Pennsylvania race tracks saw 87 horses die from training and racing in 2018, raising further concern about the safety of the sport following a spike in horse deaths in California.
Almost 90 horses died at Pennsylvania’s three thoroughbred tracks in 2018 at a rate of roughly 1.5 deaths a week, according to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Penn Live reported Wednesday. The report comes after widespread concern about horse deaths erupted following a spike in horse deaths at California’s Santa Anita Park ahead of the Kentucky Derby.
Horse racing officials shut down the Los Angeles race track in March to investigate a spike in horse deaths and injuries. The owning group of the track also banned drugs and whips on race days after more than 20 horses died at the track since Dec. 26, 2018. Joint injections, shockwave therapy and anabolic steroids were banned, and jockeys were restricted to using whips only “as a corrective safety measure.”
A total of 23 horses died in a 14-week racing and training period at the Santa Anita track, Penn Live reported. (RELATED: Los Angeles Racetrack Closes After 21 Horses Mysteriously Die)
While spikes are uncommon, thoroughbred horse deaths resulting from training and racing are not unusual; 187 horses died at Pennsylvania race tracks in one year less than a decade ago, according to Penn Live.
Over 160 thoroughbred horses died from injuries or sudden death while training and racing in California between February 1990 and August 2008, and 22 horses died during the same period on Pennsylvania tracks, according to the Equine Veterinary Journal.
Investigators in California have for months investigated the deaths in hopes to determine a cause but have not discovered any clues, dismissing speculations about wet and cold weather. They found no major irregularities at Santa Anita Park, according to The Washington Post.
“This isn’t about a single track — horse fatalities are a nationwide problem, one that has shocked fans, the industry, the regulators, and the general public,” the Jockey Club wrote in a statement, Penn Live reported.
The club is a 125-year-old organization whose purpose is “not only to encourage the development of the thoroughbred horse, but to establish racing on such a footing that it may command the interests as well as the confidence and favorable opinion of the public,” according to its website.
A history of horse deaths suggests the sport is a dangerous one that frequently causes injuries, which force trainers to euthanize horses that suffer irreparable injuries. Experts point to drugs that mask injuries and decades of breeding that has produced maximum muscle power but light bones, according to Penn Live.
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