Last week in U.S. Horseracing (not including training, not including harness).

Sojourn “vanned off” at Turf
Karls Ragtime Band “vanned off” at Sunland
Union Wise “vanned off” at Aqueduct
Mandel “went wrong, vanned off” at Keeneland – subsequently confirmed dead
He’s a Brat “injured past the wire, vanned off” at Mahoning
Miss Franluda “came back bleeding from the nose” at Charles Town
Drew’s Shot “vanned off” at Evangeline
Cashel Rock “vanned off” at Hawthorne – subsequently confirmed dead
Fashion’s Touch “bled” at Keeneland
Everyonelovesjimmy “vanned off” at Keeneland
Shell Fire “bled and was vanned home” at Oaklawn
Night At the Opera “fell, vanned off” at Santa Anita
Wandering Patrol “vanned off” at Santa Anita
Night Rythm “vanned off” at Tampa Bay
Dreamy Martini “bled while racing” at Gulfstream
Wildcat Blast “vanned off” at Gulfstream
Mon Chevalier “vanned off” at Gulfstream
Don’t Quit “vanned off” at Gulfstream
Cincinnatus Eagle “vanned off” at Los Alamitos
Wiwi Celebration “vanned off” at Tampa Bay
Rocking Chieftain “vanned off” at Turf
Super Beautiful “vanned off” at Tampa Bay

“broke down,” “euthanized” – speak for themselves
“vanned off” – many if not most will resurface on my year-end FOIA killed-reports
“bled,” “returned bleeding from nostrils” – typically indicates pulmonary hemorrhage

(source: Equibase)

Through a FOIA request to the California Horse Racing Board, I have confirmed the following deaths at that state’s tracks in 2018. (Please note: The Board redacted the names of the dead horses; any identifications below came via other channels. Also, because of the sheer volume, I will be posting in increments of 10.)

yet-to-be-named, January 16, Santa Anita T
right forelimb: closed, comminuted, complete, displaced, articular, transverse fracture of the distal metacarpus III; below the transverse fracture line, there were innumerable small fragments of bone; there were two large bone fragments that stayed in place; all articular surfaces of the fetlock had marked scoring of the cartilage and were covered with innumerable small irregular bone fragments; “left forelimb: in general, findings are similar as described above; there was an open (8 cm long skin tearing at medial distal aspect of the MCIII, with protrusion of a fragment of bone), comminuted, complete, displaced, articular, transverse fracture of the distal MCIII; all articular surfaces of the fetlock had marked scoring of the cartilage and were covered with innumerable small irregular bone fragments” That’s two broken legs.

the above’s necropsy photos…

Verraco, January 19, Santa Anita R
“right radius/ulna fracture, open, comminuted, complete, displaced, acute, with: 5 major bone fragments, smaller missing fragments; avulsion of proximal 2/3 of ulna from radius; bone fragment protrusion through hemorrhagic, gaping skin tear; humerus osteochondral fragnentation [sic], complete, displaced, acute; pre-existing degenerative joint lesions; gastric ulceration chronic

Verraco’s necropsy photos…

Syndrome, February 11, Golden Gate R
“in the respiratory tract, the trachea contains a small amount of pink frothy fluid; the lungs are diffusely distended and do not collapse when the chest was opened; the parenchyma is light red pink with diffuse congestion and edema with frothy fluid exuding from the cut surfaces of the airways – cause of sudden death not identified

Tribal Fighter, February 15, Santa Anita R
acute suspensory apparatus failure with disarticulation of the metacarpophalangeal joint; marked, acute excoriation/ulceration of articular cartilage; moderate/marked subcutaneous and deep soft tissue hemorrhage extending from the mid-shaft of the cannon bone to the distal extremity of the 1st phalanx”

Tribal Fighter’s necropsy photos…

unidentified, February 16, Santa Anita T
fractures of the proximal sesamoid bones…comminuted, complete, displaced, articular; complete transverse transection of the intersesamoidean ligament; transection of the lateral collateral sesamoidean ligament; fraying and hemorrhage of the lateral collateral ligament of the fetlock joint, and of the medial and lateral branches of the interosseous ligament; partial transverse rupture of the deep digital flexor tendon with fraying and hemorrhage of the proximal and medial segments up to the midline at the level of the fetlock joint; fraying and hemorrhage of the lateral margin of the superficial digital flexor tendon; hemorrhage of the common digital extensor tendon; hemarthrosis of the fetlock joint, and extensive hemorrhage…of the soft tissues extending along the length of MCIII to P2″

Del Mar Darling, February 16, Santa Anita R
fractures of the proximal sesamoid bones, comminuted, mid-body, complete, displaced, articular; transverse and longitudinal rupture of the intersesamoidean ligament; transverse rupture of the superficial digital flexor tendon with fraying and hemorrhage; complete rupture of the deep digital flexor tendon…with extensive fraying, linear fissures and hemorrhage of the proximal and distal halves; complete rupture of the medial collateral ligament of the fetlock joint and of the medial collateral sesamoidean ligament, and extensive fraying and hemorrhage of the lateral collateral sesamoidean ligament and collateral ligament of the fetlock joint; avulsion fracture of the distal end of MCIV, and incomplete fracture of the distal end of MCII”

unidentified, February 21, Santa Anita
chronic laminitis – top of coffin bone thru the sole – both front limbs

the above’s necropsy photo…

Game Piece, February 23, Los Alamitos R
MC3 is completely shattered into 50-100 variably sized boney shards and fragments; there are four complete fractures through the articular surface; the skin overlying the mid-diaphyseal region of the dorsal aspect of MC3 is multifocally torn with extensive subcutaneous hemorrhage and protruding shards of bone

Game Piece’s necropsy photos…

Silverado Mist, March 1, Santa Anita R
fracture of the proximal sesamoid bones; rupture, intersesamoidean ligament and fibrocartilage; rupture of the short and cruciate lateral sesamoidean ligaments; marked fraying and extensive hemorrhages of the suspensory ligament; palmar osteochondral disease…MCIII (chronic) [in both front legs]”

Silverado Mist’s necropsy photo…

unidentified, March 10, Santa Anita T (euthanized March 13)
catastrophic fracture of the right hind 1st phalanx following surgery; the two osteochondral fragments of the proximal bone were largely held in place (with some displacement) by the 3 inserted surgical screws; however the mid-distal diaphysis of the bone had shattered post-surgery…with exposure of surgical screw

the above’s necropsy photos…

In a Los Angeles Times article from April 4, David Wharton writes: “[The Jockey Club’s] statistics equate to 6,134 deaths in the last 10 years.” While Wharton does note that that figure is only for “participating” tracks (not all submit data to the JC) and does not include training kills, the 6,134 is still, of course, massively understated (see here, and here for a better understanding of the database’s disqualifying flaws).

On the same day, the paper’s editorial board also weighed in, writing, “On Sunday…Arms Runner fell…broke his right front leg and was euthanized. He was the 23rd horse to die while racing or training at the park in a span of three months. By contrast, there were 37 deaths there during seven months of racing in 2017-18.” The implication there is obvious. So, I thought, some record straightening was in order. Accordingly, I wrote and submitted an op-ed; for whatever reason, it was rejected. I reproduce it here…

The recent string of racehorse deaths at Santa Anita Park in California has attracted widespread national attention and, in the process, left the racing industry scrambling. Part of their strategy of distraction is to use words like “spike,” “spate,” and “anomaly,” implying that this – in the words of CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur – is but a “blip on the radar.” As the nation’s foremost expert on racehorse deaths, I can state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the CHRB’s own statistics, in the 11-year period 7/1/07-6/30/18 Santa Anita averaged 50 dead racehorses annually. 50 dead horses every year. And it’s not as if one or two bad years skewed that average: Every 12-month period but one (when “only” 37 died) saw at least 40 corpses. And they can’t even claim they’re heading in the right direction as two of the three worst years were ’15-’16 and ’16-’17.

2007-08 51 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2008-09 41 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2009-10 42 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2010-11 37 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2011-12 71 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2012-13 43 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2013-14 52 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2014-15 46 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2015-16 62 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2016-17 64 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
2017-18 44 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park
September 2018-April 2019 35 dead racehorses at Santa Anita Park

That’s almost 600 dead horses at Santa Anita since July 2007. An anomaly? Please.

To those who may take issue with the inclusion of “stall deaths” in the above (though they shouldn’t: two-thirds of soldier-deaths in the Civil War were non-combat related, yet no one would dare say that those men were any less casualties of the war than the ones who died in the fields), consider this: In the three most recent fiscal years – not including the current meet – there have been 148 track-related (racing or training) kills at Santa Anita – almost 50 per year. Again, that does not include the current 23. At all California racetracks, 435 kills – in just three years. Imagine that.

Nationally, Horseracing Wrongs, primarily through our seminal FOIA reporting, has documented over 5,000 confirmed on-track deaths since 2014; we estimate that over 2,000 horses are killed on U.S. tracks annually. Over 2,000. Pulmonary hemorrhage, head trauma, “sudden cardiac event.” Shattered limbs, ruptured ligaments, broken necks, crushed spines. What’s more, countless other still-active “equine athletes” succumb to colic, laminitis, “barn accidents,” or are simply “found dead” in their stalls.

Then, too, slaughter. While the industry desperately tries to downplay the extent of the problem, cunningly flashing its hollow zero-tolerance policies and drop-in-the-bucket aftercare initiatives, the truth is, the vast majority of spent racehorses are brutally and violently slaughtered – over 15,000 Thoroughbreds alone each year. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that the American horseracing industry is engaged in wholesale carnage. Again, not hyperbole – carnage.

Sensibilities toward animal exploitation, most especially regarding entertainment, are rapidly changing. In just the past few years:

– SeaWorld, owing mostly to outrage over the film Blackfish, has ended its captive-breeding program for orcas and remains in a slow, steady decline.

– Ringling Bros. has closed for good, ending 146 years of animal abuse.

– Illinois and New York have become the first two states to ban the use of elephants for entertainment.

– The National Aquarium will release all of its remaining performing-dolphins to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.

– Los Angeles stands poised to ban the rodeo within city limits.

– And just this past November, Floridians voted overwhelmingly – by over 2:1 – to outlaw greyhound racing in that state by the end of next year, a monumental win for animals that will in one fell swoop shutter 11 of the nation’s final 17 dogtracks, leaving that industry in America all but dead.

So the question becomes, why should horseracing be exempt? Why is it allowed cover under the banner of sport when in fact it is nothing more that an anachronistic gambling business? In a landscape that abounds with plenty of other options – casinos, lotteries, real sports involving autonomous human beings – hasn’t the time at long last arrived to stop wagering on the backs of suffering animals?

End the cruelty. End the killing. End horseracing.

Patrick Battuello
Founder/President, Horseracing Wrongs

Yesterday at Belmont, according to the NYS Gaming Commission, La Manche “suffered a fracture to his right front breezing and was euthanized.” Dead, at four. He is the 13th racehorse to die at Belmont Park since January 8 and the 5th training kill there in less than three weeks. So you see, America, it’s not just Santa Anita.

I can also confirm that Cashel Rock is dead after being “vanned off” in the 7th at Hawthorne last evening. Cashel Rock was six; this was his 42nd time under the whip.