PETA urges Saratoga Race Course to suspend all racing; NYRA says track is safe

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PETA is demanding that the Saratoga Race Course close its doors for the rest of the season after 11 horses have died on the grounds since spring.

The call to action comes following the death of a 3-year-old thoroughbred, Wisecracken, on Thursday.

The animal rights group is calling on the New York State Gaming Commission and NYRA to suspend all racing at the track pending an investigation into these deaths.

“Eleven horses have died at Saratoga Race Course since late May, and the bloodbath must be stopped now.” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “We also urge the Horseracing Integrity and Racing Authority to step in and press for closure. Churchill Downs shut down after multiple deaths, and Saratoga is obligated to do the same.”

Following PETA’s declaration, NYRA Vice President of Communications Patrick McKenna released a statement, citing data based on the NYSGC equine injury database. According to the data, fatal horse injuries’ have been reduced by 50% in New York State since 2011.

“The health and safety of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority and one that stands above all other considerations.” said McKenna. “NYRA will continue to invest the resources, time, attention and expertise to ensure we are providing the safest possible environment for training and racing.”

PETA is accounting for the deaths on the track, in training and non-exercise/racing related causes, according to the statement released by NYRA.

Five of those horses died racing since the summer meet started on July 13.

Every horse entered to compete at Saratoga Race Course is required to undergo a pre-race veterinary examination before the horse is permitted to race.

NYRA went on to say that 99.7% of all horses have competed safely and without any injury during this meet, and The main dirt track and both turf courses are inspected before, during and after each race day.     

NYRA also says 99.9% of all horses have completed timed workouts safely and without incident since Saratoga Race Course opened for training in April.

Earlier this year, Churchill Downs in Kentucky shut down after 12 horses died from April to June. Racing will resume at Churchill Downs in September after an internal safety review was performed.  No issues were found with the racing surfaces at the famed track.