“In many ways, you might call this one of the very best meets we’ve ever had here.” – Del Mar president Joe Harper, from the track’s website
As Del Mar is busy congratulating itself on losing “only” six horses in the just-completed meet (Joe Harper in Blood-Horse: “I just want to thank [the track superintendent] and his crew for doing an amazing job…”), a response is in order. Let me start by saying that given the way Del Mar has been hammered the past couple summers – and the large amounts of money at stake – a healthy dose of cynicism on this – just six? – is wholly warranted. That aside, two points.
First, I have long maintained that these kill numbers tend to ebb and flow from year to year – with the only constant being that multiple horses die at every meet run in the U.S. (excluding, perhaps, a county-fair calendar that is measured in days rather than weeks or months). Follows are Del Mar’s dead since 2011 (Stewards Minutes):
2011: 18 dead
2012: 15 dead
2013: 9 dead
2014: 15 dead
2015: 14 dead
2016: 21 dead (Blood-Horse says 17, contradicting the minutes)
2017: 6 dead
Saratoga, another elite meet, has a perfectly random up/down pattern since 2009 (Gaming Commission):
2009: 11 dead
2010: 15 dead
2011: 9 dead
2012: 16 dead
2013: 9 dead
2014: 14 dead
2015: 13 dead
2016: 16 dead (actually 19, but for this purpose I’ll go with the database’s number)
2017: 19 dead
So you see, they may dip in a given year but chalk that up to dumb luck. Granted, 21 (or 17) to 6 is a large decrease, but up until last year, Del Mar had averaged about 14 deaths a summer, which is right about Saratoga’s number. In other words, stay tuned. Best guess: Del Mar will find itself back in the shoes Saratoga now occupies – battling a PR nightmare – soon enough, perhaps as soon as this Fall. Reversion to the mean.
Second, but far more important: Morally speaking, what does it matter what the final count is? 6, 10, 15 – not a whit. Bottom line here, several intelligent, sensitive beings are dead because of Del Mar. Dead so that some might gamble, others be entertained. Viewed in this context, how is even one acceptable? It is not, America.