Laurel Park Executives are currently undergoing questioning by Maryland horse racing regulators as to the euthanization of eight horses due to injury since early October.
Reports state that a decision from The Maryland Racing Commission decision should be announced on 14th December. This will decide whether or not racing will be allowed to resume at Laurel Park. If they are given permission to continue, racing will resume as of December 16th.
The most recent euthanization took place on November 28th, when American Playboy, suffered unfortunate injuries, that later proved to be fatal.
Executive Director of the Maryland Racing Commission, Mike Hopkins, told Mike Hellgren, a WJZ investigator that such a high number of injuries causes red flags to be raised. According to Hopkins, it is unclear as to what is the cause of so many injuries to the horses, but in order to minimize the possibility of future injury, it is best to suspend the races until the cause can be found.
“We interview the jockeys, the trainers. We look at medical records. We look at the previous history of the horse to see if they’ve been predisposed to other injuries and take a look at the race track and films of the race,” Hopkins told WJZ.
Laurel Park is owned by the Stronach Group, which is in charge of maintaining the track and ensuring the safety of the horses and jockeys. Executives of the Stronach Group were questioned on The afternoon of Tuesday 7th.
The track was refurbished for millions of dollars in the Spring of 2020 in preparation for it being able to re-open following the Covid lockdown.
Hopkins told WJZ that the death of half a dozen horses in such a short span of time is a “particularly unusual circumstance”. One which quickly brought to The Maryland Racing Commission’s attention. The pressure is now on to figure out what the reason was behind this unusual series of events.
Patrick Battuello, an activist for Horseracing Wrongs has kept a close count of the deaths through the organization’s website.
Battuello told WJZ investigator, Hellgren, that an average of 33 horses had been euthanized at Laurel Park over the past four years. He stresses that he feels the horse racing industry is making a conscious effort to create distractions from the facts with excuses such as bad trainers, weather issues, or overuse of drugs. Battuello has made the point to Hellgren that “the killing is built into the system.”
The Horseracing Wrongs organization is working towards a ban on horse racing nationwide. In 2019 there had been a series of events at Santa Anita Park in California, a horse racing track also owned by the Stronach Group, which resulted in the deaths of 37 horses in total throughout the season.
An example of one of the deaths to take place at Santa Anita was this year’s Kentucky Derby first place horse, Medina Spirit. After failing a drug test following the race Medina Spirit was reported to have died of a heart attack. Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, had his attorney confirm the death to CBS News.
The California Horse Racing Board responded to this death with a statement that a toxicology test and examination would be carried out by a lab run by the University of California, to confirm the legitimacy of the claim.
Battuello poses the question, “why should horse racing be given a pass under the banner of sport?”
The Stronach Group had voluntarily opted to close Laurel Park in light of the recent deaths to investigate this matter further.
“Even though we might not find an answer as to why it occurred, we will take the information we have and look at the procedures we use at the racetrack to improve the safety and the welfare of the horses,” Hopkins said.
The Maryland Jockey Club also responded to the temporary closure of Laurel Park with a statement in which they express their focus on the safety of the horses, and their support for the closure whilst investigations are underway.
“The Maryland racing industry remains laser-focused on prioritizing the safety, health, and welfare of equine athletes, and is committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that Maryland’s historic racing industry remains world-class.”
Further information should be announced in the coming week.