Horseracing-as-sport is an obscenity of the highest order. There are, of course, many reasons why, but perhaps the three most obvious are these: First, the athletes in question are utterly unaware of their status as such – worse, they are in fact pieces of chattel, animal slaves. Second, participation in said sport is compelled by whip-wielding human beings. Third, and most telling of all, death on the field of play.

That horseracing kills horses is settled fact. But what most of the public doesn’t know is the magnitude of that killing, nor in how it relates to other accepted sports. We estimate that roughly 1,000 racehorses are killed on “game day” (just racing, not including training) each year. In comparison, here are the game-related death totals for the four major U.S. professional sports leagues over their entire histories:

Major League Baseball, founded 1903, 116 seasons – one death (Ray Chapman)
National Hockey League, founded 1917-18, 101 seasons – one death (Bill Masterton)
National Football League, founded 1920, 98 seasons – one death (Chuck Hughes)
National Basketball Association, founded 1946-47, 72 seasons – zero deaths

In other words, horseracing kills about as many in one day as the other four have in their collective 387 years. A sport? America, you’ve been hoodwinked.

At least four racehorses were killed on U.S. tracks Thursday…

Mark My Style “suffered a soft tissue injury while breezing” at Belmont – “euthanized.” He was six and had been raced 33 times (but, curiously, nothing since last September).

Awesome Alma “was injured mid stretch” in the 4th at Pimlico “then was euthanized.” She was four and was “For Sale” at $5,000 prior to dying.

Mile Street “broke down and was put down” in the 1st at Presque Isle. He was three; this was his debut.

Turf Prince “was pulled up mid-turn” in the 1st at Charles Town – “euthanized.” He was four and coming off a 9th-of-10 in a $5,000 claiming just 19 days prior.

So, that’s (at least) four equine “athletes” killed in a single U.S. Racing day, three of those “in competition.” For comparison, in the cumulative 312-year history of the three major American professional sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA), there have been but two deaths during, or resulting from an injury suffered in, games. Two in 312 years. Horseracing a sport? How can anyone utter those words with a straight face?

(sources: NYS Gaming Commission, Equibase)

No words necessary…

Epsom Downs (England), 1966

Prescott Downs (Arizona), 2000

Pimlico (Barbaro’s eventually-fatal injury), 2006

Churchill Downs (Eight Belles snaps both front ankles), 2008

Aqueduct, 2009 (Private Details killed)

Arlington, 2009 (Born to Be killed)

Japan, 2010

Galway (Ireland), 2011

Charles Town, 2012

Monticello, 2013

Wexford Racecourse (Ireland), 2013

Del Mar, 2014 (Yes She’s Unusual killed)

Ffos Las Racecourse (Wales), 2016

Gulfstream, 2016 (Kandoo killed)

“Under Tack” Trials

Today is Travers Day, among a handful of the most celebrated on the U.S. racing calendar. The feature, of course, is the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, at once historic – first run in 1864, it is billed as the oldest major Thoroughbred race in the U.S.; and rich – today’s edition is worth a cool $1.25 million. But to all who would tune in or place a bet today, know this: All actions have consequences, and the consequences of a seemingly innocuous day at the track are dead horses. Lots of them.

Since 2009 (when NY began disclosing such things), (at least) 123 racehorses have died, or have been euthanized as a result of injuries sustained, at Saratoga Race Course. Yes, 123. For this relatively short meet, that averages out to over two dead “athletes” per week. Death comes in various ways – the imploded ankles, shattered legs, ruptured ligaments, snapped necks, and “cardiovascular collapses” of “competition.” Has the time not at long last arrived for us to reconsider what we call “sport,” for what shall pass for entertainment? Aspire to better, America.

The Saratoga 123

Aqueous
Alexandros
It’s My Day
Finally Made It
Possessive
Todo K
Unnamed
Wishful Star
Executive Fleet
Von Steuben
Swift Water
Boyhood Dream
Giant Legacy
Gold Vendetta
Thatcatismine
Austintatious
Rani Baba
Kastraki
Bold Victory
Timber Reserve
Jazzy Johann
Seis de Mayo
Forest Whip
Fire the Bullet
Hathors Legacy
No Ones Shadow
Red Rhythm
Rockettes Escapade
Shopportunity
Jackson N Humbolt
Doing Great
Not Now Ashley
Ericsformalreturn
Boston and Maine
Daylasoul
Burnin Ash
Bogal
Shanbongus
Twice the Price
Autumn Riches
Plattsburg
Julias Hero
Regal Citizen
Sugar and Smoke
One Note Samba
Pete’s Parley
Molly Mingun
Live for Today
Bluember
The Shade
Lovely Saratoga
Black Rhino
Charmed Hour
Heading to Toga
Sarava’s Dancer
Kris Royal
Ricochet Court
Ocean Breeze
Saginaw
For Riches
Lucky For You
Lifeguard on Duty
Double Gold
Father Johns Pride
Lavender Road
Sir William Bruce
Regretless
M B and Tee
Ludicrous
Kamarius
Elena Strikes
Makari
Divine Guidance
Tale of the Spa
You Gotta Believe
Jay Bird
Zzaj
Defined
Innovation Economy
Jackson N Leonard
Kathy’s Reward
On a Snowy Evening
Big Looie
Divine Fortune
Country Muse
Darling Bridezilla
Totally Discreet
Hadeed Fi Hadeed
Squire Creek
Stradivari
Zamjara
Rootformejustin
Indian Nobility
Domestic Warrior
Lebowski
Jonrah
Wheels Up Now
Recepta
Midnight Visitor
Prince Corredor
Elusive Neko
Bob Le Beau
Ring of Truth
Desert Trial
Its Only Fair
Core Competency
Lakalas
Queen B
Wanztbwicked
Angels Seven
Howard Beach
Positive Waves
Brooklyn Major
Marshall Plan
Fall Colors
Munjaz
Lakeside Sunset
Unbroken Chain
Duquesne Whistle
Sweetneida
Meteoroid
Sayonara Rose
Travelin Soldier

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)