From KARE11 (Minneapolis) Tuesday:

Rusty Shaw was rounding the corner for home on Saturday when Canterbury Park officials say the horse he was riding, Classy Star, suffered a leg injury and sent both of them to the ground. “I wasn’t even too sure that I was even going to make it off that racetrack,” Shaw says. “Right now I know I’m lucky to be alive.” The horse, alas, was not as lucky: 3-year-old Classy Star is dead – euthanized for her injuries.

Following a recap of Shaw’s previous injuries, the article notes that “none of those injuries have stopped him from doing what he loves.” Shaw elaborates: “The rush from leaving a set of starting gates and going thirty five miles an hour around a race track with twelve other competitive jockeys and horses, there’s just something about that rush that just drives in you. Absolutely I think I’ll ride again.” A “rush.”

As yet another fully sentient being is killed for $2 bets, this station, at least, decides instead to focus on the “triumph of the human spirit.” Never mind that the human in question was directly involved in the kill, “courageous” people sell, dead racehorses not so much. What a sad commentary on our 21st Century media – and the public it so dutifully feeds. (full story here)

On December 10, Sage Valley dropped dead of an “apparent cardiac arrest” in a race at Aqueduct. At five, he was only just reaching the tail-end of puberty. Turns out, there was a drug “violation,” which may or may not have contributed to the horse’s premature death. This week, Sage Valley’s trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, received the following “punishment” from the NYS Gaming Commission:

“You are fined $3000.00 because on December 10, 2014, the horse ‘Sage Valley’ that you trained competed in the 8th race at Aqueduct Racetrack after having been administered glycopyrrolate (e.g. robinul) within 96 hours of the scheduled post time of its race in violation of New York State Gaming Commission rule 4043.2 (g) (6) and 4043.4. Having waived your right of appeal the fine is reduced to $1500.00. This penalty is reflective of the findings from the investigation.”

Apparently, the vet, Greg Bennett, was fined the same amount. In a statement, Bennett said, “Rudy had quite a few horses coughing and snotting in the barn, and he was near them. I was under the assumption it was a 72-hour [drug]. It was an error in judgment on my part…” “Coughing and snotting” barn-mates.

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By the way, Rudy Rodriguez is no stranger to the Commission, having just been fined and suspended in February for violations involving two different horses. In all, I count 13 suspensions in NY over the course of Rudy’s career. 13. And yet still allowed around horses. Surprised? Shouldn’t be – this is, after all, horseracing.

The jockey who mercilessly beat American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby has been fined in California for similar abuse. According to Blood-Horse, Victor Espinoza “was fined $300 by the Santa Anita Park stewards May 8 for ‘causing a break in the skin’ with his whip on Stellar Wind during her 5 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks April 4.” Last Saturday, you might remember, Espinoza whipped American Pharoah 32 times down the stretch – animal cruelty played out in full view of cheering millions:

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This is horseracing.

It was yet another afternoon of good, clean family entertainment at Parx yesterday (from the Equibase charts):

In the 6th, Magic Soul “…weakened…returned bleeding…”

In the 8th, San Gregoria “was pulled up in apparent distress just before the wire.”

In the 9th, Magic Harbor “…took a bad step and stumbled badly” – did not finish.

And worst of all –

In the 2nd, Candy’s Luck “a bit fractious in the gate…her rider began to ease her up entering the stretch as if she was in distress, she continued to be ridden through the stretch, was roused right handed with a furlong to run, and then was not persevered with thereafter but was ridden back to the unsaddling area lame.”

So – “fractious” in the gate – i.e., she didn’t want to be there; eased “as if in distress” – i.e., the jockey sensed something amiss; “continued to be ridden,” “roused right handed” – i.e., whipped – after being in distress; ridden back “lame.”

Pennsylvania’s “Cruelty to animals” statute reads: “A person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly illtreats, overloads, beats, otherwise abuses any animal, or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care…”

The complicit: first and foremost, jockey David Castillo; trainer Uriah St. Lewis; owners William Battista, Harold Bridgwood.

There is plenty wrong with this video:

First, the abject suffering of the horse, 7-year-old Itzhoweeroll: lame, almost all the way around; malnourished, in part due to his teeth being “a mess”; beaten up – cuts, scrapes, ulcers; and criminally thirsty – “when he first came, he was so thirsty that he drank for ten minutes straight.”

Second, in an industry that (mostly) denies the butchering of its erstwhile athletes, this horse was in a feedlot awaiting his personal version of equine hell.

Third, the shameless portrayal of past/present owners Brian and Wendy O’Leary as thoughtful, compassionate folk – at least in regard to this horse. The narration begins:

“This is a story of a Thoroughbred named Itzhoweeroll and how its [italics added] one-time owners Brian and Wendy O’Leary raised him, lost him, and got him back.”

Brian O’Leary: “We made a decision to put him into a claiming race.” After selling, “We kept an eye on him for a while…we kept an eye on him over the years as he went through a few different ownerships.”

Wendy O’Leary: “[After seeing a picture of their former charge in a feedlot for the slaughterbound] Of course I immediately started to cry.”

Brian: “It’s one thing if you hear this happens to a horse you used to own. When it happens and you have an opportunity to do something, it’s even better again to go out there and be able to save a horse that’s been so nice to you in life…”

And now for some conveniently omitted facts:

After using him, earning on him – to the tune of $186,000 – for 21 races, the O’Learys dumped “Roller” into yet another claiming race – though Mr. O’Leary makes it sound like this was a first-time thing, it was actually the ninth time they had done this – leaving their helpless and hapless horse utterly unprotected (again), knowing full well that anyone could buy him. (“Lost him”? Please – they cleared $30,000.) And anyone did, actually multiple anyones, meaning there were plenty of chances for the O’Learys to reclaim him (and on the cheap: in December, “Roller” was worth but $8,000). And when one of those anyones abused “Roller” to lameness and sold him to slaughter, the O’Learys come swooping in, masquerading (or at least being depicted) as “rescuers.” “Rescuers.” If not for the deadly seriousness of it all, this story would be a farce.

To “rescue,” says the dictionary, is “to cause to be free from danger, imprisonment, or difficulty.” While technically true that the O’Learys saved this horse from slaughter, they were the ones who put him in danger, imprisonment (they bought him as a yearling), and difficulty in the first place – both each and every time they had him whipped to run at an unnatural speed and when they hung him out to dry in claiming races. While the O’Learys may be otherwise decent people, let’s not get distracted here: Within Racing, there are no good guys, no heroes. Just exploiters.