NYSGC Investigating Spate of Horse Deaths at Saratoga

NYSGC Investigating Spate of Horse Deaths at Saratoga

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

While another racehorse death at Saratoga Race Course, in Saratoga Springs, New York, is under investigation, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) is trying to determine what might have contributed to a dozen recent racing- and training-related horse deaths there.

According to NYSGC records, 12 horses have died after racing or training incidents since the 2017 Saratoga meet opened in July. The latest incident occurred Aug. 11, when the 5-year-old filly Sweeteneida was euthanized after sustaining a sesamoid bone fracture during a race. The death remains under investigation.

In a written statement, NYSGC Equine Medical Director Scott E. Palmer, VMD, Dipl. ABVP, said the investigations into each horse death involve a full necropsy and an Equine Safety Review Board review of every aspect of the horse and the race, including the horse’s training regimen, history, any medications it received, and previous health issues.

Track conditions are also included in the review, said racing and equestrian surfaces authority Mick Peterson, MS, PhD, director of University of Kentucky (UK) Ag Equine Programs and professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering at UK.

Peterson said footing composition, track maintenance, the condition and location of maintenance equipment, and the amount and duration of rainfall on the track are all monitored before every race at Saratoga. So far, reviews of that data suggest that track conditions and maintenance do not appear to have caused the deaths, he said.

“The results of the testing have all been the same,” Peterson said.

In fact, Palmer’s statement said no single cause has been identified for the fatalities thus far.

“If our investigations find commonalities among the incidents that require changes in protocol on- and off-the-track, we will make necessary changes,” his statement said.

Meanwhile Peterson said crews will continue to collect surface-related data in order to establish consistency in the way the track's surface is monitored with the goal of preventing similar incidents in the future.

“We have to do better and we have to keep working at it,” he said. “Nobody wants to see this happen, and nobody is complacent.”

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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