In yesterday afternoon’s 9th race at Parx, 3-year-old National Prayer broke down and was killed. The colt, passed around like an unruly foster child, was under his fourth different trainer in the past 12 months. Worse, in that same span, he was sold twice and was on the market (for $7,500) again yesterday. So, I wonder, was National Prayer “like part of your family,” Brittany Stover? Top Racing? Cecil Clugston? Right.

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Also on Saturday, 4-year-old Baby Harlow broke down in the 9th race at Charles Town, and 7-year-old Atthebuzzer, making his 61st start, broke down in race 7 at Delta Downs. 61 starts. This is horseracing.

Britain’s Animal Aid maintains a running list of Thoroughbreds killed on British tracks. It does so because, out of self-preservation, the racing people won’t. Sure, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) generously tells us “about 2 in every thousand runners are fatalities,” but not who they are and where they happen. Putting names and faces to the ugly stats doesn’t make for good business. So Animal Aid helps fill the void. The “Race Horse Death Watch” reports 117 kills in 2013 and 143 in 2012 – though Animal Aid believes these numbers, for obvious reasons, are understated by some 30%.

The BHA replies:

“No, racing is not cruel. Those in racing care about horses and provide excellent care.”

“Horses are herd animals and galloping alongside one another is a natural thing they do.”

“A person can only ask a horse to participate, he cannot make it race if it does not want to.”

“We do not kill horses for sport. Fatal injuries in racing do occur and, as in any sport, there is an element of risk for the participants.”

“Horses are like any athlete, they can pick up injuries whilst relaxing, whilst training and competing.”

The following, unless otherwise noted, were “vanned off” American tracks this week.

Monday:
4-year-old Starship Sultry, Gulfstream, race 7 (“broke down”)
3-year-old The Man Himself, Parx, race 9 (confirmed dead)
4-year-old Double Java Girl, Turf Paradise, race 4

Tuesday:
6-year-old Made the Cut, Beulah Park, race 5
5-year-old New York Gin, Beulah Park, race 5
4-year-old A Pache Rojo, Turf Paradise, race 4
2-year-old Quick to Hit, Zia, race 1

Wednesday:
4-year-old Brown Eyed Nance, Aqueduct, race 8
3-year-old Bird County (after winning), Churchill Downs, race 10
3-year-old Drop On By (after winning), Evangeline, race 7
3-year-old Seeking Suki, Penn National, race 8
8-year-old Anotation, Turf Paradise, race 7

Thursday:
3-year-old Marywiththeblueyes, Aqueduct, race 1
2-year-old Tropic of Artie, Churchill Downs, race 6
3-year-old Prima Zip, Penn National, race 9 (“pulled up lame,” vanned off; also vanned off at Gulfstream in February)

The Daily Racing Form (11/14/13) reports that 6-year-old Turallure, two years removed from winning the Woodbine Mile, was killed today “shortly after breaking down in a routine gallop at Keeneland…” Trainer Charlie LoPresti: “This is just awful for all of us. Turallure was just like part of my family.” As per usual, racing’s conditioned fans are offering obtuse “condolences to the connections.” But amid the drivel, one brave soul left this on both the DRF and Paulick Report sites (though it appears to have been stricken from the latter): “How come when the 5k claimers break down and are euthanized…they are NEVER ‘part of the family’?” Hear, hear.

Turallure’s last 9 races:

Churchill Downs, 5/5/12, 7th of 11
Churchill Downs, 7/1/12, 4th of 5
Keeneland, 4/6/13, 6th of 7
Churchill Downs, 5/2/13, 6th of 9
Arlington, 6/8/13, 5th of 7
Saratoga, 7/24/13, 2nd of 9
Saratoga, 8/31/13, 4th of 5
Keeneland, 10/5/13, 9th of 10
Keeneland, 10/18/13, 6th of 12

Based on the above, and after winning his “family” almost $1.4 million, one would think that Turallure (pictured below) had earned a permanent respite. One would be wrong, for this, after all, is horseracing, squeezing till the bitter end.

photo credit: DRF
photo credit: DRF

The News 4 I-Team (Washington) reports (11/13/13) that the Charles Town racetrack in West Virginia – one of the nation’s busiest, running, basically, year-round – has recorded 54 2013 deaths (46 in-competition) through 9/4, and 144 over the past two years. In 2011, 47 horses perished. On the spike, a spokesman for Charles Town’s operator, Penn National Gaming (yes, Charles Town is a racino, with slots and table games jacking up purses for bottom-tier racing), said this:

“Charles Town is the venue. We have, however, limited impact on the races and those horses competing at our facilities. We maintain our track, surfaces and facilities at the highest standards. We have no control over the physical condition and training of horses entered in our races. We do not know if that horse has a prior injury, has been medicated beyond legal limits or has been trained too much or too little.” How comforting.

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