Phoenix track says horse fatalities down 40% after new safety protocols
PHOENIX — After witnessing an uptick in horse fatalities, Phoenix racetrack Turf Paradise announced new safety protocols that it says has led to a 40% drop in the deaths.
Vincent Francia, general manager of the track near 19th Avenue and Bell Road, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that 23 horses died during the 2017-18 meet..
That number dropped to 14 in the racetrack’s latest meet, which ended in May, and the goal is to reach zero next year, Francia said.
He said the racetrack has implemented new safety protocols that are contributing to the fewer deaths.
“One of the protocols is every horse that races on any given day is given a prerace exam by a veterinarian, and the vet goes over the horse very carefully, has him jog, has him walk, has him do a number of things,” he said.
“If the veterinarian sees something that he is not happy with, then the horse is not allowed to race.”
Francia said the track has always conducted prerace exams, but previously it was only for selected horses.
“We’re taking all these precautions to make sure that when the horse goes on the track, he’s healthy, he’s not having any problems that could lead to injury or worse,” he said.
Francia said the track has increased its testing of the soil’s balance of clay and sand to every two weeks rather than every month.
He also sits on a state committee of racing experts who share concerns and solutions in the industry.
“We meet every month and go over everything that happened in the previous 30 days to see if we’re making progress, what problems, what new articles, what new protocols are out there, everything to do with keeping these horses safe,” Francia said.
With every fatality that does happen, Midwestern University creates a necropsy report for trainers to learn from.
“What that does is put the trainers on notice that we’re watching, but more importantly, it develops a transparency between the management of the racetrack and the trainers that we’re all in this together,” he said.
“One horse is too many, and we want to make sure that every horse out there is healthy.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report.