In a recent Los Angeles Times article, John Cherwa, author of that paper’s “Racing!” newsletter, wrote this on the death of Magic Mark at Los Alamitos Wednesday:

“No doubt, this is the part of the sport that is most difficult to stomach. It takes a bit of your soul every time it happens, be in [sic] it in a race, during training or back at the barns. It happens at a rate that no one finds acceptable.”

First, Mr. Cherwa, your “sport” is no such thing; it is but exploitation of a weaker species for nothing more than $2 bets. It is mean and cruel, and as you allude to, regularly deadly: Through my seminal FOIA reporting, I estimate that upward of 2,000 horses are killed racing or training on U.S. tracks annually, and this says nothing of the multiple thousands more who are brutally and violently slaughtered as part of Racing’s one-of-a-kind “retirement” program. (By the way, Mr. Cherwa, you also say, “We don’t write about every horse death, not that we aren’t constantly told by the anti-racing folks that we should.” As a matter of practicality, you couldn’t write about every dead racehorse, for if you did you’d have no space for anything else.)

Second, as a longtime fan you must know that the killing is built-in – an inevitable part of what they do. So please spare us the hollow handwringing (“difficult to stomach, takes a bit of your soul every time”), for if you support this industry in any way – be it through bets, attendance, racino plays, or, like you, marketing and promotion – you support the abuse and killing. If, and this goes for the whole “prayers and condolences” crowd too, you help make it (death and destruction) possible, you’re not allowed to cry about it after the fact. In the end, it’s as simple as this: You can love horses. You can love horseracing. But you can’t love both.

Follows is my state-by-state FOIA recap for 2017.

Nevada: request filled
Colorado: request filled
Montana: request filled
Wyoming: request filled
Iowa: request partially filled – training deaths not included
Minnesota: request filled – but with names redacted
Michigan: request partially filled – training deaths not included
Nebraska: request filled – but with serious irregularities
Washington: request filled
New Jersey: request filled
Oregon: request partially filled – training deaths not included
Delaware: request filled
Texas: request filled
Indiana: request filled – but with names redacted
Oklahoma: request filled
New York: from Commission’s public database
Maryland: request partially filled – no harness information
Illinois: request filled
Arizona: request filled
West Virginia: request filled
Ohio: request filled
Idaho: request filled
Louisiana: request partially filled – training deaths not included
Florida: request filled
Pennsylvania: request filled
New Mexico: request filled – but with sloppy paperwork
Kentucky: request partially filled – no harness information (and names redacted)

California: request rejected
Virginia: request rejected
Maine: request rejected

Arkansas: no response
South Carolina: no response
South Dakota: no response
Tennessee: no response
Massachusetts: reported 0 deaths (dubious)
North Dakota: reported 0 deaths
Georgia: reported 0 deaths for its single-day Pine Mountain Steeplechase

Various direct quotes from those within the racing industry…

“It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” – Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director, California Horse Racing Board (New York Times, 3/24/12)

“It’s hard to watch these poor animals running for their lives for people who could really care less if they live.” – Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, track vet, Finger Lakes (New York Times, 3/24/12)

“If the public knew how many medications these horses were administered after entry time, I don’t think they would tolerate it.” – Dr. Rick Arthur (New York Times, 4/30/12)

“It’s [the racino/claiming equation] strictly self-centered greed of not thinking about the horse but thinking about maybe I can get one more race out of him and get a piece of the game.” – Dr. Tom David, former chief vet, Louisiana Racing Commission (New York Times, 4/30/12)

“If horses don’t win, people just get rid of them.” – Maggi Moss, prominent owner, on racinos/claiming races (New York Times, 4/30/12)

“Everybody just wants a horse, and they want him now to race in 10 days. I want a horse today and I don’t want it tomorrow. I’m a businessman. …If somebody takes my bad horses, it’s good. …This is a game, and we have to know how to play.” – Juan Serey, trainer, on racinos/claiming races (New York Times, 4/30/12)

“It’s getting much easier for me to run my horses out East so that I don’t get so personally attached to them. This is a business…” – Maggi Moss, on running “claimers” (The Iowan, July ’12)

“The economics of horse racing does not allow for that. Horse racing is on the decline. If a horse needed a year to heal up, they would go to the killers up in Canada or Mexico [slaughterhouses].” – Dr. Phillip Kapraun, Illinois vet, on his liberal use of the banned substance “snake venom” (New York Times, 9/21/12)

“Our industry is permeated with those who have no regard for the welfare of the horse… The horse becomes only a tool for fulfilling their own agendas of WIN AT ALL COSTS. Most trainers have little or no investment in the horses they train, whether it is financial or emotional. They will run red light after red light in pushing that horse until it fails and then they will call the owner and spin him a story. …those trainers will tell the owner that the horse ‘just took a bad step’ and ‘that’s horse racing.'” – Bill Casner, prominent owner (Thoroughbred Daily News, March ’14)

“We’ve all heard about the ‘bad step.’ It isn’t true. …Trainers have the power to make a horse high-risk or lower-risk.” – Dr. Lisa Hanelt, track vet, Finger Lakes (Blood-Horse, 7/8/14)

“The worst part of it is, we never will really know how good he really was.” (not that he died) – Michael Matz, Barbaro’s trainer (AP, 5/9/16)

“It’s not that horses can’t be repaired, it’s just that many times the economics of repairing a horse’s injury are not aligned. You don’t have the combination of an owner who has the resources and a horse that justifies that expense.” – Dr. Dean Richardson, vet who operated on Barbaro (AP, 5/9/16)

“The public has changed. We’re using animals for entertainment here. And, all you have to do is look at the circus where they’ve eliminated elephants from the show…look at SeaWorld… We have to do everything possible for the safety and health of these horses because we’re using them for entertainment. That’s the bottom line.” – Ray Paulick, prominent racing writer (Paulick Report, 5/27/16)

“He [a Jockeys’ Guild official who argues that the new more-liberal California whip rule is not abuse] might want to bring that up with my 15-year-old daughter. Brought up in a family where both parents work in the racing industry, she has zero interest in the sport and when asked why said it is because she doesn’t like to watch the jockeys beating the horses.” – Bill Finley, prominent racing writer (Thoroughbred Daily News, 5/27/16)

“We accept the risk that comes with it…but that’s part of it. Where you have livestock, you have dead stock.” – John Wheeler, prominent trainer, after three horses were killed in a single day at a New Zealand racecourse (New Zealand Herald, 6/8/16)

“The anti-slaughter policies, they’re worthless. The track policies are not going to do anything at all. I’m not an extremist, I just love horses, and I have seen what is truly happening to our racehorses. What is happening is what no one wants to talk about. I have sat down with the head of The Jockey Club; I have sat down with some of the biggest owners and trainers in the country. I start talking and I promise you, they start staring at the ground. They do not want to hear it.” – Maggi Moss (Paulick Report, August ’16)

“Goodness knows in society there are problems that are unsolvable; this may be one of them.” – Cliff Goodrich, former president of Santa Anita, on Del Mar’s dead horses (The San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/25/16)

“Almost everybody did [illegally drug their horses on raceday]. Ninety-five to 98%. It was a known practice. We wanted to win…” – Stephanie Beattie, prominent trainer (Paulick Report, 6/28/17)

“Did I ever ask them to, no. Does it happen at every racetrack, yes.” – Stephanie Beattie, on jockeys using electrical devices – “buzzers,” “batteries” – during morning workouts and in actual races (Paulick Report, 6/28/17)

“We breed 20,000 a year, so if we don’t fund the exit plan, we can’t control the arteries from bleeding out.” – Stacie Clark, operations consultant for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (The Daily Gazette, 8/29/17)

“We will continue to try to locate these New York thoroughbred horses; however, the fact that in two years we have only found about half of the horses speaks volumes about the challenges of just how many retired race horses there are out there.” – Ron Ochrym, acting executive director of the NYS Gaming Commission (The Daily Gazette, 8/29/17)

We are oft told by the apologists that horses can and do suffer and die from colic wherever horses are kept – that it’s not just a racetrack thing. (A similar argument is frequently posited for the proverbial “bad step,” but I won’t dignify dumb.) Therefore, they say, it’s unfair for me to call a racehorse who has died from colic an industry casualty. Well. A study conducted by Dr. Nathaniel White, professor of surgery at Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia, identified risk factors for developing colic. There were but three that presented a “higher than normal” risk:

fed grain before hay at meals

horses in training for racing or eventing

horses confined to stall more than 12 hrs/day


Follows is my FOIA recap for 2016.

California: request denied – “The CHRB has not changed its policy and therefore cannot provide a list of racehorses that died or were euthanized on or at California race tracks.”

Kentucky: unwilling to provide “horse identifying information.”

Maine: “Our Department does not possess this information as this is not something that is reported to nor tracked by our Department.”

South Dakota: “We do not keep those records.”

Arkansas: multiple attempts, no reply.

Montana: multiple attempts, no reply.

Virginia: multiple attempts, no reply.

Washington: request filled.

Wyoming: request filled.

Colorado: request filled.

Nevada: request filled.

Iowa: request filledbut without training deaths.

Massachusetts: request filled.

Ohio: request filled.

Illinois: request filled.

Arizona: request filled.

Maryland: request filled.

North Dakota: request filled – but no training fatalities reported.

New Jersey: request filled.

New York: request filled.

Indiana: request filled, but without names.

Florida: request filled.

Texas: request filled.

Oregon: request filledbut without training deaths.

Nebraska: request filledbut with serious irregularities.

Michigan: request filledbut without harness casualties.

Minnesota: request filled – but without names.

Oklahoma: request filled.

New Mexico: request filledbut with large gaps.

Louisiana: request filledbut without training deaths.

West Virginia: request filled – here, and here.

Delaware: request filled.

Pennsylvania: request filledbut without training deaths.