Vigilance is making a difference in reforming the horse-racing industry to improve safety.
But as the latest statistics on equine injuries and deaths at the Saratoga Race Course demonstrate, the mission may never end.
One of the ways the state actually demonstrates transparency is by posting on the state Gaming Commission website (https://breakdown.gaming.ny.gov/) detailed and timely information about injuries and deaths of horses during training and racing at the state’s three racetracks – Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct.
The searchable database allows people to search by horse’s name, trainer, jockey, track, year and date.
It’s an easy and effective way to keep watch on how well the tracks are protecting the horses that bring in all the money.
The information is posted almost in real time and offers enough detail to let the public know what happened to the horse.
As of Friday, the end of the second week of racing at Saratoga, there had been three deaths of horses, two during racing and one during training.
Strong Moment and Pleasure Luck died two days apart while racing, on July 16 and 18, both from leg injuries. On the 19th, Fattoria got loose and suffered an injury running into a barn and had to be euthanized.
After the second week of racing last year, there had been two deaths at the track, one by racing and one in training.
The year before, in 2019, there had been four deaths by this point, one racing, one training and two from a medical issue.
Information is power. And what those concerned about the health of horses do with that information is what’s important.
Clearly making these reports publicly accessible has made a difference.
In December, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Horseracing Integrity Act, sweeping legislation pushed by local Rep. Paul Tonko that includes major new changes in how the sport is regulated and overseen.
Among the provisions of the legislation, which takes effect on July 1, 2022, is creation of an independent national authority to develop and implement an anti-doping program for the industry, a standardized list of permitted and prohibited substances and treatments, a ban on the use of all medications within 24 hours of a race, and full disclosure about breeding stock purchasers.
Without public pressure, aided by information about the number and causes of horse-related deaths and injuries, this legislation would not have come to fruition.
But clearly, as the latest statistics show, there is always work to be done.
It may never be possible to eliminate all deaths in the industry. Racing large, immature animals bred for speed is an invitation for catastrophe.
But many of the issues that lead to incidents, such as doping, can be addressed with consistent and effective oversight.
Change only happens when all those with a stake in the industry stay vigilant by demanding information and making effective use of it.
Never let up.