Fourth Horse Dead Just This Year at Local Track

PETA Urges Investigation Into Mahoning Valley Race Course

For Immediate Release:
February 23, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Youngstown, Ohio – Following the fatal breakdown of the Thoroughbred Uncaptured Soldier on Tuesday, PETA rushed a letter to Ohio State Racing Commission Executive Director Chris Dragone and Mahoning Valley Race Course Assistant Director Elizabeth Rogers, calling on them to open an immediate investigation into the horse’s death, including an independent and transparent inspection of the track, and to suspend all races during the investigation. PETA also urges the track to replace the dirt surface with a safer synthetic material, such as Tapeta.

“It’s critical that the cause of Uncaptured Soldier’s death be investigated and determined,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is relieved that officials suspended racing during the coldest weather, following our request, but we ask that all possible measures be taken to protect horses, including installation of a synthetic surface to prevent further deaths.”

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PETA’s letter to Dragone and Rogers follows.

February 23, 2022

Chris Dragone, Executive Director, Ohio State Racing Commission

Elizabeth Rogers, Assistant Director of Racing, Mahoning Valley Race Course

Dear Mr. Dragone and Ms. Rogers:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals U.S.—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally—to request immediate suspension of racing at Mahoning Valley Race Course until a full independent and transparent inspection of the track is conducted. An investigation into the fatal breakdown of a 4-year-old Thoroughbred, Uncaptured Soldier, during race seven on Tuesday, February 22, at the race course should also be conducted. He was trained by Jay P. Bernardini and owned by Mitre Box Stable.

The environmental conditions surrounding the death of Uncaptured Soldier require close examination. The track was recorded as being “Muddy (Sealed)”. Sealing can make a dirt track even harder, meaning that horses are racing on a less cushioned surface that puts more stressful impact on their bones, leading to injuries. “[S]ealed tracks … transmit ‘greater loads’ to the limbs during each stride, leading to increased ‘microscopic damage’ within the skeleton,” said Sue Stover, a professor of anatomy, physiology, and cell biology at the University of California–Davis.1

While we applaud the caution taken to cancel races at Mahoning Valley Race Course during the recent freezing weather after we wrote, the same discretion should be applied during other unsafe track conditions that can quickly make dirt tracks unsuitable for racing. The Jockey Club’s own statistics show that synthetics are safer than dirt, in 2019 and 2020, synthetic surfaces had fewer than 1 death per 1,000 starts versus dirt tracks which had more than 1.5 deaths per 1,000 starts. A statistically safer surface such as Tapeta should replace the dangerous dirt track before more horses die.

Mahoning Valley Race Course was also closed for several days after the freezing temperatures, indicating that there may be a serious issue with the current track surface. Four horses have already died at the track this year. Please take immediate action to protect horses in Ohio by investigating the death of Uncaptured Soldier and immediately suspending racing until a full independent and transparent inspection of the track is conducted.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Kathy Guillermo

Senior Vice President

Equine Matters Department

1Ross, D. (2019, April 10). Synthetics and sealed dirt: The science, data and expert opinion. Thoroughbred Daily News. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

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