NEW ORLEANS — J Rob burst out of the gate at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 9 and never gave up the lead.
It was the first -- and last -- time the young thoroughbred would take first place.
He made his way to the winner’s circle and took celebratory pictures. But, as notes from the race show, he was then taken away and euthanized.
It’s not yet clear why.
But J Rob was one of four horses killed at the track between Jan. 9 and Jan. 17.
Video of the other three races show one horse stumbling to the ground mid-stride as his jockey topples off. Another shows a horse quickly slow down after running furiously as the track announcer notes something happened. Another shows horses race past the finish line without jockeys on their backs after a collision earlier.
The number of euthanized horses at the Fair Grounds isn’t high, many trainers say, but it’s alarming to animal advocates.
“Four within just a short period of time, if they keep up at that rate will multiply and be far greater than what we've seen in the past,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action.
Many of the trainers, who spoke to WWL-TV but did not want to be quoted or named, said the concern is overblown. They said it’s simply a coincidence and note that during the entire racing season last year, only two horses were euthanized.
They also say the dirt track has been the same texture -- river sand -- for a century and a base on which the sand sits is at least 15 years old. They also said the turf track is not new this year, something animal advocates said could be a possible culprit.
The renewed concern about thoroughbred safety comes as activists recently protested at Santa Anita Park in California.
Three horses died there in the last three days -- and more than 40 have been euthanized in the last 13 months.
While individuals own the horses that run at the Fair Grounds, the track said it’s doing what it can to make conditions as safe as possible for equine and athletes.
"These recent incidents have been unfortunate and most unusual. We take each and every case very seriously and are committed to investigating every possible contributing factor," the statement reads in part.