Here is the very recent biography for seven-year-old Thoroughbred Jacob’s Dream:

After having been idle for almost a month (and nothing from Oct ’12 till Jun ’13 – where was he?), finished 4th in the 3rd race on August 5th at Suffolk Downs (Boston).
Finished 2nd in the 8th race on August 13th at Suffolk Downs.
Started but did not finish the 3rd race on August 17th at Suffolk Downs. Broke leg. Euthanized. Gone.

For those doing the math, that’s 3 races in 13 days. 3 races in 13 days. The American Association of Equine Practitioners, a professional organization not unfriendly to racing, recommends that “no horse be permitted to race within 10 days of its last start.” This nonbinding “rule” was broken not once, but twice in a fortnight. This is the animal cruelty statute in Massachusetts:

“Whoever overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly beats, mutilates or kills an animal, or causes or procures an animal to be overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly beaten, mutilated or killed; and whoever uses in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race, game, or contest, or in training therefor, as lure or bait a live animal, except an animal if used as lure or bait in fishing; and whoever, having the charge or custody of an animal, either as owner or otherwise, inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon it, or unnecessarily fails to provide it with proper food, drink, shelter, sanitary environment, or protection from the weather, and whoever, as owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal, cruelly drives or works it when unfit for labor, or willfully abandons it, or carries it or causes it to be carried in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon, or knowingly and willfully authorizes or permits it to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty of any kind shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

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Did Jacob’s Dream’s trainer (owner) not “overwork” him, “drive [him] when overworked,” “use [him] in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race”? But also complicit here are the stewards, the racing secretary, and the state vet(s) (lameness exams?), all of whom should have remembered this horse from FOUR DAYS ago. His private vet, too, needs to answer. With racing always talking about improving transparency, perhaps we could take a peek at his medical records. In the end, even by racing standards, there is little doubt that Jacob’s Dream was overworked. But beyond that, it is also highly likely that the excess burden caused, or at least contributed to, his death. Any ambitious prosecutor in the commonwealth listening?

On August 12th, while practicing for a 33rd career start, a seven-year-old mare named Spanish Luck fractured her right knee at Finger Lakes Racetrack. She was subsequently “put down.” That, then, would appear to be the end of her story – just another nondescript, bottom-tier Thoroughbred felled at one of NY’s nine racino tracks. But then I came upon this “For Sale” ad from Spanish Luck’s trainer, Tim Murphy:

“Spanish Luck, 7 year old, 16h chestnut mare: Broodmare prospect! This beautiful girl has been a very good race horse, winning almost $180,000 in 32 races. Her knees are showing arthritic wear and tear from racing, so her trainer wants to retire her to a great new home. He thinks that with her race record and her good balanced solid bodied conformation that she would make an excellent broodmare. He says she is a sweetheart of a horse, nice to handle, intelligent and classy. She is a daughter of Trust N Luck, from the Buckpasser sire line, so sport horses breeders should give her a serious look as well as those who want to breed for racing. Price: $3,500 negotiable…Contact: Tim Murphy”

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So even after fully conceding that his “beautiful girl” was arthritic and had reached “retirement” stage, Murphy still felt justified in prepping “the sweetheart of a horse” for one last (perhaps more) run at cash. How do you reconcile that? More to the point, how do you, Mr. Murphy, and every other trainer who sends broken, weary, and worn-out racehorses to the gate sleep at night?

Saratoga Race Course saw another of its young entertainers killed Saturday when Heading to Toga, three, crashed and burned at the end of the 1st race. The fatal injury, I’m sure, was gruesome (broken sesamoids, torn ligaments and tendons), but NYRA won’t let us see that, for the official replay stops just short of the “spill” that occurred after the finish line. The cleverly christened equine child is now but an anonymous hunk of dead flesh at some rendering plant or crematorium. In fact, except for a fifth-place footnote to a meaningless August claiming race and a line on her owner’s 2014 tax return, it will be as if she never was. 2013 Saratoga Death Count: 3.

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With Saratoga garnering all the attention this time of year, I thought it appropriate to update readers on the goings-on elsewhere. This is the current list of Thoroughbred deaths at Finger Lakes Racetrack near Rochester (“Come discover the electricity and excitement of live thoroughbred racing in Western New York!”):

3/25/13…Norlou (“fistulous whithers-euthanized”)
4/2/13…Johar Beauty (“large colon torsion with displacement-euthanized”)
4/25/13…Pax (“suffered dislocation fx LF fetlock-euthanized”)
5/3/13…This Is Somuch Fun (“unresponsive LF lameness-possible infection with severe pain and discomfort-euthanized”)
5/14/13…Dry Humor (“pulled up – vanned off – fx RF Sesamoid – euthanized”)
5/25/13…Rifle (“suspected fx R carpal bone-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Kodiak Kid (“severe colic-unresponsive to medical treatment-euthanized”)
5/27/13…Moyer’s Pond (“unseated rider-horse fell exiting track-fx L shoulder-euthanized”)
6/20/13…City Glee (“suffered an apparent cardio vascular event after being washed off”)
6/20/13…Love Our Grandkids (“fell-vanned off-RF swelling-developed severe cellulitis RF lower leg-signs of laminitis LF leg-euthanized 6 days later”)
6/26/13…Bully Around (“pulled up while breezing – dropped & died on track”)
6/27/13…Midnight Monarch (“stumbled unseating rider- fx RF Ankle-euthanized”)
6/29/13…Maple Leaf Racer (“vet called – found dead in stall”)
7/13/13…Asweetkitty (“RF bilateral sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/16/13…Golden Jewel (“rupture LF suspensory & sesamoid fx-euthanized”)
7/22/13…Werblin Phone (euthanized)
8/1/13…Alpha Galpha Gold (“infection RF leg unresponsive to treatment – euthanized”)

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That’s 17 dead horses at Finger Lakes and the meet still has several months to go. When Aqueduct’s death rate doubled in ’11-’12, NYRA was forced (by the Governor’s office) to investigate. But who is to be tasked with exposing the carnage at the state’s eight non-NYRA tracks? The likely answer, sadly, is no one, for deaths like these are typically considered an unfortunate cost of doing business, and tracks like Finger Lakes usually fly under the radar. But This Is Somuch Fun and Love Our Grandkids (aren’t the names so witty?) were no different, except for running speed perhaps, than Saratoga’s Black Rhino and Charmed Hour. They lived, suffered, and died so men could gamble and all they received in return is a single line in a state database.

Following is NYRA’s official replay of Sunday’s 9th race at Saratoga, the one that left a young filly named Charmed Hour dead. The race, of course, was noteworthy because of the bumping going on at the end and ultimately a disqualification. As you watch, please bear in mind two salient points: One, in an 8 1/2-minute video, Charmed Hour was mentioned only once, as bringing up the rear. Nothing on her breakdown. Two, thanks to the controversy, we have been blessed with several slow-motion replays showing, among other things, the incessant whipping administered to the five two-year-olds who did finish. Racing calls them budding stars (this was a Grade II); nature calls them children.

2013 Adirondack Stakes