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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.

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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.


 


More Information:

Full news release on new safety measures from NYS Gaming Commission

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:

  • Lakalas (5/28/17): Collapsed and died after breezing - possible cardiovascular collapse - investigation continues
  • Queen B (7/6/17): Fracture of the right rear leg while breezing and was ambulanced to nearby Rood & Riddle equine hospital. Due to the severity of the injury, the horse was euthanized at Rood & Riddle (not at the track). - investigation continues
  • Wanztbwicked (7/22/17): Rupture of right front suspensory while breezing and was euthanized on the track. - investigation continues
  • Positive Waves (7/29/17): Fracture to right front leg while breezing and was euthanized on the track. - investigation continues
  • Howard Beach (7/29/17): Ran loose while breezing and fractured right front leg and was euthanized on the track. - investigation continues
  • Marshall Plan (8/2/17): Fractured condylar bone while training-walked off track to barn before injury extent realized-subsequently euthanized at Rood & Riddle-investigation continues
  • Lakeside Sunset (8/5/17): Pulled up, rider off; vanned off - fracture right hind leg – euthanized in backstretch-investigation continues
  • Travelin Solider (8/19/17): -Sustained injury while breezing, returned to barn lame; Xrays revealed fracture to right rear leg – euthanized-investigation continues

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.

  • Angels Seven (7/28/17): Horse was pulled up due to a fracture of left front leg and was euthanized on the track. - investigation continues
  • Brooklyn Major (7/31/17: Collapsed and died after race – possible cardiovascular collapse - investigation continues. - investigation continues
  • Fall Colors (8/3/17): STEEPLECHASE HORSE - Horse fell at second fence & died on track, investigation continues. - investigation continues
  • Munjaz (8/3/17): Pulled up going into the first turn and vanned off- later euthanized-Investigation to follow. - investigation continues
  • Unbroken Chain (8/6/17): Tumbled and unseated his rider at 5/16 pole. Unbroken Chain suffered a fatal Musculoskeletal injury and was euthanized - investigation continues
  • Sweetneida (8/11/17): Took a bad step and vanned off, later euthanized – investigation continues
  • Meteoroid (8/16/17): STEEPLECHASE HORSE – Injured right front leg at stretch prior to 6th fence, subsequently euthanized on track. Investigation continues.
  • Sayonara Rose (8/17/17): sustained fracture to left-front leg-euthanized on track-investigation continues

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.

  • Duquesne Whistle (8/7/17): euthanized for Abdomen Colic. - investigation continues

Year over Year Comparison for Saratoga Race Course

2017:

  • 8 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course from 1/1/17-8/21/17.
  • 8 racing fatalities during the Saratoga meet (as of 8/21/17)
  • 1 non-racing fatality at Saratoga Race Course from 1/1/17-8/21/17.
  • There have been a total of 17 horses that have died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2017 thus far.

2016:

  • 8 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2016
  • 6 racing fatalities during the 2016 Saratoga meet.
  • 2 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2016.
  • There were a total of 16 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2016.

2015:

  • 8 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2015
  • 3 racing fatalities during the 2015 Saratoga meet.
  • 2 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2015.
  • There were a total of 13 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2015.

2014:

  • 6 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2014
  • 8 racing fatalities during the 2014 Saratoga meet.
  • 0 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2014.
  • There were a total of 14 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2014.

2013:

  • 5 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2013
  • 5 racing fatalities during the 2013 Saratoga meet.
  • 0 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2013.
  • There were a total of 10 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2013.

2012:

  • 8 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2012.
  • 5 racing fatalities during the 2012 Saratoga meet.
  • 0 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2012.
  • There were a total of 13 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2012.

2011:

  • 4 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2011.
  • 4 racing fatalities during the 2011 Saratoga meet.
  • 1 non-racing fatality at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2011.
  • There were a total of 9 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2011.

2010:

  • 6 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2010.
  • 6 racing fatalities during the 2010 Saratoga meet.
  • 3 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2010.
  • There were a total of 15 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2010.

2009:

  • 2 training fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2009.
  • 3 racing fatalities during the 2009 Saratoga meet.
  • 5 non-racing fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in all of 2009.
  • There were a total of 10 horses that died on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course in 2009.

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

Credits

Mark Mulholland

Copyright 2017 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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