It is, sadly, a horseracing truth that the equine obituary roll is never stagnant. Witness Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, or more accurately, Finger Lakes Deathtrack. Having just posted on the unfortunate case of Spanish Luck, a pending retiree who broke down while still being trained, word comes of three more deaths (in two days – 8/16, 8/17) at Finger Lakes, bringing the 2013 Death Toll at this Thoroughbred graveyard to 23.

Inger Management, “pulled up-fx RF leg-euthanized on track”
My Darling Deb, “blind both eyes-euthanized”
Legal Lady, “horse reared and flipped striking head-apparent skull fracture”

Inger Management, who was also still racing while on the adoption block, shared the same trainer as Spanish Luck, Timothy Murphy. It appears that Mr. Murphy and seven-year-old claimers ready for “retirement” are not a good match.

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My Darling Deb (pictured above) suffered the following mishap on May 3rd while under the care of multiple stakes-winning (over $8 million career purses) trainer Jeremiah Englehart – who, by the way, has been fined five times in NY, including once for using the sedative acepromazine: “stumbled unseating rider-ran through rail- into car – lacerations to chest and legs–rider treated and released-horse doing well-given several months off.” And now she turns up blind and is euthanized. How did this happen? More to the point, will the NYS Gaming Commission investigate? With the dead horse being a five-year-old claimer with one 2013 start, any scrutiny is likely to be superficial at best. This is horseracing.

Here is the very recent biography for seven-year-old Thoroughbred Jacob’s Dream:

After having been idle for almost a month (and nothing from Oct ’12 till Jun ’13 – where was he?), finished 4th in the 3rd race on August 5th at Suffolk Downs (Boston).
Finished 2nd in the 8th race on August 13th at Suffolk Downs.
Started but did not finish the 3rd race on August 17th at Suffolk Downs. Broke leg. Euthanized. Gone.

For those doing the math, that’s 3 races in 13 days. 3 races in 13 days. The American Association of Equine Practitioners, a professional organization not unfriendly to racing, recommends that “no horse be permitted to race within 10 days of its last start.” This nonbinding “rule” was broken not once, but twice in a fortnight. This is the animal cruelty statute in Massachusetts:

“Whoever overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, cruelly beats, mutilates or kills an animal, or causes or procures an animal to be overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, cruelly beaten, mutilated or killed; and whoever uses in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race, game, or contest, or in training therefor, as lure or bait a live animal, except an animal if used as lure or bait in fishing; and whoever, having the charge or custody of an animal, either as owner or otherwise, inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon it, or unnecessarily fails to provide it with proper food, drink, shelter, sanitary environment, or protection from the weather, and whoever, as owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal, cruelly drives or works it when unfit for labor, or willfully abandons it, or carries it or causes it to be carried in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon, or knowingly and willfully authorizes or permits it to be subjected to unnecessary torture, suffering or cruelty of any kind shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

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Did Jacob’s Dream’s trainer (owner) not “overwork” him, “drive [him] when overworked,” “use [him] in a cruel or inhuman manner in a race”? But also complicit here are the stewards, the racing secretary, and the state vet(s) (lameness exams?), all of whom should have remembered this horse from FOUR DAYS ago. His private vet, too, needs to answer. With racing always talking about improving transparency, perhaps we could take a peek at his medical records. In the end, even by racing standards, there is little doubt that Jacob’s Dream was overworked. But beyond that, it is also highly likely that the excess burden caused, or at least contributed to, his death. Any ambitious prosecutor in the commonwealth listening?

On August 12th, while practicing for a 33rd career start, a seven-year-old mare named Spanish Luck fractured her right knee at Finger Lakes Racetrack. She was subsequently “put down.” That, then, would appear to be the end of her story – just another nondescript, bottom-tier Thoroughbred felled at one of NY’s nine racino tracks. But then I came upon this “For Sale” ad from Spanish Luck’s trainer, Tim Murphy:

“Spanish Luck, 7 year old, 16h chestnut mare: Broodmare prospect! This beautiful girl has been a very good race horse, winning almost $180,000 in 32 races. Her knees are showing arthritic wear and tear from racing, so her trainer wants to retire her to a great new home. He thinks that with her race record and her good balanced solid bodied conformation that she would make an excellent broodmare. He says she is a sweetheart of a horse, nice to handle, intelligent and classy. She is a daughter of Trust N Luck, from the Buckpasser sire line, so sport horses breeders should give her a serious look as well as those who want to breed for racing. Price: $3,500 negotiable…Contact: Tim Murphy”

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So even after fully conceding that his “beautiful girl” was arthritic and had reached “retirement” stage, Murphy still felt justified in prepping “the sweetheart of a horse” for one last (perhaps more) run at cash. How do you reconcile that? More to the point, how do you, Mr. Murphy, and every other trainer who sends broken, weary, and worn-out racehorses to the gate sleep at night?

Saratoga Race Course saw another of its young entertainers killed Saturday when Heading to Toga, three, crashed and burned at the end of the 1st race. The fatal injury, I’m sure, was gruesome (broken sesamoids, torn ligaments and tendons), but NYRA won’t let us see that, for the official replay stops just short of the “spill” that occurred after the finish line. The cleverly christened equine child is now but an anonymous hunk of dead flesh at some rendering plant or crematorium. In fact, except for a fifth-place footnote to a meaningless August claiming race and a line on her owner’s 2014 tax return, it will be as if she never was. 2013 Saratoga Death Count: 3.

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From Argentina comes word that two Thoroughbreds tested positive for oxazepam, a drug more commonly used for anxiety and insomnia in humans, after separately winning Classic races on August 3rd. Oh, and one of the horses, Koller, also reportedly had cocaine in his system. Cocaine. The horses’ trainer, Martins Alves, is suspended while awaiting a retest on August 29th.

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To state the obvious, this is not the same as Lawrence Taylor doing blow on gameday. What a fully autonomous athlete does to his body is really none of my concern. What a trainer does to his enslaved racehorse, however, is, and giving him cocaine should qualify and be prosecuted as animal cruelty.