As mentioned previously, the best indictments of this industry often come from within. Take slaughter, for instance. While the racing people typically (and understandably) avoid this issue like the plague, occasionally some honesty surfaces.

In a recent HorseRaceInsider article, long-time industry writer and handicapper Mark Berner takes Racing to task for its “inability or unwillingness to deal openly with the issue of horse slaughter.” While I’m quite certain that Berner’s real worry (as evidenced by the article’s title) is that slaughter is killing the “sport” he so dearly loves, he does offer some seemingly genuine words of outrage:

“If a breeder elects to bring a horse into the world, it is their responsibility to make sure that horse is cared for until its natural death. It is not simply the cost of doing business; it is about doing what’s humane and morally correct.”

But it’s the stark admissions that caught my eye. Two statements in particular:

“A sport that once was the pastime of the billionaire class has devolved over time into a sport in which an overwhelming number of its athletes are slaughtered…”

Then: “Since the Thoroughbred industry has not significantly corrected this situation, the same percentages – 20% of all horses sent to slaughter from the US are Thoroughbreds – are safely assumed to be correct present day.”

And to think that all this time I’ve been citing the “only” 19% found in this seminal study. So let’s break this down. According to the Equine Welfare Alliance, 114,000 American horses were sent to slaughter in 2016. 20% of 114,000 is almost 23,000. For that same year, the Jockey Club estimates the “foal crop” – newly registered Thoroughbreds – at 21,000. That would be an over 1:1 ratio of those exiting-via-slaughter to those coming in. Obviously, not all retired (or never-made-the-cut) Thoroughbreds end up bled-out and butchered. But even when accounting for some slight industry contraction each year, the numbers make it abundantly clear that at the very least most – Berner’s “overwhelming number” – eventually (because some will have an intervening round of exploitation – the so-called second career) do.

Case closed, again.

This article by racing writer Art Wilson appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News on December 14. In it, he chastises PETA for not offering money/help in the wake of the wildfire that killed 46 racehorses at San Luis Rey Downs earlier this month. I followed with a letter-to-the-editor; to date, I have heard nothing from the paper. So, I have reproduced my response here. It can be found after Wilson’s diatribe.


Like the rest of you, I’ve read with great interest over the years how much the animal rights group PETA cares about the welfare of our horses.

You know the drill. They’ve picketed outside Del Mar, claiming abuse of the horses. They’ve been very vocal in their distaste for horse racing.

So like many of you, I was curious to know how much PETA chipped in to help in the aftermath of last week’s San Luis Rey tragedy.

I sent emails to a couple of executives in the industry, Mike Willman of Santa Anita and Mac McBride, who’s been at Del Mar for a good number of years, to find out the extent of PETA’s involvement in the relief efforts.

Here’s what they told me:

“I have not heard about them donating a single penny,” Willman wrote.

I can’t share with you the rest of Willman’s email because this is a family newspaper.

McBride’s reply concerning PETA’s involvement?

“Nada. Zip. Zilch.”

Turns out, PETA did reach out to the industry in the days following the fire at San Luis Rey.

Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA, emailed the Southern California News Group with details about her organization’s actions following the tragedy.

Guillermo’s email reads, in part: “I was in touch with the Stronach Group, which owns San Luis Rey, on Dec. 8 and was assured they were on their way to assess the needs. I contacted Joe Harper at Del Mar on Dec. 11. Mr. Harper told me that there had been an outpouring of volunteers — more than 300 on the first day — and thousands of dollars in donations. I was thus assured that all needs were being taken care of.”

Santa Anita and Del Mar spearheaded an effort to raise much-needed money and supplies in the wake of the San Luis Rey nightmare. They started a gofundme page that, as of 1:55 p.m. Thursday, had raised more than $637,000.

But it’s still a fact that not one penny came from PETA, the self-described champion of animal rights, and no member of the group showed up to join other volunteers.

Yes, PETA made two phone calls. But while they were “in touch” with officials from Southern California’s two major race tracks, thousands of others were busy either donating money or actually on the grounds offering physical support.

Wilson went on to cite “heart-warming stories” of the industry stepping up, then closed with this: “It’s just an example of how much these horses are loved and cared for and how people were willing to risk their lives to save them.”

The column, the editor notes, “was updated and revised to reflect PETA’s comments.” The original, I note, repeated the word “crickets” several times – “crickets,” as in all attempts to reach PETA were met with a supposedly revealing silence.

And my retort:

Regarding the recent Art Wilson article on the San Luis Rey Downs fire that killed multiple racehorses: First, as a technical matter, Horseracing Wrongs, not PETA, is the preeminent anti-racing organization in the country – having compiled and published first-of-their-kind Killed in Action Lists, organized and staged historic protests at Saratoga Race Course and beyond, etc. Second, and more to the point, the mere suggestion that we or any other not-for-profit entity should be helping to bail out the multi-billion (that’s billion with a “b”) dollar racing industry or that that same rich industry would have the chutzpah to start a gofundme page is positively ludicrous. Worse, though, is Mr. Wilson’s complete evasion of this inconvenient truth:

Yes, wildfires injure and sometimes kill wild animals, but at least those free, autonomous beings have a fighting chance. Locked-up pieces of property do not. In a crisis situation, their lives are utterly dependent on the willingness (or ability) of humans to help. The fact is, if not for horseracing those 450-odd horses would not have been at that place, at that time; if not for horseracing, 46 of them would not now be dead. In short, horseracing owns these horrific deaths, just as it owns the thousands – yes, thousands – of horses who are maimed and killed on U.S. tracks every year and the thousands more who are brutally slaughtered once their earning-windows have closed. Sure, tragedies happen, but this one happened for $2 bets.

Upon further reflection, characterizing this article as ludicrous is far too kind. Mr. Wilson’s snarky (“crickets”) indictment of groups whose only mission it is to end animal suffering and his simultaneous celebration of an industry that only exists to exploit – and, by definition, cause suffering of – animals for personal gain, with an expectation that we should help fund their recovery, is, in a word, obscene. Obscene.

Patrick Battuello
Founder, President, Horseracing Wrongs

Following “public outcry,” says the racing publication BloodHorse, the case of the miscreant trainer/owner who left one of his horses in a stall with a broken leg for almost an entire month was reviewed by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and the penalty subsequently changed. Instead of 45 days/$500, Mario Rodriguez now faces a one-year suspension and $2,500 fine. The paper, however, says more may be coming his way because…well, here’s Dr. Kathryn Papp on recent developments:

“One of his horses dropped dead in a stall this morning [Friday]. They pulled out every single horse, and they were jogging every single horse. They came across three lame ones. This horse that had died had been sore for several days with supposedly a really bad run-down. It was treated at 9:30 this morning by a private veterinarian for colic and then it just dropped dead about an hour later.” (Note to Ms. Papp: horses, fully sentient beings, are whos not its.)

Here’s the thing, not only should Rodriguez never be allowed to control (own) a domesticated animal again, he should be in jail for committing wanton cruelty against the most defenseless and innocent among us. But Racing doesn’t think so (nor, for that matter, society at large). And what does it really matter whether it’s 45 days or one year? Is there an expectation of rehabilitation? Can anyone say with a straight face that Mario Rodriguez will come back a changed man? Someone who sees a horse as more than a mere thing to be used? Please. The good bet is he does it again – maybe not to the extent seen here, but abuse nonetheless. And equally likely, Racing, unless accidentally exposed again, will, again, simply look the other way.

(An aside to any veterinarian – someone whose first priority should be the protection of and advocacy for domesticated animals – who still calls himself/herself a “fan” of this wicked business: For shame. For shame.)

(full BloodHorse article)

On the surface, the recent suspension of a Pennsylvania trainer for failing to provide proper care for one of his charges reads like the racing industry taking care of business – policing and punishing a delinquent. Looks good to the masses. Racing cares and will not tolerate abuse. Then you dig a bit deeper. The story, as relayed in the Paulick Report, is that trainer/owner Mario Rodriguez left 6-year-old Silent Ruler in his stall with a broken leg – for almost an entire month. Imagine that.

According to the article, on September 24, Kathryn Papp, veterinarian, happened upon Silent Ruler while guiding a track visitor who was there to possibly adopt the gelding. Here, in Papp’s words, is what they found:

“From the outside of the stall you could easily see that the horse’s nostrils were flaring, he had a very worried look in his eyes and was covered in drying sweat. He was mostly non-weight-bearing on his right front swollen ankle and was holding it up off the ground. When he attempted to move around his stall he would rock back onto his hind legs, squat down and skip his front end over without using that right front limb at all. The left front limb looked sore and over-taxed.”

Radiographs would eventually confirm that the horse had “a break in the right front sesamoid with multiple fragments pulled away from the bone.” It was obvious to all that Silent Ruler was “in distress,” and, another vet confirmed, “needed immediate treatment or euthanasia.” Bad, by any measure.

Apparently, the CANTER listing said that Silent Ruler “was recently injured in a race” but that “no diagnostics have been completed.” Indeed, SR had been added to the vet’s list after finishing second-to-last (15+ back) in a $4,000 claiming at Penn National August 26. It was at that point that Rodriguez, a bottom-feeder trainer running cheap horses in cheap races at cheap tracks, wanted to be rid of him. But instead of finding the extent of the injury and administering (serious) palliative care, he simply stuck him in his stall and waited for a taker. For this, for leaving this animal (alone, mind you) in pain, in suffering – in, surely, terror – for weeks, this obscenity of a human being got 45 days (less than that actually, as it’s calendar, not racing, days) and a $500 fine. A wristslap for cruelty of the worst order. Good on you, Pennsylvania Racing.

(I would say appeal directly to the AG on this, but the relevant Pennsylvania “Cruelty to Animals” statute, which encompasses exactly what Rodriguez did here – “a person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly illtreats…otherwise abuses…or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care…or deprives any animal of necessary veterinary care” – falls in the lowest class of crimes, a “summary offense” – on a par, I kid you not, with failing to return a library book and “illegal use of shopping carts.”)

(full Paulick article, with pictures)

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.