Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. Is Suspended After Horse Deaths Before Kentucky Derby

Last year, there were 1.25 fatalities per 1,000 starts compared to 1.39 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2021. It was the fourth consecutive year that the rate had decreased and the first time it had been below 1.3 fatalities per 1,000 starts.

“We can say with confidence that the risk of fatal injury is heading in a sustained downward direction both overall and in many specific areas,” Tim Parkin, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the University of Bristol in England, said when announcing the most recent results in March. He said the six months at the end of 2022 was the safest six-month period since the database was created.

Still, clusters of fatal accidents have occurred. Last month, Laurel Park in Maryland was closed for three days after a spate of injuries led to five horses being euthanized. Trainers and owners there said the track’s surface was unsafe. Laurel Park’s owner, 1/ST, disputed the claim.

The sport was badly rocked in 2019 after 30 horses died at Santa Anita in a span of six months, news that made national headlines and earned the scrutiny of California lawmakers and animal rights activists.

In response, state and racing officials strengthened regulations regarding the use of riding crops, medications for horses, education for trainers and jockeys, track safety and recuperation policies for injured horses. Last year, 12 horses died at Santa Anita, and thoroughbred fatalities throughout California fell 54 percent from 144 in 2019 to 66 for the last fiscal year.

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