NYRA responds to horse safety concerns at the Saratoga Race Track

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – NYRA responded to horse safety concerns at the Saratoga Race Track on Wednesday.

Flyers were handed out to some guests by protestors who don’t want people to support horse racing. A NYRA consultant and expert in track racing conditions says they are continuing to make improvements to prevent horse injury and deaths.

“This affects us all. We’re not unaware of it. It’s not something that we don’t want to try and fix and correct,” Tony Lacy, Kentucky equine consultant, and former trainer, said.

Lacy says he’s concerned about the number of horse deaths at Saratoga Race Course. So far this season, there have been 11 deaths.

“Those horses are bred to run and they love to run. They love to battle and you know it concerns us all if there’s ever an injury.”

Protesters from the group Horseracing Wrongs founded by Patrick Battuello stand outside the race course in hopes of swaying public opinion.

“It’s a big social attraction locally. It’s something to do in the month of August in the Capital Region,” Patrick Battuello, Founder of Horseracing Wrongs, said. “We’re asking people to just reexamine this. Step back and say what’s happening to these horses.”

Battuello does not believe that the horses love to run.

“Unless they’re trying to evade a predator, they’re not going to be running you know for that top speed for that long.”

NYRA consultant and Professor of Agriculture and Equine Programs at the University of Kentucky Dr. Mick Peterson says he works to perfect tracks all over the country to prevent injuries and death by adding clay and sand this year for added cushion.

“Working with NYRA we’ve been able to work so that the track at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga are as close as possible to each other. We’re always dealing with the ongoing challenge of weather and that’s where the team here has to be able to be responsive,” Dr. Peterson said.

Batuello says that despite the ongoing improvements the numbers haven’t changed. Since 2009, there’s been an average of nine to 16 horse deaths a year.

“I know we brought in all-weather surfaces a few years ago and that was somewhat effective in wet climates but not in dryer climates. I know NYRA is making every effort.”

Dr. Peterson acknowledges a commitment to always strive to do better.

“Oh absolutely, we need to improve. There’s no question about that. We’re looking at the veterinary effects and medications. We’re looking at the racing surface and so you look at each factor and you try to improve every year.”

“I think it opens up the debate even more and that’s not always a bad thing,” Lacy said.

Dr. Peterson also says that for every race horses get a full examination by a vet to make sure the horse is in racing condition.

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