Through a FOIA request to the Arkansas Racing Commission, I have confirmed the following kills at Oaklawn Park so far this year. It’s worth noting that since I began doing this (FOIA requests), this is the first time Arkansas has forwarded information; in fact, it is the first time since my initial request in 2014 that they have even responded. I currently have requests pending for the years 2014-2018.

Thunder Bye, Jan 24, Oaklawn T – “humerus fracture”
Blue Anchor, Jan 27, Oaklawn R – “fractured a carpus/knee”
Luna de Rojo, Feb 3, Oaklawn T – “catastrophic training injury”
Vision, Feb 13, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
Could Be Game, Feb 16, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
Zuba Ziba, Feb 28, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
Macer, Mar 2, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
My Mystery, Mar 7, Oaklawn R – “euthanized,” no other details given
Justlikesister Ray, Mar 8, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
Magnolia Petal, Mar 24, Oaklawn T – “euthanized,” no other details given
Bad Humor, Apr 4, Oaklawn R – “euthanized,” no other details given

Last Wednesday, Ray Paulick penned an opinion piece in his eponymous Paulick Report entitled “Horse Racing At The Crossroads: Reform Or Die.” Sounding the alarm (again), Paulick rightly points out that the media is swarming and not letting go.

“We’ve written before about how society has changed, that a public opinion survey in 2018 made animal welfare the No. 1 issue that Americans care the most about. That was before the glare from the mainstream media spotlight on racing fatalities at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., made virtually everyone in this country aware that hundreds of Thoroughbreds are dying each year on American racetracks.”

Fairly straightforward to this point. But then Paulick can’t help but get prickly about the siege in which his beloved “sport” currently finds itself: “The media smells blood, and I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’ The piling on is unfair, with graphic and often misleading articles and video segments on horse racing fatalities on everything from Voice of America and National Public Radio to CNN, Fox News and HuffPost.com (which referred to Santa Anita as ‘horse hell’). Who ever said life was fair?”

“Unfair,” Mr. Paulick? How dare you talk of inequity toward an industry that has been allowed to exploit and abuse animals for 150 years with, for the vast majority of that time, nary a peep from the mainstream media. “Graphic,” Mr. Paulick? Not hardly enough: This should be in newspapers coast to coast. “Misleading,” Mr. Paulick? Misleading is only mentioning the “hundreds [and actually it’s well over 2,000] of Thoroughbreds dying” on-track while conveniently omitting the hundreds dying back in their stalls or the multiple thousands being strung up and slashed every year.

The Ray Paulicks of the racing world are, in many ways, our greatest enemies – wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sounding intelligent, caring, and thoughtful, their opinions and ideas can, at least to the lay public, be utterly persuasive – you know, all Racing needs is a good housecleaning, a return to its roots, the “Horseracing Integrity Act.” And if they get what they want – and to their everlasting shame – countless more horses will suffer and die for it.

The case of Tiz Willow, the 2-year-old who died of starvation at Golden Gate in January, was finally – why did it take almost five months? – adjudicated. But before I give the ruling, a reminder:

“Present were [Gustavo] Medina his translator Rob Cochran, investigator Mike Alford and CHRB Staff Counsel Rob Brodnik. Mr. Brodnik questioned Mr. Medina at length about his lack of care for the horse Tiz Willow, as did the Stewards. Mr. Medina had no explanation other than the other horses at the ranch wouldn’t let Tiz Willow eat. Even if that were true Mr. Medina had almost two months to remedy the situation. When given the opportunity to present witnesses on his behalf and generally defend himself he had little to say and no witnesses…but finally when prompted by the Stewards for some response, mumbled ‘I’m Sorry.’ A decision will be forthcoming.”

The ruling:

“Expired Exercise Rider/Owner Gustavo G. Medina is hereby deemed ineligible for licensing until February 28, 2022 pursuant to CHRB rule #1900 and fined the sum of $10,000 for failure to provide adequate care to the horse Tiz Willow from December 3, 2018 through January 25, 2019 and exercising horses without a valid license.

Further, it is the recommendation of this Board of Stewards that Gustavo G. Medina never be relicensed by the CHRB for an egregious violation of rule #1902.5 (Animal Welfare). The Stewards found Mr. Medina responsible for the inadequate care and feeding of [Tiz Willow], leading to the demise of that animal caused by malnutrition… The Stewards also considered the lack of remorse displayed by Mr. Medina.”

So, it would appear that Medina will at least have an opportunity to be a “horseman” again, even though the Board “recommends” that that never happens. When I questioned why not just a lifetime ban now, the CHRB replied that “the stewards can only suspend for the term of the license.” Imagine that – this monster could be right back at it in less than three years, if not in California, perhaps in some other state. And this says nothing of what he’s capable of doing to horses (or other animals) outside of Racing’s jurisdiction. Once again, this is what happens when the law (state animal-cruelty statutes) defers to industry. Vile, all the way around.

Equibase’s retelling of the 4th at Louisiana yesterday: “Kool Yankee was pulled up entering the drive and euthanized.” The 5-year-old was under the whip for the 14th time; oh, and “For Sale” (at the bargain-basement price of $5,000) the day he died.

The stewards at Arizona Downs have confirmed that Tizjohndeersway was euthanized after being “vanned off” in the 3rd race there Saturday – “lame left front” was the official diagnosis. Arizona Downs is the reboot of Yavapai Downs, which closed in 2010. Track manager Ann McGovern had this to say (AzBigMedia) back in May:

“Families are searching for new experiences they can share together without draining their wallets. We’ve planned our entire summer season with families in mind, and we’re keeping it very affordable. We want parents and children alike who haven’t experienced horse racing to fall in love with the sport.”

Nothing screams family fun like watching horses die. For shame.