After a 4-year-old racehorse named Spirogyra broke down on the track at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort on Sunday and had to be euthanized, Animal Wellness Action is urging Arkansas’s congressmen to support a bill to reform the care of racehorses.

Spirogyra, running in the fourth race, a six-furlong claiming race, broke down at the half-mile pole along the rail, throwing his jockey, Fernando De La Cruz. The veterinarian at the track determined that Spirogyra’s injuries and pain were so severe that he needed to be put down.


Animal Wellness Action, which is lobbying Congress for passage if the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would establish a national standard for the use of drugs and medication in horseracing and give drug rulemaking, testing and enforcement oversight to a private nonprofit regulatory agency overseen by the government. The act is sponsored by two Democrats, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and two Republicans, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky and Martha McSally of Arizona. No member of Arkansas’s delegation has signed on.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, blames racetrack deaths on doping:


“American horseracing is addicted to drugs, and it’s time for an intervention. Our modern-day society will no longer tolerate the deaths of these iconic American equines for a two-dollar bet — this isn’t Ancient Rome, it’s 2020.


“It’s unfortunate that the entire Arkansas Congressional Delegation has failed to support the Horseracing Integrity Act, and effort for reform. If the Horseracing Integrity Act fails to soon pass, then horseracing in Arkansas could very well end up just like greyhound racing.”

Southland Casino in West Memphis is phasing out its greyhound racing with the passage of the state’s law allowing sports betting.

Oaklawn maintains it has strict doping rules.


EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier headline on this story was in error.