The five-day period beginning the Thursday before the Travers has seen five fatalities during racing or training at Saratoga. Overall, racing fatalities exceed the total for last year’s meet by two, with seven occurring so far, and there’s a week of racing to go. There have also been four training fatalities (and two more at Belmont) compared with two during the entirety of last year’s meet.
The New York Racing Association has taken several major steps to lessen the occurrence of equine deaths. What they are not particularly good at, however, is communicating what they are doing, what has been effective and what has not been.
Dr. Scott Palmer, who headed up the landmark 2012 Report on Equine Safety, is now the Equine Medical Director for New York’s Gaming Commission. One of the improvements recommended by the Report is conducting necropsies on all catastrophically injured horses. What is not known – publicly, however – is what, if any, conclusions have been reached from the post-mortem reviews.
The most recent fatality happened during Monday’s first race. I saw the fall on TV, but fortunately missed the aftermath of the horse suffering on the track following what was said to be a broken neck. I then heard accounts of two people who were making their first visit to a race track. Needless to say, the experience was unsettling, with one couple leaving immediately. Another long-time fan and owner told me that seeing catastrophic breakdowns was causing her to think about never returning.
If NYRA and the Gaming Commission would be more forthcoming on what they have learned from studying catastrophic injuries it would neither lessen the trauma from watching a fatality, nor the horrible experience of those connected with the horse, from the owner to stable hands. It would, however, provide a measure of comfort to those who love the sport that New York is as concerned with these incidents as they are.
I also find it odd that the racetrack announcer (Tom Durkin or Imbralie) never announce the status of the injured/ceceased horse after the race. Its as if it didn’t happen, not a word. No status report, no moment of silence, nothing zilch, and usually the replay does not get played
Tom, I’d be interested to know if the necropsies on all catastrophically injured horses. in NY, along with the post-mortem reviews are available to the public through a FOIL request.
I believe a majority of the fatalities are from Cardiac Events rather than breakdowns on the track. The steeplechase race is a different sort of race and should be notated as such.
As long as they keep running adolescent horses, keep severely whipping them and giving them lasix – they will have fatalities. What is going on here is in violation of the NYS AG&Mkts Anti-cruelty statutes article 26, sec. 353 1nd 361. However, NYRA is not a police agency and will not enforce these laws. Police presence is needed on racetracks.
The 2012 report is on the NYS gaming commission website