New Mexico track confirms health status of racehorses

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — New Mexico regulators said Monday that several horses feared death by animal advocates after a weekend of racing at one of the state’s premier equestrian tracks were well and truly quite alive.

New Mexico Racing Commission officials say only one animal died after being injured in recent trials at Ruidoso Downs and that photographs and veterinary reports submitted to the state show the other seven were in their stalls and were doing well.

Washington, DC-based group Animal Wellness Action had raised concerns about horse welfare.


“Apparently it was so hot that the horses had to be taken back to the stables after running, which of course means to us that they shouldn’t have run in the first place,” said Marty Irby, group chief executive. depression.

Irby voiced his criticism as advocates urge track owners and regulators nationwide to be more vigilant now that new federal safety mandates took effect this month and the industry prepares to adopt more uniform anti-doping rules.

Irby was among those who testified before Congress in support of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act, which was signed into law in 2020. It is being implemented in stages, with the racetrack safety program beginning in first. Anti-doping and drug rules are expected in early 2023, leaving the 38 states where horse racing takes place in charge for now.

The sport’s lack of uniform rules across the United States was highlighted after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance following the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

California, New Mexico and other states have also received black eyes over the years for catastrophic racehorse injuries.

A 2012 survey found that five of the seven runways with the highest incident rates in the nation were in New Mexico, and four of the state’s five runways had incident rates twice the average. national. While all five tracks have seen declines in their death rates in recent years, legislative analysts found that 112 horses died from race-related injuries between 2018 and 2020.

There were 13 catastrophic injuries in 2021, according to records provided by the New Mexico Racing Commission.

Ismael “Izzy” Trejo, executive director of the commission, said the rate per 1,000 race starts was lower than the national average and there were no complaints from jockeys or horse owners about the conditions. at Ruidoso Downs.

The track began its season in late May and is gearing up for Rainbow Futurity later this month. It is best known for hosting what is described as the richest quarter horse race in the world: the All American Futurity.

“Of course losing a horse out of 330 starters this weekend is never a good thing,” Trejo said. “But if there was a method to prevent horses from sustaining catastrophic injuries on the racetrack, we would be the first – as long as I’m in this chair – to implement it.”

Trejo and others said one of the barriers to enforcing anti-doping rules and other regulations in the future will be the shortage of licensed veterinarians nationwide.

Irby added that it will also be essential to ensure compliance by state racing authorities.

“I believe the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is the last chance for the American horse racing industry to clean up their act and restore legitimacy to the sport, as well as instill confidence in the betting public, but it there are already so many groups and individuals working to undermine the law at every turn,” he said.

Ruidoso Downs general manager Ethan Linder said he spent the morning at the racetrack barn, checking out the horses that were on Irby’s list. He wanted to get hold of each one, speak to each trainer and confirm status before reporting to state regulators.

Linder said it was too early to make predictions as the horse racing law is implemented, but he expects some pressure from activists. He added that many things required by law are already in place at Ruidoso Downs.

“Our job is to comply and when we do and if anything should happen we will let everyone know that we have not cut corners in any way,” he said. “We follow the regulations all the way and that’s the best we can do.”