I’ve recently begun filing FOIL/Right-to-Know requests with various state racing commissions in an effort to secure the names of the 2014 deceased (above and beyond the ones we already know about). As expected, results have been mixed. Two states – Ohio and Washington – responded with quick transparency. Most, though, I wait on. And then there are two (thus far) that sent back swift rejections:

Minnesota: “In response to your request for information for the names of the racehorses who died or were euthanized at Minnesota racetracks for calendar year 2014 in an email dated 1/14/2015, we are prohibited from sending this information by Minnesota law. Minnesota Statute 156.082 states that veterinary records of a client that are maintained by a state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision are private [italics added] data on individuals or nonpublic data…”

And this from Kentucky, one of Racing’s cornerstone states: “This letter is in response to your Open Records Request… In that request, you seek ‘the names of the racehorses who died or were euthanized at Kentucky racetracks for calendar year 2014.’ The KHRC is not in possession of any documents that would be responsive to your request. You may want to contact the Jockey Club…”

download (10)

Juxtapose the above with a much touted recent news item on “Kentucky deliver[ing] its safest year on record” (well, at least since they began keeping track – 2007). A Blood-Horse article says that last year “there were 16 catastrophic breakdowns during races [they conveniently ignore training deaths] at Kentucky Thoroughbred tracks.” In that article, the Commission’s medical director, Mary Scollay, credits the “success” to a “collaborative effort.” In other words, while Dr. Scollay and the rest of the Commission can (shamelessly) tell us that only 16 horses “catastrophically broke down” on Kentucky tracks last year, they can’t tell us who they are – because, you know, they’re “not in possession of [those] documents.”

After I replied by calling their claim dishonest and insulting, I received a follow-up. Although cordial in tone, the Commission still maintains that they know not which horses died on Bluegrass tracks last year. As a consolation, however, they generously provided me a spreadsheet of “race-related fatal injuries” from ’07-’14. Wow.

Kentucky, those 16 (that you’re willing to concede) animals killed in the pursuit of handle cash were individuals – intelligent and sensitive beings with distinct personalities. They deserve more than being lumped into a single nameless, faceless tally. In the end, though, it is an indignity befitting their entire pathetic lives.

The 5-year-old mare Seeking Bliss has been put to the whip a total of 8 times – all under breeders/owners Donald and Kenneth Ferguson and trainer (excepting one race) Jesus Mendoza. The results are as ugly as the industry that enslaves her:

Del Mar, Aug ’13: last of 9, 40+ lengths back
Santa Anita, May ’14: last of 9, 35+ lengths back
Santa Anita, May ’14: 8th of 11, 23+ lengths back
Golden Gate, Jun ’14: last of 7, 19+ lengths back
Los Alamitos, Sep ’14: last of 7, 30+ lengths back
Santa Anita, Oct ’14: last of 10, 58 lengths back
Santa Anita, Oct ’14: last of 8, 32+ lengths back

And most recently – Santa Anita, Dec 28th: “SEEKING BLISS refused to break, came out far behind the field and was ridden out to the wire a quarter mile behind the field. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the start before ruling SEEKING BLISS was the cause of her own trouble.” “Refused to break,” “cause of her own trouble.”

And apparently, they are not done with her yet, having worked her out January 2nd.

Follows is what I believe to be an applicable (to Messrs Mendoza, Ferguson, and Ferguson) section of the California Penal Code:

“Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) or (c), every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments…any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented…and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal…or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).”

images (7)