by JOE DRAPE and WALTER BOGDANICH
Cross-posted from the New York Times
Only veterinarians can legally prescribe medicine for horses, yet veterinarians often let trainers, who are paid to win races, make medical decisions, including which drugs to use. These veterinarians also have a powerful financial incentive to prescribe drugs. They are both doctor and drugstore, so the more drugs they prescribe, the more money they make. Selling and administering drugs accounts for most of their income.
More than half of the 21 racehorses who had fatal breakdowns at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier this year might have been saved had racing authorities more closely monitored their health and the liberal use of prescription drugs to keep them racing, according to an investigation ordered by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.
The sudden rise of horse fatalities in the early part of the year at Aqueduct coincided with the opening of the Resorts World casino there, which greatly expanded the size of the purses.
Both racing officials and regulatory veterinarians, who were supposed to protect the horses, often ignored signs that they were ailing and allowed them to race for purses inflated with money from the track’s adjacent gambling casino, according to people with direct knowledge of the investigation’s report.
The investigation found that veterinarians and officials of the New York Racing Association often cared more about filling races that generate revenue for trainers, owners and the racetracks than about whether horses were fit to compete.
Mr. Cuomo, who took control of racing in the state this summer, is expected to announce a series of overhauls on Friday in Albany that will restrict the use of potent anti-inflammatory drugs known as corticosteroids, as well as clenbuterol, a widely abused bronchodilator that can build muscle if used improperly.
“At the New York Racing Association, concern for the health of the horses finished a distant second to economics,” Howard B. Glaser, Mr. Cuomo’s director of state operations, said in an interview. “Our reforms, which will go in effect immediately, will put horses’ health and rider safety first.”
We’ll see about that. Convince me Mr. Glaser. — Editor.