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Horse collapses and dies after race at Pimlico ahead of Preakness

Officials tend to Congrats Gal after the filly collapsed at the end of the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes on Friday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
(Lauren Helber / AP)

As Santa Anita enters a seventh consecutive week without a catastrophic horse fatality, sister track Pimlico Race Course had an on-track death after the conclusion of a graded stakes race on Friday, the second-biggest day of the 12-day meeting.

Congrats Gal, running in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, collapsed and died just past the finish line after being eased through the final sixteenth of a mile. A catastrophic injury was unlikely, since the horse did not break down and was not euthanized. No cause of death was immediately announced, but when a horse dies in that manner the cause is most often a heart attack.

A necropsy will be performed.

“Congrats Gal suffered sudden death after the eighth race [Friday],” the Maryland Jockey Club and Stronach Group said in a statement. “The incident occurred after the wire. Commission veterinarians attended to the horse immediately. Our thoughts go out to all of the owners, trainers and connections of Congrats Gal.”

Congrats Gal was making her sixth start and had won her last two races.

“The sickening collapse and sudden death of Congrats Gal at Pimlico [Friday] are proof that the Maryland racing industry has not done enough to protect horses,” said Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “We will be contacting the district attorney’s office, as we did in California, where the D.A. has appointed a task force to investigate training and veterinary practices.”

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Horse safety has become one of the biggest issues in the industry after 23 horses died either in training or racing at Santa Anita between Dec. 26 and March 31. The fact that no horses have died since then is almost as big of a statistical anomaly as the original spate of deaths.

It has not been determined what caused the fatalities at Santa Anita, although most point to a racing surface that had been inundated by rain and the constant sealing and unsealing of the track.

The centerpiece of Friday’s racing at Pimlico was the Grade 2 $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, also for 3-year-old fillies.

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In 2016, two horses died on the Preakness Stakes day undercard. Homeboykris, a 9-year-old gelding, died of a heart attack on the way back to the barns and Pramedya, a 4-year-old filly, fractured a left front cannon bone and was euthanized.

After the series of deaths at Santa Anita, Belinda Stronach, chief executive officer of The Stronach Group, instituted a series of safety reforms at the company’s two California tracks—Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields—that included a reduction in race day medication and more extensive veterinarian oversight, among other initiatives.

At the time, she said she wanted to implement the reforms at all the company’s tracks, to include Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland and Gulfstream in Florida, but negotiations with the different owner, trainer and jockey groups in other jurisdictions are ongoing and new measures are not in place.


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