State Gaming Commission looking into horse deaths

August 04, 2017 06:59 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS – A total of nine racehorses have now died at the track in Saratoga this year.

The New York State Gaming Commission veterinarian says these horses have their own doctors and their own chiropractors -- you name it, they have it and that they're very well cared for. However, these deaths are a major concern and they are investigating to figure out the best way to prevent them.


"We find there are unique factors that enter in each one of them. It’s a combination of things that lead up to an unfortunate tragedy," explained Dr. Scott Palmer with the Wagering Board.

Each year, between nine to 16 horses die on the grounds at Saratoga since 2009 when the Gaming Commission started to keep track. The concern this year is that the number of deaths so far is on par to reach the same number as last year, which was a record at 16 horses.

"The experiences that we're having here in Saratoga are somewhat similar to that of last year for sure. Believe me, that's a part of the investigation," noted Dr. Scott Palmer, the medical director at the Gaming Commission.

Palmer says there's no villain to point to. He says the industry has been trying with a goal to reduce the fatalities to zero. In 2012, after a spate of fatalities at Belmont, the state ordered an overhaul of horse and jockey safety measures. Last year, the industry also promised changes to mitigate the problem.

"We have a quality control program here in New York where we work hard every day to keep all of our tracks safe," assured Palmer.

However, Patrick Battuello from the organization, Horseracing Wrongs, leads a group of protesters every weekend at the track. He says the fatalities seem to be expected.

"I argue on the site that death on the track is inherent to the industry. It's built into the system," Battuello explained. "It's been going on for 150 years. They've always died on the racetrack. It's just recently we're starting to get some raw data and facts."

Dr. Palmer says they're doing research at Cornell University to figure out the causes of the injuries that lead to the fatalities, whether these horses are predisposed. They're passing down what they learn to the owners and trainers.


WNYT Staff

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