Horse deaths at Phoenix Turf Paradise racetrack raise concern


The death of 24 horses during the current Turf Paradise racing season has raised concerns as the number is much higher than the national average. (File photo by Jake Goodrick/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Turf Paradise is making headlines for the wrong reasons at the start of horse racing season. Since Nov. 5, 24 horses have died at Phoenix North Track, including 11 during the race, a track spokesperson confirmed.

The death rate is nearly double the national number in 2020, Arizona state veterinarian Dr. Susan Gale told the Arizona Racing Commission earlier this month.

The alarming death rate at Turf Paradise stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the sport.

Turf Paradise had a kill rate of 2.98 horses per 1,000 race starts, according to statistics provided by Gale to the Racing Commission. That’s more than double the national average of 1.41 per 1,000 starts in 2020, said Natalie Voss, who writes for horse racing publication Paulick Report.

Fatalities are measured based on 1,000 race starts, indicating that a horse has suffered a fatal injury while actively running. The metric measuring the total number of deaths on a track is called “deaths per 1,000”.

Vincent Francia, general manager of Turf Paradise, said it was important to take a step back when reviewing fatalities on the track. He told Cronkite News that 11 of the 24 fatalities were racing fatalities, five occurred during training and eight occurred in the barn area and were unrelated to racing or training. .

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“To lose one horse is one too many, of course,” Francia said.

While raising eyebrows within the horse racing community, Turf Paradise’s death has also drawn the attention of animal rights activists, and one activist claims doping contributes to the problem.

In a statement regarding the issues at the track, Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action, said: “The (24) equine deaths at Turf Paradise are heartbreaking and underscore the urgent need for reform in the animal welfare industry. horse racing as the body count continues to rise.

“The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) – created by the new federal law, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which takes effect in July of this year – should immediately resume negotiations with the United States Anti-Doping Agency to begin implementing implement the national drug testing standards that the law we worked so hard to pass requires.

“Horse doping leads to death, and it’s no secret that countless horse deaths have been caused by drug overuse and abuse. If American horse racing is to survive and tracks as Turf Paradise want to continue operating, it is time for the rehabilitation to begin.

Horse racing in Arizona is regulated by the Arizona Gaming Commission, which is taking steps to address the issue. The Thoroughbred Daily News reported that the commission will begin requiring updated veterinary records for all horses. And the commission is asking for funds to hire an additional veterinarian, according to the report.

Source: Arizona Department of Gaming (Graphic by Rebecca Mardikian/Cronkite News)

This is not the first time that Turf Paradise has experienced a spike in equine mortality. Twenty-seven race-related deaths were reported at the track in 2017 and 2018, according to a 2019 Cronkite News report. Other tracks also had problems, including California’s Santa Anita Park, which reported 23 deaths in the race during its 2018-19 calendar.

“It’s an industry-wide problem,” said Maxwell Hartgraves of the Arizona Gaming Commission. “We are working closely with (Turf Paradise) to try to resolve the issue, because it is not just one thing that indicates the death of a horse. There are a variety of things that come into play. There is no There isn’t a single point or problem that causes these things.

So far, the spike in race deaths has not changed Turf Paradise’s race schedule. And while the gaming commission isn’t speculating how issues such as horse deaths might impact attendance or betting, Hartgraves said the commission is invested in the overall health of the sport and those who take part in it – from horses to jockeys.

“We are working with our stakeholders to try to find ways to address this issue and put the safety of horses and equine athletes first,” said Hartgraves.


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