Cross-posted from the New York Times
Horses’ Deaths at Aqueduct Prompt New Rules
BY JOE DRAPE
Update — Drape tweeted: Deadly to horses – now 13 in 22 days; loses money $23 million last year. Why is Aqueduct still open?
It was Shewreckstheplace’s 36th start, and second in seven days, and she had yet to win a race. In a bottom-level race at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens on Jan. 4, she was pulled up at the eighth pole, taken away in a van and subsequently euthanized. Five days later, the gelding Apex, another old warhorse, broke a leg near the three-eighths pole and was put down on the track.
On Thursday, You Take the Cake, after finishing third in a low-level sprint, fell to the ground and unseated her rider, Wilmer Garcia. The mare was taken to Ruffian Equine Medical Center in Elmont, N.Y., with a fractured neck, and she, too, was euthanized.
You Take the Cake was the 12th horse in 22 days of racing to die at Aqueduct, a neighborhood track for working-class horsemen and horses at the sport’s lower levels. The Big A, as it is known, has never been one of the nation’s most glamorous tracks, but lately it has been among its deadliest.
At its current meet, which started Dec. 3 on its winterized inner dirt track, the breakdown rate of 7.8 fatalities per 1,000 starts is more than four times the national average of 1.90, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.
“It is unacceptable,” said Dr. Scott Palmer, the equine medical director for the New York State Gaming Commission, which regulates racing in the state.
On Friday, the New York Racing Association announced emergency measures intended to prevent horsemen from running unaccomplished and at-risk horses indiscriminately. A horse is no longer allowed to be entered in a race if it has competed within 14 days. A “poor performance” list will be kept of horses that lose by 25 lengths or greater. To enter a future race, those horses must complete a half-mile workout in 53 seconds.
The weekday racing card will be reduced to eight races from nine. The bottom level of maiden claimers — races for horses that have never won — will be raised to $16,000 from $12,500. In claiming races, horses are grouped by ability and price. In a $16,000 claiming race, for example, any horse can be “claimed” or bought for that price.
The measures were announced after The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information request asking for the names of the more than 20 horses that the racing association said last week had been deemed noncompetitive and had been prohibited from competing at Aqueduct.
“The safety of our equine athletes and jockeys at Aqueduct Racetrack is a high priority,” Christopher Kay, president of the racing association, said in a statement.
On Friday, after the death of You Take the Cake, Dr. Mick Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, examined the track for the fourth time since Dec. 1 and found nothing structurally wrong with the racing surface. Neither trainers nor jockeys have blamed the racetrack as the casualties have mounted.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed a task force that found that many of the deaths could have been prevented if the racing authorities had more closely monitored the horses’ health and the liberal use of prescription drugs to keep them racing. The report also faulted racing officials and regulatory veterinarians for often ignoring signs that horses were ailing and allowing them to race for purses inflated with casino money. Read full report >>
Horse Deaths a Part of Life at Del Mar Racetrack
If anyone dares think that horseracing in the U.S. is not abusive or deadly, here is yet another example. West Coast racetracks are just as successful at killing racehorses as the East Coast, on a yearly basis.
In 2014, 16 racehorses reportedly died at the Del Mar meeting in the August heat. Necropsy results said two of four “died suddenly”. There was no exact determination by the attending veterinarian but Equine Medical Director, Dr. Rick Arthur, said the deaths were “presumably heart attack”.
Arthur stated further that in 95 percent of cases where horses are euthanized because of injury, there is some pre-existing condition that contributes to it.
But that’s not all. Del Mar has a long history of killing racehorses at it’s annual meeting.
Eleven horses died in 37 days at the Del Mar racetrack during its 2012 meeting. Nine of these horses died of injury, two of heart attacks.
When asked about the number of deaths, Arthur replied, “It’s not a great year,” Arthur said. “But we’ve certainly had worse years than this.”
In 2011, 12 horses died at Del Mar. In the 10 years before that, going back sequentially, annual California Horse Racing Board reports show the following numbers of racehorse deaths: five, nine, 14, 12, 13, 23, 26, 17, 22, 13.
In California, 200 to 300 racehorses die each year. Nationally, more than 1,000 do. (Source)
Death is just part of the game, right? You bet it is. And a lot of it.
More to come on the alarming rate of deaths of racehorses around the U.S.