Death and disarray at America’s racetracks: Mangled Horses and Maimed Jockeys

The new economics of horse racing are making an always-dangerous game even more so, as lax oversight puts animal and rider at risk.

Well, here it is. The first installment in the New York Times series of reports on horse racing fatalities. The March 24, 2012 piece is the work of investigative reporters WALT BOGDANICH, JOE DRAPE, DARA L. MILES and GRIFFIN PALMER. A huge thank you to all involved.

It makes for vivid, jolting reading, and we will give you a few introductory excerpts below.

However, we invite you to read the entire article and view the haunting videos and images. Then please leave a comment at the New York Times.

The article starts with:

RUIDOSO, N.M. — At 2:11 p.m., as two ambulances waited with motors running, 10 horses burst from the starting gate at Ruidoso Downs Race Track 6,900 feet up in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains.

Nineteen seconds later, under a brilliant blue sky, a national champion jockey named Jacky Martin lay sprawled in the furrowed dirt just past the finish line, paralyzed, his neck broken in three places. On the ground next to him, his frightened horse, leg broken and chest heaving, was minutes away from being euthanized on the track.

For finishing fourth on this early September day last year, Jacky Martin got about $60 and possibly a lifetime tethered to a respirator.

The next day, it nearly happened again. At virtually the same spot, another horse broke a front leg, pitching his rider headfirst into the ground. The jockey escaped serious injury, but not the 2-year-old horse, Teller All Gone. He was euthanized, and then dumped near an old toilet in a junkyard a short walk from where he had been sold at auction the previous year.

Continue to the full article >>


By Vickery Eckoff
Dear New Times: Please Don’t Forget the 26,600 Slaughtered Thoroughbreds


Read Jane Allin’s special reports on horse racing covering breeding, drugs, 2 year old racing, the ground and the slaughter of Thoroughbreds at

8 thoughts on “Death and disarray at America’s racetracks: Mangled Horses and Maimed Jockeys”

  1. Ive been an avid fan of horse racing for over 40 years. Ive seen Seattle Slew and Zenyatta race. Ive had a little experience being a groom in the thoroughbred and standardbred industries. From my observations and conversations with other backstretch workers, there’s no doubt that drugs are administered by the trainers’ veternarians. Both legal and illegal. At every racing circuit, the trainers who win the most races also are the leaders in drug violations. Since the horse racing industry can’t police itself, it’s time to just ban it. Losing the lives of jockeys and horses sure takes the thrill out of cashing a thousand -dollar trifecta ticket. Horse racing is in COMPLETE DISARAY


    1. Thank you for your comment Mark. I was shocked at the state horse racing was in when I came back from England after an extended absence, and that was some years ago now. It has been spiraling downward ever since. What I witnessed when working as a racing photographer for nearly a decade in the UK and Europe is absolutely mild, and then in isolated instances, to what goes on here.

      I am grateful I saw Secretariat when a girl, and see other great champions like Zenyatta and Goldikova in my maturity, among many, many others. But I also saw Barbaro and Eight Belles. My heart breaks for the horses who are treated mercilessly. Most of the big name trainers you refer to are known for taking beautifully bred and fit horses and grinding them into the ground by the time they are three, if they race or live that long. So tragic.

      Can it be fixed? Or is it all too late?


  2. Kudos to the New York Times, you make me proud to be a New Yorker, You have picked a scab, I hope you have the courage and interest to blow the lid off the whole horse raceing industry , spare none, shine a light in a place no other Media has dared or cared to go. You will be astonished at what goes on if you get the real story. The dirt , If you do I hope you have the courage to print it .


  3. I live on close to Belmont ,in NY,the third rose in the triple crown,The high profile race get alot of attention, The everyday races don’t get alot of attention ,unless you are gambleing . I have been to Belmont State Park,it’s a Pretty nice place. This is where the famous filly Rufian ran her heart out won the stake with a broken leg and had to be put down on the track past the finish line. There is a Statue of her there , What waist .I don’t like the indifference to the horses that some.not all ,trainers and owners have, there are some good people behind the sceans that try to get thm out before they are no good too injured to race anymore.Some do succeed ,but there is this ,just one more run mentality. We heard about this youngster last year ,had tendon injury ,the were druging him , my daughter went to see him a couple of times,georgous big boy,the owner wanted to be rid of him, not winning,the tendon thing with rest and rehab. Time and love would heal and if he never raced again he would be a good horse for ,walk trot canter ,shows ,maybe two foot high jumps.She almost had him out arrangements made for picking him up everything,last ditch thinking trainer and owner decided to give him,more drugs and keep racing him for awhile. I guess he was not quite lame enough yet to be useless , I don’t know what became of him .too bad so sad. The whole industry needs a face lift.Maybe with the help of Media and public awareness there is a chance for change ,that goes for the trotters too that’s a whole other nightmare that goes on with those poor Standardbreds, it’s horrible. In my mind the race industry ,day to daily ,races are akin to a bloodsport,like dog fighting ,or cock fighting , Lest not forget the poor Greyhounds. I am sickened by all of it . the point I want to make , is that there are Heros , behind the sceans that actually do care they are at the behest of trainers and owners ,they work at the races they care about the animals have to be mute ,but do in their own way without loseing their jobs the best they can to help save the horses ,that I know for sure. I know because they have succeeded on many times to rehome them before they are wrecked.


  4. Thank goodness for the New York Times! Quarterhorses are so messed around with they are no longer big strong horses like my Quarterhorse. He stands16.2hh and weighs 1300 lbs. The Quarterhorse is the most commonly slaughtered breed of horse. I cannot wait for the the next in this expose’ by the New York Times.



  5. This is so welcomed. To tell the truth about how the big money treats workers and horses in the industry is one way to see change. I can’t wait to see the rest of this series. I am so relieved to know that the NYT is covering this.

    I want to see the American Quarter Horse Association receive the same treatment. I know stories that would stun the average person. I wish that somehow the Quarter Horses could be investigated in-depth and that the truth about that whole industry could make it to a national audience. Quarter Horses are bred, seen as disposable and thrown away just as Thorobreds are.

    Thank you for posting this update for all of us to use.


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