Horse Health

Quick, what hat says, ‘I’m fun but also grieving 7 dead horses’?

By Sean Beckwith as published in DEADSPIN

Kentucky Derby shockingly overshadowed by something other than the winning horse

Here Mi Song is driven off in an equine ambulance after racing in the tenth race ahead of the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Here at Deadspin, we take a wait-and-see approach to covering horse racing. Every year, someone will pitch a Kentucky Derby preview and either get laughed out of the writer’s room or ignored. The only reason we wrote about the 2022 iteration was because long shot Rich Strike won at 80-1, and his trainer got canceled in less than a week after the win.

Seven horses are dead

Well, there wasn’t a feel-good story gone south this year, as the main takeaway from the Derby was the number of animals put down in recent days. The number stood at five entering Saturday, and rose to seven after a couple of three-year-old horses were injured in the races leading up to the main event and had to be euthanized.

The most savage part about horse racing isn’t the trainers, the doping, the cheating, the racist pregame songs, or even animal deaths — it’s the people in their fancy attire getting shitfaced in the infield as another colt or gelding is hauled off in an equine ambulance for one last syringe. I can’t think of a worse way to go than surrounded by a bunch of belligerent simpletons wearing pastel fedoras and bouquets on their heads.

The sport has this mythological aura to it because it’s been around forever. More people think of Seabiscuit than Lucky Number Slevin, and that idealized history gives it a reason to exist and helps create a hold over sentimental sports fans. It’s similar to how people enjoy calling boxing the “sweet science” as if it’s about anything other than a guy’s ability to navigate a concussion for eight to 12 rounds.

It’s funny how sappy sports fans can get about the Derby, because they’re such macho assholes the rest of the time. The Derby turns 150 next year, and you better believe it’ll be a massive spectacle, and a couple of bros in the group text may even suggest attending until they look up the cost of a ticket. The race will be as exciting as it always is, viewers will be plied with whiskey and lore, and a few ponies will probably die. If not that, it’ll be another scandal that immediately reminds us that horse racing is as crooked as it is barbaric.

Put the Kentucky Derby down already

The industry goes ignored every weekend but three a year, if it’s lucky, because people have a hard time feigning interest once a Triple Crown is out of the picture and the gaudy outfits and mint juleps aren’t handy. If you read the stories on Saturday’s festivities, they’re filled with outrage from Churchill Downs, and quotes from fans who genuinely love the animals, the day-to-day training, and want to see a more buttoned-up operation.

Most of the deaths seem to have resulted from fluke accidents (other than Code of Kings, who broke his neck after flipping several times in the saddling paddock), yet these kinds of tragedies are so commonplace that there’s a special ambulance just for the horses, and out of sight of spectators, to carry out the euthanizations. Maybe shooting lame horses right there on the track would clue the crowd into the fact that horse racing is very much bloodsport, and not some prestigious pageant where every victor goes to a magical meadow to impregnate mares in perpetuity.

Apparently, new rules regarding anti-doping and medication go into effect May 22 and will be enforced by a central governing body. That’s great and all, but it’s going to take a lot more recuperation to ease that disquieting feeling I get whenever NBC cuts to a professional trainer. I view them the same way a father looks at his 22-year-old daughter’s 35-year-old boyfriend, and have an equal amount of distrust in both.

So, congratulations to Mage, and only Mage, on the win. I might be a tad hostile because I went to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 instead of tuning into the race Saturday, and am in no mood for further animal cruelty. After watching redacted incinerate countless redacted for close to three hours, no amount of horse deaths was going to be acceptable.

7 replies »

  1. YES to everything said in this post!
    Mostly – time to PUT DOWN horse racing. Especially this idiotic spectacle of fancy hats & mint juleps.
    Showing the true act of euthanizing these broken babies (which is what they are) wouldnt make a dent in these dimwits who think this show is all about THEM!
    How sad is it that every so-called sport or discipline that involves (USES) horses has its huge downside? And there appears to be no real push to stop that downside – in none of these disciplines.
    Racing leads the way – in numbers of horses sent to slaughter because of breakdowns, lack of care and lack of CARING!


  2. Good thing Guardians was playing. I used to watch all the horse races but haven’t for years. If a person bothers to read educating themselves as to what goes on behind the scenes it might change their minds. I now know how horses are treated. Mistreatment of any kind is unacceptable. Seven horses dying is a travesty.
    I agree people go to the derby so they can wear their dressed-up heads. It is sickening to see.
    Great article by the way. I share your feelings. All these senseless races should be out lawed. Derby goers should have a big party on the track and infield vying for who has the ugliest hat. No horses allowed.


  3. I was predicting a bloodbath out there for Saturday. I REALLY wish Derby Day had been cancelled. All those months of planning and preparing the horses…down the drain. But at what cost? To date no one I know has asked the horses if they’d care to put their lives on the line to win a horsey race.

    I’ve come to despise horse racing. I despise the silly women who insist on wearing big silly hats and men wearing silly suits to make them look so important. The Derby airs the most ridiculous celebrities half of whom I know zilch about. And the reporters know even less.

    I thought horse racing was about the horses not the silly people who try to look so important on Derby Day.

    There is one positive about Derby Day. If you haven’t seen the story on Cody Dorman and Cody’s Wish…that story will make you cry. Horse racing could use a kazillion more Cody and Cody stories.

    As for the breakdowns they will continue until the betting public puts their collective foot down and says no more. Owners, trainers and everyone concerned with each horse can and has to do a better job of rehoming thoroughbreds when that time comes. Dumping horses in kill pens is beyond cruel and heartless. Insurance companies instead of ordering a horse euthanized because they paid out…could maybe FORCE racing to block particular horses from ever racing again and allow that horse to be rehomed….pasture ornament, gentle therapy horse…there are a hundred different options if we could start thinking outside the box.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If anyone has any doubt about how the race horses are treated and how they are forced to live and how most go to slaughter … read the book “SAVING BABY”.


  5. Horse racing has gotten to be a terrible game of death for horses who are raced way too young and worked way too hard for the greed of fat lazy men.


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