King Keene, four, has died at Finger Lakes from post-surgery “complications.” This marks the 33rd death at Finger Lakes this year, making it the state leader. It is also the track’s third “non-racing” death in a row. Is anyone at the Gaming Commission taking notes?
Last December, The New York Times ran an article (12/8/12) on the EU’s growing reluctance to import tainted American-sourced horse meat. One sentence from the piece, though, is extraordinarily misleading: “Despite the fact that racehorses make up only a fraction of the trade in horse meat…” “Fraction”? A Wild for Life Foundation study found that 19% of the American horses slaughtered from 2002 to 2010 were Thoroughbreds. 19%. 19% of the 846,509 horses sent to slaughter from 2004-2010 translates to roughly 160,000 Thoroughbreds, or 23,000 per year. (Total racing refuse, however, is greater as Quarter Horses and Standardbreds were not included in this study.)
During that same seven-year period, 226,773 Thoroughbred foals were registered with the Jockey Club. In other words, on average, an amount equal to 70% of the incoming are outgoing via slaughter. Is there anyone left in racing who can still defend the industry’s “commitment to equine welfare” with a straight face?
During Keeneland’s 5th race Friday afternoon, three-year-old Order of Magnitude “went wrong nearing the furlong marker, was pulled up and vanned off.” Racehorse Memorial reports that the colt fractured sesamoids and was euthanized. Saturday at Delaware Park, Paskha, a three-year-old filly, “broke down and fell in deep stretch [of 4th race].” Sunday at Albuquerque, five-year-old My Sweet Magnolia “was pulled up in distress” in the 6th race. Also on Sunday, two horses were “vanned off” at Belmont (Rewrite History, two, race 6; Trusted Choice, four, race 11) and one at Santa Anita (Smogcutter, two, race 4).
“This is what they are reduced to. After the glory, fame, adulation, they end up on a windy plain at a knackery waiting for a bullet in the head. They communicate with each other. They suffer, they quiver, they shake, they mourn. There is absolutely no dignity for horses who have kept people employed and made them money.” (Ward Young, Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9/28/13)
“I do have a soft spot for some horses. But it is business and I can’t afford to get too attached.” (prominent Australian trainer Peter Moody)
In Australia, roughly two-thirds of the 18,000 Thoroughbreds born each year (the second largest “crop” in the world) will never see a starting gate. The “wastage” – an industry term for the young, relatively healthy horses who do not (or no longer) make the cut – usually ends up as part of the 40,000 horses slaughtered annually for dog food and European palates. The Herald article sets the scene:
“It is hard to imagine a more dispiriting place than the Echuca Saleyards, known as “the doggers”. Here, the horses that are not sold as riding horses, or not rescued, go to the kill pens – to be sold as dog meat. Among the depressed, neglected horses with swollen legs, protruding bones and bad hooves are young, beautiful thoroughbreds and yearlings who were not good enough. Distressed and frightened, the whites of their eyes rolling, neither well fed nor cared for, the horses sense that something is very wrong.
Some of the horses comfort each other, others step forward with trust in their huge liquid eyes as the auctioneer comes to them, shouting, and they are sold for $200 to pet-meat knackeries. One horse is so frightened by the noise it tries to leap out of the high metal pen. It is deeply upsetting to see them driven out in trucks bound for the knackery, where they will spend their last minutes on earth in a corrugated iron shed with ‘Fresh Pet Meat’ crudely painted on it. They will be rounded up and taken one by one into the killing box, where they will be shot in front of each other.”
A world away from the $6 million Melbourne Cup…