Races Canceled at Belmont Park Due to Hazardous Air Quality

Published by Elena Waldman.

Update (June 8, 2023): Due to the dangerous air quality in New York, races and training were canceled at Belmont Park today, following an urgent call from PETA. Because of smoke from wildfires in Canada, the current conditions are reportedly considered “the worst in the northeast in more than 20 years”—but races at Belmont Park are slated to continue tomorrow.

Belmont Park already ranks among the deadliest racetracks in the U.S. Allowing horse racing to continue in these conditions, including the arduous 1.5-mile Belmont Stakes, is foolhardy and dangerous. People are being advised to stay in, and all outdoor activities have been canceled. Yet the governor still wants Thoroughbreds to run at breakneck speed in this air.

The horses won’t be wearing masks, and they’ve already been breathing in smoke and particulates for the past several days. They won’t have had a chance to clear their lungs. PETA is urging the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority and the New York Racing Association to cancel the races until conditions are safe for the animals they claim to care about.

Stay tuned for more updates on the deadly 2023 Triple Crown racing season.

Update (June 7, 2023): PETA is calling on the New York Racing Association and the New York State Gaming Commission to cancel all horseracing and training in the state on Thursday, June 8, and potentially this weekend due to smoke and the dangerous particulate level. The safety of the horses must come before profit and tradition, even if it means postponing the Belmont Stakes.

If the air in New York is unsafe for humans, it will be worse for horses running at top speed. Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, Penn National Race Course, and Delaware Park have already announced closures today.

Update (June 2, 2023): Progress! Following an urgent plea from PETA, Churchill Downs has suspended all racing on the recommendation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. The authority is continuing its investigation into the deaths of 12 horses there over the past month. But this isn’t cause for celebration just yet—although PETA is relieved that horses won’t be dying at Churchill Downs, all races have been moved to Ellis Park. We must not let horse racing authorities just shift the problem elsewhere. Horses are dying at all tracks—and the racing industry isn’t doing enough to stop it.

Update (May 30, 2023): On the heels of the death of Kimberley Dream—the 12th horse to die at Churchill Downs during the 2023 Triple Crown season—the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) has launched an investigation into the recent deaths at the track. PETA rushed a letter to HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus urging her to suspend all racing and timed workouts at the track until the investigation is complete.

It’s likely that one or more factors are contributing to the fatalities. Whether it’s medication masking preexisting injuries, tired horses with a recent history of multilength losses who are being forced to run, illegal drugging, issues with track surfaces, inadequate or underused veterinary exams, the absence of screening technology, or a combination of these and other issues, it’s clear that Churchill Downs is not currently safe for Thoroughbreds. It makes little sense to investigate the cause or causes for the deaths while continuing to risk the lives of dozens of other horses. Stay posted for more updates on this deadly 2023 Triple Crown racing season.

Update (May 27, 2023): Kimberley Dream is now the 12th horse to die at Churchill Downs since April 27. She was euthanized after rupturing a ligament in her front leg. One day prior, on May 26, Lost in Limbo became the 11th horse to die at the track after he crashed nose-first and lay heaving in the dirt. Churchill Downs is complicit in these deaths for not shutting down the track in order to implement lifesaving changes recommended by PETA.

Lost in Limbo should have been scratched (eliminated) before the race when he threw the jockey riding him and took flight, but he was remounted and forced to run. It’s not clear whether a veterinarian examined him after he broke free.

CEO Bill Carstanjen needs to stop hoping things will get better, be a leader, and take action now. If he won’t, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission needs to do it for him.

—PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo

PETA’s exclusive video shows the fatal fall—watch now and take action.

Update (May 24, 2023): Ahead of the Belmont Stakes—the last of the Triple Crown races and New York’s biggest racing day of the year—PETA is asking New York officials to get serious about preventing horses from dying. On the heels of nine horses’ deaths at Churchill Downs and after a Bob Baffert–trained horse sustained a fatal injury at Pimlico Race Course on Preakness Stakes day, PETA urged the New York State Gaming Commission to mandate CT scans of all Belmont Stakes entrants and, if possible, all other horses racing that weekend.

Ninety percent of horses who suffer catastrophic breakdowns have preexisting injuries, which CT scans would pick up, at the site of the bone break. Ninety-nine horses reportedly died last year on New York tracks, including 46 at Belmont Park, which ranks among the deadliest venues in the nation.

Installing CT equipment is the least that the racing board could do to help prevent horses from sustaining fatal injuries.

Update (May 22, 2023): In race six on the Preakness Stakes day, Thoroughbred Havnameltdown sustained a shattered bone and was euthanized on the track. That makes ten horses who have died at Triple Crown tracks since the week before the Kentucky Derby, with another race still to go.

Records show that Havnameltdown, trained by Bob Baffert, had received medication for soreness in his legs in April.

Bob Baffert should get an Academy Award rather than the Preakness trophy. He acted on Saturday as though he had no idea how Havnameltdown could have shattered a bone at Pimlico. He stated, “We never had an issue with him,” and further suggested that the bump to the horse out of the gate may have contributed to the injury. But California records show that in April, Havnameltdown was administered a powerful corticosteroid injection in his leg joints, an indicator of extreme soreness. The horse is now dead—and Baffert’s career should be, too. The racing industry tolerates him at its own peril.

—PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo

Originally posted on May 19, 2023:

The deadly race for the Triple Crown—which consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes—is underway, leaving a trail of dead horses in its wake. Eight horses have died at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby: Thoroughbreds Freezing Point and Chloe’s Dream, who both died on Derby Day; Code of Kings, who broke his neck in a paddock before a race; Wild On Ice, who was euthanized after sustaining a bone fracture while training for the Kentucky Derby; Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, who both collapsed on the track and died after races; Take Charge Briana, who was euthanized after sustaining an injury during a race; and Rio Moon, who was euthanized after breaking his leg during a race.

Churchill Downs claims that it is determined to “continually improve upon the highest industry standards.” If this statement were true, the company would have shut down its track so that stronger protocols could be implemented to protect horses—like PETA asked.

On the heels of the deaths at Churchill Downs, PETA’s renewing our call for racetracks to enact more protections for horses, including replacing dirt tracks with high-quality synthetic ones, installing CT equipment to detect injuries before horses get on the track, and banning all medications two weeks before a race.

The horse racing industry continually profits off forcing horses to run. Trainers often push them beyond their limits and subject them to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance. When the horses can no longer be exploited, they’re “retired”—which, for many of them, means they’re sent to slaughterhouses.


Real sports don’t have body counts.

♬ original sound – PETA

Tell Racetracks to Adopt PETA’s Protections for Horses

It doesn’t matter who makes it across the finish line first—there are no winners in horse racing. While this activity will always be cruel to horses—because no animal deserves to be exploited for entertainment—racetracks should at least do the bare minimum by implementing the changes that PETA has suggested. If the industry can’t get the number of deaths down to zero, the “sport” should be buried.

Please share this page on social media and send a tweet to Churchill Downs urging it to adopt safer regulations for horses.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind