The story appears on

Page A14

September 8, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Sports

Reforms fail to limit horse casualties

THE rush to improve safety since Eight Belles was euthanized at last year's Kentucky Derby did little to curb the number of horses dying at American racetracks in 2008.

Although many tracks were already implementing safety reforms when the popular filly pulled up lame with two broken legs after finishing second at the Derby in May 2008, her death on racing's biggest stage gave the effort a national face and new momentum. But there was only a slight change in the number of fatalities in 2008 (1,217) compared with 2007 (1,247).

"If it were that easy to change, we would have flipped that switch a long time ago," said Mary Scollay, Kentucky's equine medical director, who is assembling an industrywide database on horse breakdowns, the findings of which haven't been released.

"We've learned injuries are very complex in their causes, and there are a number of things that need to be critically evaluated."

Racing officials and equine experts are unsure exactly why the total remains so stubbornly high, though they point out racetrack deaths can happen for a variety of reasons. Also, no single change is likely to produce overnight results and many states implemented reforms after the Derby, so their impact would only be felt for part of 2008.

Open records

Last year, using open records requests sent to all thoroughbred racing states, the Associated Press counted more than 5,000 horses that were reported killed at tracks between 2003 and 2007. The number was highest in 2007 because some states didn't keep track before that.

The same request was sent again this year to cover 2008. Responses from the states varied slightly because the minor racing states of South Dakota and Wyoming provided totals for 2008 but not 2007, and Kansas, which reported seven deaths in 2007, had none to report last year because its major track, The Woodlands, closed for economic reasons.

By this year's Derby, nearly every major racing state had banned anabolic steroids, even though a necropsy showed Eight Belles was not on them. Tracks also scrambled to enhance the testing of their racing surfaces, apply padding to starting gates, replace whips with noisy but less painful riding crops and outlaw a certain kind of horseshoe known to cause injuries.

"I believe thoroughbreds are competing in a safer environment today than they were one year ago," said Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Although some of the reforms, such as the steroid ban, took longer to implement and in some states may have only affected a few races later in the year, a comparison between 2007 and 2008 reveals a troubling trend at some of the nation's biggest racetracks.

Of the 26 states that provided statistics for both years, 12 reported more deaths last year than the year before. Thirteen others reported fewer, with Virginia listing eight both years.

California, which hosts by far the most races due to its numerous tracks and ideal climate for the sport, again recorded more than twice as many fatalities as any other state. It had 251 racing and training-related deaths there in 2008, up from 240 the year before. Louisiana reported the biggest improvement, dropping from 68 deaths in 2007 to 40 last year.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend