Dead Within Minutes: Officials Announce Investigation Into Death of a Racehorse Injected With a ‘Black Shot’ Cocktail

Published by Elena Waldman.

Update (April 25, 2022): Following PETA’s calls for action, Woodford County Animal Control has announced that an investigation has begun into the death of Laoban, a racehorse who was used for breeding at WinStar Farm. Keep reading to see what happened to him and how PETA responded.

Originally posted on April 20, 2022

Thoroughbred stallion Laoban was used as a breeding machine at WinStar Farm. When he got tired, the veterinarian and his handlers “treated” him. Now he’s dead, and PETA has called for a law-enforcement investigation into the suspicious death of the stallion, in addition to filing a complaint with the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners about the veterinarian involved.

Last year, a veterinarian injected Laoban with a cocktail of four vitamins and minerals known as a “black shot,” in an apparent attempt to increase his energy (so that breeders could continue exploiting him). The plan quickly backfired: Minutes after the substances were administered, Laoban was dead.

Here’s what’s been reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal so far:

  • Three of the four substances administered to Laoban had expired, and one of the ingredients had been expired for nearly nine years—an iron product that was indicated only for iron deficiency anemia in baby pigs, not for horses.
  • Dr. Heather Wharton, the veterinarian who administered the “black shot” cocktail, admittedly did so without reading the labels on its four ingredients. She also reportedly used the ingredients in at least 10 different ways contrary to label instructions. According to documents, the veterinarian administered expired vitamin B12 at five times the recommended dosage and expired vitamin B complex, despite the label warning about the risk of anaphylactic shock.
  • The North American Company for Life and Health Insurance attributed the stallion’s death to possible negligence of the attending veterinarian and refused to pay out.

According to The Jockey Club’s breeding statistics, Laoban was one of WinStar Farm’s most frequently bred stallions. In 2021, he was bred to 126 mares. Veterinary staff may have injected him with the “black shot” in an attempt to maximize breeding profits in order to satisfy the request or expectation of the owners, even though reports show that he was displaying signs of breeding fatigue just a few days prior to this incident.

While it appears that Dr. Wharton bears responsibility, the influence of the breeding manager and others at WinStar as well as that of the owners, McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable LLC and Cypress Creek Equine, should also be examined. It is well known in horse racing that veterinarians are expected to follow the instructions of the owners, managers, trainers, and others who are responsible for horses. The role of these individuals and their specific instructions regarding veterinary care should be investigated.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind