Turf Paradise looks to prevent injuries amid spike in horse deaths

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - A morning warm up isn't just routine at Turf Paradise, it's mandatory so the horses are properly prepared for a long and busy race season.

That includes eight races a day for 131 live days and general manager Vince Francia says like any sport, horseracing has its risks.

"We've had a number of incidents in the past meet that raised alarm," he said.

An incident, according to Francia, would be when a horse suffers an injury on the track while racing that leads to the death of that horse -- likely an ankle or tendon injury.

What is alarming to Francia and the committee that governs the track are the increase in those fatalities.

"The numbers start two seasons ago when we were tracking right with the national average the national average is about 1.3 fatalities per 1,000 starts," he said.

Last year at Turf Paradise, the number of fatalities was more than double that average -- 27 horses died last season.

So far this season, which began in October, 14 horses have died.

Every racing season we change the sand and the dirt on the track, so it's fresh," Francia said. "We maintain it every day."

Francia says they're examining the dirt and changing pre-race protocol so a vet now checks all horses racing, instead of the previously 15 pre-selected animals.

"I think we have gotten to the point where we can't see the forest between the trees, therefore, we want some fresh eyes," he said.

Turf Paradise is also looking to work with outside sources, someone who can look at the statistics and help decrease the number of deaths.