3-year-old Graded Stakes winner and 2014 Kentucky Derby entrant Intense Holiday is dead (Thursday) from post-operative laminitis. Apparently, the colt fractured his right foreleg while training for the Belmont on May 25th and underwent surgery two days later. Although he was then retired, his owners were hoping to make him a stallion. The attending vet, Patty Hogan, had this to say (Blood-Horse):

“To lose such a strong and vibrant athlete like Intense Holiday (below) just underscores the insidious, nondiscriminatory nature of acute laminitis. No horse is immune to this disease and it can strike at any time and with little warning. Intense Holiday was an incredibly stoic patient and his toughness humbled those of us caring for him. …It is a tragedy to lose him.”

Adds co-owner Jack Wolf: “It’s a tough day for me, our partners and our team. This horse was a fighter and he fought for his life in the same way he battled on the track—with tenacity. It’s a terrible loss for all of us.”

First, although I’m not a vet, I’d be willing to wager that upwards of 90% of the current racehorse crop would have been euthanized same-day with this type of injury. In other words, the vast majority become virtually worthless when broken. So to be clear, these were not heroic, noble efforts to preserve a life for that life’s sake. It is a “tough day” and a “terrible loss” for Mr. Wolf and his partners because profits were lost.

As for Dr. Hogan, shame for narrowly focusing on “the insidious, nondiscriminatory nature of acute laminitis” rather than the ultimate cause – horseracing. In the end, this “stoic patient” with “humbling toughness” was made to suffer longer than he should have, just like St Nicholas Abbey before him. The tragedy, Dr. Hogan, is this vile business itself.

IntenseHolidayRisenStar2014LH_HP298

This week’s casualties:

Monday
Score Boyera, Delaware, race 3, vanned off
Legendary Ridge, Mountaineer, race 7, bled, vanned off
Nic’s First Rainbow, Ruidoso, race 5, broke down

Tuesday
Dakota’s Court, Indiana, race 2, vanned off
Gulf of Aden, Parx, race 1, confirmed dead
Mint Humor, SunRay, race 6, vanned off

Wednesday
Vigors Storm, Charles Town, race 6, vanned off
Sterling’s Angel, Charles Town, race 7, vanned off
Star Omega, Delaware, race 1, vanned off
Illusions Dream, Delta, race 9, bled
Wino, Evangeline, race 2, vanned off

Thursday
Dancingwithbigron, Canterbury, race 9, “returned bleeding from the nostrils”
Costly, Churchill, race 4, bled, vanned off
Sheza Gray Rebel, Delta, race 4, bled
Tight Britches, Evangeline, race 8, vanned off
Whateverworks, Penn, race 1, vanned off

If horseracing is a sport, then that word must be redefined, for the competitive racing of horses resembles no other accepted sport on the planet:

Where else are young pre-athletes – children – forever torn from their mothers to begin intensive training, training that starts long before bones and muscles are even remotely mature? Where else are the athletes confined to stalls 23 hours a day for their entire careers (making a mockery of the industry claim that horses are born to run, love to run)?

Where else are the athletes bought, sold, traded, and dumped – literally? Where else are the athletes drugged and doped without consent? Where else are the athletes whipped for motivation? Where else are the athletes regularly dying on the playing field? And finally, where else are most of the retired shackled, slashed, bled-out, and butchered? Horseracing a sport? If not for the gravity involved, it would be absurd.

No, racing is the $2 bet, nothing more, nothing less. And in the end, that’s who we are trying to reach – the bettor, both player and occasional visitor to Saratoga. And to remind that all actions have consequences, and the consequences of a seemingly innocuous wager on a horserace are thousands dead and countless others abused. We’re not here to rail against gambling, just gambling at the expense of nonconsenting sentient beings. So, exploit the hell out of cards, slots, and scratch-offs; (at long last) let the racing horse be.

A dam apparently named Open Window (the Gaming Commission seems a bit uncertain) died at Aqueduct on June 4th of an “apparent cardiovascular event…after breezing on the main track.” The State categorized this as a training death – Gary Contessa, trainer – though I’m not sure what she was training for. In any event, she is a racing casualty.