NEW YORK (AP) — A horse that broke down in the race following the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes was euthanized on Saturday, completing a grim Triple Crown for a sport that has seen deaths cast a pall over all three tracks hosting its most prestigious races.
In the 13th race at Belmont Park, a 1 1/16-mile race on turf after the final leg in the Triple Crown, jockey Flavien Prat pulled up on Excursionniste in the far turn. According to a statement distributed by New York Racing Association spokesman Pat McKenna, the horse had a “catastrophic injury to its left front leg” and was euthanized.
“Devestated. There’s just no other word,” Little Blue Bird Stables wrote on Twitter. “He was our big, goofy, talented, crazy, 1 for 16 NYB superstar. We do everything as a team, and will console as one for quite a while.”
The Belmont joins the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in having its signature race marred by animal deaths.
It was the third horse to die at Belmont in 2023 — one of them last week.
“NYRA prioritizes safety and integrity above all other considerations and continuously evaluates all aspects of the operation to provide the safest possible environment for training and racing,” the statement said. “NYRA will closely review the circumstances around this incident.”
Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, suspended racing operations and moved its meet to Ellis Park in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month. At Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course, National Treasure’s Preakness victory was preceded by the death of another horse trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Havnameltdown.
The suburban New York Belmont Park appeared to end the somber streak when its signature race – the 12th of 13 on the schedule – was completed without incident.
But as the crowd of 48,089 filtered out after watching Arcangelo’s victory in the Triple Crown finale, the track’s veterinary staff was attending to Excursionniste on the approach to the final turn.
“Despite the immediate response and best efforts of on-site attending veterinarians,” the statement said, “the horse was humanely euthanized due to the severity of the injury.”
The NYRA statement said that the three deaths at Belmont since the start of the spring/summer meet on May 4 have occurred in 213 races featuring 1,662 horses. Industry leaders say the sport has never been safer, with horse fatalities down 37.5% since they started being tracked in 2009.
The federally-mandated Horseracing Safety and Integrity Authority (HISA) took over last year, and its medication and anti-doping program went into effect last month.
But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the track did not do enough to prevent Excursionniste’s death.
“Racing couldn’t manage to keep all horses alive for even one Triple Crown day this year," PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, adding that the organization had argued for CT scans that would screen for preexisting injuries. "They refused. The racing industry is digging its own grave — as well as this horse’s.”