Horse racing, already under intense scrutiny over horse deaths, suffered yet another very public display of the sport's troubling side.
New York Thunder was far in front toward winning the Grade 1 $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes at Saratoga when he fell in the homestretch, suffering a fracture of the left front fetlock, and subsequently was euthanized.
It was the second death of the day at Saratoga as Nobel, the favorite in an allowance race at the upstate New York track, suffered a life-ending injury to his left front leg while galloping out after finishing fifth in an allowance race.
There have been 12 fatalities at Saratoga since racing began July 13.
Saturday was supposed to be a celebration of the $1.25-million Travers Stakes, considered the summer Kentucky Derby. It often plays a role in determining the 3-year-old horse of the year. But the race, which was only the fourth time the three Triple Crown winners have raced in the Travers, turned out to be all about Arcangelo, the winner.
Arcangelo, when he won the Belmont Stakes in June, was overshadowed by the fact that his trainer, Jena Antonucci, became the first woman to win a Triple Crown race. On Saturday, when Arcangelo ($7.40 to win) was first in the 1¼-mile race, she became only the second woman trainer to win the Travers. The last woman to win the race was Mary Hirsch in 1938.
Disarm was second followed by Tapit Trice, Forte, Preakness winner National Treasure, Scotland and Kentucky Derby winner Mage.
Despite the celebration in the winner’s circle, the people at the track were still in shock at what they saw earlier.
New York Thunder was a 3-year-old who was undefeated in four starts. The scene was reminiscent of the Test Stakes three weeks ago, when Maple Leaf Mel, also undefeated, fell in a gruesome scene just yards from the finish line.
At Del Mar, Pastor T, a 2-year-old homebred for WinStar Farm and trained by Bob Baffert, suffered a life-ending injury to his right front leg during morning training. The colt, sired by Into Mischief, considered one of the top stallions in the world, won his only start Aug. 12 by 4¼ lengths. It was the fourth fatality at Del Mar this season, although one was an accident involving a loose horse and another the result of a failed arthrodesis surgery.
The spike in fatalities at Saratoga has caught the interest of not only animal rights activists but also those who manage the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. After the nationally televised breakdown of Maple Leaf Mel on Aug. 5, scrutiny on Saratoga was elevated.
HISA, 19 days after breakdown, disclosed that it started an investigation on Aug. 5. On Aug. 7, a HISA spokesperson, when asked explicitly by The Times if there was a HISA investigation, made no mention of HISA’s involvement and said it was up to the track to investigate. A message to HISA on Friday to explain the contrary stories was not returned.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.