SARATOGA SPRINGS — Two racing days into the 40-day Saratoga Race Course meet, a horse has died on the track from a racing injury.
Fight Night, a 3-year-old filly ridden by Javier Castellano, broke down a few strides past the wire on the main track after having finished second in the 10th race Friday, the last race on the card.
New York Racing Association chief examining veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Durenberger said Fight Night suffered “a catastrophic right front ankle fracture,” so the filly was euthanized where she fell on the track.
Castellano was thrown from the saddle ahead of his horse and was down on the track for several minutes, but after being looked at by medical personnel, he walked off and also was later cleared through First Aid.
The equine death occurred as animal rights activists have become more vocal in opposition to the sport of horse racing and have gained more national media attention in the wake of a rash of horse deaths at Santa Anita Park in California.
A total of 30 horses died there from Dec. 26-June 22 due to incidents in training and racing during the winter/spring meet that concluded June 23.
That led to some changes in safety protocols and procedures by The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and several other of the most prominent tracks in the country.
According to the New York State Gaming Commission Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database, there had been three horse deaths due to injuries sustained on the grounds since workouts began at Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track in April.
One, a 2-year-old filly named Golden Julia trained by Todd Pletcher, died of “non-racing” causes.
The database entry for Golden Julia describes it as such: “found distressed in stall; referred to Rood & Riddle, whereafter horse died from acute blood loss. Investigation initiated.”
Rood & Riddle is an equine hospital in Saratoga Springs.
Two others died in training. Investment Analyst, a 2-year-old colt trained by Chad Brown, was euthanized after breaking down on the main track, the database said, on June 7. Gattino Marrone, a 3-year-old filly trained by Rudy Rodriguez, was euthanized after breaking her left front while working on the Oklahoma July 3, eight days before opening day of the meet.
In the 10th race on Friday, Fight Night and Accabonac Harbor dueled for the duration of the 5 1/2-furlong race, with Fight Night just off the rail and Accabonac Harbor to her outside.
Accabonac Harbor prevailed by half a length at the finish, and just past the wire Fight Night broke down and went nose first into the dirt track, sending Castellano forward and bringing a collective gasp from what remained of an announced crowd of 21,694. As track workers and trainer George Weaver spilled onto the track to tend to her, she remained on her right side until she could be examined, at which point the decision was made to euthanize.
It was the filly’s fifth career start without a victory, two of which came at Santa Anita this winter.
A crestfallen Weaver declined to comment. A request to the jockey’s quarters through NYRA director of communications Patrick McKenna to interview Castellano was declined by the rider until Saturday.