08/31/2016 12:50PM

Analysis of Saratoga tracks reveals no reason for recent fatalities

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A review of the racing and training surfaces at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in the wake of 10 exercise-related musculoskeletal fatalities so far during the meet meet has not unearthed any obvious problems with the tracks, according to the New York State Gaming Commission.

Robert Williams, the executive director of the commission, said at a meeting Tuesday that Saratoga’s operator, the New York Racing Association, had recently brought in Mick Peterson, a racing-surface expert based at the University of Maine, to examine the tracks. The review found that the “2016 main-track surface meets standards consistent with previous years,” Williams said.

The exercise-related fatalities were concentrated in the first half of the meet, which began in late July. In addition to the 10 deaths that were musculoskeletal in nature, two horses have died of cardiac events following exercise, another died of a virus, and another as a result of a fall, bringing the total number of deaths at the meet to 14. The meet closes Monday.

Equine experts consistently caution that racing and training fatalities involve a number of factors. In addition, clusters of racing fatalities often lead to increased scrutiny of single factors that might not draw attention if the fatalities are spread out over a longer period of time.

Williams said at the Tuesday meeting that the fatalities this year compare with 13 total fatalities during the 2015 Saratoga meet and 14 in 2014.

Rick Violette, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said on Wednesday that horsemen remain cautious about the condition of the main track at Saratoga, considering the highly variable weather conditions in upstate New York during the summer.

“It’s such a moving target,” Violette said. “Not enough rain, too much rain. It changes day to day. We are certainly encouraging a thorough review throughout the meet because the track is almost a living thing. The conditions change day to day.”

Williams said the gambling commission’s Equine Safety Review Board is reviewing the deaths this year and expects to release a report on its findings following the Saratoga meet. By statute, the review board investigates each death, Williams said.

Carl Wilson More than 1 year ago
And just for the record, I am a horse lover, a horse racing lover and an advocate of this fantastic game, but it is in danger from people who don't understand it and don't want to understand it, which is why we need to sort this problem out. Lose the dirt tracks - Lose the drugs = Lose 90% of the breakdowns = Solve the problem.
Carl Wilson More than 1 year ago
There is no great mystery  to this. The reason for these fatalities is simple (and one many traditionalists are in denial about and do not want to hear)-  It's a dirt track. As they said, the investigators found nothing unusual about it this year, yet 14 horses still broke down and died on it, as did 13 last year, and 14 in 2014. All in a six week period. Two a week. You can watch six weeks of horse races in Ireland, the UK and France where they do not race on dirt, only turf and synthetic, and you will usually not see a single breakdown. Breakdowns on dirt tracks are common Breakdowns on Turf are unusual and breakdowns on properly maintained synthetic tracks, (not like the messed up fiascos that were badly installed and incorrectly maintained at Del Mar and Santa Anita) i.e. the Tapeta at Golden Gate and the Tapeta at Woodbine, are unusual. Dirt track breakdowns have been going on at an unnacceptable rate for years, but the public have not been made aware of it. Now social media is broadcasting the bad news big time.  The horse racing haters are out in force and understandably are using these numbers to turn the general public against horse racing. Drugs are a part of the problem, but hard dirt tracks are the main problem. Unless there is a swing away from dirt tracks to well watered Turf and quality synthetic surfaces like Tapeta, horses will continue to breakdown at an unacceptable rate, the word will spread and horse racing in the US will most likely be gone in 15 years time. This is what racing has to deal with now - https://horseracingwrongs.com/
Carl Wilson More than 1 year ago
And just for the record, I am a horse lover, a horse racing lover and an advocate of this fantastic game, but it is in danger from people who don't understand it and don't want to understand it, which is why we need to sort this problem out. Lose the dirt tracks - Lose the drugs = Lose 90% of the breakdowns = Solve the problem.