Horse Health

2 Race Horses Euthanized and 1 left Injured at Famed California Track

Source: CBS News

during a brief Sunday evening press conference that track officials were “deeply saddened by the events today.”

Two racing horses were killed after sustaining injuries on the track during races at Del Mar Racetrack in California on Sunday, the racing club confirmed, and a third horse was taken to an equine hospital for possible surgery. The deaths by euthanasia were the first for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club during a race this year, but they come after a tumultuous year for the sport that has seen almost 40 animals killed under similar circumstances, sparking intense scrutiny.

CBS San Diego reported that Ghost Street, a 3-year-old gelding, was injured during the third race of the day on Sunday, according to race officials, who said the injuries were deemed fatal. A couple hours later, Del Mar announced via Twitter that Prayer Warrior, a 3-year-old colt, was fatally injured during the sixth race. Both were euthanized.

Zoe Metz, the daughter of Prayer Warrior’s trainer Jeff Metz who also works as a race photographer, posted on her Twitter account Sunday that “the barn will definitely be the same without him.”

Lead race veterinarian Dr. Dana Stead said during a brief Sunday evening press conference that track officials were “deeply saddened by the events today.” He said both horses had sustained sesamoid fractures, affecting walnut-sized bones in the horses’ ankle joints.

“We are sad to confirm that in today’s third race on the turf course Ghost Street suffered a catastrophic injury to his left front sesamoid and was humanely euthanized,” the track said separately in a tweet. “We are deeply sorry for owner Aaron Sones, trainer Patrick Gallagher, his staff and everyone who cared for him.”

Also injured was Princes Dorian, a 5-year-old mare with 23 career race starts. She “suffered an injury to her left front leg in today’s second race on the main track. She is being transported to San Luis Rey Equine hospital for further care,” the Del Mar club said in a tweet.

Stead said Princess Dorian had been transported to an equine hospital in Bonsall, California, and might need surgery.

CBS San Diego said images and video of the horses injured and killed on Sunday were edited out of highlight clips posted online by the Del Mar track.

Horse racing has come under heavy scrutiny since a rash of deaths at the Santa Anita Park race track this year. Before the racing season moved to Del Mar this month, 37 horses died during races at Santa Anita, most of them during the summer. The most recent death at the track near Los Angeles, however, was only about a week ago.

Both the California Horse Racing Board and The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and other racetracks across the country, reacted to the rash of deaths with new rules to try and protect the animals.

While the deaths this weekend were the first at Del Mar during races this year, CBS San Diego reported that four died there during training over the summer.

7 replies »

  1. “While the deaths this weekend were the first at Del Mar during races this year, CBS San Diego reported that four died there during training over the summer.” Apparently not publicized! So this makes six (6) in the last several months – likely seven with the 5 year old mare. Shes raced TWENTY THREE times since she was two! No place to comment on CBS’s article, sadly.


  2. Not mentioned on this site but Mongolian Groom was fatally injured at Santa Anita’s 2019 Breeder’s Cup Classic Nov. 2:

    “Mongolian Groom’s death is the 37th at Santa Anita Park since December 26. To put that figure in perspective, a horse has died at Santa Anita approximately once every 8.4 days since then.”


  3. Dont know zip about horse racing but how many factors are involved in reasons for all these deaths and injuries? It’s either poor training /track management or jockeys that dont know what they are doing or problems with soil surface. Another factor could be horse-doping.
    Has training really changed that much? Unlikely.
    Has layout or track changed at these venues? Unknown
    Is there a new crop of inexperienced jockeys? Unknown
    Are horses being doped for performance or stamina? Likely
    Is soil subsidence a factor in surface instability? Likely
    Dry conditions or extreme changes from flooding to very dry could cause surface instability. It might not be apparent to the eye but when a horse hoof hits the ground minute inconsistencies in soil structure may allow for compression leading to uneven racing surface. Who could tell after a race when the ground is all chopped up from racing? It wouldnt be that apparent.
    Another solution: Use LIDAR scanning to investigate consistency and quality of tracks in question. As far as Im aware the problems are limited to those tracks in California. How do CA racing tracks compare – using LIDAR data – to tracks in New Jersey or elsewhere. If there are differences that needs to be investigated. Stop racing until you figure it out and stop thinking all you have lost is money.Animal lives matter!


    • Amanda, I was part of this industry aeons ago so feel I can add a bit here.

      In modern times we have the best footing technology and science has ever provided, along with state of the art nutritional, physiological and pharmaceutical tools that are top shelf. Ditto training regimens and the caliber of talented jockeys (not talking about Bush League here, but the more notable races which capture public attention).

      What IS different is the gene pool within the thoroughbred registry has narrowed considerably, leading to some super horses but also plenty which exhibit heightened problems. Add to this that racing requires horses be in training under saddle far too young, then run at top speeds when their bones are years from being finished growing. In other words, these are like Jr. high kids being put into the NFL to play. The results should surprise nobody.

      While fatal injuries happen across the racing world, it seems the U.S. either has the most or the most media awareness. We also have essentially no restrictions on breeding horses so anyone can raise a colt, keep it a stud, and breed any mares they want to, though within the racing rules the parents must also be included in the registry for a foal to be allowed in as well.

      When I was a pup, any racehorses that bombed out at the track (especially mares) were then tossed into the broodmare band, which perpetuated their weaknesses. And I can’t even begin to number the studs I’ve seen breeding that were injured or crippled but still kept reproducing, because MONEY.

      Some other countries have tighter regulations for both legal breeders and qualification of breeding stock by means other than simply running (conformation, manners, and the requirement of several foal crops to meet the same standards before a stud can be fully registered, for example).

      So the short answer is if the racing industry wants to continue, it has to figure out how to raise horses properly and not race them so young, or so often, nor have the easy out of sending them to slaughter at the drop of a hat. How many of the 37 dead at just Santa Anita this year do you think were buried in some peaceful place? It’s also problematic to “just stop racing” since so many years of horses are in the pipeline already, unless the minimum horse age requirements are raised substantially.

      I also keep thinking if racing was straight line only (no turns) we’d see far fewer industries. At Santa Anita it seems a high percentage of fatal injuries are on the left limbs but I’d need to do more digging to verify. All that speed, plus the torque of turning, plus jockeys maneuvering for position all add up to trouble for the horses. If the goal is to identify who is fastest, a straight line race is the surest and fairest way to go about it. They do this in the quarter horse racing industry, which I believe has far fewer fatal injuries (again, just an observation, would have to dig for actual numbers).

      Some horses truly love to run and are absolute champions, but overall the industry is not today.

      Rant over!


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