In the 10th at Santa Anita Saturday, Formal Dude “took a bad step” and was “vanned off” (Equibase). “Took a bad step” is one of this industry’s euphemisms of choice for dead. And indeed, we have confirmation that the 4-year-old was euthanized – for a broken pelvis. The LA Times quotes the CHRB’s Dr. Rick Arthur: “With few exceptions, fatal pelvic fractures have pre-existing stress fractures at necropsy.” As if this somehow makes it better: “Pre-existing stress fractures” are a direct result of the incessant grinding – training and racing – racehorses are forced to absorb, and, by the way, another reason the killing is inevitable.

Santa Anita has 34, not the 28 being reported in the press, dead animals on its decidedly ignominious ledger. Shut it down.

Psychedelicat, killed racing at Santa Anita Dec 30, 2018
Tank Team, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 4, 2019
Unusual Angel, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 4, 2019
Secret Street, killed training at Santa Anita Jan 8, 2019
Derby Treasure, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 11, 2019
Noise Mandate, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 18, 2019
Amboseli, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 20, 2019
Like Really Smart, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 21, 2019
Last Promise Kept, killed racing at Santa Anita Jan 21, 2019
Dancing Harbor, killed training at Santa Anita Jan 23, 2019
Spitfire, killed training at Santa Anita Jan 25, 2019
Kid Cantina, killed racing at Santa Anita Feb 2, 2019
Comegowithme, killed racing at Santa Anita Feb 3, 2019
Jager Time, killed training at Santa Anita Feb 17, 2019
Unusual Rider, killed training at Santa Anita Feb 18, 2019
Hot American, killed racing at Santa Anita Feb 22, 2019
Battle of Midway, killed training at Santa Anita Feb 23, 2019
Just Forget It, killed training at Santa Anita Feb 23, 2019
Charmer John, killed training at Santa Anita Feb 24, 2019
Eskenforadrink, killed racing at Santa Anita Mar 2, 2019
Lets Light the Way, killed training at Santa Anita Mar 5, 2019
Princess Lili B, killed training at Santa Anita Mar 14, 2019
Arms Runner, killed racing at Santa Anita Mar 31, 2019
Commander Coil, killed training at Santa Anita May 17, 2019
Spectacular Music, killed racing at Santa Anita May 19, 2019
Kochees, killed racing at Santa Anita May 25, 2019
Derby River, killed training at Santa Anita June 5, 2019
Formal Dude, killed racing at Santa Anita June 8, 2019
unidentified, Jan 14-Jan 20, died off-track at Santa Anita
unidentified, Jan 21-Jan 27, died off-track at Santa Anita
unidentified, Feb 25-Mar 3, died off-track at Santa Anita
unidentified, Feb 25-Mar 3, died off-track at Santa Anita
unidentified, Apr 1-Apr 7, died off-track at Santa Anita
unidentified, May 20-May 26, died off-track at Santa Anita

In the May 27 Stewards Minutes from Golden Gate, this:

“A formal hearing was convened for Gustavo G. Medina who was charged in a complaint filed by California Horse Racing Board Investigator Mike Alford with alleged violation of [several] CHRB rules [including] ‘Animal Welfare.’

Medina is alleged to have assumed responsibility for a thoroughbred horse, Tiz Willow, who was shipped off the grounds of Golden Gate fields on December 3, 2018. The horse was turned out near Vallejo, California and returned to Golden Gate Fields on January 23. Two days later the horse died in his stall. A subsequent necropsy indicated the horse succumbed due to malnutrition. Time constraints prevented the hearing from concluding and the matter was continued until June 6.”

Basically, this scumbag starved the two-year-old Tiz Willow to death. The fact that this is being adjudicated within the industry and not a criminal court should tell you all you need to know about “protections” for racehorses. As I’ve written:

The fundamental relationship itself – that of owner-owned – guarantees bad things will happen. Guarantees. By definition, a piece of property, a commodity, a resource, a means – all of which undeniably describe the racehorse – can have no meaningful protection under the law. In fact, it’s absurd to argue otherwise. Truth is, a horseman, if he so chooses, can run his horse into the ground – yes, even to death – with virtual impunity. There is no real accountability because this core relationship precludes real accountability. Neither the industry nor our society will ever, could ever, seriously punish a property owner for crimes against his property. To say differently is pure folly.

Moreover, as it is with all animal-exploitation businesses, the law, as represented by anti-cruelty statutes, invariably defers to “common industry practice”; for 150 years of American horseracing, broken and dead bodies have been seen and treated as an unfortunate cost of doing business. In short, no one is watching; no one cares. In truth, to the racing industry, to government, to our society at large, a racehorse’s life does not matter. Alive or dead, it just doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, AP sportswriter Stephen Whyno published an article that could just as easily have come from the New York Racing Association’s PR department. He begins:

“The home of the Belmont Stakes is laps ahead of other U.S. racetracks when it comes to keeping horses safe. Belmont Park and other tracks around the state of New York have had some of the fewest horse deaths in the sport. Amid the 26 [it’s actually 33] horse deaths at California’s Santa Anita Park since late December, the Belmont will be run Saturday on a track that national observers say is among the safest and best maintained in the country.”

Whyno goes on to cite the ubiquitous, but largely meaningless, “fatality rate per 1,000 starts” for Belmont and how it compares favorably to other tracks, including the other two Triple Crown venues, Churchill and Pimlico. The secret, he says, is in the “the attention given to [the] track surfaces”: “[NYRA] keep[s] copious amounts of data using ground-penetrating radar and sensors that track the moisture content in the tracks. They also have a weather station that tracks rainfall and wind speed.”

Very impressive. Count the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Steve Koch as a fan: “At Belmont Park, NYRA racing, Glen Kozak and his team and the way they do things up there, that is going to be our industry benchmark.”

May I present the “industry benchmark,” “some of the fewest horse deaths in the sport.” In just the past three years, the three NYRA tracks – Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga – have recorded the following kills:

2016 – Aqueduct, 11 dead racehorses; Belmont, 39 dead racehorses; Saratoga, 16 dead racehorses

2017 – Aqueduct, 17 dead racehorses; Belmont, 40 dead racehorses; Saratoga, 21 dead racehorses

2018 – Aqueduct, 15 dead racehorses; Belmont, 29 dead racehorses; Saratoga, 13 dead racehorses

Since 2009, when the Gaming Commission’s database went live, which, incidentally, only came in the wake of outrage over Eight Belles and calls for greater transparency, 423 horses have lost their lives at Belmont Park, an average of 42 every year; at all NYS tracks, over 1,300 deaths – 137 annually. The best U.S. Racing has to offer? Vile.

The NYS Gaming Commission reports this for Buffalo Raceway, Tuesday: “Trainer [John] Perrin observed Heaven Rocks in distress in stall – horse collapsed – deceased prior to arrival of veterinarian.” The Commission has filed this under “non-racing,” but, inconveniently, the long-suffering Heaven Rocks (seven years old) had just been raced three days prior. No matter, dead is dead – and this vile industry is wholly responsible.