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Horse death toll climbs to 17 at Saratoga

August 20, 2017 07:57 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Travelin Soldier was the horse's name that died Saturday while training in Saratoga. Two days before, it was Sayonara Rose that died after finishing a race on the main track.

The two deaths have helped make 2017 a Saratoga record for horse fatalities in a single year since the New York State Gaming Commission started keeping track.

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“It's not surprising at all,” said Patrick Battuello from Horseracing Wrongs. “As I've said before, this happens in tracks across America, not just in Saratoga.”

Battuello leads a group of protesters every weekend at the track. They were out Sunday with banners saying they're giving a voice to the voiceless and that no one is speaking for the horses.

“We want this to go away,” he said. “This is 21st century America. We're better than this.”

Before this year, the most horses to die at the Saratoga Race Course in one season was 16. They hit that number twice, in 2009 when they started keeping records and again in 2012. The industry ordered an overhaul of horse and jockey safety measures. Last year, they also promised changes to mitigate the problem.

“People are uneasy about horses dying for $2 bets,” Battuello said. “So they have to come out and say, ‘We've got this under control.’”

This year, the total so far is 17 and the racing season is not over yet. NewsChannel 13 spoke to NYRA, but they referred us to the New York State Gaming Commission.

In a statement, New York State Gaming Commission Medical Director Scott E. Palmer said, "They are actively investigating the causes and circumstances of each incident at Saratoga Race Course.”

The statement continued by saying, "The Gaming Commission’s ongoing goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero, and we have taken many productive steps toward reaching that goal."

The complete statement from Palmer can be read below:

“As we do with every equine fatality on the grounds of a track in New York State, the Gaming Commission is actively investigating the causes and circumstances of each incident at Saratoga Race Course. There is often no single common cause among the incidents that unfortunately result in equine fatalities, but instead a blend of factors that require comprehensive evaluation. If our investigations find commonalities among the incidents that require changes in protocol on- and off-the-track, we will make necessary changes.
 
“The Gaming Commission’s ongoing goal is to reduce the number of racehorse deaths and injuries to zero, and we have taken many productive steps toward reaching that goal. However, our work is never done and there will always be challenges in this endeavor that require reexamination and recalibration to effectively protect horses and their riders.
 
“The Commission consistently reevaluates its efforts and makes necessary amendments as needed in order to best reflect the research of the industry. We apply a quality control approach in our work and continue to identify risk factors, circumstances and trends that may contribute to equine fatalities. We go to great lengths to educate the industry’s participants on best practices and guidelines to reduce and/or eliminate such risk factors. In fact, New York State is the first major North American jurisdiction to require horse trainers and assistant trainers as a condition of licensing to take continuing education on horse stewardship in order to ensure they are informed of the latest technology and trends in the field of equine health and safety.
 
“From a statewide regulatory and veterinary affairs perspective, other states look to New York for guidance in shaping their own regulatory and best-practice methods to ensure horse welfare.”

Credits

WNYT Staff

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

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