Two Racehorses Die Within Hours of Each Other

The day before the Preakness Stakes — the second race in the coveted Triple Crown — a horse died on the Pimlico track, where trainers and fans were gathering to celebrate. Meanwhile, on the same day, another horse died at Santa Anita in California. There now have been 25 horse deaths at that track since late December.

Clearly, something is going deeply wrong with the “sport of kings.”

Take action: Join fellow Care2 activists calling for passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act!

Some animal welfare advocates argue that horse racing is unsafe at any speed, endangering animals for a few minutes of entertainment on the track. Horses are being pushed in increasingly more challenging, exacting conditions. In response, medicating horses in training and for races has become so routine that it’s no longer possible to say only unethical trainers do it. All of them do. The question is to what degree.

Some fans of the sport say it is possible to race horses ethically, pointing to a very different landscape for horses in Europe. European horses typically aren’t ridden as hard, and they run in different settings — a far cry from the blazing speeds set in short races in the U.S. But even these proponents of the sport have to agree that something needs to change in the United States, where horses keep dying.

The death at Pimlico occurred after the Miss Preakness, the companion Preakness race dedicated to fillies. Congrats Gal was just 3 years old, which means she hadn’t even fully matured. And preliminary evidence suggests she had a heart attack before collapsing after the race. Across the country on the same day, Commander Coil was training at Santa Anita when he experienced a fatal shoulder injury.

Both tracks are owned by the same entity, the Stronach Group. Racing had been temporarily halted at Santa Anita earlier this year in response to a string of deaths.

These deaths are drawing attention to the fact that the racing industry is not well-regulated. The Horseracing Integrity Act, which was recently reintroduced with the new Congress, targets some of these issues with the goal of setting national standards and enforcement mechanisms for race horse safety. It would include the provision of a third-party testing and enforcement body in the interest of fairness and nonpartisan oversight.

Lest you think it’s a tough sell with the industry, it’s supported by many key players in horse racing — including the Jockey Club and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, as well as usual suspects, such as the ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States.

If passed, this law would create a national standard to regulate or ban several substances given to race horses, prohibit same-day medication and encourage more random testing of horses to confirm they aren’t being doped off the track. This would protect the welfare of horses, ensuring they aren’t pushed to their limits with the use of drugs to mask pain and illness. It would also help riders. Jockeys run the risk of serious injuries if their horses fall or stumble.

Alas, the legislation doesn’t take on another significant issue in the sport: what happens to the horses who aren’t fast enough. Although horse lovers wish they could accept them all, the tide of retired race horses is too much for any one rescue to take on. And many end up being sold overseas, where far from being pampered pets or working horses, they end up in slaughterhouses.

Take Action

Stop deaths on the track with the Horseracing Integrity Act, which introduces federal oversight to a sport that’s been left to run wild for too long. Join other Care2 activists calling on Congress to act!

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You‘ll find Care2‘s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: Nigel Kirby Photography/Getty Images


Jennifer H
Jennifer H3 days ago

Santa Anita needs to close....permanently.

Barbara S
Barbara S24 days ago

Thank you

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill24 days ago

tragic and needless

Carol S
Carol S25 days ago

Call your congress people and get them to support this act!

Karen N
Karen N25 days ago

'Horse racing reaches a new low as pregnant mare is killed having been forced to race three times in just 17 days' . . .

Nicole Heindryckx

This is really shameful. I think this is the 4th or 5th article/petition I see this year about the number of horses dying during or shortly after a race. It is a well-known fact that many horses are drugged before they start the race. Or they are injected with too strong medication to allow them to participate way too soon after they were injured severely. Even the jockeys get their portion so they push their horses beyond their limits. Horses are really fantastic animals and seldom refuse to obey a jockey's command. Someone must take the lead and insist on postmortem exams are not carried out and results being published. I think the answer is simple. There is so much money involved that owners of these horses or the Companies arranging these races can cover up all dirt with lots of money and nobody can or want to know the truth. After all, it is just horses... and no-one is interested in them or the jockeys as long as the profits are sufficiently high, a lot of risks are taken. Laws to forbid horses under 3 years to participate a race will not solve the problems I fear, just because false papers

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O26 days ago

I have signed many petitions by now. Wish that I could do more of course!

Lesa D
Lesa D26 days ago

#99340 petition signed...

Lesa D
Lesa D26 days ago

thank you s.e. ...

Renata B
Renata B26 days ago

Well, the situation in Europe is pretty bad as well and there is a lot of pressure in the UK to close such an awful "sport". The Grand National is the worst. So many horses die every year. Terrible.