From the California Horse Racing Board for Los Alamitos, July 27-July 29: “Three equine deaths were reported this week [the week in question was three days] due to racing injuries.” Unacceptably, however, no names were disclosed. We know from other sourcing that one was Unusual Kiddy in the 8th July 29; it’s a good bet that, based on the charts, the other two are from this group: Amore Di La Mamma; Provodnikov; Dramatic Angel. Regarding UK, I received the following email:

Dear Patrick,

My name is Laura. I have always been a lover of all creatures, vegetarian since age 4, and highly sensitive to any stories of animal mistreatment. Until last Sunday, I knew almost nothing about the horse racing industry. It has been a very heartbreaking week.

My Dad used to work at a track when he was a teenager, and since we moved to Los Alamitos last year, he has wanted us all to go together to see some races. My life partner and I are expecting, and so we decided to take my parents there for dinner and share our happy news.

The night began innocently enough. We marveled at the beautiful horses, enjoyed our dinner, and laughed as my Mom picked a winner five times in a row. It was down to the final race of the night, and for the first time all night, I did not put my $2 on the horse with the greatest odds stacked against him, Unusual Kiddy.

What happened seconds after the horses left the gate has replayed in my mind hundreds of times this week. Unusual Kiddy tumbling several times before coming to a motionless stop. Ambulances. The winner being called over the speakers, no discussion of the carnage on the track. Watching through my tears. A silent drive home. A sickening feeling of guilt and despair. A sleepless night.

When I called in to the racetrack the next morning, the person who answered the phone was sympathetic to my teary request to know what happened. They called me back within the hour with the awful truth: Unusual Kiddy had broken his neck when he had fallen. He was paralyzed and lost consciousness on the track, was transferred to the ambulance and euthanized.

I have spent the better part of this week reading about horses and horse racing, and sharing this story with whoever would listen. I found your site, and wanted to share this poor animal’s story. Sunday I am going to a rescue sanctuary and sponsoring a racehorse that was saved from shipment to a slaughterhouse. This small intervention does not even dent how helpless I feel.

Thank you for all of your efforts to call attention to the dark side of this industry. I wish I could help save them all. The cruelty of human beings towards animals truly breaks my heart. Please feel free to put this story on your website so that this animal may be remembered.

Laura Snoussi

Sunday, Horseracing Wrongs was again out in force for our weekly protest at Saratoga Race Course. And again, the regional media was all over it. This, of course, allows us to reach exponentially more consumers – literally, hundreds of thousands of people. In short, the momentum here is going but one way.

Spectrum News

CBS6 News


The Daily Gazette

Inevitably, though, the other side is afforded ample space to respond (most of the time, greatly exceeding our own). Sunday was no different. First, Gary Contessa, $80 million career-earning trainer, reacting to my own comment about Racing being cruel, said this to Spectrum: “These are our children. These are our pets.” Well. Mr. Contessa entered two horses at Saratoga Sunday, Will Do It in the 2nd, Truly Courageous (who ended up being scratched) in the 10th. Both races, as it happens, were of the “claiming” variety, meaning both of Mr. Contessa’s “children” were, or would have been, “For Sale” prior to (prior to, that is, being put to a whip).

Worse still, another of Contessa’s horses, 3-year-old Charlonique, was killed training at Belmont just yesterday. Look, we’ve long since known that these people are callous – the evidence of cruelty and killing is overwhelming – but what this quote also betrays is an utter contempt for the public. They’re playing us for fools.

Then came this statement from NYRA, in response to our protest:

“There is no issue more important to NYRA than the safety of our equine and human athletes. That is why NYRA has implemented extensive reforms and made significant investments since 2013 to improve track surface conditions, upgrade equipment, provide vets with more authority to monitor thoroughbred health, establish committees to oversee safety measures, and actively seek out advice and guidance from independent experts and scientists. We remain steadfast in seeking to continuously improve the safety of our racing operations and will never waver from this commitment.”

Well. Since 2013, the year these supposed improvements began, both total deaths and racing-only deaths are up (11% and 20%, respectively) at the three NYRA tracks. Yes, that’s right, there were more dead horses in 2017 than in 2013. I say again, ignore their pony and pony show. Horseracing kills horses, always has, always will.

An eyewitness to Heartspoke’s death at Saratoga Wednesday:

“Earlier today I believe I witnessed a horse die on Saratoga Race Course. I was there, despite having mixed feelings about going, for my company’s annual picnic at the track. I didn’t actually see the horse fall… I was too busy eating, drinking, socializing and hoping for ‘my’ horse to pay out a tiny little profit on my $2 bet. Then I heard the crowd gasp and when I looked, I saw the horse lying on the track, not moving a muscle. A flurry of track workers surrounded the horse – but it didn’t look like they were able to revive her, and I’m guessing that wasn’t their intention. A big blue curtain was placed in front of her; someone said ‘I think they’re going to put the horse onto that,’ but I think its actual purpose was to shield us from having to watch a euthanasia procedure. One that probably wasn’t necessary, in any event.

And apart from the crowd’s brief gasp, it was otherwise business as usual. The announcer kept chattering, the tellers kept taking bets, the next horses kept moving forward to enter the track for the next race. And it didn’t seem to matter that this particular horse had just given all she had left to give in the service of our quaint little blood sport, and now was being unceremoniously loaded into a truck and moved out of the way. I left after that, unable to stomach the idea of placing any more bets – or even staying there another minute. I don’t think I will be back.” – Tony from Albany

This past Saturday, Horseracing Wrongs co-hosted a protest of the Belmont Stakes outside Gate 5 at Belmont Park. It was, to my knowledge, the first ever coordinated protest at a Triple Crown race. And it was a success: We did several interviews, executed a powerful banner drop, and generally turned many a head. Below, please find a short video made by Kiirstin Marilyn and Karolina Tyszkowska of the NYC-based “V For Veganism.” Thank you to them, and to all who came out to stand with us for the horses.

The following letter was sent to Bob Costas, host of NBC’s Kentucky Derby coverage. To date, no reply. The sentiments expressed, of course, are applicable to all at that network, but most especially to Jon Miller, president of sports programming. Since my letter was mailed, an article in Sports Business Journal quotes Miller as saying: “Horse racing is an underappreciated and undervalued property that we were committed to growing and developing, and restoring to its status as a major sport in this country.” At once, repugnant (referring to the wholesale killing of horses for $2 bets as “sport”) and delusional (the U.S. racing industry is not coming back). Anyway, please read on.

Dear Mr. Costas:

My name is Patrick Battuello and I am the founder and president of Horseracing Wrongs, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to ending horseracing in America. First, let me say that as a life-long sports fan I have always respected your work. You are knowledgeable, eloquent, and thoughtful – truly one of the finest broadcasters of this or any generation. As a result, your words and actions hold great sway. Most recently, your stance against the NFL’s handling of the brain-injury issue and, more broadly, your detachment from football itself is both weighty and admirable. But your support and enthusiasm for horseracing is, I feel, profoundly disturbing, all the more so because of those aforementioned qualities.

I would like to share some information you may or may not already know. Since 2014, when I began filing FOIA requests with state racing commissions, I have been publishing first-of-their-kinds “Killed” lists – confirmed deaths on U.S. tracks. These annual lists have been roughly 1,000-strong, but after considering various factors (which I enumerate on the website), I have come to conclude that upward of 2,000 American racehorses are killed racing or training every year. Over 2,000. And this is not just a “cheap track” problem: Last summer, 21 horses died during hallowed Saratoga’s decidedly brief meet. The two summers prior, it was Del Mar. Truth is, there are no answers – death at the track is, always has been, and always will be an inherent part of this industry (please see “The Inevitability of Dead Racehorses”).

In addition, countless others, perhaps just as many as those killed on-track, succumb to what the industry conveniently dismisses as “non-racing” causes – things like colic, laminitis, “barn accident,” “found dead in stall.” In truth, however, these animals are no less victims of the business than the ones who snap their legs on raceday. Furthermore, the prevailing wisdom (fully explained on the site) is that most – likely an overwhelming majority of – retired racehorses are brutally and violently slaughtered once Racing deems them expended. In short, I don’t think it hyperbole to say that the U.S. horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Yes, carnage.

As an animal advocate, I seek to draw parallels between “us” and “them” – to help people forge connections they may not have previously thought existed. That said, I can certainly appreciate that although we share much with the rest of sentient creation – the most relevant being the capacity for suffering – an exact equality is neither tenable nor necessarily desirable. In other words, I am not saying that a CTE-afflicted former football player and a “broke-down” racehorse are the same things. But the question is not whether dead horses and dead people matter equally; rather, do dead horses matter at all? If they do, what level of destruction must be met before we as a society say, enough? For me, of course, one dead horse for $2 bets is one too many. But what, respectfully, is that number for you?

Mr. Costas, I implore you to dig deeper, to look beyond the juleps, hats, and horns, for that is racing on but a handful of days, at a tiny fraction of tracks. The rest of it, Racing’s very core, is ugly and mean. It’s spirit-crushing isolation and confinement for over 23 hours a day (which, by the way, makes a mockery of the industry claim that horses are born to run, love to run); it’s needles and syringes and injury-numbing chemicals; it’s absolute control and utter subjugation – lip tattoos, nose chains, metal bits, leather whips; it’s anxiety and stress (in the most detailed FOIA documentation I have received to date, the Pennsylvania ’16 report indicated the presence of ulcers – most extensive to severe – in virtually every one of the dead horses); it’s buying and selling and trading and dumping; it’s shattered limbs, imploded hearts, head trauma, and pulmonary hemorrhage; it’s kill-buyers and transport trucks, shackles and butchers’ knives. It’s exploitation and cruelty, suffering and death.

Football may indeed be embarking on a slow, steady decline, and it’s probably just as well. For it is a violent, unforgiving game, with many of the participants’ lives forever altered. But in the final analysis, they, as fully-autonomous human beings, have a choice. Horses do not. In fact, and pardon the inflammatory language, the racehorse is but a simple slave – a thing to be used, a resource to be mined. When future generations cast a critical eye, what is to be our collective defense? That we countenanced the above for entertainment? For gambling? Mr. Costas, your position on football has changed – evolved. We ask only that the same thoughtfulness and caring that went into that be applied to “The Sport of Kings.” Please, for the horses.

Patrick Battuello
Founder/President, Horseracing Wrongs