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.