Every once in a while (Aqueduct ’12, Saratoga and Del Mar this summer), the industry and its mouthpieces are forced to address the giant elephant in the room: their dead horses. But even when discussing hard numbers – at least the ones they begrudgingly concede – they distract and deceive like seasoned politicians. In a Friday DRF article, David Grening writes: “The recent fatalities [at Aqueduct] have brought the number of equine deaths suffered at [NYRA’s] three tracks in 2014 to 33…” Yes, if we ever so conveniently ignore the training kills. The true 2014 toll:
19 dead at Aqueduct (2 more “non-racing”)
31 dead at Belmont (10 more “non-racing”)
14 dead at Saratoga
64 dead at NYRA tracks – 76 if we appropriately include the “non-racing” deaths.
But it gets worse: “NYRA officials…expressed concern about the recent fatalities but maintain that the number of catastrophic racing injuries – which they put at 22 – equals the second smallest in a quarter-century. Nine of the 33 fatalities, NYRA officials said, are classified as ‘sudden death’ from something such as a cardiovascular collapse or a broken neck suffered in a fall where the horse was not euthanized. NYRA classified two additional deaths as being unrelated to racing.”
And this from NYRA’s chief vet, Dr. Anthony Verderosa: “When horses are at speed, and you got 18,000 starts a year, you’re going to have some unfortunate incidences, and the numbers right now – and I hate to put it in those terms – are not that bad.”
How bankrupt are these people? First, in a contemptible attempt to shift some of the blame (to whom remains a mystery), they use the qualifier “catastrophic racing injuries,” thus excluding not only training deaths, but broken necks and “cardiac events” as well. Never mind that broken necks are caused by in-race collisions and falls; never mind that adolescent equines shouldn’t just drop dead. If it’s not an in-competition euthanasia, it doesn’t count; if it doesn’t count – progress.
Second, while the exploiters dismissing the destruction is to be expected, what are we to make of the state’s top medical professional, a person who has supposedly dedicated his life to helping animals, calling the gambling-induced deaths of 64 intelligent, sentient beings “not that bad”? In a word, revolting.