Horses are dropping like flies at Aqueduct racetrack. Since racing began November 30th, 16 horses have been injured and euthanized, most recently on Wednesday, when Hillsboro Bay injured her leg on the inner dirt track and had to be put down. The mile-long inner dirt track uses a special type of dirt over which races are run during the winter months, and it appears to be especially treacherous for thoroughbreds. The New York Racing Association [NYRA] announced that it would move races to the main track two weeks earlier than expected—just as Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the NYRA insisting they hire an outside investigator.
Cuomo's letter advises the NYRA "to hire a qualified independent investigator or team of investigators to review the circumstances involving these breakdowns, analyze the causes and recommend any necessary action to equine breakdowns at NYRA facilities. This pattern of equine loss should not be allowed to continue. The scope of the review should include existing policies on disclosures, necropsies, track conditions and pre-race examination of horses. The rules on claiming, veterinary procedures, and drug use must be examined to determine what we can do to promote equine safety."
The letter also points out that since the NYRA has received $15 million in revenue from the Racino that opened in October, the NYRA should pay for the investigation. "Everyone understands that horse racing poses risks,'' the letter continues, "but that cannot be an excuse for our inaction. The status quo in all aspects of horse racing is not working, and we need to develop procedures now that work for the horses, riders and the racing public in New York."
Cuomo's letter comes as a string of horse deaths forced producers of the HBO series Luck to stop production. Three horses died during production, and the American Humane Association urged producers to halt the show. In one instance, a horse reared up, fell backwards and suffered a severe head injury. The AHA issued a statement saying that the horse had just been inspected by a veterinarian. HBO issued this statement:
It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK. Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.
According to The Jockey Club, there are two fatal breakdowns for every 1,000 starters, but horses also suffer many other injuries that require them to be euthanized. "The complicated thing with horses is that they can’t talk and tell you what’s wrong with them," one horse trainer tells the Daily News. "We basically have to look out for them and be very conscious of what they’re doing. They are high charged and have a lot of adrenaline and find ways of injuring themselves. They don’t have a lot of self-preservation." Yeah, don't they know better than to not let humans run them into the ground for millions of dollars?