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

Two-year-old Charmed Hour, running only her 2nd race, shattered her right front cannon bone during Sunday’s Grade 2 Adirondack (for fillies) in Saratoga. She was euthanized on the track. With the added intrigue of a winner disqualification, Charmed Hour’s fall was barely mentioned by media outlets: The Saratogian, 1 paragraph in 12; the Paulick Report, 1 sentence in 21; the Times Union, 2 sentences in 14; and The Daily Gazette, which, in addition to a similar disparity, reported that “the fatality was the first of the meet, in either racing or training.” Not true, and something the newspaper should have known. 2013 death count at sunny Saratoga: 2.

Animal Aid (UK) reports that over 1,000 racehorses have died on British tracks since 2007. This total, however, is significantly understated (by up to 30%) as horses receiving “elective euthanasia” at the racetrack are not included in the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) official figures. It appears that the jump-race horse is the most vulnerable, with, according to Animal Aid, a 1 in 42 chance of dying over the course of a year. Animal Aid’s Dene Stansall says (The Guardian, 8/3/13), “…punters should be aware of a basic truth. And this is that betting on horses means horses will suffer and die.” A BHA spokesman counters, “Racing is a sport that carries risk, and British racing is honest and open about the risks involved.” So once again, here we are in the year 2013 still talking about “sport” and death. Public, awake.

Aintree Races