To those new to the site – and without a working knowledge of horseracing – “vanned off” may not sound particularly ominous – football players, after all, are occasionally carted off the field. But here’s the reality: A horse who leaves the course via ambulance has a better-than-even chance – some experts put it at 90% – of same-day euthanasia or shortly thereafter. In other words, “vanned off,” like “broke down,” is an industry euphemism for something really bad has happened to a racehorse (which I guess is also a euphemism). For proof, we need look no further than Finger Lakes Racetrack.


Since the current meet began in April, three horses have been reported (by Equibase) as “vanned off.” All three, thanks to the Gaming Commission database, have been subsequently confirmed dead: Indomitable Woman July 17th; Chichita July 26th; and just yesterday, 7-year-old, 50-start veteran Gimmeanotherwink. Three ambulance rides, three shots of sodium pentobarbital. So you see, “vanned off” is just another smoke screen.

The Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reports that Peter Miller-trained Chilled Mousse is dead after breaking down yesterday morning at Del Mar. He was two. The kill brings Del Mar’s weekend death toll to five. That’s right, five horses have died at storied Del Mar since Friday – and seven since opening day less than two weeks ago. This is horseracing.

A reminder: Virtually without exception, “broke down” is racing-speak for dead; “vanned off” translates to a better-than-even chance of same-day euthanasia or shortly thereafter.

Ferarri Cartel, Ruidoso 1, bled, vanned off

Ithink I Can Dance, Mountaineer 6, broke down
Mr Percussionist, Parx 1, broke down

Carbonite, Del Mar 9, vanned off
Awesome Gift, Les Bois 1, bled, vanned off
Dixico, Les Bois 8, bled, DNF
Possy Beach, Les Bois 9, vanned off
My Valentino, Suffolk 3, vanned off

Along Came Kitten, Belterra 1, vanned off
Can’tbeattheheat, Delaware 5, vanned off
Strategic Player, Fair Meadows 8, “pulled up in distress,” DNF
Summer Surfer, Fair Meadows 10, vanned off
Artic Eagle, Fair Meadows 11, vanned off
Miss Stellsie, Presque Isle 3, “fell over backwards,” DNS

Surviving the Odds, Arapahoe 9, vanned off
Clever Peaks, Canterbury 8, vanned off
Rue the Day, Charles Town 6, broke down
Yes She’s Unusual, Del Mar 6, confirmed dead
Longview Drive, Del Mar 7, confirmed dead
Dashin Aint Easy, Fair Meadows 12, vanned off
Far Fly, Indiana 1, bled
Laser Cat, Indiana 7, vanned off
Hill of Tara, Los Alamitos 1, vanned off
Movin’ On Up, Louisiana 8, confirmed dead
Elusive Cowgirl, Monmouth 6, broke down
Corona Sietie, Ruidoso 2, vanned off

Princess Nayiri, Belterra 6, vanned off
Just a Sheikh, Charles Town 4, “pulled up lame,” DNF
Lil Swiss Echo, Del Mar 5, confirmed dead
J Kat, Del Mar 9, confirmed dead
Chichita, Finger Lakes 1, confirmed dead
Semper Kurry, Gulfstream 7, fell, DNF
Party Boy Floyd, Gulfstream 7, fell, DNF
Sequestrate, Gulfstream 7, fell, DNF
World Tour, Louisiana 1, vanned off
Chris’ Reckin Ball, Louisiana 9, vanned off
Mantastically, Ruidoso 3, vanned off
Stel Gone Corona, Ruidoso 7, vanned off
Rocabar, Santa Rosa 8, broke down
Ampersand, Saratoga 6, vanned off
Rock N Heart, Thistledown 8, “returned bleeding from the nostrils”

Unusual Heatwave, Del Mar 5, vanned off
Curly Queen, Gulfstream 7, vanned off
More Debt, Gulfstream 9, bled
Fan the Fire, Louisiana 1, vanned off
Smarty Slewy, Thistledown 1, vanned off

Yesterday at Del Mar, two more horses were killed, bringing the “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” track’s two-day death toll to four. 5-year-old Lil Swiss Echo (trainer Vladimir Cerin) broke down in the 5th. (DRF’s Jay Privman: “Lil Swiss Echo was put down on track, with tarps shielding public from seeing her being euthanized. Pretty depressing mood here last 2 days.”) Four races later, 3-year-old J Kat (George Papaprodromou) did the same.

Embarrassed and desperate Del Mar has seemingly identified its turf course, the scene for three of the four deaths (and another – 4-year-old Kokaltash – on July 17th), as the culprit and vows to quickly correct it:

“Del Mar is deeply saddened by the loss of Thoroughbred lives we have experienced at the track since the start of our season. Four of those losses have come on our new turf course. Despite that, we continue to have the utmost confidence in the course… Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, Del Mar will shift the two turf races scheduled for Sunday‚Äôs card off the course and run them instead on our main track. Additionally, we will move up scheduled maintenance…”

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Easy scapegoat, simple solution. But as racing dismisses four deaths in two days at one track as an anomaly, it continues to ignore the giant elephant-question in the room: How does a gambling game – an antiquated one at that – justify the death of even a single sentient being? And folks, no matter how much they improve the surfaces, no matter how strong they make the drug rules, no matter how well they weed-out the dopers, horses will continue to die when whip-forced to run at (unnatural) breakneck speeds. They can’t stop it. Please stop betting on horseraces.

3-year-old Chichita snapped a leg and was killed in Saturday’s 1st race at Finger Lakes, her first under Sal Iorio. Chichita’s five career starts before yesterday, all under Andrew Lakeman:

Finished last of 9 April 11th at Aqueduct, 17 1/2 lengths back
Finished last of 8 May 26th at Belmont, 28 lengths back
Finished 3rd June 5th at Belmont, 37 1/4 lengths back
Finished 9th of 10 June 21st at Belmont, 15 3/4 lengths back
Finished last of 7 June 28th at Belmont, 37 3/4 lengths back

Equine welfare? Conspicuously absent.