For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2023
David Perle 202-483-7382
Elmont, N.Y. – PETA has uncovered evidence that the Thoroughbred mare Mashnee Girl, who shattered a bone and was euthanized at Belmont Park yesterday, fractured a bone in 2020—a fact that neither Belmont Park nor trainer Mark Hennig publicly disclosed. PETA is calling on Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) CEO Lisa Lazarus to investigate why the New York Racing Association permitted a horse who had a bone held together by a screw to race at all.
PETA has also requested that HISA scrutinize Hennig, who apparently disingenuously blamed the deaths of Mashnee Girl and Excursionniste, who sustained a fatal injury on Saturday, on “horrible luck.” He claimed that neither horse had ever had “issues” with “these ankles that fractured”—without mentioning the mare’s previous broken bone in her other ankle.
“Mashnee Girl was previously injured, had a screw in her leg, and was pushed beyond her limits, and the New York Racing Association is responsible,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The safety protocols are the horses’ last line of defense, but they are about as effective as wishful thinking.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Lazarus follows.
June 12, 2023
Lisa Lazarus, CEO
Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority
Dear Ms. Lazarus:
I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally—to share critical information regarding trainer Mark A. Hennig and the deaths of Mashnee Girl,1 a 5-year-old bay mare, and Excursionniste,2 a 4-year-old dark bay gelding, at Belmont Park on June 11 and 10, respectively. This information should be considered in your investigation of these catastrophic injures.
It appears that Hennig withheld relevant information in his public comments and may have failed to disclose critical information about Mashnee Girl’s condition to Belmont Park stewards and veterinary examiners. Hennig stated, “Neither one of them has been on a vet’s list, they’re clean-legged horses. … It’s just horrible, horrible, horrible luck. These horses were in good, sound racing condition. These two horses never had issues with these ankles, the same ankles that fractured.”3 In fact, Mashnee Girl sustained a sesamoid fracture in 2020. Publicly available information and news articles indicate that the equine veterinarian Patty Hogan performed surgery and placed a screw in the right sesamoid.4,5 Photos of Mashnee Girl’s X-ray and preexisting injury can be seen here.6
It appears that Belmont Park and the New York Racing Association (NYRA) may also have failed to examine records adequately. Mashnee Girl’s injury, history, surgery, and year-long layoff 7 should have, at the very least, prompted enhanced scrutiny and physical examination. Furthermore, her 2020 injury would likely have placed her on the veterinary list, contrary to Hennig’s statement.
Additionally, a simple CT scan would have detected possible injuries in or vulnerabilities to the leg that was fractured on June 11. If Mashnee Girl’s previously fractured leg was painful, she may have stressed the other front leg to compensate. As you know, PETA asked the New York State Gaming Commission and NYRA to require CT scans for the Belmont Stakes weekend.8
As you know, 90% of horses who suffer catastrophic breakdowns have preexisting injuries,9 most of which CT scans would reveal, at the site of the bone break. Modern technology has already been used successfully by Racing Australia, which instituted a mandatory screening policy for the Melbourne Cup following a high-profile horse racing death and a public outcry in 2020. (We would be happy to connect you with the manufacturers of standing, low-radiation imaging equipment.)
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Senior Vice President
Equine Matters Department
1Equibase. (n.d.). Horse Profile. https://www.equibase.com/profiles/Results.cfm?type=Horse&refno=10437348®istry=T
2Equibase. (n.d.). Horse Profile. https://www.equibase.com/profiles/Results.cfm?type=Horse&refno=10601902®istry=T
3Wenig, S. (2023, June 11). Horses die in consecutive races at Belmont Park after history-making event. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/horses-die-consecutive-races-belmont-park-history-making-event-rcna88766
4NYRA Press Office. (2022, January 14). ‘Patience was worth it’: Mashnee Girl provides thrill to boutique New York operation. Paulick Report. https://paulickreport.com/news/people/patience-was-worth-it-mashnee-girl-provides-thrill-to-boutique-new-york-operation/
5Hogan, P. [@HoganEquine]. (2023, February 4.) We truly treasure our client and patient relationships. In 2020 we fixed this very tough sesamoid fx in a lovely [Tweet; photos]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/HoganEquine/status/1621939093532807168
6Hogan, P. [@HoganEquine]. (2023, February 4.) We truly treasure our client and patient relationships. In 2020 we fixed this very tough sesamoid fx in a lovely [Tweet; photos]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/HoganEquine/status/1621939093532807168
7NYRA Press Office. (2022, January 14). ‘Patience was worth it’: Mashnee Girl provides thrill to boutique New York operation. Paulick Report. https://paulickreport.com/news/people/patience-was-worth-it-mashnee-girl-provides-thrill-to-boutique-new-york-operation/
8Fenner, J. (2023, June 11). Belmont Park is plunged into controversy again as another horse is killed—just 24 hours after a first died at the track—as PETA calls for racing to be ‘suspended immediately.’ Daily Mail. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-12183527/Belmont-Stakes-plunged-controversy-horse-dies-24-hours-passes.html
9Samol, M.A., Uzal, F.A., Blanchard, P.C., Arthur, R.M., and Stover, S.M. (2021). Sudden death caused by spinal cord injury associated with vertebral fractures and fetlock failure in a Thoroughbred racehorse. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, 33(4), 788-791. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/10406387211018289