PETA Wants Investigation into Death of Hoboken Hustle

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The nonprofit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, called on the Ohio State Racing Commission to investigate the death of thoroughbred mare Hoboken Hustle.

In a letter dated Jan. 26 addressed to Chris Dragone, executive director of the racing commission, Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA’s Equine Matters Department writes Hoboken Hustle was euthanized after apparently breaking her leg when racing at Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Race Course in snowy, below-freezing weather on Monday. The injury happened in the first minute, seen HERE. (Warning: The video may be upsetting to some viewers.)

The nonprofit points out dirt race tracks can freeze in cold weather and the hardened surface increases stress on the horses’ legs, leading to injuries.

“As the track freezes, it hardens, meaning that the horses are racing on a less cushioned surface that puts a more stressful impact on their bones, leading to injuries,” Guillermo writes. “PETA is urging the Ohio State Racing Commission to investigate this horse’s death and determine whether the race should’ve been canceled because of unsafe conditions.”

In an emailed response to The Business Journal, Elizabeth Rogers, assistant director of racing with Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Race Course, said the racino will work with the Ohio Horse Racing Commission should it have any requests for additional information.

“The health and safety of the equine participants at all Penn National Gaming racing properties is of paramount importance to the Company,” Rogers stated. “The racing participants who are entrusted with the ownership and ongoing care of these animals must take all reasonable actions to ensure the horses are treated with dignity and respect.”

In the company’s Horse Racing Guide, a code of conduct is established for all racing participants and employees, and is enforced at its racing properties, Rogers stated. Animal welfare is “prominently addressed” in the guide, with sanctions and/or penalties for those who “engage in actions detrimental or not in the best interests of the animal.”

Six-year-old Hoboken Hustle, who competed in Race 9 on Monday, was trained by Joseph M. Poole and owned by Christi Esposito.

Guillermo said in a letter to Ohio State Racing Commission Executive Director Chris Dragone the recorded high temperature was 27 degrees in Youngstown on Monday with highs only reaching 25 degrees over the weekend.

Read the full text of Guillermo’s letter below:

Dear Mr. Dragone:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally—to request an investigation into the fatal breakdown of a 6-year-old Thoroughbred mare, Hoboken Hustle, during race nine on Monday, January 24, 2022, at Mahoning Valley Race Course. She was trained by Joseph M. Poole and owned by Christi Esposito.

The environmental conditions surrounding the death of Hoboken Hustle require close examination. The temperature was a recorded high of 27 degrees in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday. The preceding Saturday and Sunday, the high reached only 25 degrees. In the video replay of the incident, snow is visible around the track before Hoboken Hustle is injured. Video replay is available here at 0:48 and hereat 0:39.

Horses are pushed to the limit every time they race, and the additional stress of plummeting temperatures can cause lung injury and damage to their respiratory tracts. Extra caution should be taken with horses who have a history of moderate to severe exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, as they experience an increased risk of respiratory distress in the extreme cold. Snow, combined with temperatures as low as those on Monday at Mahoning Valley Race Course, can quickly become dangerous for horses: As the track freezes, it hardens, meaning the horses are racing on a less cushioned surface that puts more stressful impact on their bones, leading to injuries. Was this the case with Hoboken Hustle?

To protect the health of horses and jockeys, tracks across the country have previously postponed races when dangerous temperatures were expected, including Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. When it canceled its racing card for Monday, January 24, 2022, the high temperature expected for the day near the track was 36 degrees.

An average of three horses die in racing every day, and extreme cold can easily add to this death toll. Hoboken Hustle was racing on a dirt track, which is harder and is known to cause more fatalities than synthetic and turf surfaces—this is exacerbated if the dirt track is frozen. By suspending racing until temperatures rise, racetracks can help forestall further deaths. Please take immediate action to protect horses in Ohio by investigating the death of Hoboken Hustle and implementing cold-weather policies for racing.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Kathy Guillermo 
Senior Vice President 
Equine Matters Department

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