Turf Paradise to give pre-race veterinary exams to all horses

PHOENIX (AP/KSAZ) -- Turf Paradise plans to start giving pre-race veterinary examinations to all horses on a given day in an attempt to curb a recent rise in fatalities.

According to a recent study by the Arizona Department of Gaming, 50 horses were euthanized during the 2017-18 season at Arizona racing tracks, mostly after they suffered leg or ankle injuries during a race.

That number is twice the national equine death rate at tracks.

45 of those deaths were at Turf Paradise, and 27 of those were racing-related. The other 18 were due to training, illness or disease.

Turf Paradise officials announced Wednesday that starting March 18, about 65 horses will be examined on race days.

"We wanted to implement something that's working, and make it even better," said Vincent Francia, General Manager with Turf Paradise. "The goal is zero fatalities. Is that idealistic yes, there are inherent dangers in the sport, but nevertheless that's the goal."

Previously, about 15 horses received pre-race exams per day based on selections by the stewards.

"They go over the past performance of the horses, which is really the history of the horse, and if they see something in that past performance, that maybe this horse should be looked at," said Francia.

Now, all 65 racing will be seen by the vet.

"If they see something they're not comfortable with, then that horse is scratched, and if that horse is scratched, then it's given time off and it must do a workout in front of that vet to make sure everything is OK," said Francia.

Turf Paradise has 131 live racing days per year from mid-October to early May. The new protocol will go into effect on March 18, and will continue through the rest of the season.

The thoroughbred and quarter horse racetrack opened in January 1956.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.