Update: As a result of our undercover investigation, Ahmed Zayat, the owner of Nehro (the horse in our video whose feet were so sore it hurt him even to stand and who died on the day of the Kentucky Derby last year), has pulled all his horses from Asmussen’s training facility.
Originally posted on March 24, 2014:
Less than 24 hours after PETA released our video documenting misuse of drugs and other abuses at Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course by Steve Asmussen—the trainer of Preakness winners Rachel Alexandra and Curlin—and others in his barn, horse-racing authorities in Kentucky and New York announced that they’re launching formal investigations.
“The behavior depicted in the undercover video and supporting materials is disturbing and disgusting,” said Dr. Scott Palmer, New York’s equine medical director. “We are working to determine what happened and ensure that proper protocols are put in place to prevent such actions from taking place again.”
The abuses documented by PETA’s investigator include routinely injecting horses with painkillers, sedatives, and diuretics in an apparent effort to mask injuries and to artificially enhance performance. A horse named Nehro, who was the runner-up in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, suffered from chronic foot injuries and was forced to race on cracked, pockmarked hooves held together by filler and superglue. He later died after falling ill on the day of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.
Tragically, just after PETA released our investigation, another horse named Finesse—whom PETA’s investigator had videotaped in her stall after she was apparently unable to get up—collapsed and died after finishing second in a race last week.
New Mexico has also launched an investigation since a jockey who is licensed in that state, Ricardo Santana Jr., was referred to on PETA’s videotape by Asmussen’s assistant trainer Scott Blasi as a “machine rider,” or a jockey who illegally uses electric-shock devices called “machines” or “batteries” on horses.
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has withdrawn Asmussen’s nomination, and Blasi has been fired.