Haskin: One Death Too Many

There comes a breaking point in every person’s life when you ask yourself if your passion in life is worth the heartache that accompanies it. As a lover of animals first, and someone who has been involved in racing since 1967, I have come to that point.

But I have come to it before, and I know that the death of Intense Holiday and the deep sadness I felt reading about his tragic demise will soon pass and get stored away in some dark recess of my mind, where I keep the memory of Ruffian, Go For Wand, Prairie Bayou, Barbaro, George Washington, Eight Belles, St. Nicholas Abbey, and so many others who lost their lives on the racetrack or as a result of an injury suffered on the racetrack.

I can understand why people ask themselves, “How many tears must I shed before I start drowning in them?” We grieve over deceased Thoroughbreds as we do friends we feel we know in some intimate way, even though we are well aware they are not friends in the human sense. Perhaps it is closer to grieving over a beloved pet, who had become such a major part of our family and our lives. I can offer no reasonable comparisons, only to say that the bonding between humans and horses is something that will forever remain a mystery, just as it has throughout history.

So, is there really a breaking point; the one death too many that finally drives us from the world that we love; a world that is both incredibly beautiful and at times incredibly ugly? Apparently not, for it continues to be a world we defend so staunchly against antagonists who focus only on its cruelty.

When I stood in the stands and saw Ruffian pull up, it was a shock, as I had never seen a great horse break down before. When Go For Wand broke her leg and fell to the ground right in front of me, I turned around and started walking away, with the thought of never returning. But again, like everyone, I forged on and tried to put it behind me. Now, after 47 years I have come to terms with the sport, or at least I think I have, for it never gets any easier.

Although it sounds so simplistic, racing is what it is, and the excitement and thrills and beauty and elegance that captivated us and drew us into this unique and magnificent  world in the end outweigh the heartaches. And so we grieve briefly over a courageous warrior like Intense Holiday, who has been a fighter since the day he was born, and we store his memory in some shrine-like corridor of the mind, reserved for our fallen equine heroes. And we move on, just as jockeys move on after the death or near-death of one of their fellow riders. It is the nature of the sport. We either accept it or we don’t.

Most everyone knows the story about the turtle and the scorpion. For those who don’t, a scorpion is looking to cross the river, but knows he can’t make it on his own, so he asks a turtle if he can hop on his back. The turtle tells the scorpion, “But you will sting me if I do.” To which the scorpion replies, “If I sting you then we’ll both die.” So the turtle allows the scorpion to hop on his back. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle. “Why did you sting me?” asked the turtle. “Now we’re both going to die.” The scorpion, as he is drowning, says to the turtle, “I can’t help it. It’s my nature.”

If we are to devote our lives to racing and appreciate all the wonders it holds, we also must come to terms with the nature of the sport, as cruel as it can be at times. And a major part of that cruelty is laminitis, which, even in this world of advanced veterinary medicine, continues to baffle the most brilliant minds in the industry. It is a cowardly disease that strikes without warning, often after a courageous fight against injuries suffered in battle. I have no idea why nothing can be done to eliminate this hideous part of our sport. Why would I when no one else far more knowledgeable than I has any idea?

For those of you who did not read my column on Intense Holiday in the beginning of the year, here it is in its entirety as a tribute to a special horse:

“The pride that breeders feel for the foals they raise and nurture escalate with every hurdle they clear in their young lives. To see them grow into classy, strong, sound, correct, and healthy individuals is a gift in itself and brings great feelings of satisfaction. To see buyers at the sale show interest in them and bid big bucks to get them brings feelings of hope and dreams of the future.

Those hopes and dreams then become a powerful dose of reality when your “baby” comes out running and soon embarks on the greatest journey of all – the road to the Kentucky Derby.

Carrie and Craig Brogden of Machmer Hall Farm near Paris, Ky. have had that feeling before. They have bred or raised a number of top-class horses over the past few years, including two recent homebreds on the Derby trail – Vyjack, winner of last year’s Gotham and Jerome, and Vinceremos, winner of this year’s Sam F. Davis Stakes.

But if you can imagine those parental feelings of pride a breeder gets watching their foals develop into tough, finely chiseled athletes, try to take it one step farther and imagine how they feel when one of those foals narrowly escapes death days after being born, becomes a sought after yearling, and eventually matures into one of the leading Kentucky Derby contenders.

When the Brogdens’ Harlan’s Holiday colt, out of Unbridled’s Song’s daughter Intensify, who they bred in partnership with Haymarket Farm, was two days old, Carrie Brogden went in to see him, but as she walked in the stall, their veterinarian came rushing past her. It was obvious that something was dreadfully wrong.

There was the foal lying in a heap in the straw taking extremely labored, heaving breaths, as one would suffering an asthmatic attack. Carrie could only ask, “What the hell is going on?”

“There was a stunned silence and Craig finally said, “We think he has had a reaction to the plasma.,” Carrie recalled. “He had gotten plasma because his IgG (the antibody isotype Immunoglobulin G) was a little less than ideal and this was precautionary only.

“He had an anaphylactic reaction, which caused fluid to surround his lungs. The vet immediately ran back into the stall and administered what I found out was Lasix and solu-delta cortex (steroids). We thank God there was an oxygen tank in the barn and I ran to the office and grabbed it, turning it on full blast and putting the tube up his nose. I scratched and thumped his forehead, trying to get some endorphins released to stimulate him. It was silent for literally what seemed hours but was just a few minutes I am sure. It was touch and go for a while. Craig and I have thought about that moment in the foaling barn many times since watching him at the sale and in his races.”

Finally, the foal started to come around, his breath slowed and steadied, and he made a full recovery.

“He hasn’t looked back since that day,” Carrie said.

The colt, named Intense Holiday, would go on to hit the board in the grade II Remsen, Nashua, and Holy Bull Stakes, and finish a respectable fifth in the grade I Champagne Stakes for Starlight Racing. He finally put it all together with a dramatic stretch-running nose victory in the grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

“If the vet had not had the proper stimulants and we did not happen to have oxygen at the foaling barn, there would have been no celebration for us after the Risen Star,” Carrie said. “It was a rare but potentially fatal reaction and one I hope to never witness again. We did lose a beautiful Malibu Moon yearling filly with the same reaction that year, triggerd by antibiotics so I do know the other side.”

As Intense Holiday grew into an impressive-looking foal, he began to command the attention of Machmer Hall broodmare manager Luis Coronado.

“Luis has been telling me he is our Derby horse since he was two months old,” Craig Brogden said. “It’s unreal!”

Coronado added, “The way he walked in the field, the way he moved, and the way he ran across his paddock, he was different from anyone else. I told Craig and Carrie, ‘I know this horse is going to make it to the Derby.’ He was a special horse; very strong.  Whenever you took him outside you could feel the power in him. You could see and feel the difference between him and the rest of the horses. He had so much energy.”

Carrie and Craig began preparing their young horses for the Keeneland September yearling sale and received a boost of confidence when former trainer Frank Brothers, who is the bloodstock agent for Starlight Racing, came to the farm to inspect the yearlings.

“When Frankie came to our farm for the Keeneland inspections, he told me that the yearling out of Intensify was our best horse he saw at the farm,” Carrie said. “It’s funny that he ended up putting his money where his mouth was and buying him.”

Brothers was so impressed with the colt he purchased him for $380,000.

“I looked at 40 or 50 yearlings on the farm and he was far and away the best one there,” Brothers said. “And Harlan’s Holiday is a solid sire and you get a bang for your buck with him. He had the pedigree and he looked like he’d keep running. I really didn’t think he’d bring quite that much, but when two people want a horse, that’s a consignor’s delight. He was very immature and a bit handier as a yearling, but he’s gotten tall and long and you don’t have to worry about him getting the distance. In his earlier races, you could tell he was still learning and now he looks to be on the upswing, while some of the others are on the downswing. You just hope with his style he keeps out of trouble and gets a good trip.”

For the Brogdens, the sale meant a great deal, not only because of the price he sold for, but because they knew how close he had come to dying. And now here he was being fought over at the sale.

“When Starlight bought him, it was a huge sale for us,” Carrie said. “He was a co- homebred and I was so proud. I cried like a baby. Jack Wolf (co-owner of Starlight Racing) and his wife were there signing the ticket and they totally embraced me with congrats when they saw that I was so overcome. I will never forget that day. They were so kind and so warm and I was so thrilled that our colt went into such good hands.”

And so, as the Kentucky Derby becomes more and more a reality, Carrie and Craig can only wait for the first Saturday in May. And as they look back to that near-disastrous day, it is reassuring to know that regardless of how far the distances stretch out, the last thing Intense Holiday will need is oxygen.”

A horse who survived all he did from the time of his birth, and then survived a career-ending injury, deserved a long successful racing and breeding career. But it was not to be. So, all we can do now is offer our deepest condolences to the Brogdens and Starlight Partners and everyone associated with Intense Holiday, and do what we have become so proficient at in this sport – remembering. After all, it is memories and the hope of the future that keep us going.


Leave a Comment:

Sail On

How very, very sad.

12 Jun 2014 9:35 PM

I had just heard this news and posted your original column to a group of others vitally interested in laminitis before reading your new comments. This puts all the discussion about winning and losing in proper perspective, doesn't it...?  This beautiful boy, who had a short life of many struggles, is finally, once and for all, robbed of his life.  Your original column inspired my initial interest in and admiration of this young colt, who when he got into the big boy world was known to also crossfire when he ran, and attempts were made to correct that.  It is a wonder he achieved as much as he did.  His performance in the Kentucky Derby was anticipated to be quite good if he could somehow get past that curve.  And then, to develop a condylar fracture...  wow.  How much more could this young horse stand?  As it turns out, not much.  I love winners and those who overcome long odds, but I have so much sympathy and heartache for those who are destined not to reach those elevated heights to which we would have them all climb.  Chrome is so strong and healthy - he appears to have been born under a lucky star.  He was always so healthy, something the Shermans and Chrome's owners have mentioned over and over.  He has his health and a future.  I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed for him and Intense Holiday's fate is a cruel reminder of how quickly fortunes can change. My heart goes out to his breeders and new owners and all those who loved this horse and cared for him, shared their dreams with him.  

Anyone at all conscious in this forum is already acutely aware of the horrors of laminitis.  Perhaps those singular moments of beauty and grace that we experience with these horses are so intense because they are so tenuous - we hold our breath with thanks and the full expectation of tears.  Bless you, Intense Holiday, you gave it your all in your short, shining life.  

And thank you, Steve, for always knowing and caring.

12 Jun 2014 9:42 PM


12 Jun 2014 9:43 PM

A beautiful tribute.  It is the memories and hope that keep us going... As a life long owner/breeder I have been in the deepest valleys and highest mountains with these incredible creatures.  Laminitis (and colic) will kill even a pleasure horse that spends most of its time happily grazing in a green field.   I came very close to losing a horse to laminitis 2 weeks ago after an allergic reaction to a suspected insect bite, and he was shipped to a University teaching hospital in under an hour.   As an owner split 50/50 between racing and pleasure horses I cant say the race horses are injured at a higher frequency.   Laminitis is not selective.   Condolences to  Carrie and Craig, and all  the connections.  He was a Super Star.  

12 Jun 2014 10:03 PM

Amen Steve.

   He was a wonderful looking horse and could have made some noise later this year. Deepest condolences,indeed.

12 Jun 2014 10:20 PM

Steve; thank you so much for writing what is essentially a eulogy for a very nice colt who did not deserve his fate.

I have personal experience with laminitis, having lost my favorite horse last year after a month-long struggle to save him.  The hardest part was he never gave up, but we had to give up on him when he could bear no weight at all on one foreleg, and the other was affected as well.  I still own 3 horses and hope never to have to deal with this horrible condition again.

12 Jun 2014 10:33 PM

Beautifully written article, but hope it is a long time before you reach the breaking point.  Condolences to the connections of Intense Holiday.

12 Jun 2014 10:45 PM
Tana Rae

Thank you Steve for this heartfelt, compassionate tribute to Intense Holiday.   My sincere condolences go out to the Brogden's and Starlight Racing Partners as well as all who took care of this amazing colt.  Frankly, I'm devastated.  And I'm nobody.  But I do know how it is to raise a baby horse,  love them, nurture them and then lose them (another breed of horse but that doesn't matter).  They always remain a part of you.  Again, thank you for your tenderness, Steve, at this sad time.  RIP dear Intense Holiday.  

12 Jun 2014 10:45 PM

Beautifully written and spot on.  

12 Jun 2014 10:46 PM

Well, Steve, I've been in this just a few years longer than you, and I see we've evolved not too differently. Your words suggest that you're in until the (or your) end, whereas I'm about ready to call it quits. This sport is so infectious as to foster years and years of rationalization. But, the years also bring ever more knowledge, making it so more difficult to blind ourselves from the realities. This push/pull is compounded by our mental "investment" in this sport, and for some , such as yourself I suspect, it's not one only psychological, but also practical, as it is for those who have made this their life's work. I sense rationalization's aroma in some of your words, as when you say "and we move on"; offer the turtle-scorpion parable; and bypass some of laminitis' cause/effects...So, I'll end with this: We owe them more than to remain wedded to our wants and earlier beliefs.    

12 Jun 2014 10:52 PM

Steve very sad indeed I know how you feel and don't know why the owners and tracks with all there money cannot create and fund for research  that will really get something done with this awful condition !

12 Jun 2014 10:52 PM

I'm going to say it, its time to put that asterisk next to the next Triple Crown winner.  I wanted so badly to see a horse in my life time that I could compare side by side with the greats of before and say that my horse was just as good. But its not worth it.  It would be more than selfish as someone who enjoys watching racing to say that it was.  I know that horses break down outside of the Triple Crown races but I feel like it is a big contributing factor.  An asterick would be a lot easier to take than this.  I've loved this horse all spring, I never ever bet Pletcher horses in the Derby but I couldn't help myself with Intense Holiday.  I don't know what the solution is, but I really hope that one can be found.  This is so heartbreaking, if there really are racing gods, maybe they are trying to tell us something, and maybe this time we should listen.  

12 Jun 2014 10:56 PM

Gretchen Jackson said upon the death of Barbaro "grief is the price we all pay for love".

The toll it takes on our hearts is lessened when we can seek and find comfort from others who share our passion and love for these most majestic of God' creatures such as you.

There is great comfort for all of us in your tribute to Intense Holiday. Your words ring so true to the emotions we are all feeling tonight.

Intense Holiday is now across the Rainbow Bridge that and is in heaven where he is running in meadows of knee high grass with all that have crossed before them.

My most sincere and deeply felt condolences to Starlight Racing, Machmer Hall Farm and to all that loved Intense Holiday.

God's Garden

Author Unknown

God looked around his pastures,

and he found an empty place.

He then looked down upon this earth,

and saw your tired face.

He knew that you were suffering,

He knew you were in pain,

He knew that you would never

Be well on earth again.

He saw the trails were getting rough

And the hills hard to climb.

So he closed your weary eyelids and whispered,

"Peace be thine".

It broke our hearts to lose you,

But you did not go alone.

For a part of us went with you,

The day God led you home.


12 Jun 2014 10:57 PM

This is so sad. He was just a baby.  Laminitis is hideous.  It has taken many of our horses - sometimes it can be treated and all is well and other times, like this one, nothing can be done.  Rest in peace, sweet boy. Many are sad today. Condolences to all concerned.  

12 Jun 2014 11:03 PM
Don in Massachusetts

Thank You, Steve for the wonderful tribute to a young horse who died so early from this terrible disease of laminitis.  Intense Holiday joins the Immortal Secretariat, Kip DeVille, Barbaro, St. Nicholas Abbey, who have fallen victime to this equine curse.  Miraculously, our beloved Paynter, through the prayers of many, overcame and continues to do well.  Along with you, I cannot understand why we cannot find a cure for this disease, but I do know that all who love horses should contribute to agencies attempting to eradicate it.

One of my saddest and memorable visits was with Kip Deville, when I was given permission to visit with him at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.  I prayed for him, but unfortunately, he, too, was euthanized several days later.

Again, Steve, Thank You for keeping Intense Holiday's memory alive, and I send my sincerest sympathies to his owners, trainer, groom, and to you, because I know that you, too, are hurting!!!  Rest in Blissful Peace, Holiday, in the Lord's Pastures!!!

12 Jun 2014 11:10 PM

son of a ......

he (and they all) deserve so much more.

We (I'll use "we" here for everyone who loves/runs/trains/heals/treats equines) can blame the lack of knowledge about curing laminitis (a scourge that has plagued equine medicine for centuries), and maybe we see it more because we try more surgeries now than we used to.  veterinarynews.dvm360.com/.../693010

We can blame modern training techniques, which start running (and racing) 2 year olds before they are done growing and, thus, before the ends of the bones heal.  Who knows how many of these young horses have pre-fractures or stress fractures with no signs before they suddenly give way?

We can blame the training techniques at any age that leave the horses in the stalls 22 or so hours a day and then ask them for maximum exertion once every week or two in a workout or every 2 months or so in a race.  Name me a human athlete who works out a 1/2 hour a day and competes well at any level.

We can blame the track surfaces.

We can blame the in-breeding.

We can blame the drugs.

We can blame the money-grubbing-lets-get-one-more-race out of them owners and trainers.

And yet, tonight, blaming anybody and everybody doesn't do anything for me.  What's missing isn't just the causes.

What's missing is any logic.

What's missing is an enforceable set of solutions.

But most of all, what's missing is this wonderful young colt, a descendent of at least 4 Triple Crown winners (Gainesborough, Affirmed, War Admiral and Secretariat).  A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out where he might place at Churchill, and now....

son of a.....

12 Jun 2014 11:12 PM
DD King

Bravo Steve well said

2002 6/7 Belmont my best friends horse broke down at the top of the stretch as he was leading in a stakes race--heartwrentching--as I had played with him that morning in his stall--that night I couldn't sleep--I wrote a poem (ode) to him--


On the 7th day of June just two years after your birth you suited up for what would prove to be your last battle. It was meant to be a glorious victory but it was not your destiny. It was not your destiny to show us your greatness. Previously you had shown us a glimpse, a tease of what talent you most certainly had. In only the second battle of your life you blew the opponents off the field with ease and in record time. This was to be your finest hour but in only your third trip to the battlefield you were snatch away from us. Many young soldiers have gone down before their time and it is never easy to accept. So we say we appreciate what you did and realize what you might have been and to let you know that your fallen colors will be picked up by your stable brothers and sisters and carried on to many victories. and someday one of them will come back and win this same battle that took you from us. Renegade Warrior you were and Renegade Warrior you will always be. In our hearts a Champion.

12 Jun 2014 11:16 PM

Steve, your words again touched our hearts. I refused a wedding invitation because it was the day of the "Great Match Race".  I still tear when I think of that beautiful filly with that plastic cast on, looking bewildered. Why couldn't  I finish the race she thought?   I cried for days.  I was there for Go for Wand, we looked in horror as she hobbled to the winners circle, where she knew she went after a race. The mood was funereal after, all the joy drained out.  We realize each time they go out to race we hold our breath until they come back.  Our first instinct is to run from this sport after another tragedy strikes, yet we are drawn back by the magnificent animals that give their all for our pleasure.  I pray they are all in a place where there is no pain and they can frolic for eternity.  

12 Jun 2014 11:16 PM


You write beautifully and emotionally. I've always enjoyed your articles and blog postings, but this one brought tears to my eyes. You have expressed in the written word what I, and I know many others, feel when it comes to certain aspects of Thoroughbred racing. I always describe a "love-hate" relationship when talking to people because I find most of them can't bear to think of the "bad things" that happen in this industry.

My heart aches every time we lose one of these amazing athletes, whether it be a warhorse like Clever Allemont or a young horse just beginning to live. I feel, as you state, very connected to them - even though I don't necessarily know them or their connections on a personal level. In the long-run, I know it is because I am a horse-woman and lover of all things horsey.

I just want to thank you for your poetic way of writing in such a sad time. It brought me peace of mind to know that no matter what I may feel at times - I am not alone in my emotional/spiritual connection with these magnificent creatures.

Shaun S. Basch, LVT

12 Jun 2014 11:59 PM
Karen in Indiana

I think the grief we feel, or at least I feel, is different for animals than it is for people. Most people have some say in how they live and how they die. Maybe not when, but how. Animals are at the mercy of their caretakers, for good or bad. So their death brings grief tinged with a sense of responsibility, even if they weren't our own. Did they suffer? Was there something that could have been done differently that would have made a difference? Were they loved and did they know it? The last one that got me like that was Caixa Eletronica. I contacted Repole Stables to see if they would retire him because I just had a feeling it was time, even contacted some farms in Indiana to see if they were interested in him since his sire stands here. It broke my heart when he died.

13 Jun 2014 12:06 AM

I remember being a broken hearted little girl, tiptoeing out to the fireplace to look through the day's newspaper. I found the sports page of our local paper, "Modern Day Black Beauty, Ruffian Destroyed". I kept that clipping for many years, and this sport brings so much heartache at times, but I keep coming back, I think I always will. Thank You, Steve, for this beautiful tribute, not just to Intense Holiday, but to all of us who love this sport.

13 Jun 2014 12:14 AM

I also remember the deaths of Ruffian, Go for Wand, Timely Writer and others too numerous to mention but like you Steve cannot turn my back on racing or the beautiful animals that give their all for us.It is a beautiful sport filled with tragedies but also with many great moments that should not be forgotten in our sadness over the loss of Intense Holiday. Just say a little prayer for those still racing and for those who ride them.

13 Jun 2014 12:17 AM
Mister Frisky

Just like you Steve I'm a lover of animals first,a racing fan second.Weather it's a death that's racetrack related or horses that fall through the cracks after their careers are over it's never easy to take.The only way I have been able to reconcile these tradgedies is the fact that thoroughbreds were bred for one thing,and one thing only.It doesn't make it right or humane maybe just an unfortunate truth.

13 Jun 2014 12:59 AM

THIS is something to rage against, those damn awful diseases with no cures that strike down our animals.  I never had horses so I can only imagine what it might feel like to watch yours come down with laminitis but we have had a series of cats who, because they were strays, got feline leukaemia or feline aids despite having also received all their shots once they became part of the family.

Having to watch them look at you with trust while you tell the vet to go ahead with euthanasia is one of the hardest, hardest things in life.

Doesn't matter if it's a horse or a cat or a dog or whatever.  The only saving grace is believing that you are stopping the pain.

RIP Bepi and Tonino and intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 1:03 AM
Arts and Letters

I'm so sorry for Intense Holiday and his connections.

As Slee said, there is so much wrong with racing on this continent and no real sense that it can be fixed.  I don't know if the numbers bear it out, but it "feels" like there are more breakdowns these days than in the past.  

I hate to say it, but I've been at the point of not really caring about North American racing for a while now. I still watch the races on tv, but it's hard to get too excited about any horses, even California Chrome.  It just doesn't feel fun anymore, especially when you're always wondering "is this going to be the one where he breaks down"?

13 Jun 2014 1:18 AM
chestnut horse

Timely Writer got me!

13 Jun 2014 1:25 AM

I had just seen the news of his death and was shocked. Then came here to read your column. Thank you for this.

Tears of sadness. But also know I will remember him and keep watching. You are so right about coming to terms.

13 Jun 2014 1:42 AM

What was it Gretchen Jackson said on the passing of Barbaro? "Grief is the price we pay for love"? I hold my breath every time I sign in on the computer for fear what news I will find.  The gut punch from Caixa nearly did me in.  I feel inches from walking away at times. But Steve you have captured so magnificently why we do not, cannot, yet walk away. Thank you, again.

13 Jun 2014 3:17 AM

Thank you for always putting how I feel into words I can't speak outloud....hard to believe that this time last week I was so excited and this week I am so sad...again. It's hard to watch a race and always have to wonder who will be next.  I am printing this article to put in my journal..to read again later when I can without crying.

13 Jun 2014 6:12 AM
Mary Jo in Florida

After watching Ruffian's breakdown I didn't watch another race until Funny Cide was trying for the TC. But I think the final breaking point for me would be if a horse that you mentioned in you article a few months ago about Mucho Macho Man was to break down; Gourmet Dinner. He won the $1 million Delta Jackpot but after an injury in March before the 2011 KD, he was out for about a year and never returned to form. So the owner that was so proud of him after his Delta Jackpot win put GD in his first claiming race this April for $50K. He was claimed and on Saturday he will be in a $16K claimer at Parx. If he ends up like Monzante did, or worse, that will be my breaking point. That will be my farewell to racing.

13 Jun 2014 7:42 AM
Melissa P

I clearly remembered your blog post this morning when I saw the news about Intense Holiday. My first reaction was one of shock and then deep sadness. I, too, was at Belmont when we all lost Go For Wand. All the others we've lost to laminitis including Secretariat and Barbaro are mourned afresh with each new loss. As a former breeder/owner, I've gone through loss on a very personal level. I'll never be "over it." As a former Georgian, I sympathize and empathize with the fine folks from Starlight Racing. Another senseless loss to an insidious disease. Indeed, one too many.

13 Jun 2014 7:43 AM

Steve, Paynter was my favorite racehorse, but for every case of laminitis there must be way more than 100 cases of bucked shins (which can lead to saucer fractures) which are nearly entirely preventable.The towering research of Dr. David Nunamaker on Bucked Shins and the sensationally effective training methods at developing strong bones of Nunamaker and Dr. John Fisher at Fair Hill are right there for all to see. Dr. Larry Bramlage and all research vets know all about this massive mistraining scandal, but it is unknown to racing fans and apparently even horse owners and most trainers. Until it is exposed (probably it will take the NYT or PETA) the Ruffian, Spurious Precision, Mentor Kane and thousands of other weak-bone, track tragedies will continue unabated.

13 Jun 2014 8:15 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Maybe it's the accumulation, maybe it's the timing with things that are going on in my life but the death of Intense Holiday has hit me hardest of all. All of the deaths of thoroughbreds has been difficult but this one has traumatized me. It's too much for me.  Steve Haskin and his blogs have been a joy and I appreciate the man and his writings and this amazing forum he has given us but I need to take a break from the sport and the blog. Safe trips, healthy wishes for all of you. I hope something can be done about laminitis, and also some of the negative issues in the sport including the overuse of medication. Take care of your animals and yourselves.

13 Jun 2014 8:27 AM

Thanks for this piece Steve- like all your writing, it really hit home and captured my thoughts more eloquently than I could. I am involved in a non-racing part of the horse world, and sometimes my barn friends look at me like I have 12 heads when I talk about my interest in racing. I almost feel like I have to apologize to them for being a racing fan, because so many horseman see only the brutal, ugly side of racing. It's hard at time to reconcile being a "horse lover" with a "racing fan." But yet, it was my first introduction to horses as a little girl, and in some ways, watching a field of highly tuned Thoroughbreds gallop down the stretch is more of a thrill than galloping my own horse around the ring. It's just one of those things that's hard to explain. But stories like this make it even harder...

13 Jun 2014 8:37 AM
Don from PA/DE


13 Jun 2014 8:44 AM

Every time I read of one of the beautiful thoroughbreds passing, I too say I'll stop following them.  But something keeps pulling me back.  It is their beauty, their heart and their desire that keep me enthralled with them.  

13 Jun 2014 8:46 AM
Linda Stephan

Beautiful, as always, Steve. I have gotten to the point in losing my pets that I fear I cannot have another when the current crop passes. This may be my breaking point with racing. Too soon to tell. Ruffian was my first. So many others since.

13 Jun 2014 9:07 AM

Good writing, hard subject. Thank you for stating facts and feelings so well.

13 Jun 2014 9:08 AM
Mary in VT

Like all of you, I feel absolutely gut shot by the loss of this courageous animal. Condolences to the connections. Condolences to us all. Somehow we will keep putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow.

13 Jun 2014 9:21 AM

It was the breakdown of Go For Wand that forever changed me.  Even after witnessing the breakdowns of Ruffian, Barbaro, Prairie Bayou, Roving Boy, and many others, I still embrace a deep passion for horseracing.  However, I never watch a stretch run without thinking of Go For Wand and holding my breath.  How nice it would be to just enjoy the moment with no reservations.  

There is no rhyme or reason as to why laminitis strikes some and not others, or why some pull through and others don't.  I have had two mares, mother/daughter  battle laminitis, both as a result of Cushing's Disease. Thankfully both pulled through. I don't know why my horses were spared when other horses with million dollar care succumb, but I am truly thankful every day. I still have the younger of these two mares today.  Now, at the age of 25 and four years after she was critical while suffering with laminitis in all four feet, she is sound and happy. Of course, she will always have Cushing's Disease, and I can never let my guard down...

My heartfelt condolences to the connections of Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 9:24 AM
Linda Stephan

I must add what others have pointed out: training and racing at 2 is really the4 cause of most of our grief here in North America. Three is even too young. Why can't we change? Greed, fast return on investments: is this love of this magnificent creature? Yes, pleasure horses get laminitis, but rarely in knowledgable hands. In our race horses it generally follows fractures.

13 Jun 2014 9:28 AM

Has anyone done a study as to how many horses die from laminitis  these days compared to the days prior to so much medication (drugs) used in all phases of equine management? Perhaps long ago they didn't live very long being put down if something was wrong but it seems like lots of retired horses also die of it that are well cared for. Overweight, of course, would be a factor but could it also be something with the feed?  GMO's would be an obvious target and pesticide residues. Maybe there are just too many variables to consider but it seems a lot of effort is going into figuring it out.

13 Jun 2014 9:38 AM

I've seen more than my share of breakdowns...the first one I'll never forget, at Fairplex in CA, No Socks Doc, a claimer who probably shouldn't have been running, on the backstretch...the screens go up, and I knew they were putting him down then and there.  There have been a few more since...I'll remember all their names, they won't let me forget.  For me it's all about the horse.  I don't always bet on the races, but I always root for the horse.  Thank you Steve for putting to rights why we keep going to the track, why in spite of the sadness and the disappointment we keep rooting for the horse.

13 Jun 2014 9:46 AM


What a lovely article on such a wonderful horse. He truly was a warrior, seeming to overcome all the obstacles thrown at him. Except this one, awful disease that has taken so many of our equines; some famous, and some only beloved to a few. We all mourn this horse as he was our own. RIP

13 Jun 2014 9:53 AM

I am so deeply deeply saddened by this loss and too too many other ones that seemingly have increased in our beloved sport of racing.  It Is almost impossible to understand except for the memories of our affectionate and talented horses and their majestic ways of unconditional love and the unfailing ability to give their all.  It is irritating to me at times when I lose my "cool" and pound on fans that are cruel to the sport in words, manners and critique that which includes some in the media and writers of the sort - whether it be a horse or a jockey. As I see it, there is no room for lack of intelligence and ignorance in sport where there is blood running through a contender and the jockey that wraps his arms around him.

But - we understand the pain that comes along with the "Sport of Kings" and blood runs deep.  Memories and recollections torment us and at the same time give us strength and "stamina" that we need to pull through to the finish line. Recollections of great horses and those not so great and those forgotten are forever present in thoughts and hearts of racing.  They give us hope and sustain us while on grueling tracks and trails of racing and life itself.  Oh, if only we could be so humble as a horse, how they see us and the world that surrounds them - we might come to know what it is that gives them the will to keep going around those ovals of track at distances that never seem to cease in length - onward - onward they go as we like parents scream our lungs out - calling "come on - go go" never thinking the response might be "I just can't do it today or tomorrow, or anymore".

Intense Holiday was noble and stoic example of will, patience,intelligence and heart.  It is a devastating loss and another heartbreak that will remain with all the others.  I remember well (and personally) the disgusted feeling of seeing the disastrous side of racing - overwhelmed with sorrow and uncontrollable tears - the same tears of relief and joy for those that make the finish line first -

I want to thank you, Steve Haskin ~ for reminding everyone through your writings of your personal attachment, affection and "humble" character that gives reason to reflect. remember, recall and look forward to the future because there has been "One Death Too Many" .

It is to the Starlight Partners and the Brogdens and to all here and in racing that I extend condolences.

13 Jun 2014 9:54 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Heartfelt and beautiful. You have the wonderful ability to put into words the feelings of all of us who love the sport.

13 Jun 2014 10:07 AM
Abigail Anderson

The news hit racing fans on Zenny's Tribe like a thunderbolt, since all of us are devoted readers of HWH and knew about Intense Holiday's story. Every time this happens -- we lit candles for St. Nicholas Abbey that blazed for many months and were devastated to learn of the death of Life Is Sweet's first born, who never even got to the track -- there are those who just feel that they can't take anymore. Some of us, the more seasoned members, know that the teaching of the Scorpion & the Turtle is one of the risks of the sport. In spite of that, we hold our treasured thoroughbreds close and raise their memory whenever the context invites it. We are the turtles of the sport in that sense, insofar as we take the risk onboard every time we give our hearts. I so appreciate your personal sharing here, Steve. Your brave and moving words. And condolences to the Brogdens, Starlight Partners and all those on Team Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 10:08 AM

As I read your article, I, too, remember the tragic deaths that occur in racing.  It IS part of the game and every game and life in general.  Contrary to popular belief, life is NOT fair, and it's NOT easy.  How many potentially great athletes go down to injuries, and/or death?  Brian Piccolo comes to mind of this Bears' fan.  A freak accident killed Payne Stewart.  It's a part of life.  Some say it's God's Plan.  We grieve and move on.  The ones we loved will remain in our hearts forever.  Sure, it may dull our passion for awhile.  We go back because it IS our passion.  Each summer on the one weekend I spend at Saratoga with fellow artists,I stand by the rail at Oklahoma soaking up the sights and sounds.  Any of my passion that may have dulled, returns full throttle.  You need to go there for a "refill."

13 Jun 2014 10:09 AM

After thirty years of being a fan, I'm close to walking away from this game--and, I hope to God I have the strength to do it.  I have always coped with the injuries, slaughter, drugs and other issues by dissociating, but, for some reason, it's just not working anymore.  The reality behind the rainbow of colorful silks is seeping in to my mind in spite of my efforts to ignore it.  I'm even starting to question my use of the word "passion" for horseracing that I so often use to describe my participation in it--why on earth does my heart hold on to such a thing? Why does passion so often feel like torment?  Rest in peace Intense Holiday...

13 Jun 2014 10:11 AM

Does laminitis trouble wild horses?  If it doesn't, why not?  I've wondered about this for ages.  Wild horses often run and run hard.  Thanks to the world's worst predator, namely us, they sometimes run beyond endurance.  Does this result in laminitis?  Or has it something to do with Thoroughbred breeding and Thoroughbred care, meaning the conditions these splendid beings endure being racehorses?  Stalls, paddocks, never free?  I love the sport.  I want to see it grow again.  Yet the injuries and deaths are often too horrid to dwell on.  I succeeded in interesting my youngest daughter, got her excited about the Kentucky Derby.  Then she watched Eight Belles go down.  She was traumatized.  She won't watch another race.  I watch every race on edge, worried a horse will go down, or a jockey.  But like you, I shake off the shock (which often takes some time) and fall in love with horse racing all over again.  

13 Jun 2014 10:23 AM

One of your best blogs ever Steve. After we lost Barbaro I decided to stop asking "when will the tears end?" and instead ask "what can be done to best honor the memory of him and all before him that we lost too soon?" Grieving is difficult in these situations but knowing that our charitable contributions to organizations that sponsor laminitis research will help the progeny of our fallen heroes makes the pain a bit easier to bear.

13 Jun 2014 10:24 AM

I have just reached my breaking point after loving and following this sport for over 50 years. I just can't rationalize anymore. I don't make my living in the sport as a trainer, jockey, exercise rider, groom, breeder,turf writer/journalist or by even working at a track in some capacity. So really, how can I keep rationalizing? Especially since it's not just the laminitis but why this gallant, young horse broke down in the first place.

13 Jun 2014 10:25 AM

Couldn't agree with you more, Grindstone619. I hope that I have the strength to walk away for good this time too.

13 Jun 2014 10:27 AM
Steve Haskin

It looks as though this was indeed one death too many for a number of you. While that is so sad, there are no words to dissuade you, because we all have our breaking point, as I mentioned, and we all must do what our heart says is right. I hope for Dr. D. and everyone else, this is an initial reaction and not a permanent one, because the beauty and excitement of racing still far outweighs the hurt we feel at times like this. Thank you all for your heartfelt comments and for sharing and expressing your feelings, as difficult as it may be.

13 Jun 2014 10:28 AM

Your article was moving, but I have to ask myself "How many horses must die in this industry before people come to the realization that racing is detrimental to these horses?" This is an industry where 97% of the horses bred and raised for racing "fail" either by not being fast enough or by breaking down literally. The death rate for thoroughbreds in the racing industry are STAGGERING. The skeleton of a horse does not mature until they are 5-7 years of age, so why is it standard practice that three year olds are allowed to race? Which really means that they are started under saddle and in training at the tender age of 1-2. If you really loved horses, then you would reconsider how many of these horses (most of them) wind up dead. It is NOT the horse's dream to run and race and win money. It is YOURS. It is a horse's nature to try and please humans, and they will run for you. But, far too many are paying the price for your QUICK THRILLS. We all know that most race horses wind up being sold to slaughterhouses and or being put down due to lethal breakdowns. Their young and tender bodies cannot handle the stress of the training and running. When does your love for horses overcome your love for racing?

13 Jun 2014 10:35 AM
Needler in Virginia

While laminitis has been with us as long as there have been horses, we're no closer to either a cure OR a knowing a definite cause. There seems to be no one particular cause, but I think I understand this much, mostly gleaned from years of seeing it happen to friends and from Dr Richardson's reports and explanations about Barbaro: horses are prey animals, requiring they be up and ready to run at any moment, have not been known to lie in bed for recovery times, nor are they really comfortable lying down, for ANY reason, for extended periods of time. The horse's foot is actually comparable to the middle finger of the human hand, and that one digit is bearing a lot of weight, all the time. Multiply that weight by that borne by each foot, NOW remove the ability of one foot to bear that corner's weight, shift that weight to the other three corners and you have the prescription for the nightmare of laminitis. The horse is just not constructed to go on three legs and when an injury occurs, the weight is, of necessity, transferred to the other three legs and you're almost certain to have trouble. Now add in the issues with a horse foundering on young, green grass, overfeeding, high temperatures and any other damned silly thing you can think of and you can see that horses are animals that stay up at night trying to figure out yet another way to make you crazy. I've had horses almost all my life and I guarantee that if there's a way to get hurt, get sick or make you worry A HORSE WILL FIND IT. There are hundreds of researchers at universities all over the world trying to figure out laminitis. Clearly, it's not that easy or we'd have a pill for it by now. Barbaro's fund raised a ton of money; the money is there.....it's just that there does not seem to be one cause, one reason, one mosquito bite, one airborne virus or water borne bacteria to pursue. Maybe one day we'll figure this out and possibly be able to stop laminitis from being a killer, at least. There is one thing I can be certain of, though; early speed training and more fragile Thoroughbreds are NOT the cause (even though they both are rabid rants of mine). I have friends with draft horses with laminitis, friends with ponies with laminitis, friends with grade horses, Appaloosas, Morgans, Fjords......ALL which have been lost to laminitis. This is an eternal horse problem, not just a TB problem.

My deepest sympathies to the connections of Intense Holiday; there are no words to fill that empty stall.

13 Jun 2014 10:58 AM
Linda in Texas

Without personalizing this article Steve, for me this is the most honest and gut wrenching article you have ever written. It is the sad reality of life that is so hard to take when death is it's reward and comes to everything and to too many entirely too young. Sometimes i feel guilty because i have made it to 74.

Happy Father's Day guys and have a safe Friday The 13th. I tempt fate as i will cross the path of a black cat without spitting out of the window, and i will walk under ladders on purpose!

Thank you Steve.

13 Jun 2014 11:11 AM

The let this death be your stimulus to hold responsible the cheaters and the cruel who turn the stomachs of lesser constitutions than yours. Instead of disparaging the attention to the problems, please join the effort to FIX the sport and thus, save it.

13 Jun 2014 11:15 AM

Beautifully written! This is a very sad day for the entire racing community.

13 Jun 2014 11:49 AM
Curlin 1:53.46

I will always be sad when I hear news like this happening, but I will never stop being a fan, no matter how much sad or bad news I hear in this great sport. I hope Top Billing can now come back healthy and run well. I will be thinking of Intense Holiday when Top Billing runs in his races.

13 Jun 2014 11:53 AM

Thank you, Mr. Haskin for being racing's rock, moral compass and soft place to fall, all wrapped up into one.

RIP, Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 11:56 AM

Believe me is a tragedy,most owners really hurt when one of their horses go down.I personally went through it more than once and still hurts.Especially when it is a horse of this kind of quality.My condolences to all the connections.

13 Jun 2014 12:14 PM
Steel Dragon

Magnificent job as always, Steve and great comments.  I've been driven away from the sport many times by these tragedies. I keep coming back for one reason. I am a degenerate horse player.

13 Jun 2014 12:15 PM
Curlin 1:53.46

To all who cared for and loved Intense Holiday. A word from him:

If it should be that I grow weak,

And pain should keep me from my sleep,

Then will you do what must be done,

For this the last battle can't be won.

You will be sad I understand,

But don't let grief then stay your hand,

For on this day, more than the rest,

Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had a few great happy years,

You wouldn't want me to suffer so.

The time has come, please, let me go.

Take me to where my needs they'll tend,

Only stay with me till the end,

And hold me firm and speak to me,

Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree,

It is a kindness you do to me.

Although my tail its last has waved,

From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Don't grieve that it must be you,

Who has to decide this thing to do;

We've been so close, all of us, these last few years,

Don't let your heart hold any tears.

13 Jun 2014 12:20 PM

What a great story and tribute to this magnificent creature. As always Steve, on point, and oh  so accurate. As a former owner, who also had one of our talented and courageous, runners leave us, and enter the world of"Rainbow Bridge.  His name was "No Sir",one tough competitor, who never quit.

13 Jun 2014 1:24 PM
Margaret Ann

Pine Island, Timely Writer, Rockhill Native.  Everyone has horses, names, faces that affected us and made us wonder why do I love this sport.  I think of them with tears. As I think of the pets I have lost through the years.  Makes you wonder, why, after a few weeks, a few months, another pet comes into your life.  You know it will end someday, but for now, someday is so far away.  Everytime I hear LAMINITIS I cringe, then pray for the horses who are unfortunate to have the disease.  I know there is research and hope that it will find a cure someday.  Someday Soon.  Everytime I watch a horserace on T.V. I have such butterflies I can't sit down.  I stand in front of the screen and hope the horse I like will win.  But I watch all of the horses cross that finish line.  I want all of them to come back safe.

13 Jun 2014 1:30 PM

I created a virtual 'Tissues on my desk club'... I know there are many unspoken members.  It has turned out to be a vitally important fixture in the sport we all love.  I become so attached to these guys when I draw them in my Funnies.  I can't explain it, perhaps because I intent to fill hearts with smiles.  Excuse me while I reach for my box of tissues.  God Bless everyone involved in the lives of the Thoroughbred Race Horse, from concept to birth, the the sales ring and the racetrack...Godspeed.  Thank you Steve for a wonderful article.  

13 Jun 2014 1:38 PM

I was 7 years old when I became enamored with horse racing. The year was 1972 and those earliest memories I have are of Ruffian's tragic break down.

You learn quickly that his is not a sport for weakness of any kind.  It is unforgiving and often heartbreaking.

For the passionate fan the highs of horse racing are incredible and addictive.  I am in awe of the great horses that have graced the sport, both past and present.  The battles waged and won both on and off the track are stuff of legend.

But with great highs come lows that bring us to our knees.  Before long the names of horses lost too soon blow across our lives like leaves in the wind. Not just the Ruffian's, Go For Wand's and Barbaro's.  So to do names like Landaluce, Swale, Take Control,Pine Island, Union City, Landseer, Tuscan Evening, Nashoba's Key, Wanderin' Boy...

It's been 42 years since a little girl's heart was crushed by a filly named Ruffian.  I guess I've grown to accept that to love this sport you risk this inevitable heartbreak. But as I've done time and time again, I'll get back up and go on.  RIP Intense Holiday.  

13 Jun 2014 2:23 PM

Sad column, Steve.  Befitting a lovely, young, and, as Thoroughbreds are,tough racehorse.  

I can think of no other endeavor that can elevate you to the heavens with joy at one moment, and slam you back to earth with such force it nearly kills you in the next.  That's life with Thoroughbreds, birth to death.

The day my final race is run,

And, win or lose, the setting sun

Tells me it's time to quit the track,

And gracefully hang up my tack,

I'll thank the Lord the life I've led,

Was always near a Thoroughbred.

Paul Mellon

They deserve our grief.  My sympathy to all.  

Hang in there, Haskins.

13 Jun 2014 2:23 PM
James Nelson


What I find so remarkable about your writing is the way your thoughts and your words connect heart and mind. You have an amazing gift for articulating what you are thinking and feeling. You do that for all of us. I had to put down a beloved horse last March, and I am still going through the grieving. I won't get over her death, but I will get through it with the support of people like you who encourage me to maintain that connection between the head and the heart. Thanks for your insightful prose and the heart that gives it expression.

13 Jun 2014 3:13 PM

Wow. Steve this blog is a classic, one of your most eloquent and beautifully crafted writings ever. Thank you also to the many fans who have written in, it is fascinating to read your reactions. I respond with appreciation to all for sharing your conflicting  feelings for the love, passion, and beauty of this sport combined with the pain, fear, and guilt that come with the tragedies in racing.

13 Jun 2014 3:21 PM
Linda in Texas

So wanted to see this magnificent animal make it.

HRTV has video of one of his training sessions. Just

so happy doing his training. Wanted so badly for him to carry on his daddy's bloodlines when he finished racing. Rest in Peace Dear Handsome Colt. Your time was so fleeting but not your memory.

13 Jun 2014 3:25 PM
Robin Murphy

an article to my horse friends.......I have lost a special horse to the onset of laminitis after a $10,000 month's professional care at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY. The care I received was unbelieveable PERFECT, and my horse was healing after a severe hoof injury. The onset of Laminitis is the reason I lost my mare. This has happened to the top horses in the industry with unlimited budgets, such as greats like Barbaro and now Intense Holiday. I read this article and I feel for the connections of Intense Holiday and just thinking about my racehorse, Tidal Volume, and if something like this happened to him would be unbearable. These racehorses are taken care of FAR BETTER than your average horse, they are athletes and a very important part of the family, WAY MORE THAN ANYONE COULD IMAGINE.........UNLESS.......you have that special bond with a special horse that is undescribable. Please pray for his connections.

13 Jun 2014 3:28 PM
Soldier Course

Thank you for this, Steve. It helps all of us to have you share your grief with us at such a sad time. It will have a sustaining effect for future tragedies as well.

It has helped me to write notes of condolence to the owners of horses I've loved who met an untimely death. In almost every instance I've received a heartfelt and comforting response from the owner, and I cherish every one.

13 Jun 2014 3:34 PM

I remember last summer on Virginia Derby day there was a horse that died on the track. It was the race that was run just before the Derby race.  Some drunk standing next to me was all too noisy and too drunk to realize EVERYONE around him was in hushed silence to see if the downed horse on the track was going to survive or not. Of course he was euthanized due to a compound fracture. The belligerent man continued to annoy at an oh-so-bad time so I shoved him and "assisted him to leave the property" accompanied by a security guard (because of foul language).

I stayed for the Derby race with that bitter experience, the horse's death, on my mind. It was then that I realized that it's like vegetarianism.  Some people can deal with eating food that once had a face and a life and some, like myself can't stand the thought. The death of Secretariat at 19 (too young) from laminitis, Barbaro's death, and of course the horror of watching Eight Belles lying on the racetrack dead is all overwhelming.  I find myself hoping and praying the horses will have a safe trip around the track and betting far less if at all on the outcome. Betting on the race, to me, is like NOT being a vegetarian.  That horse has a face and a life. I'm at the track to wish it well and pray for it's safe trip. I'll even jump over the rail where I stand to watch the race and assist the jockey if there's a tumble, if need be (I'm a registered nurse). I have volunteered a couple of times at my local track to work first aid but quit after two summers since most calls for aid were from dehydrated drunken patrons.  What where they at the track for?  Maybe all of us can band together and pray for Godspeed around the track for all the equine athletes each season at the tracks, as I do. Although it does seem as if the stars of the day are lucky enough to receive premium treatment versus those claimers who are immediately euthanized (race goers should pay attention to what goes on behind the scenes at the tracks).

13 Jun 2014 3:34 PM

I can only echo the words of OakHillsDog in his post below since he expressed my feeling so well about the loss of young Intense Holiday: 'My heart goes out to his breeders and new owners and all those who loved this horse and cared for him, shared their dreams with him.'

Rest In Peace brave one.  

13 Jun 2014 3:42 PM

Steve, the only tears I shed on my birthday yesterday was in reading your column.  Those of us who have loved horse-racing and its star-crossed champions all our lives harbor hearts fractured in so many places that they must resemble a geographical map of California.  Catastrophic injuries are and always have been the absolute worst part of the game.  But as we have learned to our sorrow, safety is an illusion for racehorses. More than a few have come to grief simply by having fun in their paddocks.  We are all just one step away from tragedy. Some people turn their backs on racing because of it. You can turn your back on racing, but you can't turn your back on life. To do this would be to miss the magnificence, which runs parallel to tragedy. We must each learn how to walk this fine line as best we can. None of us will ever forget Intense Holiday. He was a very, very special horse, loved not only for what he was, but for what his connections and fans dreamed he might become.  Thank you for telling us once again this story behind the story, as only you can.  We will remember, and pray that someone soon will find a cure for this devastating disease.

13 Jun 2014 3:58 PM

This is so sad. I always "hate" seeing news of a beautiful horse's death, and sometimes think I'll stop reading Blood-horse. Steve, I had not seen the original story and that makes it even sadder. The horses you listed are on my list too. Every one of them. As is Harlan's Holiday, I cried when I read about him. And Barbaro, my family was near the finish line for Barbaro's "sublime performance". In truth, since Barbaro's death from this terrible disease, I have withdrawn a bit from my love of the racing thoroughbred. As you imply, we need to protect ourselves. May Intense Holiday enjoy his days in horse heaven with so many other brave equines.

13 Jun 2014 4:08 PM

Steve, thank you for this, and for the recent gentle-spirited piece on getting beyond the post-Belmont controversial remarks.

Kindness and gentleness are treasures in this world, and you are highly endowed with both of those sterling qualities.

13 Jun 2014 4:26 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, this is a great, great article and an important one. You are right, every time this happens you really think, why do I watch and love this sport? After I saw the headline about Intense Holiday on Blood Horse the other night that was exactly what I thought and I am sure many of us thought. All I can say is that it is the beauty and magnificence of these horses and also, the thrill of it, but it sometimes comes at a very high price. As mz said, we rage against these miserable, rotten diseases because we cannot save them and I also think because we wonder what we could have done differently to prevent them. When I had to put my 12 year old cat down last summer because of CHF and end stage heart failure (which appeared out of the blue), my vet said if the cat food was missing taurine this could have been the problem. I raced home and checked my cat food because I thought it was something I could have prevented, plus I have another cat. It did have taurine, but the guilt I felt wasn't going away. I can only imagine what Intense Holiday's owners and vet are going through right now. Second guessing if they could have had a different outcome and yet I know they did everything they could do to save him. The Brogdons, Starlight Partners and all those who loved him have my sincerest sympathy for their loss. This is just something I am wondering about and maybe those who have horses can answer this question: would it make a difference in terms of fractures if we raced horses at 4 instead of 3? Would their bones be stronger, more fully formed? I know that the wrong step can result in a fracture at any age and that has to be factored in whenever this happens. Thanks for this posting Steve. You said what many of us thought and felt.

13 Jun 2014 4:47 PM
Steve Haskin

I really want to thank everyone again for your warm and heartfelt comments. James Nelson, I'm touched by your words. Hopefully, I wont have to write columns such as this for a long time.

13 Jun 2014 4:53 PM
Needler in Virginia

To Holysmoke: the sad reality is that no, wild horses probably do NOT suffer long if they have laminitis (that we know about) as they are, most likely, taken by predators as soon as they become incapacitated. That's the way nature works.

13 Jun 2014 4:53 PM

Thank you for the heartfelt article, Steve.  Also lots of good comments; I particularly agree with Slee's observations about predisposing factors to these breakdowns.  I was aghast to see the short, slow gallops most of the Belmont starters had every day in preparation for racing 1.5 miles at top speed.  There seems to be a basic lack of understanding or knowledge of how to attain optimal fitness while limiting injuries in racehorses.  The current status quo is not good.

I passionately love racehorses and have since about 1980 when I discovered horse racing as a child, but I don't love the sport or the industry, and no longer consider myself a true fan.  I've worked on the backstretch and most of the racehorses I've seen personally have been very well cared for, notwithstanding the limitations of training in a racetrack environment.  But as someone who loves and respects animals, it's just no longer possible to justify the many fatalities of unsuspecting horses just trying to do their best.

I think Intense Holiday's loss has hit many harder than one would expect, given that we're coming off the letdown of California Chrome's Triple Crown bid.  Probably all of us at some point had the thought and fear that Chrome would suffer a serious injury or fatality during or leading up to the race.  Somehow, it's the tragic death of a supporting player like Intense Holiday that underscores the fact that deaths like this are business as usual - regretted, but lacking the impact to provoke change.  It's hard to even say if change would result in fewer tragic events.

"I hope for Dr. D. and everyone else, this is an initial reaction and not a permanent one, because the beauty and excitement of racing still far outweighs the hurt we feel at times like this."  It is true that racing can appear to be a beautiful and exciting sport, at its best times, and as humans with no direct and close connection to the deceased horse, grief may be diluted by this.  But if a horse like Intense Holiday were able to sum up his experience with racing, it would have to be overwhelmingly negative, as his involvement cut his life brutally and painfully short.  This perspective matters.  We can't do anything to help Intense Holiday, but maybe there is something that can be done to prevent future tragedies.  I really don't know for sure what it is, but I suspect that stopping the use of all performance-enhancing drugs in training and racing would be helpful.  Both horses currently running and horses who ran on performance enhancing drugs during their careers who are now procreating and producing a weaker breed - it's not good.  Creating incentives to limit the number of racehorses bred and making it a more exclusive sport would also probably help.

By no means do I want to make anyone feel bad about their support of the racing industry and love of the sport - people like Steve who are in the industry and who love it are part of the solution, if one exists.  

You are a very wise man, Steve; if you have any suggestions for what any of us as "civilians" can do to help make racing a safer and better sport, please let us know.

13 Jun 2014 5:10 PM

It is impossible not to cry whenever I hear something so heartbreaking.RIP Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 5:31 PM
rachel fan

My condolences to those who have experienced firsthand the tragic loss of your horses. I have loved these beautiful animals ever since I read my first horse book in 1970, and that feeling has only deepened over time. I've never owned horses, but I wept over the deaths of Ruffian and Barbaro just as if I'd somehow known them. I can only imagine what it feels like to lose an animal you've loved and cared for every day. As a singer/instrumentalist, I've played for many weddings and memorial services, and there is a song written by Karla Bonoff entitled "Goodby, My Friend," which has especially moved me. It was written for her beloved cat, who had been accidentally let out of her house in the country and was never found, presumably taken by a coyote. Perhaps it will bring some comfort to you as it has for me:


Rest in peace, beautiful Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 6:03 PM

I've only been following racing closely for the past year.  I was a casual watcher in the past, but after Barbaro's death and the breakdown of Eight Belles on the track, I couldn't watch anymore.  Then last year, around the time the 40th anniversary of Secretariat's Belmont, there were many articles reminding us of that great horse and his accomplishments. Reading those articles and watching the videos available online of his races , I was again captivated by a sport I had began to love as a horse loving girl. I started following different young horses and watching the Saratoga races last summer. And immediately began reading about breakdowns. Day after day it seemed. I don't even remember their names, most were just ordinary horses, not superstars, although I do remember the name Saginaw, since I had watched him run. As this year started, horse after horse thought to be a Derby contender was injured. Even watching the Derby, both Chrome and (IIRC) Ride on Curlin, had injuries. And now this young horse. I am a horse lover, not a gambler. I love the magnificence of these animals. But I can already see the end in sight for me. Between the stories of drugs and abuse and slaughterhouses and the breakdowns of horses whether too young to die or too old to still be forced to run, I feel like I am lying to myself in trying to justify this sport. I watch racing solely because of my love of these animals. And that is the same reason why I may stop watching. If racing doesn't change, I don't think it deserves to survive.

RIP Intense Holiday.

13 Jun 2014 6:20 PM

oops, I meant to write Chrome was injured in the Belmont (not the Derby obviously, and thankfully).

13 Jun 2014 6:22 PM
Paula Higgins

Robin Murphy and James Nelson and to everyone else who has lost a beloved horse, I am very sorry. As someone said above regarding Gretchen Jackson's comment about Barbaro "It is the price we pay for love." I remember their devastation very well and their courageous news conference they gave afterwards. It is something you don't forget.

13 Jun 2014 6:26 PM
Paula Higgins

Dr Drunkinbum, don't leave. It is people like you that need to be a voice for the horses. Take a mini-break but don't go away. You are the voice of reason and compassion and the sport needs that for many reasons but most importantly for the horses.

13 Jun 2014 6:31 PM
Mythical River

Steve:  Unfortunately I have reached my limit.  I used to attend every Breeder's Cup and many of the major stakes races every year.  Go For Wand was horrifying, but I was very naive and believed that was not going to happen again.  I put it behind me because I loved the sport so much.  Prairie Bayou was hard, so was Three Ring, Barbaro, George Washington and Eight Belles kicked me in my gut.  But ironically, it was the death of my own horse that turned me away from the sport for years. Seeing MY beautiful horse that I was so connected with... she was born in my arms... had many struggles but was very special... and watching my dreams die with her was too much to take.

A few years later, I would tune in for a few of the big races or the Breeders' Cup, but I was easily able to turn off the TV and walk away if my favorite horse didn't win... at least he or she wasn't dead.  

Last year for some reason, the desire started churning in me again.  A lot of that has to do with you and your wonderful stories.  I attended the Preakness and Belmont last year and the Arkansas Derby and Belmont this year...

If there is any one person that can keep me loving this sport... it is you.  Thank you for understanding the bond that we have.  There is no real way to explain it.  There is no real way to get over it, but we all pretend and are thankful to hear about the joys and dreams of others who are more lucky.

13 Jun 2014 7:00 PM
Jersey Girl

I was very sorry and sad, to learn of Intense Holiday's death. It was shocking, really, to see the headline, "Intense Holiday Euthanized Due to Laminitis." It seemed there was little to do but to stare at the words and hope somehow they weren't true.

One Death Too Many, yes, with a very heavy heart.

My condolences to all who worked with and loved this horse.  

13 Jun 2014 9:50 PM

Should the scorpion have asked for help so that his nature could have been changed?

13 Jun 2014 11:09 PM

Thank you, Steve. You write with the compassion and understanding of the late Dick Francis and the late Maeve Binchy. They wrote fiction, of course, but your words are moving in much the same way.

I remember many of the deaths you mention, especially Ruffian, Go For Wand, and Eight Belles. They are like a punch to the heart. Intense Holiday was part of the lineage I love - Unbridled's Song, who I met one summer, and Unbridled, whose Derby win with Carl Nafzger calling the race for owner Frances Genter is forever etched on my heart. Every time one of their descendants races, I remember them with great gratitude. After watching Intense Holiday in the Risen Star, I rejoiced that the line continued. Now his part of it has come to an abrupt and premature end, and there is enormous grief in that end.

Thank you for your willingness to stay with it, and continue through the grief. And for letting all of us share it with you.

13 Jun 2014 11:13 PM
dance with fate

Too much sorrow & tears, a long trail for me since Ruffian.  With every tragedy I question whether to stay or go.  Only love of the horses keeps me there, always fearful for the safety of all. My heartfelt condolences to all Intense Holiday's connections. So devastated. He will always be loved and remembered. Horses must live on as free spirits in good company - I have to believe that.  There is no 'heaven' without them. Bless you forever beautiful boy.  And thank you Mr. Haskin for your unmatched way of communicating the essential truths.

13 Jun 2014 11:22 PM
Needler in Virginia

To Titian. There have always been discussions about young horses/hard training/older horses/bone growth, etc. Racing does not create breakdowns; it's just that we see the breakdowns on TV all too often. The sad truth is that ALL horses can take bad steps ANYWHERE; humans take bad steps, break ankles or toes or knees.... even breaking the skin......but humans go to the ER, get a cast and some pain meds, go home, put the bad foot up, watch the baseball game and then go to sleep, knowing the limits of operating with a leg injury. Horses DO NOT go to bed, rest well, listen to the vet's orders or manage casts very well. Minis to ponies to Clydesdales take bad steps in stalls, pastures, on asphalt paths, dirt tracks and even long, lovely grass. They take bad steps racing EACH OTHER while flying through a pasture with no one watching, riding or cheering them on. Horses run and when they do, they take bad steps. That bad step may well break a bone that penetrates the skin, the wound is contaminated and all is lost. Horses are not constructed to be good patients; their minds don't usually work that way and their bodies certainly don't. Add to the stress of a broken bone and confinement the immeasurable stress of 100% of the horse's weight being supported by 75% of the horse's frame and you've got a real mess on your hands. Those kinds of injuries almost always end badly, even after the best medical attention in the world. Laminitis also presents after founder, high fever, Cushing's and often unknown causes, but the result is the same: one foot begins to break down (for whatever reason), the other 3 have to support the whole horse, which means the weight is being shifted to feet not designed for such a load and then the "healthy" feet begin to respond to the additional workload.

I HATE the loss of Intense Holiday, but what ultimately killed him was not racing; it was the broken bone and resulting illness that we can't even figure out, never mind cure! Racing supports multiple charities devoted to horse health, and those charities are vigorously supported. It's always been in racing's best interest to find cures for horse diseases, and racing DOES support those efforts. So don't blame racing itself or early training, Titian, or "more fragile" Thoroughbreds. If there is blame let's lay it at the feet of a silly animal that loves to fly with the wind in his mane over good bad and indifferent terrain and no thought except how good it feels to run.........NO WAIT!! That's why we love them.

13 Jun 2014 11:40 PM

Three years ago in May I lost two of my beloved horses within a week of each other. The first was a beloved Arabian mare named Tessa. I had to make the heart wrenching decision to put her down due to an inoperable colic on a Saturday evening. One week and one day later, Sunday, I found my beloved Splash dead in the run in area of my barn from an apparent tragic accident. He had been the pasture mate of Tessa. This was a horse that had been with me for 24 years. I was literally numb as I walked back to the house. The earth had dropped from under my feet. I could not speak and could not cry. As I think back on it now, I do believe I was in a state of shock. Once in the house, I finally found the strength to say three words to my husband, "Splash is dead". After making the needed call to have someone come bury him, I collapsed in the chair for about 30 minutes. My mind was spinning. The image of dear Tessa's head in my lap as she left slipped away from the final injection to stop her heart was still fresh in my mind. Still grieving for her, I now had to start grieving for my Splash. I could take it anymore. Sure I have lost horses over the years, but never two within days of each other, it was as you titled your piece, Steve, one death too many. There was no doubt in my mind, all the horses had to leave. Each and every one, even my mare Rosie that had been with me for 27 years and the colt, born under a full strawberry moon on my late father's birthday. I called my three closest friends and begged them to come my horses. In their wisdom, they each told me to wait a few days and if I still wanted them to come for everyone, they would. For three days I mourned the loss of Tessa and Splash by crying my heart out for both on the shoulders of my other horses who were grieving with me. My dear friends, bless their hearts, knew that over time I would change my mind and not want them taken away. They knew that even considering the depth of my despair, that as soon as the pieces of my broken heart slowly mended that I would hold my remaining horses even closer to my heart. To this day I am not over their loss, just as I am not totally over the loss of the two other horses buried here and others buried back home in Virginia. But I have, as you so eloquently said, "stored their memories in some shrine-like corridor of my mind". Forever, as long as I live, the sound of their hoof beats will beat with my heart. I have more heartache down the road, more horses to cradle in my arms as I let them go and more mounds of red Georgia clay to walk out too and kneel beside and to touch the earth where they were laid to rest. But I will get through it somehow just like I have so many times before. There will always be one death too many more horses to enshrine in my heart. If I am to keep the love and passion of my life other than my family, I have to be able to do that. I have to be able to pay the price of grief for love.

Since falling in love with horse racing while watching Secretariat conquer the Triple Crown, I too have had to step away after the tragic losses. I was watching Ruffian on live TV when she broke down. I was so devastated that I did not watch racing for almost 20 years. I still followed racing, but only from afar and through pictures and articles in magazines or the newspaper. I finally went back to watching racing in the mid 90's and watched the Triple Crown races on a regular basis until Barbaro. When he lost his valiant fight against the dreaded disease laminitis, I had to again take a step back from racing. The next time I watched a race was with Eight Bells giving all she had to win and not quite make it. I saw the live coverage of her down on the track, trying to stand and then word of her being euthanized. Again, I had to step away. Last year I had to step away again after hearing of the loss of Citizen Kane (I was just so in love with him)and Points off the Bench. Saint Nicholas Abbey was a crushing blow. I could not even read your post about him. I hurt so much for dear Bond Holder and his suffering.

I worried for Chrome in the Derby and the Preakness. I feared that something would happen in the Belmont. While I was cheering for him to win and prayed he would, I just had an intuition for weeks that he could not win and that there was going to be an injury this year to either him or one of the other colts. When I heard that Chrome had not come out of the race sound and that Ride on Curlin was injured, my heart dropped. Had my intuition been right? So thankful it was not as bad as I feared for either. But now I worry that Chrome could develop laminitis like Bond Holder or Commissioner after his surgery for the chip will end up with laminitis like Intense Holiday. A part of me looks forward to Chrome and Ride on Curlin's return in the fall, while the other half wishes they would go ahead and retire them both. Chrome is back home safe in California. He has fulfilled the dreams of Mr Coburn and Mr Perry and Mr Sherman. Let him live the rest of his life the way that now been denied to Intense Holiday.

I do not yet know if this is the last time I will step back never to return. Intense Holiday may be the one too death to many for me of a Thoroughbred.I have 9 horses that I need to keep room open for in my heart when the day comes they leave this world and cross the Rainbow Bridge to become a shining star in the night sky. There may not be room for any other horses.

Thank you Steve so much for the healing words and for having this forum for us to share our love and our grief with each other. It has meant the world to me.

14 Jun 2014 12:03 AM

Another beautiful piece of writing from you Steve which sums up how we all feel.  How much death is too much?  I'm not at "that point" yet of abandoning all racing, it's too glorious a sport and I do believe that there is so much good in it and the good still outweighs the bad.  Yes there is the dark side of racing, but it unfortunately comes with the territory.  I can't just turn away from it, the animals need us, we are the core fan base and we have intelligent and well thought out ideas whether racing listens to us or not.  We owe it to our equine athletes to come out and support them in spirit, they have no voice, but we collectively can have a voice for them.  We, the fans, are strength in numbers.  

Having just lost my dog not even 2 months ago, and still reeling from the Belmont, and now I have to hear Commissioner needs surgery and Intense Holiday has been euthanized.  No , it is not fair.  Intense Holiday was a striking and handsome colt, he was high on our initial Derby lists and now we have to say goodbye to him.  His story was amazing and my heart and condolences go out to all his connections, trainer, and everyone associated with him. This is a terrible and unfortunate thing to have happened to him. I feel terrible about it.

We have to keep fighting and hoping for cures and better monitoring of laminitis and colitis.  When these two rear their ugly heads the outcome is rarely positive.   We, as fans, have to forge on and remain positive that advances in medicine will prevail and one day a cure will be found.

Yes there is a magical bond between horse and man.  Mr. Ed described it best when Wilbur asked him why he could talk.  He replied, "Don't even try to understand it, it's bigger than both of us."

RIP Intense Holiday.

14 Jun 2014 12:14 AM

Wonderfully written, Steve. It is such a very sad loss. You want to look for some reason or explanation why it happens to some and not others. So completely random. Most colts recover from an injury like this, and this happened so sudden. A big loss.

14 Jun 2014 1:53 AM

I was really surprised by the terrible news of Intense Holiday's passing. Mr. Haskin, I completely understand how you feel. I thought I was out of the game when Ruffian, Barbaro and Eight Belles suffered catastrophic injuries. I thought "How horrible does it have to get before I turn my back and walk away?"

To a certain extent, I've distanced myself from the sport. I expect the worst and if something wonderful happens I am pleasantly surprised.

14 Jun 2014 7:53 AM
El Kabong

Whether it is laminitis or colic it is very hard to see our favorites succumb to these senseless conditions. I don't mean to rationalize this at all, but if the big name equines didn't publicize this occurrence with their passing, many other horses who's names we do not know, would continue to pass and nothing would be done. When horses like Barbaro, Intense Holiday, and Dullahan leave us, for reason we all feel should not come to pass, this should motivate us to help find cures, to support research foundations and to seek answers. Intense Holiday is another call to all of us to reach out, not run away. I'm always reminded by inspirational wisdom of Dr. Viktor Frankl at times like these. We are defined by the attitude we take towards these seemingly meaningless moments and unavoidable sufferings in life.

14 Jun 2014 9:28 AM

I told myself to refrain from being argumentative on this "One Too Many" blog. Truth is, many here have echoed my sentiments which has somewhat surprised me. But after reading some of the others, Needler in Virginia's in particular, I find it difficult to remain silent. "Racing does not create breakdowns" she posits; this is the height of rationalization. It is simply without question that horse racing places the horse at far greater risk for breakdowns, severe injuries, death, and laminitis (as a direct result of those injuries) than any other equine endeavor. Take this to the bank as a cause/effect. Finding a cure for laminitis will do little to solve this overriding dynamic. It is not the central issue.  

14 Jun 2014 11:10 AM
El Kabong

Would it be too much to ask that one race, run every year in the name of equine research, be a fund raiser? Whereby Tracks would give up their takeout on that race, and winning fans as well would match that amount to be taken from the winners pool on all pools wagered on that race. Winners would still take home something(and possibly be given a chance to donate it back if they want), but everyone who wagers would  be involved, nation wide at a major racing event to recognize the need in our sport to give back to equine research efforts and to honor those heroes who lost the battle, with a special wagering event.  

14 Jun 2014 1:16 PM

So much to say.

You know, we love these animals who race for our pleasure, and the cats, dogs, horses and other animals we save from death or illness or abuse because we can.  (Now and then somebody asks me if I will help support one of the local animal shelters and while I support them when I can I always respond, "my house IS an animal shelter." )

While I understand completely the need to walk away from such pain when horrible things happen to these racehorses, we can't all go.  If those of us who are knowledgeable (or, in my case, sort of knowledgeable...), articulate and passionate all leave, whether we bet or not, whether we get to the track once a year, 20 times a year or once a lifetime, if we all leave then the people who are left may answer to the $$'s of the sport and not the morality.

A few minutes ago I watched a graded stakes race at Belmont for 2-year-old fillies.  I have a lot of trouble with this.  While the race was won by a maiden, when were these fillies "backed" for the first time?  How many months old were they when they first worked under saddle at speed?  How many miles have they put in already?  While there are some young fillies who can tolerate this, how many of them will be able to race at 3 after this stress on still growing joints?

This is very tough.

Yet this weekend I will be cheering for Will Take Charge in the Stephen Foster, and watch with interest We Miss Artie in the Plate Trial, and still have to check out the field in the Shoemaker Mile.  I mean none of this as a disservice to the memory of Intense Holiday, and hope they all come home safe ---- today and every day.  And I continue to hope that veterinary medicine can take on and beat laminitis soon.  I guess I'll need to find a good research center to donate some money to, as well as the local animal shelters.

14 Jun 2014 4:08 PM

Thanks for this, Steve - I think we all feel this way from time to time, but the pull of the racing world is indeed strong and we keep falling in love with it and the horses. My own hero, Secretariat, died on my birthday, and I mourned him for a long time; I still do.

One race I will never watch again is the English Grand National - it's not a race, it's an abattoir. The last time I did watch it in 1987, the favorite was a horse named Dark Ivy, one of the most beautiful grey Thoroughbreds I had ever seen, and he had legs as fine as a deer. I had a premonition of doom, and of course he broke his neck falling at the infamous Becher's Brook. I will never understand how a race that is guaranteed to leave so many horses fallen or dead is considered "sport" in a nation that is supposedly home to many horse lovers. The cardinal rule of a true horseman (or woman) is that you should never give your horse an impossible task - he is trusting YOU not to present him with more than he can handle. We ask so much of horses, the least we can do is not betray that trust. I don't know the answer to the laminitis puzzle either, but one good first step to reduce injuries and thus the complication of laminitis would be waiting longer to race young horses and more oversight of active racehorses to reduce the incidence of breakdowns. When horses can no longer perform at their best, they should be taken off the track before they get hurt and put into one of the many fine OTTB programs if they are able, or just simply retired. Owners and trainers should have incentives for doing just that. One of the other commentors mentioned Caixa Eletronica - he was one of my favorites too, and I was so shocked when he died - of course that was a freak accident. I loved Lava Man, and I was so happy to see that he was retired while he still had his health and is living a good life as a stable pony. Let's have more of that for our brave horses.

14 Jun 2014 7:20 PM

This is sad, so so sad.  Your words are emotional and comforting, Steve, and express the hurt all of us feel who love animals, horses especially.  It is really short sighted to blame racing for laminitis or the fact that ALL horses of ALL breeds are fragile, easily injured and break our hearts every day if we love them.  Wild horses die before laminitis strikes.  Our improved efforts to save them when injured, do result in more cases of this horrible disease.  

I do understand the desire to walk away from this pain but if you walk away what will happen to those horses.  All of them, not just the thoroughbreds.  They need us to persevere and have courage just like they do.  Who will care, who will mourn, who who lead the fight to defeat this horrible thing that takes these magnificent gifts from God, if we walk away.

14 Jun 2014 7:40 PM

I wasn't going to comment on this blog because quite frankly, I don't have words to make anyone feel better. I changed my mind, but not because I've found the words to ease the pain everyone feels. Needless to say, I'm very sorry to hear the news about Intense Holiday. The only comfort I can offer is the apparent fact that he did not suffer for any prolonged amount of time. I say this because as an animal advocate I'm aware of horses and other animals around the world who suffer unimaginable horrors and mistreatment. Their suffering is immense, many are subjected to prolonged agony. Mercy comes only in death, and even death is torturous. I've conditioned myself over the years. The videos I've seen take several attempts to watch in entirety. Even then, I lose sleep. I have bouts of severe depression, which I continually battle. The ponies give me joy in a sad world. They light the dark place in my soul. I appreciate and love them, each and every one. Before Intense Holiday left us, he gave himself for us to behold. His beauty and grace struck us with awe. I will remember him for his brief time on earth and the gift he gave us of himself. Horses are a gift, they give us so much. This nation was built on the backs of horses, wars were won, fields were plowed, horses have sustained us, and allowed us to survive in the land we call America. Honor Intense Holiday and all the other thoroughbreds whom we've lost, honor his memory. Keep his story and photo in a scrap book along with other great legends, and working class ponies who gave as much of themselves as the very best did. If you turn away from death, you must also turn away from life, as the two walk hand in hand.

14 Jun 2014 8:10 PM

You know, there is one more thing I'd like to get off my chest. If laminitis were a human disease, would we still be in the dark ages trying to find a cure for it? Animals take a back seat to everything. I donate to animal charities, and I always find some blogger who makes me feel like I'm sinning by giving to animals rather than human beings. I work for my money, so I can burn it if I choose to do so. Why do so many people take issue with this? What a shame laminitis research isn't funded as well as testing for cosmetics is. Such a lame reason to spend money, and torture animals in the process. It's for women, that must be the justification for it. We need to get serious about research for equine diseases, number 1, laminitis. The answer is out there, we need to find it.

14 Jun 2014 11:08 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, in keeping with your last sentence of this beautiful and thoughtful article in a tribute to the terribly short life of Intense Holiday i will take from it:

"After all, it is memories and the hope of the future that keep us going." That is life. And allow me to wish a Happy Father's Day to all who are a father to someone or something be they two or four legged, past and present.  

Thank you Steve.  

15 Jun 2014 9:14 AM

I have been involved in this life for over 50 years all of my family has been involved in every aspect of racing .My view of what has transpired since the Golden Age of racing is we as a community no longer pride ourselves on the horse.It used to be horsemen cared about the Horse it was a part of who they were not a commodity.I know in my lifetime through my involvement and association with the legends greats and not so greats what a horse meant to them.Myself and my family have known so many great participants in horse racing it has been such an honor to watch and perform on the same stage as them.But and this being a big but nowadays the work ethic has suffered badly to the point that no pride is taken in the animal before you.The problems eroding racing are so glaring because no one asks the people in the trenches what needs to be done.There is no quick fix because racing has let itself fall into the abyss with wide open eyes.Mr.Haskin has seen the tragedy of the sort and witnessed it first hand as the majority of us have.It never ever is an easy situation to watch and even worse when you look into the eyes of a lifeless soul that has been euthanized.Some injuries are totally without reason and do occur but the ones that occur more frequently are caused by the quick fix mentality racing has created.Years ago veterinarians were non existent in a trainers barn.The only need for them was lameness or sickness diagnosis and treatment but never to the extreme nowadays.The mentality is the win at all costs and we know who pays the price.Laminitis is a terrible situation for a horse but with the medical expertise at our disposal it shouldnt be as life threatening as it has become.The problem lies in the fact that it is a labor intensive problem that must be dealt with 24/7 until the symptoms are resolved and im sorry to say the help from the racetracks, farms and clinics are not as educated through experience as the workers of years gone by.I always feel terrible for the loss of any horse but this issue must be addressed by the people involved and pushed aside again.

15 Jun 2014 1:16 PM
Machmer Hall

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has commented here and read this beautiful tribute.  I have taken the weekend to reflect and think.  I cannot help but have flashbacks of his birth and life on our farm.  Funny that I have shed so many happy and now sad tears over the life and death of Intense Holiday.  Thanks to Steve for another touching article.

15 Jun 2014 4:16 PM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin, Thank you for writing about this.  Months go by without my looking at the sport, because I cannot bear the tales.  Socialbug and Rosie Napravnik punctuated this story.

15 Jun 2014 5:44 PM
Arts and Letters

Flora - you'll find the Grand National has made a lot of safety changes since 1987.  They've replaced many of the timber frames on the jumps with softer material. They moved the start further away from the stands and slightly decreased the distance.  There are fewer drop jumps.  After the death of Dark Ivy, they extensively modified Becher's Brook.  They haven't yet reduced the size of the field, which I hope they do in the future.  It's not perfect and there are still fatalities, sadly, but they do seem to be working hard to improve things.

15 Jun 2014 6:20 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Carrie (Machmer Hall). I cant believe the highs and lows you've experienced this year -- a lifetime of emotion in six months. Those babies out there in the field are what keep you going.

15 Jun 2014 6:50 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve, Paula, and everyone

    I won't abandon the horses or this blog. I'm hoping that someday I can help make a difference towards making racing safer for the horses, and influencing the continued progress towards quality retirement for all of them. As far as the Triple Crown is concerned one thing I am adamant about is that each race is an individual race and not a series where all are required to run in one leg to run in the next. This would mean that even more horses would run in a race they have no business being in. I am open to changing the time period in between the legs only because the human beings that enter the horses can't be trusted to run them only if they are in peak condition, and healthy as a horse, and ready for that caliber of race. It would change the Triple Crown forever but that is OK if the horses are safer. Health and safety are most important of all so I am for anything that improves their health and safety even though in theory I would prefer to keep the format the same as a fan and for the sake of tradition and history.  I believe no medications, and more pasture time and less stall time. I would find it impossible to believe that the overuse of medications does not contribute to horse's breaking down. There are far too many injuries and deaths at every level. I was ridiculed by some on this blog at one time for this idea which I think is the future of racing- no meds, no claiming races, fewer horses bred, and more elite races. The ones that can't make it to the top level are retired to other jobs or a life of leisure. You shouldn't own horses if you can't take care of them properly for life. I have been following racing and betting on racing for over 40 years, much of it spent betting on claiming races, so I do understand the claiming game and that it is the backbone of the business as it stands today but I don't think it is the future of the game unless it is done so that horses aren't run into the ground. Some of the most miserable faces I have ever seen have been sad, drugged, worn out, low level claiming horses in the walking ring, their eyes begging for help to get them out of the mess they are in. I need a break and I will need breaks in the future but hopefully I'll be around to put my two cents in when I can afford it. A penny saved is a penny earned.

15 Jun 2014 8:44 PM
Needler in Virginia

Dr Drunkinbum, I must take issue with one of the few things you've said over these last few years. Usually, you and I agree, but this time...and off topic, to boot.......I disagree with your logic regarding the Triple Crown field sizes increasing if there were "qualifiers" to enter as the Derby already has. The only thing I've heard about a change in the TC (that make any sense to me) is that since the Derby DOES have qualifications to get in the gate, only those horses that have qualified for the Derby are eligible to enter the other two. THAT makes sense, but based on that premise, which I think is what you are talking about, it does NOT mean the last fields will be larger; logically the fields could only stay thee same in size or get smaller.

ALL THAT SAID, this is not a blog about changes in the Triple Crown (long may it rave.....or not), so this is all I'll say about it; this is a blog about courage and heart and pain and loss and sadness. The loss of Intense Holiday has broken the hearts of those who foaled him, and trained him, and rode him, and trained him, and bathed him, and picked his feet.........AND the hearts of those who saw him race, too. It's a damned crying shame that he is gone, and I'm certain all our sympathies go out to his connections.

Thanks again, Steve, for telling his story so eloquently.

15 Jun 2014 10:47 PM

It is a very sad and disturbing reality.  The one that hit me the hardest was Barbaro.  I am almost sure Barbaro would have won the Triple Crown.  Go back and look how powerful he was in his Derby victory.  In my lifetime, Barbaro is the best colt, and Zenyatta the best filly.  End of story.

15 Jun 2014 11:51 PM
Lise from Maine


I remember eight (8) years ago I became interested in thoroughbred horse racing when I watched Barbaro win the Kentucky Derby and ONLY two (2) weeks later he broke down at the Preakness.

Horse racing was all new to me at the time but I felt so connected to Barbaro and just prayed for him like I never prayed before. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson allowed the public to keep track of his recovery which was very much appreciated. This helped tremendously.

Some how I just kept going and continued watching horse races.

I wrote a book that was just released, and I dedicated it to Barbaro and Dyna King (his half-brother), among others.

So tragic for Intense Holiday. How old was he? Is there a link to his story?

Thank you!

Lise from Maine

16 Jun 2014 12:09 AM

Steve, I know exactly how you feel, when you mentioned Go For Wand the tears flowed - my coping strategy is to block the pain and never revisit the image. Obviously, this does not always work.

Eschewing the cruel realities of racing has been a means of enabling the appreciating the breeding side of racing. Akin to what sceptre wrote, my conscience is waying heavily of late.

16 Jun 2014 3:26 AM

Add yet another horse's name to the list of those who died recently; Socialbug. Mr. Haskin, there aren't any other sports whose athletes die more often than horse racing unless you are talking about Greyhound racing.

I don't know if it seems like there are more deaths all the time because of the ease of communications nowadays or not but the death toll for Thoroughbreds because of humans and sport is never ending.

I too saw Ruffian break down, along with Go For Wand, George Washington, Prairie Bayou, Eight Belles, Barbaro, and too many others to mention here. Each time, a bit of my heart felt torn out. One hears of horses competing at smaller race tracks who seem to be held together by duct tape and drugs and have no business being forced to run anymore. Do most get a safe retirement? I don't believe so. Some people seem to think that these animals are machines and treat them as such. Horses are being bred at astounding numbers. Stallions suffer injuries from continual breeding. Mares are being bred well into their 20th year in hopes of getting "the big one." No retirement for them. We hear of trainers, vets and owners who will resort to using illegal drugs and other means to keep their horses running. When these issues come to light, far too many in racing refuse to acknowledge the issues and nothing ever gets done to stop the cruelty. Racing protects cheats. To far too many people, it's the money that matters, not the horses. Racing is incredibly resistant to change. Look at other professional sports. Changes have been made and mainly for the betterment of the athletes and for the fans. People claim to want another Triple Crown winner but seem to be breeding mainly sprinters and milers these days. It's like taking a race car to a 500 mile race and hoping to win with only 400 miles worth of fuel. I can't think that pushing 2 year olds to run as fast and as hard as possible at sales just to impress a potential buyer is a good thing. But it continues to be done. The horses and often times the jockeys are paying a tremendous price for racing's refusal to try to clean up it's act. Each and every idea that is suggested to try to help improve the sport is met with resistance from owners, trainers and many fans. I agree with Dr. Drunkinbum. It is time to back away. I can't justify my enthusiasm for horse racing any longer.

God bless you all.

16 Jun 2014 1:23 PM

NobleDancer's post was awesome.

I love horse racing and always will. It's in my blood...just as running is literally in the blood of these fabulous equine athletes. I lost a brother at a young age to a devastating disease, and it was at that point in time that I realized in this system of things, with every life comes death. Whether regarding humans, horses or any other creature, some live long lives, some die middle-aged, some die young, and some die in between. Circumstances are too great to ever know the hows or whys of what ends each life. All I truly know is that we have to appreciate the moments and times we experience. Intense Holiday provided many great moments for his connections and fans. He was special. All thoroughbreds, whether successful or not, are special and beautiful. God's memory is without limit, and he has promised a better time when death will be no more. I yearn for that time, but for now, we must live life without fear and anxiety. We must appreciate life, live in a healthy manner, treat all humans and animals with the greatest respect, and we must understand that for now, death has escaped no man...or creature. Yet those who are living must go on. God bless the connections of this horse and all the others who have passed, no matter the age or reason.

16 Jun 2014 7:39 PM
Steel Dragon

Let's not forget that the everyday sight of a $ 7,500 claimer breaking down is as horrifying and depressing as the big time tragedies we all remember.  

I also can't believe that out of 119 comments, only one person admits to being hooked on the tote board as much or more than the beauty of the sport.

16 Jun 2014 11:57 PM
Arts and Letters

Steve - I sent a couple of comments a few days ago that never made it onto the list.  They weren't incendiary (I think) so I'm not sure why.  Just wondering if they even got through to you?  It's a little disheartening.


17 Jun 2014 11:10 AM
Fred and Joan

To Windolin and the many others who have lost a special horse, we entirely understand your losses. In 2010 our farm lost our first farm stallion, Count Mein Too, to what the veterinary hospital believed to be cancer. We will NEVER get over it. Count was the kindest , most gentle thoroughbred stallion we have ever handled. We could allow complete novices to ride him in the barn without worry or allow BLIND horse lovers the opportunity to brush and pet him as he was very patient and kind towards people. He was also the FASTEST horse we have ever trained to saddle. The first time we really let him open himself up at a gallop we wish we had been wearing our goggles! Upon his last night on our farm alive, we noticed ever horse, foals broodmares, yearlings and even our present stud Slewquero all came up to him and nickered and snuffled to him as they knew he was going to pass away soon. We have Count buried by our house under a flaming red maple tree. There was however a miracle in the making! Two weeks before Count died he had managed to breed Adbass Slew ONCE, and next year Count and Slews Miracle, a filly was foaled. We have had the incredibly good luck to not have ever had a horse diagnosed with laminitis, although we have shod an Arabian horse who had laminitis in his rear feet! Our sympathies go out to the people involved with Intense Holiday and hope they will have good memories of their horse. Intense Holiday we were also hoping he would make a complete recovery but alas it was not to be. Maybe Count and him are all running together in that large green pasture across the rainbow bridge. Amiable Acres farm.

17 Jun 2014 2:42 PM

I have reached the breaking point more than a few times and retreated from racing only to return once again.  Steve, whether you believe this or not its always your words that have brought me back.  

You have expressed your love of the horses so many times over the years.  I find it amazing when there are many sports writers who seem to be so far removed from that feeling of a thoroughbred.  

Many, many, tears later I still love the sport and wish it was what it could be.  Thank you once again for your words.  They help immensely.

17 Jun 2014 5:07 PM
Jersey Girl

Hi Steel Dragon, So very true that every breakdown is horrifying. I do think that those who choose to participate here do so because this blog is different, because it is precisely about the beauty of the sport. It is the true hook at this forum, with the tote board adding immeasurably to the fun, adventure and possibilities for many, including myself.      

17 Jun 2014 5:08 PM

Mary Jo in Florida: I was shocked to read that Gourmet Dinner was entered in a $16,000 claiming race this Saturday at Parx.  I can hardly stand this news.

My breakaway may be the fate of Win Willy who continues to race at age 8.  I worry about him constantly.  If his connections or trainer or someone who knows them read this blog please, please, let Win Willy retire before its too late.  Its none of my business I am just a fan who cares about Willy 's future.

17 Jun 2014 5:25 PM


I vehemently disagree with almost all you said. It is precisely that type of superficially sweet sounding rhetoric that allows others to look the other way, and justify their selfish passions at the expense of animals' lives. There's just too many others out there like you; frustratingly preventing needed change and altered perspective.

17 Jun 2014 6:38 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, Freetex. You have no idea how good that makes me feel.

17 Jun 2014 8:40 PM

Having spent my life around horses I am always saddened when a horse passes.

I had the great fortune of growing up on a Thoroughbred breeding farm. My same age cousin and I spent our adolescent summer days painting three rail wood fences white, mowing lawns, hoeing gardens, moving irrigation pipes, bucking bales and having rotten tomato fights. Some weekends we got to go to the races at places like La Mesa Park, Centennial, Pikes Peak or on long holiday weekends we might even go to AkSarBen, we awaited those weekends with a feverish anticipation. On some occasions when we were at the track we were allowed to walk hots, wow what a privilege. As we matured into teenagers we were lucky that my father started to train his own horses, he previously had hired others to train his horses. Late spring of our 17th year we were given one the best gifts of our lives, we got to be grooms. We got live in a tack room on the backside. We got to wake up at 4:00AM to feed. We got have our own muck tub, pitchfork, rake, and grooming kit. These were great privileges; mucking stalls, washing sheaths, packing feet, doing up horses, pulling manes, tacking, bathing, paddock schooling, grooming and most of all we got to live and breathe Thoroughbred racehorses most of our waking hours.

We had only been doing our job for a few weeks when my father in is most infinite wisdom saw a danger looming. Us boys (myself, my cousin, and our fellow friend/groom) were doing a great job, all the horses coats shined, many were starting to dapple (all of the horses other than the unraced babies were coming off 6 month layoffs, all had 75 days of galloping at the farm)so seeing the horses bloom so quickly he could tell we were doing a good job. One morning about three weeks after we had arrived at the racetrack, just after morning chores my father surprised us when he said he needed talk to us, it surprised us cause he was a man of few words. We assumed the worst, we were going to get fired and sent back to the farm. He started, "I have to tell you boys to be real careful not to fall in love with these horses, they can get colic, break a leg or something else and then they are gone. I see how how much you care about them, just be careful. It is a better choice to respect and enjoy them, I'll say it again, don't fall in love with them because they can be gone in an instant". We learned a lesson that day none of us has ever forgotten.

Rest in peace Intense Holiday.

17 Jun 2014 10:26 PM
Ida Lee

I've always known there is that one horse whose death I'm not going to be able to handle and will chase me out of the sport in bitter tears.  I found out who that horse was when I read the headline last year that read "Rachel Alexandra in Serious Condition". I just stopped reading immediately and refused to even look at my computer until my husband who was following every word written about Rachel told me she was out of danger. The first death of a loved one in my young life and who left me traumatized for decades was Ruffian whose name I could not even mention until a couple of years ago. This sport is not for the weak of heart. At present, I'm hoping that one day soon I can think of my beloved Summer Bird without feeling my heart break all over again.  

18 Jun 2014 6:33 PM

RIP beautiful Intense Holiday and my sincere condolences to all his connections.

And then there was Black Caviar's younger brother, known only as "Jimmy", who was lost to laminitis after being bitten by a white spider in Australia. He had just begun his race training. Seems he developed an allergic reaction to the antibiotics used to combat infection that precipitated the onset of the dreaded disease. I, too, lost a beloved racemare to laminitis and it broke my heart. She was an appendix Quarter Horse whose offspring all did well on the track. I guess it doesn't matter what continent or horse breed because the dreaded disease can and does strike them down everywhere.

I rarely comment but just had to this time. Thank you Steve for your sincerity and mostly soothing words that all of us on this blog take to heart. Never give up, Sir! You are much too important to this wacky world of horse racing, and your insights are always welcome.

18 Jun 2014 8:41 PM

Thanks for that beautiful tribute to that courageous athlete, to all the others who provide us with thrills,  and to this, the sport that elevates and inspires us.

18 Jun 2014 9:34 PM

So many beautiful and heartfelt sentiments about Intense Holiday and all horses.

19 Jun 2014 1:14 AM

I know how you feel, Steve. I was perusing photos of "Fly Down" yesterday on the internet & stumbled on an article stating he had died May 1st of Colic in Saudi Arabia. My Heart was crushed. I have adored "Fly Down", since his birth & cried in 2011 when he was sold & moved overseas.

We get attached to the Horses, & they are in our blood. It hurts so bad when they die, so young.

I am so sorry for the grief you have endured. Rest assured, Someday we will see the Champions again, Galloping Forever in Heaven. God Bless :)  

19 Jun 2014 12:19 PM

It seems only a stakes horse matters! Baffert lost one

the other day in training also, not much mention !

19 Jun 2014 9:47 PM

So sorry to hear of Intense Holiday's passing. Thank you for the heartfelt tribute. My husband and I lost our 1/2 Arabian colt, Tucker, to anaphylactic shock just as he was coming out of gelding surgery 8 years ago. Vet administered an antibiotic to prevent infection, and he was gone within minutes. We had no oxygen in the barn, and the drugs she had on the truck just didn't work. We tried CPR, epi, etc. It was the most traumatic thing I have ever been through. So for Intense Holiday to have survived what he went through after being foaled, and then lose the battle with laminitis just seems such a cruel fate. I have seen horses at the boarding stable where I have my horses go through this awful disease, and have also assisted in the intense care required to get them through it. The owner of the barn lost their beautiful Arabian mare to laminitis nearly 11 years ago, and the loss and grief still linger. We have seen two of their other horses go through successful treatments, but the fear of it never goes away. I am truly sorry for everyone involved. My condolences to all those connected to Intense Holiday. May God comfort your hearts.

20 Jun 2014 1:00 PM
Fred and Joan

To Quinnbit, there is an old saying that goes like this, "Better to have loved than not at all" We love and enjoy all of our horses and feel great sorrow upon their passing. We have found it is better to have a great attachment to them so as to ensure proper bonding with them, the horsemen who gave their horses the best care were always the ones who didn't become to detached from them. Horses are not cars or inanimate objects and have feelings and opinions of their own. One must always be prepared for sudden loss which can come at any time to anyone anywhere. Again we feel for the people associated with Intense Holiday and hope they have better experiences in the future.

21 Jun 2014 8:37 AM
Old Old Cat

We all mourn the loss of the innocents.  We love them, we want to see them do well, we hope for a glorious future.  When they are taken from us, we feel a part of our heart is ripped out.  We feel saddened that the hoped for glory will not be realized.  We mourn for them, we mourn for us.

I knew the young woman who wrote the insurance policy for Ruffian.  Days on end being there while Ruffian was examined by the vets to assess her soundness, with the Janneys, getting to know everyone intimately, including the horse, sharing in the excitement of the future, only to have a horrible, horrible ending for her dreams.  She would never watch another live horse race in person or on TV.  She would never read another newspaper lest it had an article about a horse dying.  She said don't tell me anything about the races unless all the horses survived.

My daughter had to put down a grey grandaughter of Spectacular Bid due to skin cancer which had migrated to her innards, causing respitory and digestion problems.  The mare had become more than a trail riding partner, more than a pet.  We will never breed to a grey, or buy a grey, because we do not want to ever relive her pain and suffering again.

The pain we feel from the loss of these beautiful creatures stays with us forever.  I find it ironic, however, that the heroic efforts by the vet to save the foal were due in large part (or entirely) to LASIX and STEROIDS.  I would think that that facet of the overall saga has gone over your entire readerships' collective head.

22 Jun 2014 2:53 PM
Terri Drennen

Another great, and yet another sad story. Why do we get attached to our animals, whether they be horses, dogs, cats, birds, etc.? Because they are living, breathing, feeling, beings, just because they cannot actually speak our language (but in a way, we that love them all know what they are saying :) and when one is lost, whether that pet, and yes, all of ours are pets before racers, as are my three beloved cats a member of my family. I'm sure you all will agree how you feel about your house pets, when they leave us, they leave an emptiness in us that really cannot be spoken in words correctly. Ruffian was IMHO, the greatest we have seen, there is only ONE horse who has been spoken of to have been better than the great Secretariat, we all know that famous quote made by Lucien Lauren, Secretariat's own trainer about her, and she was already putting Foolish Pleasure away, running him into the ground and pulling ahead like she always did; then we all know what happened. Would it have been her Reviewer breeding? Was it that she was run as a 2 year old (something we do NOT condone, they are not done growing yet!) I think if the actual quality of the horse, (it's not the horse's fault, it is the assembly line breeding that happens every year), is increased, and we have less 2 year old horses that are basically still babies being whipped to sometimes death at the 2yr old under tack shows, perhaps we can make some strides in stopping some of the tragedies. Additionally, why can't there be a percentage of every race winnings, on a scale of course, not every horse wins millions, be put into the laminitis and other horse health issues research, care, as I stated before in another post: quality before quantity. In the meantime, I shall continue to look at my collection of Ruffian items, look at incredible beauty she was, moreso than any other, and her incredible ability, and just think what I know she would have done that day of that fateful Match race had her leg not given out on her. The first nose crossing the finish line would have been hers. We do not start ours until late in the 3 year old year or early 4 year old year. It is dangerous enough as it is, why take more of a chance of a tragedy? Then, if this does happen, as it did with the gallant champion Barbaro, they do survive and this horrible condition named laminitis sets in, only to break the owners hearts again that love them with all they have. Cannot imagine the heartbreak of that, hope I never have to.

22 Jun 2014 3:32 PM

...Speaking of these racetrack tragedies makes me wonder why the sport exists in the way that it does....I DO think about the horse when I win a wager.....though I haven't wagered in a while and here's why:   What's up with tracks these days?

Are they THAT desperate for attendance at the track?

There are plenty of people doing online wagers and watching the races at the OTB's.  Let's focus on the tactics of the tracks.  At least maybe the attendees at the tracks will ultimately be there to watch the beautiful equine athletes at their best, their lifetime best, their racing years.  It "takes a village" to produce and train an equine athlete and that fact should NEVER be discounted or cheapened by attendees.

Let's throw the disorderly kids OUT of the tracks ( I guess the parent couldn't find a babysitter that day?). Most importantly,....let's get the drunks out of there too.  My local track promotes a "party on the hill" on their annual (though not this year) Derby day. Really?

How about EYES FRONT and pay attention. If you have to attend a horse race track to go to a "party on the hill" then why not just stay home? I've brought both my kids to the track since way back and they always knew why we were there: TO WATCH THE HORSE RACE.  Do the drunks at the track (and I've tossed more than one) know that the true "eyes front" horse race fans are embarrassed for them?  Do I want my kids to see this??!

There's enough going on when one watches a horse race - I ALWAYS hope and pray for a day at the racetrack without seeing a tragedy.  I've seen horses flip over in the paddock just before the race, and injure themselves.  Be respectful people:  The horses run their hearts and souls that day, from claimers to champions, and they deserve enough respect from the fans that the fans won't distract them with cell phone ring tones (the reason I've seen for 2 horse flip overs in the paddock) and unruly behavior.  Behave yourself, confine and contain your kids (if they're very young and restless leave them at home), and pray for a safe trip around the track......or STAY HOME!

22 Jun 2014 5:03 PM

I have wondered many times why, after the death of one of these magnificent creatures, I continue to follow horse racing. Many times, especially after the breakdown and death of Barbaro I considered maybe this was one death too many-- but-- I returned to the sport I simply cannot stay away from.  The fact is that watching these horses run like the wind in competition keeps overrides the pain I feel when one of them dies. I find myself crying too many times and once again I cried over the sad and premature death of Intense Holiday. It was so unexpected. Thank you once again Steve for putting into words what so many of us feel.

23 Jun 2014 8:05 AM

whoa...I didn't read all the comments here but seeing many "old-timers" saying the camel's back has been broken and BelmontBarb extending condolences not only to "the connections" but also to all HERE AND IN RACING have forced me to post my LONGEST COMMENT EVER.

Intense Holiday's death is TRULY another loss for all of us, because WE are the face of racing. We are who people ask what we think about a California Chrome's chances; WE are who people ask how a Barbaro is doing. WE are who defend, explain, excuse, justify and apologize for racing on a daily basis. It is very, VERY hard sometimes, but WE are who must persevere rather than throw in the towel. While WE disagree on the minutiae on a consistent basis, WE must not forget what brought US here in the first place.

23 Jun 2014 8:23 PM

The death of Ruffian still makes me cry. I don't know why, but I just knew that match race would be the death of her, I wouldn't watch the race, but when my mother started screaming, I knew the worst had happened. I didn't get the BloodHorse for 5 years, I couldn't bear it. I never watch races live any more. I only watch them, if I know the horses survive. That one race changed me forever.

29 Jun 2014 7:18 PM

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