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NFL legend’s horse euthanized after suffering catastrophic injury during race

Maple Leaf Mel, the filly part-owned by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, was euthanized at a race in New York on Saturday after the horse sustained a catastrophic leg injury right before the finish line.

The horse appeared to fall as it was about to cross the finish line during the $500,000 test at Saratoga and jockey Joel Rosario went airborne and was later hospitalized. He received stitches for facial abrasions, according to the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

Maple Leaf Mel was 5-0 in her career and was leading the pack when she injured her front leg. Veterinarians tended to the horse but the NYRA said she was euthanized due to the severity of the injury. The organization said the horse passed the required pre-race veterinary inspection.

“The health and safety of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority and one that stands above all other considerations,” NYRA vice president of communications Pat McKenna said.

“NYRA, HISA and the New York State Gaming Commission will closely review the circumstances around this incident to ensure we are providing the safest possible environment for racing and training at Saratoga Race Course.”


Parcells has a hand in August Dawn Farm, which owned the horse. Melanie Giddings trained Maple Leaf Mel.

“I feel so bad for the connections of Mel,” jockey Tyler Gaffalione said afterward. “It’s hard to enjoy this one thinking about that. My condolences go out to their team. Hopefully they’re able to get through this and God bless them.”

Gaffalione rode Pretty Mischievous to victory in the race.

Saratoga Springs in 2019

Parcells, 81, was at the track with friends but didn’t immediately comment on the death of the horse, according to Daily Racing Forum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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