You Can Love Horses. You Can Love Horseracing. But You Can’t Love Both.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, John Cherwa, author of that paper’s “Racing!” newsletter, wrote this on the death of Magic Mark at Los Alamitos Wednesday:

“No doubt, this is the part of the sport that is most difficult to stomach. It takes a bit of your soul every time it happens, be in [sic] it in a race, during training or back at the barns. It happens at a rate that no one finds acceptable.”

First, Mr. Cherwa, your “sport” is no such thing; it is but exploitation of a weaker species for nothing more than $2 bets. It is mean and cruel, and as you allude to, regularly deadly: Through my seminal FOIA reporting, I estimate that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks annually, and this says nothing of the multiple thousands more who are brutally and violently slaughtered as part of Racing’s one-of-a-kind “retirement” program. (By the way, Mr. Cherwa, you also say, “We don’t write about every horse death, not that we aren’t constantly told by the anti-racing folks that we should.” As a matter of practicality, you couldn’t write about every dead racehorse, for if you did you’d have no space for anything else.)

Second, as a longtime fan you must know that the killing is built-in – an inevitable part of what they do. So please spare us the hollow handwringing (“difficult to stomach, takes a bit of your soul every time”), for if you support this industry in any way – be it through bets, attendance, racino plays, or, like you, marketing and promotion – you support the abuse and killing. If, and this goes for the whole “prayers and condolences” crowd too, you help make it (death and destruction) possible, you’re not allowed to cry about it after the fact. In the end, it’s as simple as this: You can love horses. You can love horseracing. But you can’t love both.

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  1. I agree with Horseracing Wrongs – people who have any conscience at all know that forcing horses to race is cruelty to animals and many horses who don’t get killed on the track, are sold at auction to kill buyers.
    Horseracing is vile but all sorts of apologists will say or write anything for their own piece of the pie.

  2. Thank you, Patrick. Could you modify this into a Letter to the Editor and submit it to the San Diego Union Tribune ASAP? Opening day at Del Mar is July 18 and there is so much hoopla and merriment over the damned hats and celebrities that it is sickening. Your letter would be a good dose of reality.

    • TOUCHE’ Jane,

      Del Mar the KILLER track is getting ready to open, how many horses will die at the next meet.?

      2017- SEVENTEEN ( that we know of ) DIED compared to TEN ( at Saratoga ) Equine fatalities: why this is a pivotal year for Del Mar and Saratoga & listen to this IMBECILE -California Horse Racing Board executive director Rick Baedeker – I MEAN THIS GUY IS A MORON – here is the statement he made, EITHER OUT OF COMPLETE IGNORANCE of what is going on on the backside OR BLATANT NAIVETE of what is being done to these horses ” “From a regulatory standpoint, we have the ability to work with the associations to keep horses out of races that in our opinion shouldn’t be running,” ?????? THAT WOULD BE ANY HORSE THAT HAD A JOINT TAPPED WITHIN THE LAST 6 MONTHS OR ANY HORSE WITH ANY DRUGS IN ITS SYSTEM -PERIOD. These 2 SIMPLE RULES WOULD IMMEDIATELY STOP THE GENOCIDE – BECAUSE YOU WOULD ONLY HAVE WILLING PARTICIPANTS IN THE RACES. HORSES THAT ARE ABLE TO COMPETE.
      Equine fatalities: why this is a pivotal year for Del Mar and Saratoga
      https://www.thoroughbredracing.com/articles/equine-fatalities-why-pivotal-year-del-mar-and-saratoga/

      2016 – Horse Deaths at Del Mar Track Prompt Changes, Call for Investigation
      According to the state’s weekly reports, 16 horses have died at Del Mar since the season began on July 15.
      By Liberty Zabala and R. Stickney
      Published at 1:41 PM PDT on Aug 25, 2016
      https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Del-Mar-Horse-Deaths-Racing-Track-California-391320062.html

      2015 CALIFORNIA & KENTUCKY REFUSED TO GIVE THE INFORMATION ON THEIR STATES RACEHORSE DEATHS – SO THIS IS NATIONWIDE FOR THE EXCEPTIONS OF THOSE 2 STATES KILLED IN , 2015
      The following racehorses were killed on American tracks in 2015. Please note, however, that these are on-site deaths only – the “catastrophically injured” who were euthanized back at the owner’s farm or after being acquired by a rescue are not reflected here. Neither, the horses who perished at private training facilities. In addition, several states – California and Kentucky among them – rejected my FOIA request. While some horses from these states do appear below (confirmed through other channels), a likely majority remain hidden. Other states, still, omitted training deaths on their documents. So, this list – roughly 1,000 strong – could easily and reasonably be doubled, leaving us with upward of 2,000 track-related kills last year.

      Furthermore, what the industry refers to as “non-racing” fatalities – colic, laminitis, “found dead in stall” – have not been included. And, of course, this list says nothing of the multiple thousands of 2015’s “retired” who were bled-out and butchered in foreign abattoirs. In short, what follows is far from a complete reckoning of Racing’s carnage.

      Finally, while reading, please be mindful that the maiming and destruction is but a part of the story. There is, also: the pounding of unformed bodies; the extreme confinement of naturally free-roaming animals; the whipping; the (obviously) nonconsensual drugging and doping; and perhaps worst of all, the commodification – the buying and selling and trading and dumping. Collectively, the horseracing wrongs. – Patrick Battuello

      2014- Horse die-offs and high roller dearth cut Del Mar take 10 Absence of two unidentified “VIP bettors” responsible for $8 million gambling plunge – The business of betting on California horseflesh has been on the decline, plagued by the rise of Indian casinos, a dearth of high rollers, and a rash of well-publicized equine deaths at Del Mar over the summer. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2014/dec/16/ticker-horse-die-offs-high-roller-dearth-del-mar/#

      OBVIOUSLY I COULD KEEP GOING , BUT THIS IS ENOUGH INFORMATION FOR ANYONE INTERESTED WHO WANTS TO CNTINUE THE RESEARCH AS SO MANY OF US HAVE DONE OUT OF CONCERN & LOVE FOR THESE MAJESTIC & BRUTALLY TREATED HORSES.

  3. you COULD love both if the horses where WILLING / UN-ABUSED- UNDOPED participants – they are NOT ANY OF THOSE, they are BEATEN UP, today at Pleasanton a jockey BEAT A HORSE WITH THE WHIP 19 NINETEEN TIMES down the lane- jockeys are NOT ALLOWED TO HIT A HORSE MORE THEN 7 OR 8 TIMES DOWN THE STRETCH – this jockey beat this horse NINETEEN TIMES – they have RULES AGAINST THIS – WHO IS ENFORCING THEM? NO ONE THATS WHO- the horses are SO DOPED UP, THEY DONT KNOW THEY ARE HURTING WHEN THEY ARE WORSE THEN HURTING, BUT THEY ARE DOWNRIGHT LAME, the medications they use on these animals plus the LASIX ALONE ( 10 CC’S OF LASIX drains every ounce of fluid out of the horses body before the race & 99% of the horses run on Lasix ( they have ZERO BODILY FLUIDS TO DRAW UPON DURING THAT RACE & ANY VET THAT IS ADMINISTERING LASIX TO THESE ANIMALS IS ABUSING THEM BREAKING THE OATH THEY TAKE TO PROTECT & SAVE THE INNOCENT . the drugs they use the 10 days prior to race is OBSURD, FROM TAPPING JOINTS ( DRAINING THE NATURAL FLUID TOTALLY out of the joint & replacing it with steroids ( painkillers ), This not only kills the pain but deteriorates the joint every time they do it & the “trainers”, will tell you this is “maintenance” & they do it to many horses every 2 to 3 months, at the end of a year there is NOTHING LEFT OF THE JOINT. & the horses keep racing because all the other pain medication THEY CAN NOT FEEL THE PAIN . THIS IS RISKING THE HORSES LIFE, EVERY OTHER HORSES LIFE IN THE RACE & EVERY JOCKEYS LIFE. This is like the fox guarding the hen house,, the vets don’t care about the horses, the trainers don’t care about the horses, the stewards dont care about the horses & no one cares about the jockeys ( but they are willing participants) but very few jockeys even know how many drugs these animals are on. SO I CAN tell you these animals LOVE to race & compete, A thoroughbred is a NATURAL BORN ATHLETE. & trained & cared for CORRECTLY, THEY WOULD BE WILLING & ABLE PARTICIPANTS IN THIS SPORT, BUT UNDER THE NO RULES SYSTEM, THEY ARE UNWILLING PARTICIPANTS, ABUSED DRUGGED & UNCARED FOR BY ALL THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THEIR GUARDIANS. IT IS OBSCENE. If they took the drugs away ( ZERO TOLERANCE) THERE WOULD BE NO HORSE RACING & I DARE anyone to challenge that statement. These “trainers can’t get their charges to the track in the morning without drugs in them much less getting them to the starting gate in the afternoon without doping them,

    • 100% correct Lexi!
      The most appalling part of this doping is that the industry keeps their doping records SECRET so nobody knows what they are doping them up with.
      This lack of transparency is all being done under publicly-funded commissions while collecting gambling bets from the public.
      They claim that the drug testing finds what’s in them, but nothing could be further from the truth.
      It seems rather obvious to me that the drug testing is corrupt and so is the process.
      This is such a repulsive business and it’s so sad that the racehorses are paying with their lives.

      • VERY TRUE GINA – IT IS 100% COMPLETELY & ABSOLUTELY CORRUPT FROM TOP TO BOTTOM, ALL THOSE DERBY HATS & SMILING FACES ARE SO COMPLETELY IGNORANT TO WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE BARNS ON THE BACKSIDE IT MAKES THE VOMIT LITERALLY COME INTO MY MOUTH TO WATCH IT, I CANT I MUST TURN IT OFF.

  4. Patrick, I have spoken personally with Mr Cherwa of the LA Times. He is a passionate horse racing fan and that is one of the main difficulties of getting him to be objective about what’s going on at Santa Anita, Delmar, and Los Alamitos. I have gone so far. as to communicate several times with his editor Angel Rodriguez. But he is unresponsive to my request, which is to mention every horse that is killed or dies on Southern California tracks. The Times consistently uses the official printouts from the tracks which as you know list the injured and dead as “also rans”. Keep up the good work at horse racing wrongs . Wayne Johnson Ph.D Santa Monica

  5. Does the LA Times not proof read their contributors’ pieces? Cherwa seems to struggle with Magic Mark’s gender: “But then HE [Magic Mark] dropped backed quickly and jockey Martin Garcia eased HER…” – Cherwa can’t get it right even in the same sentence.

    Shoddy writing aside, his excuse for not writing about every racehorse death at the California tracks was absurd. Cherwa continued: “[Magic Mark’s] death is no more tragic or sad than any other. But, for whatever reason, this one just seemed worth mentioning.” THIS ONE seemed worth mentioning? – could it be because the Bertrando Stakes results were reported in all of the major horse racing publications? And Magic Mark had won the race in 2015? And at age 8, the dark bay gelding had a solid following of both racing fans and advocates? Sure, Mr. Cherwa…Magic Mark’s death “seemed worth mentioning” because his wasn’t so easily swept under the rug.

    But ANKLE problems – Cherwa had a piece about some “filling” in a racehorse’s ankle just a couple of days ago. I guess ankle problems are worth mentioning…maybe because the colt with the problem is Justify?

  6. As a former industry insider, race tracks often provide gambling perks to sports editors or people in positions to cover-up what the truth is by shining a bright light on this vile business.
    I’ve seen perks like all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, and gambling accounts are very common so is paid meals while at the track.
    I also found out, when I went to a local animal shelter to complain about cat abuse on a track, that they received a yearly donation from the race track so they would not proceed with my complaint – I’m not kidding!!
    In fact, the director at the animal shelter receives a one-day all expense paid pass to the track with up to 3 friends including money in her gambling account!
    In exchange?
    An article that avoids or cover-ups the truth.
    Their relationships with politicians (mostly GOP) and other important entities is not unlike the NRA money relationships.
    The only difference is the victim, but all lives matter.

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