What's happening with all this cancer in good young horses?
Indian Charlie, one of the best of the Thoroughbred crop of 1995, was euthanized last week because of the rapid progression of hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. He was 16 (yes, that's young. I recently lost my favorite mare at the age of 36 and she had been eating well and getting around easily until about a month before her death). He was already a successful sire with four North American champions including Uncle Mo. Now he's got a top two-year-old in Liaison, winner this past weekend of the CashCall Futurity.
Hemangiosarcoma is the same disease that struck Easy Goer at the age of eight. Supposedly Easy Goer died of anaphylactic shock with the cancer discovered upon necropsy, but one was almost certainly related to the other.
Just last May the 4-year-old filly Devil May Care, one of the best 3-year-olds of either sex in 2010, died of lymphosarcoma. And a few years ago the champion sprinter Lost in the Fog died of the same cancer, also at four. Cancer in horses is, thankfully, pretty rare, but it's likely to be lymphosarcoma when it strikes. On the other hand, hemangiosarcoma, seen occasionally in dogs, is quite rare in horses. So is there a lot more cancer these days?
Hard to say. Some experts think there always has been more equine cancer than anyone realizes. A horse with internal tumors may be put down due to colic caused by the tumors with no necropsy done and the death attributed to the colic. I'm not sure, though. Valuable horses have always been thoroughly diagnosed and usually necropsied for insurance purposes.
The only thing these four had in common was their exceptional good looks. Indian Charlie was one of the handsomest horses I've ever seen. Lost in the Fog was stunning and Easy Goer was beautiful too. I never saw Devil May Care.
Let's hope there's no more cancer than there has been in the past and that the only growth has been in media attention.