More safety measures announced for horses at Saratoga Race Courses
August 21, 2017 06:19 PM
SARATOGA SPRINGS - This place is synonymous with fun and good times.
But lately, there's been a bit of a shadow on the summer place to be.
Namely injuries and deaths to four-legged athletes.
This year they've happened more frequently.
There have been 17 deaths in 2017, including 8 during or after racing, 8 from training, and one from colic.
That's one more than all of 2016, and the highest total since the state started keeping track in 2009.
"I'm really not sure what's happening this year, " said Gary Contessa, who has been training horses at Saratoga since 1984. "It's been a really unfortunate chain of events. But I know they are trying hard to make it better."
Beginning right away, there's another veterinarian on track to monitor training.
They're also using technology to try to better predict which animals might be susceptible, by tapping into the Jockey Club database of past injuries.
And the state points out that unlike most states, it makes its trainers go through continuing education each year to keep their license.
Scott Palmer is the state equine medical director. He says when a horse dies, he doesn't sleep at night.
"We will take care of this. I promise you that. We will fix this."
Dr. Palmer, a veterinarian, says not to expect any quick fixes. He says it takes weeks to figure out what causes a horse's death.
"We have 17 open investigations right now and we're working hard every single day."
Palmer says the injuries aren't happening because they're racing two-year-old horses as some critics argue, in fact Palmer says research shows two-year-olds who race are healthier later on than horses that didn't start racing until later.
Veteran trainer Contessa says criticism that horse people get is unfair.
"Come to my barn, see how we handle them. See how much we love them and see what it does to us when they get injured."
NYRA declined NewsChannel 13's request for an on-camera interview Monday. But a spokesman says they've made great strides. They say their catastrophic (fatal) injury rate was above the national average in 2012, but they've cut that rate in half and are now below the nationwide average.
2017 Saratoga Race Course Statistics
Training Fatalities: Since the beginning of the year: these are equine deaths due to injuries sustained while training or "breezing" on the main track/turf or Oklahoma track:
Racing Fatalities: Since the opening of the Saratoga Race meet (7/21/17), these are equine deaths that occur on the track during a race or at a later date due to an injury sustained during that race.
Non-Racing Fatality: Any fatality that occurs on the grounds (other than the main or training track); (e.g. suffers a cardiovascular event or dies suddenly in its stall, sustains an injury while loading onto or off of a horse trailer necessitating humane euthanasia, etc.) since the beginning of the year.
Year over Year Comparison for Saratoga Race Course
What happens when there is an equine fatality:
Every single equine fatality at a New York State Race track (harness or Thoroughbred) is fully investigated by the New York State Gaming Commission. All horses that die while training or racing undergo a full necropsy as part of the Commission’s investigation.
Any time a horse dies on the track during a race or because of an injury sustained during a race (e.g. later euthanized because of that injury), an Equine Safety Review Board (ESRB) – consisting of track management, trainers and jockeys of horses involved, veterinary professionals, stewards, the state’s equine medical director and more – thoroughly reviews every aspect of the horse and the race, including the horse’s training regimen, its history, any medications it received or previous health issues, as well as any other issues that may be considered a risk factor. The ESRB then evaluates these factors to determine what, if any, changes need to be implemented on the track or in training regimens, regulation, etc. In 2014, due to an elevated number in equine fatalities at Saratoga, the ESRB issued a public report examining the circumstances of each fatality.
In 2012, following a high number of racing fatalities at Aqueduct during its winter meet (21), Governor Cuomo formed the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety to come up with recommendations on how to make the sport safer in and beyond New York State. All of the recommendations put forth by the Task Force have been implemented in New York, and more so, the Chair of the Task Force, Dr. Scott E. Palmer, VMD, was hired as the state’s first-ever Equine Medical Director at the Gaming Commission. Dr. Palmer’s job is to look after the health and wellbeing of all racehorses in New York State.
|Source: New York State Gaming Commission|
Updated: August 21, 2017 06:19 PM
Created: August 21, 2017 01:35 PM
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