Leaked E-Mails Reveal Horse Was Apparently Injured Just a Week Before Fatal Race on Belmont Stakes Weekend

Trainer Claimed to Be Baffled by Horse’s Death; PETA Files Complaint With New York State Gaming Commission

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Elmont, N.Y.

PETA has obtained e-mails revealing that Excursionniste, the Thoroughbred who shattered a leg and was euthanized on June 10 at Belmont Park, was allegedly injured just a week before the race—something trainer Mark Hennig had failed to reveal in media statements, in which he claimed the horse was “clean-legged.” This morning, PETA filed a complaint with the New York State Gaming Commission naming both Excursionniste and a second horse also trained by Hennig, Mashnee Girl, who died the next day, alleging that Hennig violated rules prohibiting fraud or misrepresentation and action detrimental to racing.

The first of the two e-mails appears to be from Joe Tartaglia of Little Blue Bird Stables, which owned Excursionniste, to his partners. It states that the horse’s right front ankle was sore and that he was not consistently putting weight on it. The second e-mail, which also seems to be from Tartaglia to his partners, was sent after Excursionniste was euthanized and calls the fracture a “freak accident,” blaming it on a “bad step.”

Last week, PETA released evidence that Mashnee Girl, also trained by Hennig, had fractured her right sesamoid in 2020 and had a screw inserted during the repair surgery—another fact Hennig had failed to disclose, claiming, “These horses were in good, sound racing condition.” Both horses sustained fatal breaks of the left front leg, which is consistent with additional stress to the leg due to soreness in the previously injured right leg.

“Trainer Mark Hennig didn’t win a race, but he should get a Tony Award for his performance for the media,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “If Hennig raced sore horses, he’s responsible for their deaths, and the gaming commission must revoke his license immediately.”

The fatal injuries of Excursionniste and Mashnee Girl on Belmont Stakes weekend capped a deadly Triple Crown season. Twelve horses died at Churchill Downs in the weeks before and after the Kentucky Derby, and one horse died at Pimlico on Preakness Stakes day. PETA released exclusive video footage of the catastrophic injury of one of the horses, Lost in Limbo, who had died at Churchill Downs on May 26.

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, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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