A necropsy done on a horse that died before a race last month at The Meadows Racetrack indicates that she succumbed to natural causes.
Lislea Isabella, an 8-year-old mare, died of either exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging, an electrolyte imbalance or some other cause, according to the necropsy report released by Samantha Krepps, press secretary for the state Department of Agriculture.
Krepps wrote in an email that blood and urine samples sent to a lab revealed no abnormalities.
Lislea Isabella was the first of two horses to die within about 15 minutes Feb. 4 at the North Strabane Township track. Little Bit Tricky, a 7-year-old mare, was euthanized by a veterinarian on site after breaking a leg during her race. A necropsy was not done on that horse because the cause of death was known, Krepps wrote.
There were no other injuries.
The two horses were scheduled late on the 16-race card on a snowy afternoon. Lislea Isabella was preparing for the 14th race when, according to her driver, Brady Brown, she appeared to “choke down” – an industry term for a type of inability to breathe.
Little Bit Tricky was competing in the 15th. The final race was canceled.
Meadows officials the next day categorized the dual deaths as almost unfathomable.
“I haven’t seen this in the 20 years I’ve been around,” said Mike Jeannot, president of Meadows Racing. “My understanding is we lose an average of three horses a year for different reasons.”
Two days later, harness racing officials denied the snowy conditions were factors in the deaths. A replay of the 15th race on The Meadows’ website showed that snow was falling and some snow was on the racing surface.
In a statement posted on the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association website the day after that card, Executive Director Kim Hankins said a decision to cancel the 16th race was due, in part, to “subpar track conditions.”