In 2006, William Rhoden of The New York Times wrote an article (5/25/06) contrasting two breakdowns in May of that year. The first, Barbaro, received international attention upon shattering his leg in the Preakness Stakes. Four days later, a nondescript horse named Lauren’s Charm fell (of an apparent heart attack) at Belmont. Rhoden writes:

“THERE was no array of photographers at Belmont Park yesterday, no sobbing in the crowd as a badly injured superstar horse tried to stay erect on three legs. There was no national spotlight. Instead, there was death.”

When Lauren’s Charm collapsed, “no one, except those associated with the horse and two track veterinarians, seemed to notice.” With Barbaro, however, “a national audience gasped; an armada of rescuers rushed to the scene. In the days that followed, as the struggle to keep Barbaro alive took full shape, there was an outpouring of emotion across the country and heartfelt essays about why we care so much about these animals.”

download

“But I’m not so sure we do, and I’m not so sure the general public fully understands this sport. When people attempt to rationalize the uneasy elements of racing, they often say: ‘That’s part of the business. That’s the game.’ But there was nothing beautiful or gracious or redeeming about the seventh race at Belmont. This was the underside of the business. The nuts-and-bolts part, where animals are expendable parts of a billion-dollar industry.”

Rhoden sets the scene:

“The dead animal was loaded in the ambulance and carted to the track’s stable area, where it was put on its side, legs bent as if it were still running. The horseshoes had not been removed. The carcass was then half carried and half pushed into an area designated for autopsies. An earthmover helped push the horse against a concrete wall.

The gate to the fenced-in area was closed. I glanced back at Lauren’s Charm, lying on the ground. Just days ago, the cameras were trained on Pimlico, and a nation cried for Barbaro. I wonder what the nation would have thought about this.”

He concludes:

“One animal breaks an ankle on national television in a Triple Crown race and sets off a national outpouring of emotion. A 4-year-old collapses and dies in full view on a sunny afternoon and not many seem to notice. Or care. As they say, it’s the business. But what kind of business is this?”

A shameful one.

The NYS Gaming Commission has just announced the death of three-year-old King Wando from an injury sustained while galloping at Belmont Park. With just five career starts and less than $16,000 earnings, the gelding’s passing is of little import to an industry that produces Thoroughbreds like a bakery does muffins. But we noticed. And we also noticed that he died on October 9th, the third horse killed at venerable Belmont that day.

images

The equine ambulances had another busy day Sunday:

Silent No More, four, Belmont, race 2
Let’s Rocket, six, Lethbridge (Canada), race 3
Shock Me, five, Mountaineer, race 5
Outright Secret, five, Portland Meadows, race 4
A Spanish Madam (after winning), six, Turf Paradise, race 3
Coles Keys, four, Turf Paradise, race 4

Three horses broke down Saturday at Penn National:

five-year-old Lov Tov in the 2nd race
three-year-old Round of Applause in the 3rd race
five-year-old Call Me Sweetheart in the 6th race

In addition, three-year-old Youngwildandfree failed to finish the 4th race, her 3rd DNF of the year.

Also on Saturday:

five-year-old Side by Side broke down in Laurel Park’s 6th race
three-year-old Quarter Horse Sonoran Cowgirl broke down in Turf Paradise’s 2nd race
three-year-old Commando Tres Seis was vanned off after Los Alamitos’ 8th race
six-year-old Neva Masquerade was vanned off after Meadowlands’ 3rd race
four-year-old Cherokee Art was vanned off after Retama Park’s 6th race
three-year-old Roode Dude was vanned off after Suffolk Downs’ 7th race

Good, clean family fun…

Thursday, during Santa Anita’s 3rd race, Facoltoso “was pulled up into the second turn and vanned off.” Later in the day, Betcee Cash, running in a $5,000 maiden claiming race at Lone Star, “went wrong [and was] vanned off.” The bones in both horses are (were) still growing.

images (6)

Once again, without NY-like injury/death databases, the horses’ conditions, or lack thereof, shall remain a mystery. To those who still insist on calling horseracing sport, the burden falls to cite another professional sport whose athletes simply disappear. This is horseracing.