Heat Hazard for Horses: Cancel Monmouth Park Races, Urges PETA

For Immediate Release:
July 22, 2022

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Oceanport, N.J. – With temperatures expected to reach the mid-90s in New Jersey this weekend, PETA rushed a letter today to Monmouth Park Director of Racing and Racing Secretary John Heims, urging him to cancel the upcoming races if the heat stress index exceeds 160, noting that high temperatures can put horses at risk of incurring brain damage, heatstroke, and fatal cardiac trauma. The group also requested that, regardless of the heat stress index, officials allocate more time for thorough pre-race exams to identify any signs of distress, dehydration, or heatstroke in horses.

PETA is particularly concerned about the Baffert-trained horse Taiba, slated to run in the Haskell Stakes, given the number of horses from his barn—including Medina Spirit—who have mysteriously collapsed and died.

“Horses are pushed to the limit every time they race, and the added physical stress caused by skyrocketing temperatures can have deadly consequences,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is calling on Monmouth Park to prevent another tragedy by canceling races in the face of extreme heat.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Heims follows.

July 22, 2022

John Heims

Director of Racing and Racing Secretary

Monmouth Park

Dear Mr. Heims:

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 urge you to protect horses by suspending racing at Monmouth Park if the heat stress index exceeds 160 and to take additional steps to guard against the effects of the high temperatures.

Temperatures are expected to reach close to 94 degrees in Oceanport on Saturday, when races are scheduled to be held. The temperature and the heat index are forecast to be even higher on Sunday. Horses are pushed to the limit every time they race, and the additional stress of skyrocketing temperatures can cause brain damage, collapse as a result of heatstroke, and fatal cardiac trauma.

If the heat stress index is below 160 and races are conducted, extra caution should be taken and additional protocols should be implemented, including allocating more time for thorough pre-race exams to identify any signs of distress, dehydration, or heatstroke.

Given Bob Baffert’s history of training horses who suddenly and mysteriously collapse and die, including Medina Spirit—who died suddenly and unexpectedly at Santa Anita Park—these precautions are especially important for the Baffert-trained Thoroughbred Taiba.

There are many examples of horses who have experienced breakdowns or collapse because of heat, including Merciless Cat, who endured a catastrophic breakdown when his aorta burst while the temperature at the track was over 100 degrees—video footage of this incident is available here.

To protect the health of horses and jockeys, tracks across the country have previously postponed races when high temperatures or heat indexes were expected, including Laurel Park in Maryland, which has canceled races this weekend, as dangerous temperatures are forecast there.

An average of three horses die in racing every day, and extreme heat can easily add to this death toll. By suspending racing until temperatures cool down, racetracks can help forestall further heat-related deaths. Please take immediate action to protect horses in New Jersey.

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

Sincerely,

Kathy Guillermo

Senior Vice President

Equine Matters Department

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