Deaths of eight race horses at California track probed

SAN DIEGO Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:09pm EDT

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SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - California horse racing authorities are investigating the deaths of eight horses at a Southern California race track within the first two weeks of the racing season, a number described as unusually high, officials said on Monday.

By Saturday, five horses had been injured while running races at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club race tracks and then had to be euthanized, while two more died while training or exercising, the track said.

The deaths prompted the club to move Sunday's racing off a newer turf course back to an older course as a precaution. After the move, an eighth horse, a two-year-old colt named Chilled Mousse, was injured on Sunday on the older track and had to be put down.

"There's no question that it is unusual to have that many deaths at one track, especially the ... horses that died on the grass," said Mike Marten, spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, a state body.

He said the deaths were being investigated in line with standard practice of probing all such deaths. Three jockeys were tossed off horses during the races when the horses were injured, but none sustained serious injuries.

"Del Mar is deeply saddened by the loss of thoroughbred lives we have experienced at the track since the start of our season. Four of those losses have come on our new turf course," the track statement said. "Despite that, we continue to have the utmost confidence in the course."

Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who specializes in horse racing, said the number of deaths at one track in nine days was very unusual.

Mac McBride, spokesman for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club said the club was most concerned about four horses that broke their legs on the grass surfaces at Del Mar and had to be euthanized.

"When race horses break their legs and it's catastrophic, necropsies often or very often find the horses had pre-existing conditions, injuries or damage to their legs," McBride said. "Seventy to 80 percent of the severe injuries to horses during races are to the legs."

Horses that run at Del Mar have a minimum value of $8,000 and can be worth as much as several million dollars, he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (1)
LAVoter wrote:
You quote the track spokesman as saying:
“When race horses break their legs and it’s catastrophic, necropsies often or very often find the horses had pre-existing conditions, injuries or damage to their legs,”

The obvious follow-up question for a reporter would be: WHY are horses who already have serious injuries or damage to their legs running at all? The answer is that they are drugged, with painkillers and steroids, so they don’t feel the pain, run full-out on already-damaged legs, and then die as a result. And who gives them these drugs? The racetrack personnel. Who insists horses run when they’re injured? Racetrack personnel. That’s how they make their money. It is your JOB to ask these questions and to do your research. Bryant Gumbel’s “Real Sports” did an excellent report on trainers who have multiple drug violations who still work — and drug horses all over the country.

Also, surely there must be some other group you can ask for a humane opinion on horse racing than PETA. PETA is a group of sub-educated publicity hounds whose own humane credentials are severely questionable. They are an embarrassment, and as much as I love animals and fight for them PETA does not in any way speak for me or anyone I know.

Jul 31, 2014 6:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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