04/09/2009 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Empire State must be at forefront of equine adoption

Despite task forces, committees, and rescue groups, the fact remains that a large proportion of racing Thoroughbreds end their careers because of injury or lack of speed. They often end up at auctions where they are sold for shipment out of the country, and are ultimately sent to slaughterhouses, as noted in the April 10 article "Slaughter: Don't ask, don't tell."

Now there is the case of a prominent New York State Thoroughbred owner, Ernie Paragallo, being under investigation for the apparent neglect of horses at his breeding farm ("Paragallo: I didn't sell horses for slaughter," April 7).

The creation of on-site racehorse retirement programs at racetracks shows a commitment to the humane care of these equine athletes once their racing careers have ended. Numerous organizations and rescue groups have worked to find new vocations for these horses, many of whom are under 5 years of age.

Racetrack management at Suffolk Downs and elsewhere have regulations against selling horses at auction, demanding that owners and trainers provide humane alternatives for horses who can no longer race. Finger Lakes led the way in becoming the first Thoroughbred racetrack in the United States to open an in-house adoption program, dedicated to the retraining and adoption of its retired racehorses, a collaborative effort between track management and horsemen.

It's time for the New York Racing Association to allocate land for the construction of an adoption facility at Belmont Park. As a historic racetrack and home of a Triple Crown race, Belmont should be leading the public-awareness campaign, showcasing the care and concern of those in the New York Thoroughbred industry. Instead, more than 100 horses are impounded at an upstate New York breeding farm and humane organizations struggle to pay for racing's cast-offs ("177 Paragallo horses in care of state police," April 10).

Humane treatment is just one of the many issues in the industry, but it's a huge one for the average racing fan and horse-lover. Fatal breakdowns, cases of neglect, and horses sent to slaughterhouses make more news than the Wood Memorial or Belmont's opening day.

If New York tracks don't acknowledge the issue of unwanted horses with something significant and concrete, they may find that the most prominent attendees this season at Belmont will be animal rights protesters.

Pamela Corey, DVM - New York City

New York security goes overboard

In response to the April 8 article "Mullins under scrutiny for medication" regarding trainer Jeff Mullins and his giving medication to a horse before a race, I feel the New York Racing Association is getting a little ridiculous with its six-hour security.

I have been an assistant trainer, having first obtained a license in New York 22 years ago. I have worked with prominent, award-winning trainers, and I have never been asked to do something inhumane by any of them. And Air Power, a cough medicine that can aid breathing, was administered by many of them.

If a product is considered natural, is sold over the counter, and would not make for a bad blood or urine test, why should it be a violation?

When I started working for one Hall of Fame trainer, who was highly regarded by many if not all of his peers, I remember walking by a stall and seeing a horse's head being held in a metal bucket with smoke coming out of the bucket. It had a peculiar smell, almost like marijuana. I asked the assistant trainer (now a very successful trainer on the Midwest circuit) what the substance was. His answer was Asthmador, a bronchial dilator found in tack shops.

I would have loved to have seen the faces of those manning the surveillance cameras on that one.

If the New York Racing and Wagering Board wants to administer au natural racing at the Big A, why not do away with winter racing, as the chemicals in the inner track at Aqueduct do inhumane things to jockeys' faces and horses' legs. There you have it, a companion piece to penalizing the Jeff Mullinses in this world, who simply want the best for their horses.

Catherine Bowlds - Louisville, Ky.