Livid Luke at Monticello, July 22:

“horse found unresponsive outside Barn A; believed to have escaped from stall and died during overnight hours” (NYS Gaming Commission)

Livid Luke was 12 and was last raced on June 26.

From Equibase’s account of the 3rd at Penn July 19: “NANGLE NATION showed speed two wide, drew out on the final turn, settled into the stretch with a clear lead, then responded to right hand whip by ducking into and through the rail in early stretch.”

“responded to right hand whip by ducking into and through the rail”

Nangle Nation is three; ’twas his second time under the whip.

This is horseracing.

It is our unequivocal position that no horse wants to race. Simply put, the horserace is effected though force, coercion, compulsion: From nose chains to tongue ties to blinkers, bridles, bits, and reins. And whips. From the trainers to barn staff, the starters to the whip-wielders themselves, the jockeys, every movement of the racehorse is controlled by humans. At least that’s the goal. Sometimes, though, the horse fights back. Witness this from Presque Isle Monday:

“ELFY UNSEATED THE RIDER WHEN SHE FLIPPED ON HER BACK IN THE POST PARADE AND WAS AGAIN FRACTIOUS BEHIND THE STARTING GATE. THE STEWARDS THEN SCRATCHED [HER]” (Equibase).

Immediately prior to this, Elfy was entered on June 21: “ELFY became fractious in the post parade unseating the rider and falling, was quickly apprehended…hesitated at the start…off behind the field.” On this occasion, she finished, albeit in last place.

So, two races in a row this two-year-old horse – a virtual equine babe – has been “fractious,” both times falling (“flipped on her back”). “Fractious,” for those who may be unfamiliar with the word, means “inclined to make trouble, unruly, cranky, peevish.” In other words, Elfy is communicating her displeasure (at what humans are doing to her) the only way she knows how. And yet, this little exercise will continue – continue, that is, until she is either broken down (or “breaks down”) or is simply deemed unfit and jettisoned north to the abattoirs. It is at once inspirational and so profoundly sad.

After conducting what it calls a “thorough investigation,” the Delaware Racing Commission has cleared the man who repeatedly (four times) punched a horse in the head prior to a race at Delaware Park to return to work, saying “no disciplinary action will be taken.” The Commission claims it conducted interviews with “individuals who are knowledgeable regarding the standard protocols of handling a fractious horse in the starting gate when a horse becomes a danger to the jockey and/or the assistant starter.” In addition, according to DelawareOnline, the Department of Agriculture’s animal-cruelty investigator has also granted full absolution. So, this man will continue working with animals after doing this:

As I’ve oft written, the racehorse is chattel – a piece of movable property. As such, he does not, cannot, have any rights, at least not in any meaningful way. Even when it appears to be egregious abuse (above), the law – in this case, the Racing Commission and Dept of Agriculture – almost invariably defers to “common industry practice.” So what they are saying here is that punching a horse in the head is perfectly acceptable – meets “standard protocols,” is common industry practice – if a human decides said horse is a danger to humans. Further evidence that you can’t fix this vile business. If you truly care about horses, there is only one position to take: Horseracing has to go.

In the wake of the assault of Accolade at Delaware Park last Thursday, his owner, Glenn Fagan, gave this statement to WDEL:

“As the owner of ACCOLADE, the 3yr old gelding that was beaten in the head by the assistant starter on Thursday in the gate, I am disgusted at what I witnessed. I am bothered by the fact that the head starter after witnessing this attack didn’t pull my horse from the race or at the very least make him a non starter for all the people that had wagered on him. The time, effort and patience needed to have your horse ready to compete at a top level on a specific day and race is difficult, not to mention expensive. The one factor that people can’t handicap, is an employee of Delaware Park taking his frustrations out on your horse.

I am happy to see the outrage and indignation that this matter has received on social media. My 14 yr old daughter and I travel 50 minutes each weekend to feed Accolade his favorite snack, peeled red delicious apples and baby carrots. She was in tears watching our horse getting beaten over and over and over and over and over again. She didn’t sleep Thursday night, as the image of the abuse replayed in her mind. …If this type of behavior is routine in the racing business, then I must rethink my participation in the sport of kings. I am not a litigious person, but the lack of empathy on the behalf of Delaware Park is intolerable.”

While Mr. Fagan seems a bit more concerned with his (and the bettors’) monetary interests here, there appears to be at least some anger in how his horse was treated (though I’d wager that has more to do with his daughter’s feelings than his own). But then, he offered this followup to the station:

“When I made my statement to you I was extremely upset over the incident that occurred at Delaware Park on Thursday. My trainer, Abel Castellano had not informed me that upper management, John Mooney, had not only reached out to him, but had sent the State Veterinarian to check on the welfare of Accolade as well. Though I personally have not heard anything from Delaware Park, I’m glad to know that they were concerned for the safety of my horse.

Abel had also informed me that the assistant starter involved in the incident, someone that he had known well and respected, had apologized to him as well. I understand that this man has worked for Delaware Park for some 20 years in an extremely dangerous job and a moment of frustration shouldn’t ruin his life. Able informed me that he is the best and most experienced starter on the team.”

So, this animal-abuser (who should have been arrested) is acquitted (in Fagan’s mind) because he apologized and works “an extremely dangerous job.” So much for “rethinking his participation in The Sport of Kings.” Look, since buying Accolade on March 23 of this year, Fagan has had him “For Sale” twice – April 19 at Gulfstream, May 27 at Pimlico. And that, people, is all you need to know about how he truly views these animals – the “apples and carrots” drivel aside, just things to be used. But even more telling is this: A man who punched – punched – a horse four times in the head is, according to the horse’s trainer, “the best on the team.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Accolade, before and after Thursday’s race…

credit: WDEL

credit: WDEL

(full WDEL article)

3-year-old Accolade being punched – yes, punched – repeatedly (I count four plus a shove for good measure) for “acting up” prior to the 5th at Delaware Park yesterday:

Accolade’s Equibase note, by the way: “ACCOLADE was fractious in the gate then bobbled at the start, was forwardly placed then weakened.” Yes, “bobbled” from being beaten up. After having “weakened,” he finished second-to-last but, Delaware Park being a racino, still took home $125 for his “connections.”

The track made this announcement via Twitter: “[Delaware Park] in no way condones the mistreatment of animals & has immediately suspended the asst starter involved in an incident before the 5th race today. The incident has been referred to the DTRC, which will investigate & hold a special hearing on Saturday morning.”

The miscreant should – but won’t – be arrested for animal cruelty (Delaware’s relevant statute here). It’s ugly, it’s vile – but then again, it’s horseracing.