By Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2021

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) - The deaths of three thoroughbreds at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has caught the attention of an animal protection group.

The horses died within a 10-day span, including back-to-back nights last week, The Journal reported. According to Equibase, Venetian Drive and Don’tmesswithbull were both fatally injured. Best Shot “chased the pace inside and raced at the rail through the turn then showed no response to riders’ urging.” All three horses were euthanized.

“The continued rampant horse deaths at Charles Town are inhumane and unconscionable, and 2021 looks to be no different than years past,” Marty Irby, the executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., said. “As veterinarians continue to inject horses with performance-enhancing cocktails, the body count continues to climb at one of the most dangerous tracks in America.”

Erich Zimny, vice president of racing operations for Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, said the track takes safety of the horses seriously.

“Over the past few years, our rate of fatal breakdowns for racing has improved each year, and the fatality rate we saw in 2020 would have been lower than the annual national average six of the past 10 years there’s been a national number reported,” Zimny said. “That doesn’t happen if we don’t take promoting a safe environment seriously.”

The track is three-quarters of a mile long and holds more than 200 races every year.

Irby thinks the Dec. 27 passage of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act could help protect horses. It bans the use of drugs on horses on race days and creates a national standard for drug-testing and enforcement, which is to be overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The act must go into effect by July 1, 2022, at the latest.

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