Eleven horses die during Saratoga Meeting

Silhouette of Racehorse and Rider. Mark Lennihan / AP Image.
Silhouette of Racehorse and Rider. Mark Lennihan / AP Image.

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Eleven horses died during the now-finished Saratoga Race Course meet, and I don’t think you have to be an animal-rights activist to think that’s too many.

Nor do you need to be a card-carrying member of PETA to be troubled that 81 horses have died at New York tracks so far this year, according to the state Gaming Commission, and that 123 did so last year.

Horse racing, after all, is entertainment. If the equine toll is going to be that high, many of us would rather watch something else.

There’s a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar, and few sports force viewers to regularly endure such grim scenes.

The problem, from a public-relations standpoint, is that some of this year’s Saratoga fatalities happened at especially inopportune times.

The best example is the gruesome Travers Day death suffered by Ludicrous, a 2-year-old colt, in view of more than 40,000 spectators.

But many equine deaths happen outside of public view: Five of Saratoga’s deaths occurred during training, the Gaming Commission said.

The meet’s overall toll was three higher than the eight who died last year, leading the commission to reaffirm its commitment to reducing horse fatalities.

“As stewards of the racehorse,” said Scott Palmer, the state’s equine medical director, “we have a duty to do all that we can to honor and protect these incredible athletes.”

This isn’t the first time that horse racing deaths have gained attention, of course.

A spate of deaths at Aqueduct Race Track in Queens several years ago even led the state to commission a Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety.

Palmer, who chaired the commission, maintains that horse racing has since become less dangerous, and statistics seem to support the claim.

In 2012, there were 2.6 horse deaths per 1,000 starts on tracks operated by the New York Racing Association.

The rate dropped to 1.4 last year.

That’s progress, no doubt.

But critics say horses are still given too many pain-masking drugs and are still pushed beyond their limits.

Some veterinarians even maintain that 2-year-old horses like Ludicrous are simply too young to run — it’s akin, they suggest, to having a 14-year-old playing quarterback in the NFL. Read full report »


Yes, racehorses do need a protective voice (the original title of the article).

We have been putting the heat on horse racing for years. But they do not listen to us, only scoff and ridicule.

Neither do the powers that be listen to the few voices within their ranks calling for them to clean up horse racing. Instead, ruling members of the horse racing industry sit and talk and do studies and put together databases.

Their only response to the drug issue is to do more testing. And that is supposed to help how exactly? They admit that there are new drugs continuing to show up, some so sophisticated they are to difficult to impossible to detect.

The sport of horse racing, such as it is, continues to rot and decay. It can’t die quickly enough for the horses routinely abused and killed. That seems the only way racehorses will ever escape the evils that permeate the industry they compete in.

In the meantime, we watch and die and sound the alarm. Time runs on, and so do the injuries and deaths of racehorses and the occasional jockey.

New York racing said they were going to look into the Peta video exposing racehorse abuse. Have they? Don’t know. If they have they aren’t saying insofar as we can see.

Kentucky said they looked into Peta video and reported they didn’t find anything they could do anything about. Really? (See KHRC finds no smoking gun in Peta undercover sting of racehorse trainer Asmussen, Tuesday’s Horse, May 23, 2014).

There were 16 reported racehorse fatalities at the Del Mar race meeting in California (more on that in another post). No investigation.

Business as usual. The only professional sport we know of where they dope and kill their athletes and actually honor some of the people responsible by putting them in their hall of fame.

Know what they say to those who try to give the horses a protective voice? That they wish we would go away, get off their backs and mind our own business.


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