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)

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.