Horse deaths jump at Finger Lakes track

Fingers Lake Race Track

Twenty race horses euthanized at Finger Lakes this year

By: Joseph Spector

ALBANY — On a cloudy and windy day Oct. 26, Magestick Tomahawk looked like one of the horses to beat at Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington.

Fingers Lake Race Track

Finger Lakes Race Track

The horse was a maiden, meaning it never had won a race. But it was one of the favorites this day, after finishing a gamely second there just seven days prior.

Magestick Tomahawk battled along the rail that Saturday afternoon, but soon trailed off. It was euthanized moments later after a broken bone was found in its leg.

The 3-year-old horse was one of three on-track deaths that day. There was also a death two days later.

Overall, Finger Lakes has had 20 on-track horse deaths so far this year, surpassing the 15 fatalities for all of last year and raising concern from state regulators.

What also has alarmed the state Gaming Commission is that after a staggering number of horse-racing deaths in recent years, the number has dropped at the other three New York thoroughbred tracks, which are run by the New York Racing Association.

“The commission is concerned about the number of equine fatalities at Finger Lakes Race Track and is closely monitoring the situation,” said agency spokesman Lee Park. “If safety issues need to be addressed at Finger Lakes or any other race track in the state, the New York Gaming Commission stands ready to protect equine athletes.”

The commission said it has ordered autopsies for all the racing fatalities at Finger Lakes this year. They will be conducted at Cornell University in Ithaca in an effort to search for clues.

Finger Lakes officials acknowledged the increase in fatalities this year, but said they can’t point to any specific reason for the trend. They pointed out that the track had a decline last year. Over the past two years, the number of deaths have been consistent with the national average.

“No one ever likes to see an increase,” said Chris Riegle, the track’s general manager. “You always like to see you’re going to drive the number down. We were successful last year, and it’s a long-term trend you have to look at.”

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  • Robynne Catheron

    This is precisely why I don’t like horse racing. Those horses are started as mere babies, as young as 18 months old, and their cannon bones can’t possibly be anywhere near the recommended 8″ circumference. Very few of their growth plates have closed by the time they’re under saddle. Top that off with the whippings they get on the home stretch and you have disastrous results. Again, it’s all about greed, and never about the horse.

    November 4, 2013
  • A huge indication there is something wrong at this track , and should without delay be addressed………….Immediately !!!!!!

    November 4, 2013
  • Horse racing has a lot of huge flaws, it cannot be condemned , it must be addressed and hastily resolved!!!!!I visit alot of Race tracks one in particular Thistledown, I have found that 80% of owner / trainers /grooms love their horses and care for them, like they are family !!!!! This can be dealt with !!!!!The race tracks house , love feed and care for their horses , where would they go if not for the Race Track ????????? and i am sure the Horses love to run, they love the competition………

    November 4, 2013
  • How can a human know what is on an animal’s mind. Humans are so arrogant. Arlene ‘knows’ that a horse loves to run. Does it love being hit with those whips also?

    November 5, 2013
    • Lisa

      Miss B NOVEMBER 5, 2013
      How can a human know what is on an animal’s mind. Humans are so arrogant. Arlene ‘knows’ that a horse loves to run. Does it love being hit with those whips also?
      Miss B, have you ever watched a horse run? I have. Equating being whipped with the love of running would be the same as saying ‘eating poison is the same as loving to eat’ IT ISN’T.
      I had someone tell me horses only run when they are afraid,,,ha! Come see my herd run for sheer joy! There is NO mistaking it! Don’t be so narrow minded as to believe there is only one correct way to think, it isn’t always black and white. There are many shades of grey.

      November 6, 2013
      • I am totally against whipping a horse , Without taking of a lot of POST room, ( thought anyone who knows horses and horse racing would understand what I said here, sorry I should gone into better detail…… I absolutely love Horses and that is why i have been here for 20 yrs……. Why do i say they love to run, they were born to do so, it is in their DNA !!!!!

        November 7, 2013
  • Lisa

    Although I am NOT a fan of riding or starting the babies, if they could put training off for a year, and start the 3 year olds like 2 year olds, with a few short races, and the 4 year olds like the 3 yo’s ,,, there would be a lot less fatalities, and injuries. I would even see it put off one MORE year, but I know THAT would be asking to much of an industry where speed and greed are synonymous. Yes, ,many at small tracks adore their horses, even some big name trainers probably do, but it boils down to the almighty dollar. If they could just take the mentality that feeding them is the cheapest part of the overall investment, and that one extra year could give them better sounder race horses for more years–we could improve the WHOLE industry–and yes, I believe the horses love to run, some horses actually know strategy, and where the finish line is–they KNOW their job, it could be said, like many athletes, they LOVE their job, and I believe racing is wonderful if they could let the babies grow up– we don’t even back our saddle horses until they are three or four, and they NEVER suffer the strain that jumping out of a starting gate will put on those thin legs, but thick also doesn’t mean stronger, has anyone looked at antelope legs? Deer legs? Giraffe legs? Very thin, very strong. So it would be nice to have 8″ cannon bones as a MINIMUM, but waiting ONE extra year could do a lot to improve the mortality rate. Like with Arabians, we don’t race until 3 years, and for me, I won’t start before 4 years. JMHO

    November 5, 2013