Following “public outcry,” says the racing publication BloodHorse, the case of the miscreant trainer/owner who left one of his horses in a stall with a broken leg for almost an entire month was reviewed by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and the penalty subsequently changed. Instead of 45 days/$500, Mario Rodriguez now faces a one-year suspension and $2,500 fine. The paper, however, says more may be coming his way because…well, here’s Dr. Kathryn Papp on recent developments:

“One of his horses dropped dead in a stall this morning [Friday]. They pulled out every single horse, and they were jogging every single horse. They came across three lame ones. This horse that had died had been sore for several days with supposedly a really bad run-down. It was treated at 9:30 this morning by a private veterinarian for colic and then it just dropped dead about an hour later.” (Note to Ms. Papp: horses, fully sentient beings, are whos not its.)

Here’s the thing, not only should Rodriguez never be allowed to control (own) a domesticated animal again, he should be in jail for committing wanton cruelty against the most defenseless and innocent among us. But Racing doesn’t think so (nor, for that matter, society at large). And what does it really matter whether it’s 45 days or one year? Is there an expectation of rehabilitation? Can anyone say with a straight face that Mario Rodriguez will come back a changed man? Someone who sees a horse as more than a mere thing to be used? Please. The good bet is he does it again – maybe not to the extent seen here, but abuse nonetheless. And equally likely, Racing, unless accidentally exposed again, will, again, simply look the other way.

(An aside to any veterinarian – someone whose first priority should be the protection of and advocacy for domesticated animals – who still calls himself/herself a “fan” of this wicked business: For shame. For shame.)

(full BloodHorse article)

On the surface, the recent suspension of a Pennsylvania trainer for failing to provide proper care for one of his charges reads like the racing industry taking care of business – policing and punishing a delinquent. Looks good to the masses. Racing cares and will not tolerate abuse. Then you dig a bit deeper. The story, as relayed in the Paulick Report, is that trainer/owner Mario Rodriguez left 6-year-old Silent Ruler in his stall with a broken leg – for almost an entire month. Imagine that.

According to the article, on September 24, Kathryn Papp, veterinarian, happened upon Silent Ruler while guiding a track visitor who was there to possibly adopt the gelding. Here, in Papp’s words, is what they found:

“From the outside of the stall you could easily see that the horse’s nostrils were flaring, he had a very worried look in his eyes and was covered in drying sweat. He was mostly non-weight-bearing on his right front swollen ankle and was holding it up off the ground. When he attempted to move around his stall he would rock back onto his hind legs, squat down and skip his front end over without using that right front limb at all. The left front limb looked sore and over-taxed.”

Radiographs would eventually confirm that the horse had “a break in the right front sesamoid with multiple fragments pulled away from the bone.” It was obvious to all that Silent Ruler was “in distress,” and, another vet confirmed, “needed immediate treatment or euthanasia.” Bad, by any measure.

Apparently, the CANTER listing said that Silent Ruler “was recently injured in a race” but that “no diagnostics have been completed.” Indeed, SR had been added to the vet’s list after finishing second-to-last (15+ back) in a $4,000 claiming at Penn National August 26. It was at that point that Rodriguez, a bottom-feeder trainer running cheap horses in cheap races at cheap tracks, wanted to be rid of him. But instead of finding the extent of the injury and administering (serious) palliative care, he simply stuck him in his stall and waited for a taker. For this, for leaving this animal (alone, mind you) in pain, in suffering – in, surely, terror – for weeks, this obscenity of a human being got 45 days (less than that actually, as it’s calendar, not racing, days) and a $500 fine. A wristslap for cruelty of the worst order. Good on you, Pennsylvania Racing.

(I would say appeal directly to the AG on this, but the relevant Pennsylvania “Cruelty to Animals” statute, which encompasses exactly what Rodriguez did here – “a person commits an offense if he wantonly or cruelly illtreats…otherwise abuses…or neglects any animal as to which he has a duty of care…or deprives any animal of necessary veterinary care” – falls in the lowest class of crimes, a “summary offense” – on a par, I kid you not, with failing to return a library book and “illegal use of shopping carts.”)

(full Paulick article, with pictures)

Some odds and ends…

Australian jockey is suspended two weeks for this:

Two weeks.

BloodHorse reports that veterinarian Kyle James Hebert was found guilty this week for providing dermorphin to multiple trainers in Louisiana in 2012. Dermorphin, also known as “frog juice,” is roughly 40 times more potent than morphine (my original “Frog Juice” post). According to BloodHorse, Hebert “advised trainers that [the drug] would make the horses focus and run faster” and “that the substances [sic] was untraceable.” This, from a doctor. Ugly. Horseracing.

As the dead horses pile up – 17 as I write – at Saratoga, the industry responds with utterings ranging from the befuddled to the just plain loathsome, with a (typical) dash of duplicitous thrown in. From Sunday’s Times Union (please take the time to watch the attached video covering many of this summer’s kills):

From the dazed and confused category, this from jockey Javier Castellano: “Maybe it could be the track. It has to be something, it has to be the track. That’s all I can say.”

“Maybe” the track – well, “it has to be something.” On second thought, yes, it’s the track. And why not, the “track” is definitely the summer’s villain du jour.

As to the vile, how’s this: “‘He was a sweetheart,’ [trainer Rick] Violette said [of Howard Beach, killed July 29], shaking his head while standing outside his office at his summer barn on the Saratoga backstretch. ‘He took a bad step, and it was ugly,’ said Violette. The breakdown happened in front of families who were taking in breakfast at the track and watching workouts. On that same morning, a 3-year-old gray gelding named Positive Waves was victim to a nasty accident at the eighth pole when he broke his right front leg and also had to be put down.”

An “ugly” kill(s) in full view of families – presumably with children – “taking in breakfast.” What more could I possibly add?

“‘It is tragic,’ Violette said. ‘You don’t want to get out of bed the next day, but you have a business to run, a responsibility. If my knuckles are dragging on the ground, so is the help. I hate even talking about it.'”

“Tragic.” “Don’t want to get out of bed.” “Knuckles dragging.” “Hate even talking about it.” Sounds like Mr. Violette is suffering from a bit of depression. But then, you’d think he’d be well-practiced by now, having gone through this with 10 other NY horses – including two last year – since 2009.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, on the deaths of two of his horses (Marshall Plan, Munjaz), killed on back-to-back August days: “On the track, things happen.” Enough said.

On the propaganda front, Dr. Scott Palmer, NY’s equine medical director: “The Gaming Commission’s ongoing goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero.” Never gonna happen, not even close. We know it; he knows it; the whole industry knows it. Death at the track, is.

And finally, back to Violette: “That is why it is so frustrating. There are no black and white answers. We might never find out.”

But there is (a black and white answer), Mr. Violette. Your business kills horses as a matter of course. It is inherent to what you do. Own it.

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)