or on the backstretch, they are also abused and mishandled by workers and some trainers. They are drugged, given nerve blocks and pushed to the limit. Those that are tough enough to survive the downward spiral of the outrageous claiming game are, more often than not, subjected to a cruel and miserable trip to the slaughterhouse. This is the real world of racing. And these old warriors of the track are the backbone of the industry, not the Hansens, the Orbs,the Royal Deltas and all the other big stakes winners.

    • To the Poster Above: I couldn’t agree with you more. Change will NOT come from within the racing industry. It is business as usual. It sickens me, but it is the truth. Those who support this sinister and corrupt industry are part of the problem.

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