The highlight of the Preakness for many was the horse who dumped his jockey at the gate and ran on his own.
Unlike all those (including announcers) who said he continued to “race” to the finish, we know better. This is a picture of a horse happily running freely, a rarity for a thoroughbred in training.
Racehorses in training are usually boxed up, exercised by a rider, then put back in their box. Occasionally, they might be taken for a handwalk. Or put in a pen or on a walker. But simply to gallop freely? Hardly ever — if ever — during their entire careers.
The rigors of training and what a racehorse is put through for most of their lives is totally unnatural both physically and mentally, but especially mentally.
His freedom of course didn’t last long.
Turns out Bodexpress is a not a Baffert trained horse. Such a shame. Doesn’t matter.
BARBARO, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, answered the starting bell at the Preakness Stakes, moments before jockey Edgar Prado pulled him up with a broken hind leg. Eight months later, he would die of the complications from that injury.
Nothing has changed since the death of Barbaro and the tragic Eight Belles.
More horses are killed on racetracks around the US than ever. Two year olds break down in training. They die before ever running a race.
You can’t hold your breath forever, Santa Anita. While things have been quiet on the death front there, it was only a matter of time before the killing resumed. Today, Commander Coil, three years old and being prepped for his first race, “broke down” during morning training, and, says the Los Angeles Times, was euthanized. He becomes the 29th dead racehorse at Santa Anita since December 30.
Who will die today?
In memory of the dead and soon to die at the hands of American horse racing.
APRIL 17, 2017, a sunny morning in Ocala, Florida, marked the start of the largest sale of two-year-old thoroughbreds in the country.
Ace King, a bay colt then still unnamed and known only as hip number 200 from the sticker attached to his side, was one of 1,208 entered in the catalog.
The auction itself was still a week away, and first Ace King and the others had to breeze a short distance—an eighth of a mile or a quarter-mile—in front of onlookers at the Ocala Training Center.
His workout made headlines, and over the next week, interested buyers visited his barn not far from the sales ring.
At Ocala’s first of four full-day auction sessions, Ace King sold for $170,000 to K.O.I.D., a South Korea–based company that had become a familiar presence at Ocala and other big U.S. sales, where it handles logistics like shipping for the horses selected for purchase by Korean owners and trainers.
He and most of the other purchased horses arrived in Korea in early June. He joined a stable at Seoul Racecourse in the city’s southern suburbs, where expectations were high. But there on the other side of the world, Ace King just didn’t pan out.
That summer and fall, the best he could do in four races was a third-place finish. In early 2018, he finished second, a sign, perhaps, of his natural talent emerging.
But his veterinary log filled with entries for exercise-induced fatigue and arthritis, and in his next starts he was nothing but cannon fodder. Finally, in a race on January 27, 2019, he staggered to the finish line last of 12. Two other graduates from his auction finished eighth and ninth.
Within two weeks he was ferried south to the island of Jeju, a mountainous resort destination for millions of Koreans and Chinese, and the epicenter of South Korea’s livestock and horse-breeding industries.
There would be no return from the island.
On the morning of February 18, he was trucked to South Korea’s largest slaughterhouse. Its owner, an enormous conglomerate called Nonghyup, controls agricultural and livestock businesses along with banks and other financial services.
Ace King was the first of eight horses that day to be prodded down a narrow concrete-and-metal chute to his death. A bolt was fired into his brain before he was hoisted up and his throat was cut.
He was the 109th horse killed at that slaughterhouse since the start of the year.
His meat was then processed, packaged, and likely sent to one of the Nonghyup-owned grocery stores on the island.
Tim Sullivan, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal states:
Of the 25 racetracks that share their casualty counts with the public, only one was more deadly last year than Churchill Downs.
And despite its recent rash of gloomy headlines, it wasn’t Santa Anita.
Only Illinois’ Hawthorne Race Course lost horses at a faster pace than Churchill Downs did in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.
Over the past three years, only the boutique meet conducted at California’s Sonoma County Fair exceeded Churchill’s race-related mortality rate.
Unlike its Kentucky colleagues at Keeneland and Turfway Park, Churchill Downs does not publicly disclose its racing fatalities, but a spokesman for the track confirmed figures obtained through a public records request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Those records show the home of the Kentucky Derby has lost 43 thoroughbreds to racing injuries since 2016, a 2.42 per 1,000-start average that was 50 percent higher than the national average during the same three-year span.
Last year, with 16 fatalities in 5,856 starts, Churchill’s death rate was higher still: 2.73 per 1,000.
Ruben Hernandez, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal on this year’s Run for the Roses observes:
To argue that other horses were put danger is an issue that should be taken up with the management of Churchill Downs because 20 horses don’t enter themselves into the race. Based on this logic, one would have to conclude that a field of this size is put in danger once the gates open.
There is no “fix”. Certainly not one that can be done quickly with any type of regulation. The horse has “bolted” so to speak. It will take years of clean breeding to return racehorses to the durability and robustness required. In saying that, it very well may be too late for American bred horses.
US racehorses are suffering catastrophic breakdowns and deaths because of decades long chemical abuse. They are administered a virtual unending list of drugs from the time they are foaled until they reach a racecourse — if they ever arrive there. This over zealous drugging has a debilitating impact which is being passed on from offspring to offspring. Weakness and unsoundness are being bred in.
We are right on the money, but don’t take our word for it. Consider these words:
“Chemical horses produce chemical babies. Performance-enhancing drugs must be banned if we are going to survive as an industry and if thoroughbreds are going to survive as a robust breed.”
– Arthur Hancock
Breeder of Three Kentucky Derby Winners
2008 US Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown, seen winning the Kentucky Derby above, received regularly monthly treatments of Winstrol, an anabolic steroid banned in 10 states—yet in none of the states where the Triple Crown horse races are contested.
The current state of horse racing in North America is best described as a volatile cocktail fueled by economic greed together with increasingly fragile horses and pervasive drug administration that has transformed this once distinguished “Sport of Kings” into a controversial, much maligned commercial industry rife with abuse and disregard for its athletes.