Final Project: Horse Racing Deaths in New York State

One of the most historic and revered sports in the U.S. is horse racing. I myself am a casual horse racing fan who went to two legs of the Triple Crown this past summer and grew up near the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, where my grandfather was the manager of the restaurant for many years.

But it is impossible for me to look past the fact that horse racing is a very dangerous sport — not only for the jockeyes, but for the horses. In recent years, horse racing as a sport has come under heavy fire from animal rights groups for the amount of horses that die in races. A hit HBO show about horse racing was canceled after three horses died while the show was being filmed. And weeks before this year’s Kentucky Derby, the most famous horse race in the world, PETA levied animal cruelty allegations against the handlers of top racehorses.

While horse racing was in the news a lot this summer due to an exciting Triple Crown race, it was also in the news due to a blight of racehorse deaths.

Nationwide, the numbers are very telling:
-On average, 24 horses a week die at racetracks in the United States
-Since 2009, more than 6600 horses have broken down or showed signs of injury
-At least 3600 horses have died either racing or training at state-regulated tracks

In New York alone, there were 39 equine deaths that occurred during races at seven different racetracks across the state.

Three of the racetracks in New York state are run by NYRA, the state racing association: Saratoga, Aquaduct, and Belmont. So far this year at Saratoga — one of the most famous racetracks in the country — 11 total horses have died, with 8 of those deaths coming during races. That’s up from eight total equine deaths the entire year last year. At Aqueduct Racetrack, where 41 horses died while racing between 2012-2013, only 5 have died this year — representing a massive decrease. And at Belmont Park, between this year’s Belmont Stakes and last year’s Belmont Stakes, 39 horses died on the track at Belmont Park. In the wake of all these deaths, the agency has been heavily criticized for failing to protect the horses from unnecessary injury and death.

Looking at the deaths by month, it’s clear the summer months are the worst for horses, as that’s when the weather is best for races. But the reason for these deaths may go beyond the number of races that are run. Instead, what could be to blame is “a culture of drugs and lax regulation.” Says the New York Times:

“Since 2009, records show, trainers at United States tracks have been caught illegally drugging horses 3,800 times, a figure that vastly understates the problem because only a small percentage of horses are actually tested.”

It seems that after another deadly year on New York’s racetracks that this issue has not been resolved. Only time will tell what becomes of this issue. With increased regulation, especially at state-operated racetracks, we could see these numbers decrease dramatically one day.

Data Source

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