It’s not world news, but there’s been a lot of press about the fact that HBO is canceling its new drama “Luck” after three horses died during filming.

But did you know that 18 horses have died at Aqueduct since November 30th?

That’s right.  All on the inner dirt track.  And 13 out of those 18 were horses running for a claiming price of $15K or less.

It’s all to be expected, as a natural outcome of breeding for speed alone because stamina isn’t necessary, and running on dirt instead of turf.

I look for good bone when I’m considering an off-the-track Thoroughbred, but that’s gotten harder and harder to find.  It’s not impossible, and there are pictures of horses with decent-to-good bone in my Beauties on the Backstretch post. But it’s gotten to be so unusual to see a horse with good bone, that people don’t even know what a good Thoroughbred is supposed to look like anymore. No wonder that they’ve been replaced in popularity by warmbloods in disciplines where they used to reign king — even in eventing (it’s not just the elimination of the steeplechase that did it).

The first time a top dressage trainer caught sight of my grey TB and asked me what kind of warmblood I had, I laughed and said, “He’s an American Thoroughbred.”  The second time it happened, I realized it was no joke.  And I started to say, “He’s an old-fashioned American Thoroughbred.”  Built to race on turf, with stamina to run a mile and a half.

Those kind of Thoroughbreds are now rarities, and have been for some time. Spindly legged specimens are a dime a dozen and it’s not unusual to see a Thoroughbred that looks like any backyard breeder’s ill-thought-out experiment.  If horses like that keep dying while trying to do their job, maybe it will be a wake up call to an industry that’s let a quick buck get in the way of responsible breeding and business practices.

I wonder how many more horses will have to die until the New York Racing Association completes its investigation.  Right now, the NYRA is cutting purses in cheaper claiming races in an attempt to reduce the fatality rate.  Isn’t that kind of like shutting the barn door after the horses are gone?

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