A second horse death in two days marred Sunday’s racing at Belmont Park.
Mashnee Girl, a 5-year-old New York-bred trained by Mark Hennig, suffered a catastrophic injury to her left front leg as she fell Sunday entering the stretch of the first race, a one-mile allowance on the main turf course.
Another Hennig-trained horse, Excursionniste, was euthanized after being pulled up by jockey Flavien Prat at the far turn during Saturday’s 13th and final race, a 1 1/16-mile trip on the inner turf. That incident occurred about 45 minutes after Arcangelo’s victory in the 155th Belmont Stakes made Jena Antonucci the first woman trainer to win a Triple Crown race.
Mashnee Girl was the fourth horse to suffer a fatal injury during racing at Belmont’s spring/summer meet, which began May 4. The meet has featured 1,670 horses starting in 214 races.
“A necropsy will be performed at Cornell University with the results to be analyzed by Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority [HISA] officials as well as the New York State equine medical director,” said Patrick McKenna, the vice president of communications for the New York Racing Association. “In addition, NYRA, HISA and the New York State Gaming Commission will closely review the circumstances around this incident to ensure the safest possible environment for racing and training at Belmont Park."
Hennig, who has earned more than $81 million in winnings over the course of his long career, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Belmont Stakes was the first Triple Crown race run under HISA’s new medication and anti-doping program, which went into effect on May 22. Federally mandated HISA began overseeing the sport last year.
Horse safety was in the spotlight during the Triple Crown with 12 horses having died at Churchill Downs from April 27-May 27, including two on Derby Day on May 6. Churchill Downs enacted new safety guidelines but still wound up suspending the meet at the famed track and moving it to the smaller Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky.
According to NYRA, there were 23 horse fatalities last year across 14,043 starters in 1,855 races across 196 days at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga, meaning 99.83% of horses competed in races without incident. NYRA said that percentage rose to 99.95 for training sessions, with 20 fatal injuries in 48,219 timed workouts.
Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) issued a statement on Sunday after Mashnee Girl’s death, accusing Belmont Park of “failing to protect horses,” and calling for the immediate suspension of racing at the track.
“Anything less makes Belmont complicit in the fatalities,” Guillermo said in her statement.
“NYRA’s comprehensive safety strategy is informed by the most advanced science and research in consultation with independent experts, veterinarians, and horsemen,” McKenna said. “The health and safety of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority and one that stands above all other considerations.”
Mashnee Girl’s jockey, Jose Lezcano, was cleared to continue riding on Sunday after being examined.