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Horses die in consecutive races at Belmont Park, following history-making event


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ELMONT, NEW YORK – JUNE 10: Arcangelo with Javier Castellano up wins the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Al Bello | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Horses died in consecutive races at Belmont Park, dealing more untimely blows to the beleaguered sport which had little time to celebrate of its most uplifting events of the year.

Mashnee Girltrained by Mark Hennig, broke down in the first race on Sunday, suffering a catastrophic injury to her left front leg at the storied race course just outside of New York City before she was put down.

“Despite the immediate response and best efforts of on-site attending veterinarians, the horse was humanely euthanized due to the severity of the injury,” New York Racing Association Vice President Patrick McKenna said in a statement on Sunday.

About 17 hours earlier, in the 13th race on Saturday, a similar fate befell Hennig-trained Excursionniste, was also suffered a fatal injury to the front left ankle.

Both tragedies happened on Belmont’s turf course as the field was nearing the top of the stretch.

“I’m not holding up very well,” an emotional Hennig told NBC News, sniffling throughout the conversation. “It’s been very emotional. I just can’t fathom this ever happening, two horses you run in a row. I mean I’ve run over 10,000 horses and have never had anything close to this.”

That tragedy unfolded just after the 12th race, when Arcangelo won the Belmont Stakes and made Jena Antonucci the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown jewel.

Animal rights group PETA was quick to blame Belmont for the twin tragedies.

“Two dead Thoroughbreds in two days with the same trainer on the same track means one thing: Belmont Park is failing to protect horses,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “Like Churchill Downs, Belmont must suspend racing immediately to avoid the same bloodbath. Anything less makes Belmont complicit in the fatalities.”

Including Mashnee Girl and Excursionniste, four horses have died during races at Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet, which began on May 4 and has encompassed 1,670 horses starting in 214 races, according to McKenna.

“NYRA’s comprehensive safety strategy is informed by the most advanced science and research in consultation with independent experts, veterinarians, and horsemen,” the NYRA rep said. “The health and safety of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority and one that stands above all other considerations.”

Mashnee Girl and Excursionniste both had clean bills of health with no concern for racing, their trainer said.

“Neither one of them has been on a vet’s list, they’re clean-legged horses,” Hennig said. “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.”

Saturday’s Belmont Stakes capped a tumultuous five weeks of racing that normally shines a bright light on the sport of kings. Instead, a string of untimely death raised questions about the sport’s viability.

week ago Friday, Churchill Downs, host of the Kentucky Derby, announced it had temporarily stopped racing there to investigate its recent fatalities.

And shortly before National Treasure won the Preakness, the ordinarily party-filled day at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore was overshadowed by tragedy when Havnameltdown broke down at the top of the stretch of the $200,000 Grade IIII Chick Lang Stakes and had to be put down.

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