Saratoga: Recent Spate Of Equine Fatalities Bring Safety Into Spotlight Once Again

Equine safety is once again in the spotlight at Saratoga after a recent spate of injuries and fatalities at the facility.

The Daily Gazette reports that there have been seven fatalities thus far – two while racing and five during morning training hours. According to the Gazette, the fatalities include the horse Angel Seven, who was injured while racing on the turf course Friday; Brooklyn Major, who collapsed after the ninth race on Monday of a suspected heart attack; Howard Beach and Positive Waves, who broke down during training hours on the main track, and Lakalas, who was fatally injured on the Oklahoma training track at the end of May.

The other fatalities were Queen B, who hurt her right hind leg on the Oklahoma training track on July 6 and was later euthanized, and Wanztbwicked, who was injured July 22 on the main track.

NYRA officials have taken steps to improve the safety and quality of the racing surface, adding clay and sand to the cushion of the main track.

“We take the health and welfare of our equine athletes and jockeys seriously,” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna told the publication. “That's why we've made significant improvements and enhancements to the facility with an eye on improving the quality and safety of our racing operations.”

Other recent improvements include an upgraded drainage system, a widened Oklahoma training track to reduce traffic congestion and alarm systems to alert people of a loose horse.

“Frankly, everyone keeps them to the task,” said Rick Violette, trainer of Howard Beach. “It's not like everybody crosses their fingers and hopes they're doing it. Glen Kozak (NYRA's vice president of racing surfaces) loses sleep over this stuff, and in a lot of cases it's because we're waking him up.”

“There's never a good answer,” Violette continued. “There's never a satisfactory reason. It's not like we find a hole out there and say, ‘Ta-da!' Those are the things that are most frustrating, when you can't pinpoint and explain.”

“There's nothing you can say that's really comforting other than you're confident they're doing examinations, and, believe me, they're being held to the task,” Violette added.

Read more in the Daily Gazette

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