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PETA Purchases Stock in Companies Owning Race Tracks, Wants Boards to Adopt Safety Measures

Animal welfare organization PETA announced Friday a plan to take its concerns over horse racing straight to the boardrooms of four publicly traded companies that own tracks across the US.

Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Ohio is one of the tracks owned by Boyd Gaming. PETA announced Friday it purchased shares of Boyd and three other racetrack owning companies in hopes of instituting changes in the sport. (Image: Belterra Park/Globe Newswire)

The nonprofit group said that it bought shares of stock in VICI Properties, Boyd Gaming, Penn National Gaming, and Gaming and Leisure Properties. Those companies own track in West Virginia, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

In a release, PETA did not reveal how much stock it purchased.

We buy just enough shares to be able to attend meetings and introduce resolutions,” PETA Media Division Manager David Perle told Casino.org. “So dividends, if there are any, are small. They would be put into the campaign.”

The activist investment announcement came one week prior to the start of the Breeders’ Cup, the world championship meet held annually. This year’s races will take place at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., a privately owned track.

PETA to Offer Tracks 11 Recommendations

PETA is seeking changes in racing at a time when the sport is under increased scrutiny.

It wants to offer up to 11 recommendations to the companies in hopes boards will adopt the measures. PETA wants to ban the use of any medication on racehorses for two weeks leading up to a race. The group will also encourage tracks to change their dirt surfaces to synthetic materials, which have been shown to result in fewer catastrophic injuries.

“Track owners in California and Kentucky are changing their rules and sparing horses a gruesome death, and every track owner in every racing state needs to do the same,” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. “PETA is eager to get inside the boardroom and push racetracks to make simple changes that will make a world of difference for vulnerable horses.”

PETA’s also calling for a ban on the use of whips or riding crops by jockeys. Currently, the use of crops is determined by state regulatory bodies in each of the 38 states where racing is legal. Those rules vary greatly in how often and when riders can strike.

Group Wants Trainers Banned

Another step PETA wants is for states to ban trainers after they’ve been found guilty of either multiple drug dosage violations or inflicting harm on horses in their care.

Just last month, PETA called for Kentucky officials to ban Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert after it was reported that his filly, Gamine, failed a drug test after finishing third in the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks. In May, Gamine was one of two Baffert horses that won races at Oaklawn Park, but were disqualified after drug screens showed lidocaine in their systems.

Baffert’s attorney issued a statement after The New York Times reported the Kentucky Derby test results. The attorney noted that the veterinarian followed Kentucky racing guidelines and gave Gamine an injection of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication, 18 days before the Oaks. State guidelines recommend injections at least two weeks before a race.

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney, said Gamine’s test revealed she had 27 picograms in her system. The testing guideline is 10 picograms.

Less than a week later, it was revealed another Baffert horse failed a drug test at Del Mar, a racetrack in Southern California. Robertson said the horse received Dextrorphan, a cough suppressant, in an accidental contamination. A groomsman caring for Merneith had been exposed to COVID-19 and was taking over-the-counter medications.

Baffert faces a hearing next week before the California Horse Racing Board on the Merneith violation.

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