Since our founding in 2013, Horseracing Wrongs has traveled in one direction. But sure as day follows night, our growth – in followers, reach, media coverage – has engendered a proportional escalation of enmity from the other side. Precisely because we are not at all interested in compromise or reform – an admittedly extreme position – and wish Racing extinct, they hate us. And they’re desperate.

Backs against the wall, and in true Trumpian (a new adjective for our times) fashion, the racing apologists distract, deflect, deceive. Or just plain lie. Sometimes, this takes the form of simple ad hominem attacks (but I’ve grown increasingly thick-skinned and can take it). Other times, it is a twisting of my words – e.g., I equate “vanned off” with dead (I don’t, never have). And every so often, one of these people slithers out to proclaim – usually on a very public forum – that we have misreported a kill or that I have horses on my Killed lists who are very much alive. To which we respond: Identify a horse, any horse. Name one. Nothing, silence. But finding an error is not really their objective; sowing doubt, impugning my credibility/integrity is.

Recently, a well-known and respected insider took this whole charade to new heights. On her Facebook page, Kathryn Papp, Pennsylvania veterinarian, said this in regard to Horseracing Wrongs and my work:

“Can you [HW supporter] cite scientific published peer reviewed statistical data and analysis rather than unconfirmed, biased, non-scientifically designed information like horseracing wrongs? I understand and actually applaud patrick’s research, but have come across multiple wrongly reported deaths i know for a fact are not true. Nothing against them…but without someone knowledgable fact and number checking, you can not be sure of statistical and numerical truth or facts that they are posting.”

“Unconfirmed”? All my listed kills are fastidiously confirmed. Each and every one.

“Biased”? By definition, facts cannot be biased.

“Non-scientifically designed information”? Is a death certificate from a state racing commission not “scientific” enough? How about data from the industry-sanctioned Equibase charts? Stewards Minutes? Absurd.

“Someone knowledgable”? While not a vet, Ms. Papp, I can most assuredly read and comprehend words like “euthanized” and “collapsed and died.”

After our Joy Aten and Nicole Arciello challenged her, Papp replied: “I will look up the names of the horses i had recorded (the last time i was reading them closely was last year) and i came up with 3 or 4 horses who were listed as deceased but were actually with an adoption program or back with breeder or adoptive family. I will go back and pull them. I have them written down somewhere.” “Written down somewhere.” Then this: “It is just that last time i reviewed postings on horse racing wrongs…i have seen a few horses listed by them as ‘vanned off and can be considered as good as dead.'”

The words “vanned off and can be considered as good as dead” have never – I repeat, never – appeared on my website.

Finally, she presented “evidence” of a mistake: “van persie was not euthanized several days later.” Apparently, it was a couple weeks rather than the several days I recorded. Is this what is to pass for a “wrongly reported death”? If this were a court case, she’d be laughed from the room. Bottom line: Van Persie is dead from a racing injury. Does it really matter when the euthanasia came?

After some more back and forth, Papp apologized – sort of: “i apologize. I have reviewed your ‘confirmed’ lists and from what i know of the PA horses the updated lists verified via FOIA are correct. However, the initial reports on your blog and fb page strongly suggest most of the vanned off are dead or will be and that is not true. It was the inital reports from years ago already, in addition to the information on van persie this year, that were not accurate but the confirmed lists to my knowledge are.”

“Again, you may want to have unbiased knowledgable people review the reports. There was a horse listed who died of meningoencephalitis as you have listed that had nothing to do with racing nor did the pathologist completing the necropsy report sum findings up the way you did. I know because i euthanized burning point.”

Burning Point does not, nor has he ever, appeared on my Killed list. (Note: The Killed lists are and have always been reserved for track-related – racing or training – deaths.) He was, however, included in my 2016 Pennsylvania FOIA post where I reported all casualties from that state – track and otherwise. Here is my full entry for Burning Point: May 26, Penn, “lymphohistiocytic meningoencephalomyelitis with necrosis” (last raced April 23). Again, not on the KIA list. Period. Apparently, close reading, at least where my site is concerned, is not one of Ms. Papp’s strong suits.

Ultimately, we arrived at this: “The horses i was thinking of as ‘falsely reported as dead’ were listed before you put together the FOIA confirmed lists, back in 2014/2015. Since you have been requesting necropsy reports i have not seen any wrongly included and have looked through 2014-2016. I already posted above an apology that it was not your confirmed list that contained falsely deceased horses. …i completely agree with and applaud you regarding your FOIA listings.”

Within a single thread, Ms. Papp went from “multiple wrongly reported deaths i know for a fact are not true” and “3 or 4 horses who were listed as deceased but were actually…” to “i have not seen any wrongly included and have looked through 2014-2016” and “i completely agree with and applaud you regarding your FOIA listings.” (2014, by the way, is when I started the Kill lists, so when, exactly, was it that I was supposed to have falsely reported?)

Facts, as the great John Adams said, are stubborn things. Horseracing kills horses. That’s a fact. What I do here is provide overwhelming evidence – names, dates, locations. In this pursuit, I am unfailingly meticulous. (Truth is, I am constitutionally incapable of being anything but.) I am not infallible, but to this point – through four years and over 3,000 names – my lists are. That’s not a boast, just a fact.

“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.

Thursday, the Albany (NY) Times Union ran an article entitled “What football and horse racing have in common” – football injuries, racehorse deaths (prompted, of course, by the current batch of kills at Saratoga). Inane, sure. But so very dangerous, too. First – and I can’t believe this needs repeating – the obvious (from our website):

If horseracing is a sport, then that word must be redefined, for the competitive racing of horses resembles no other accepted sport on the planet:

In what other sport are the bodies of adolescent athletes pounded into the ground?

In what other sport are the athletes typically kept confined/isolated 23 hours a day?

In what other sport are the athletes condemned to a life as (literal) chattel?

In what other sport are the athletes drugged and doped without consent?

In what other sport are the athletes whipped for motivation?

In what other sport are the athletes regularly dying on the playing field?

In what other sport are most of the retired brutally slaughtered for their meat?

But, as mentioned, there is a (deadly) serious component to all this. The words of Chris Churchill, a respected journalist and author of this piece, carry sway. By even mentioning horseracing in the same breath as football (or any other human-only activity), by calling it a sport five separate times in a relatively short article, Churchill clearly sends the message that there is nothing philosophically objectionable to horseracing; it just needs a little cleaning up (“Get rid of Lasix,” his expert says). This message – shared by the miserable HSUS – will help sentence countless more horses to horrific deaths. It will because no matter what supposed “reforms” come down the pike, horses will continue to die on American racetracks. It’s inevitable.

To be fair, though, Churchill does hit on something by bringing youth football into the discussion. As he notes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parents and schools are putting young brains at risk on American gridirons. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that at some point someone (the state) is going to have to step in and stop it – to speak for and protect children. Or, exactly what domesticated animals require. Therein, the commonality: children and animals, animals and children – the voiceless, the most vulnerable members of our society.

But even at that, there remains one glaring difference. Of even the worst of these parents – the ones forcing their kids to play out of their own egos or insecurities – it can’t be said that their sons are slaves. Not so with racehorses. Throwing around words like “sport” and “athlete” does nothing to change the fact that horses are things to be used, pieces of property to be freely traded on an open market. By definition, property has no rights. Legally, a “horseman” can do virtually whatever he wishes to his horse – even run him into the ground. It (yes, “it”) is his. A practical, workable safety net simply does not, nor can it ever, exist. Property is property.

Mr. Churchill, please don’t confuse and distract the public. Horseracing is not football (or baseball, or soccer, or…). It is the subjugation and exploitation of a weaker species; subjugation and exploitation are necessarily cruel. Take a stand. Please.

(full Times Union article)

First, the good. In addition to three separate Albany-area TV interviews (CBS6, CBS6, WNYT) over the past two weeks, Horseracing Wrongs has been cited in this area’s – the Saratoga Race Course area, that is – two largest newspapers, the Times Union and The Daily Gazette. The most recent came in the latter’s August 2 edition (front page), in an article entitled “Flurry of horse deaths at Saratoga raises concerns”:

The organization Horseracing Wrongs, whose mission is to see horse racing abolished, held a protest across the street from the track on the first Saturday of the meet, July 30. In a blog post on the group’s website, they cite a Daily Racing Form account of two of the equine fatalities: “‘Two horses suffered fatal injuries while training over Saratoga’s main track Saturday morning, while another horse suffered a non-life-threatening injury during Friday’s Curlin Stakes, leaving horsemen and racing officials searching for answers.’ Allow me to save them time: Horseracing kills horses, lots of them; what’s more, there’s nothing they can do to stop it.” (and the paper’s online edition graciously provided links to my site)

The article goes on to recap the seven deaths (up to ten as I write). Good, yes. But while I appreciate the coverage – which in Saratoga country was practically unheard of just a couple years back – the industry, as is usually the case with these stories, is afforded ample space (much more than us, of course) to peddle its propaganda:

NYRA, which operates racing year-round at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, reiterated its commitment to human and equine safety. “We take the health and welfare of our equine athletes and jockeys seriously,” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna said. “That’s why we’ve made significant improvements and enhancements to the facility with an eye on improving the quality and safety of our racing operations.”

Recent improvements at Saratoga — which is through 11 racing days — include upgraded drainage to promote an even, consistent surface, a widened Oklahoma training track to reduce traffic congestion for horses and alarm systems to alert people of a loose horse.

According to the gaming commission, “any time a horse dies on the track during a race or because of an injury sustained during a race (e.g., later euthanized because of that injury), an Equine Safety Review Board (ESRB) — consisting of track management, trainers and jockeys of horses involved, veterinary professionals, stewards, the state’s equine medical director and more — thoroughly reviews every aspect of the horse and the race, including the horse’s training regimen, its history, any medications it received or previous health issues, as well as any other issues that may be considered a risk factor.”

“The commission consistently re-evaluates its efforts and makes necessary amendments as needed in order to best reflect the research of the industry,” state Gaming Commission spokesman Lee Park said in a written statement. “We apply a quality control approach in our work and continue to identify risk factors, circumstances and trends that may contribute to equine fatalities. We go to great lengths to educate the industry’s participants on best practices and guidelines to reduce and/or eliminate such risk factors.”

Sounds so very impressive, doesn’t it? Thorough, thoughtful, antiseptic. It conveys, they’re on this – no stone has been/shall be left unturned. Which of course begs the question: Why only now, after 150 years of racing at “the oldest sporting venue in the nation,” are they so intensely focused on kills? Well, it’s not because they haven’t been happening all along. They have; the public database is only eight years old, and I’ve only been doing this for four years. Rather, it stems from groups like ours – with facilitation from an increasingly cooperative press – casting a bright, hot, searing light on the nastiness. And the racing people are running scared.

But even more to the point, we the public should view the above as nothing more than a slick ruse executed by men well-schooled in plying their craft. The thing is, every time a spate of deaths garners unwanted attention (Aqueduct ’12, Del Mar the past two years, Saratoga ’16, etc.), the industry promises improvements, ramped-up vigilance – more vets, tighter testing, better surfaces. And yet, horses continue to die. They do because the killing is inherent to the “sport,” built-in to the system. I cannot be any clearer, dead racehorses are inevitable.

Finally, I also need to address another less-than-the-truth being promulgated by NYRA and, unwittingly I’m sure, by many in the local press. The article states that “there were 16 fatalities at Saratoga last year.” Now perhaps we can forgive journalists for not looking beyond the preposition “at,” but NYRA knows full well that in addition to the 16 who perished on track grounds, 3 others were clear and unequivocal victims of Saratoga Race Course last summer, especially given that two of the three were VIHs (almost $1 million earnings between them):

Wheels Up Now, injured training August 5, subsequently euthanized at a clinic

Recepta, also injured training August 5, euthanized in November after – because she was a still-valuable (in the breeding shed) asset – an extended period of suffering and, eventually, infection

Stradivari, injured training July 22, euthanized in December (same general story as Recepta)

So here, the true Saratoga ’16 Kill List:

Hadeed Fi Hadeed, May 30, training
Squire Creek, July 16, training
Stradivari, July 22, training (euthanized December)
Zamjara, July 23, race 1
Rootformejustin, July 23, race 5
Indian Nobility, July 27, race 3
Domestic Warrior, August 1, race 4
Lebowski, August 2, “found dead outside stall”
Jonrah, August 3, training
Midnight Visitor, August 4, prior to race 4
Wheels Up Now, August 5, training
Recepta, August 5, training (euthanized November)
Prince Corredor, August 20, training
Elusive Neko, August 24, training
Bob Le Beau, August 25, race 1
Ring of Truth, August 25, race 10
Desert Trial, August 28, training
Its Only Fair, September 9, training
Core Competency, September 19, training

Let the above numbers game serve as a (further) lesson in industry subterfuge. 16, bad; 19, 20% worse. Fact is, the oft-celebrated but already-discredited-here Jockey Club “Equine Injury Database” only counts horses who die or are euthanized within 72 hours of a race-related (the JC apparently has no interest in training kills) injury; I imagine the NYS Gaming Commission employs a similar parameter. In addition, how many more injured Saratoga runners through the years have been euthanized in anonymity back at a private farm? After being acquired by a rescue? In short, it – the killing – is worse than what they tell us. Extended nationwide, it’s carnage. Carnage.

(full Gazette article)

The headline from the June 28 edition of The Legislative Gazette says it all: “Assembly and Senate pass bill to give Vernon Downs a five-year tax break, averts shutdown.” The article goes on to explain that the measure will save the track an estimated $4 million per year. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill into law: “To be clear, I am 100 percent supportive of Vernon Downs and stand ready to sign a bill that will protect people’s jobs and ensure the viability of the facility.”

Some background: Vernon Downs, like all of the other six harness tracks in the Empire State, has been on life support – racino slots – for over a decade now. Simply put, the harness tracks (and Aqueduct and Finger Lakes) were unable to compete with casinos and lotteries. Revenue was plummeting. So they petitioned government for relief – enter Video Lottery Terminals, taxpayer-provided subsidies for the racing industry. Corporate welfare.

In the case of Vernon, the state’s largesse wasn’t enough and closure, apparently, was imminent (September). True to form, the racing people cried about lost jobs (300, they say), and politicians would rather contract pink eye than be portrayed as insensitive on a jobs issue. So instead of allowing the free market to function as intended – which it has been here: “part-owner Gary Greenberg says customers are going to other gaming establishments such as Turning Stone, Rivers and Del Lago casinos” – we have a (further) bailout. Now to be clear, there may indeed be businesses or industries that are too big to fail, but a rinky-dink harness track in western NY is most definitely not one of them. Bottom line, this is America, capitalism; it’s not within your charter, Governor Cuomo, to “protect jobs” that time has passed by or to “ensure the viability of [a] facility” that on its own is inviable.

In the meantime, while those (supposed) 300 jobs are being “saved,” horses will continue to be enslaved, exploited, abused, and, yes, sometimes killed (the Gaming Commission reports 10 dead at Vernon since 2009, though surely there have been more). But that, of course, is not the end of it. For those who do make it off the track alive, it’s often just another form of merciless servitude that awaits (Amish farm, e.g.); worse still, many (most?) of the horses now, or who will be, racing at Vernon Downs will meet brutal, violent ends at slaughterhouses north and south.

So not only are we – the taxpayers – bailing out (again) a horse track, keeping it alive when it should be (and actually once was) dead, but worse, we are subsidizing animal cruelty. For shame…

So-called “Mohawk Valley Nine” – the state legislators who spearheaded the bill – but especially one Jim Tedisco. The long-time assemblyman, now senator has crafted a reputation as an “animal advocate”; in fact, his Senate bio brags that “[he] made history by creating the first-ever NYS Animal Advocacy Day.” Apparently, however, his “advocacy” stops at dogs and cats.

Legislature at large.

Governor Cuomo (his contact form, should you be so inclined).

New York State.

(full Gazette article)