NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - Opening day at the Belmont Park Racetrack was this past Friday, but just in the first two days of the season, three horses died.
Two died during training, while the third was injured while racing and put down soon afterwards. Now, in the aftermath of those deaths, some activists are asking if horse racing should continue as a sport.
“How many horses have to die for $2 bets and frivolous entertainment,” said Patrick Battuello, President and Founder of Horseracing Wrongs, a non-profit which tracks deaths at racetracks across the nation. The group estimates that more than 2,000 horses die racing or training on U.S. tracks every year.
At Belmont, there are an average of 40 horse deaths each year. So far in 2019, 25 horses have died.
The New York Racing Association, which runs Belmont Park along with a Saratoga and the Aqueduct, said in a statement that it is reviewing the circumstances of each death.
“As this process moves forward, NYRA continues to advance measures to ensure that we are providing the safest possible environment for training and racing… The health and welfare of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority,” the NYRA said.
The association also pointed to safety enhancements it has made in recent years, including upgrading the turf courses and adding a veterinary list for unhealthy horses to be put on so that they receive extra scrutiny and monitoring.
Horse racing has come under intense scrutiny since more than two dozen horses died at a California track earlier this year. Racetracks in New York have a lower death rate than many other states, but Battuello argues that the only way to improve safety is to end the sport altogether.
“The only advantage horseracing has had is this moniker of the ‘Sport of Kings’ and us being conditioned to think of it as a sport. This is exploitation, it’s cruelty, and it must end,” Battuello said.