The Horse Race Insider is a privately owned magazine. All copyrights reserved. “Bet with your head, not over it.”

The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Staff — In the first half of 2023, 28 thoroughbred racehorses passed away at PA racetracks, which is five less than in the same time in 2022. The contrast between the two years is significant since this is the first full year since PA’s new racehorse protection laws went into effect.

Twenty of the 2023 fatalities occurred at Parx, close to Philadelphia, and eight occurred at Penn National, close to Harrisburg. Presque Isle, which is close to Erie, has a synthetic track and is said to have fewer races but had no fatalities. Of the fatalities, eleven occurred during races, eight occurred during training, and the other deaths occurred in stalls or other areas around the track.

The Broad View

Racehorse fatalities have raised public awareness. Currently, Saratoga Race Course in New York is under heavy scrutiny since seven horses there died in less than a month, including an unbeaten three-year-old whose death was shown on national television. Twelve horses perished at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, in a brief time leading up to the event earlier this year.

From 2010 to 2022, over 1,600 thoroughbred racehorses in PA lost their lives while competing, training, or boarding at a racecourse. Included among them were 85 in 2021 and 73 in 2022.

Leaders in the horse racing industry are aware that they must take every precaution to reduce the number of fatalities or else the sport would be banned due to public outcry. Various sites and publications also voiced their concerns. Just recently, commented on racehorse deaths, expressing their concern over the situation.

While the interest in the sport has risen significantly in 2022, it required some major changes. PA has reacted with a comprehensive safety strategy aimed at lowering racehorse fatalities, notably in the most popular kind of racing, thoroughbred racing.

Pennsylvania Battling Racehorse Deaths

The Equine Safety and Welfare Plan consists of a dozen measures, including independent evaluation of the racing surfaces at the three thoroughbred racetracks in the state; increased veterinary monitoring of morning workouts; new medication controls; stricter criteria for which horses are deemed fit enough to race; and a new hotline to receive anonymous reports of wrongdoing involving horses.

According to experts, accumulating injuries that cause complete breakdown during racing or training and are often covered up or made worse by medicines are the main causes of death for thoroughbred racehorses. Racehorses that get leg injuries are often put to death due to variables including the size of thoroughbreds and the difficulties in immobilizing them for surgery.

Thoroughbreds are also predisposed to severe harm genetically. Because they have been bred for speed and strength for many years, they have enormous muscles but relatively weak legs. They walk with strides of at least 20 feet, weigh around 1,100 pounds, and often travel at close to 40 mph. However, their forelegs are very sensitive and prone to breakage.

Facebook Share
Twitter Share
LinkedIn Share

⚠ Before you comment

Our staff likes nothing better than to engage with the HRI Faithful and provide a forum for interaction on horseracing and sports. In that spirit, please be kind and reasonable; keep the language clean, and the tone civil. Comments from those who cannot comply will be deleted. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *