Disaster at the Downs
As BetUS reported in its Kentucky Derby news edition last week, the number of horses that had died at Churchill Downs leading up to the Derby was alarming. But since that report, two more thoroughbreds have died and the Kentucky Derby favorite, Forte, was scratched from the race.
What The Hell Is Going On Here?
Back in 1967, approaching the height of the Vietnam War when protests in the United States had become a common occurrence, Buffalo Springfield wrote a song whose first few lines were: “There’s something happening here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear.”
Well, that’s the first thing I thought of last week when I reported on the several equine fatalities at Churchill Downs in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby. For those that aren’t in the loop, the mysterious deaths began occurring on April 29 when a 3-year-old gelding, Code of Kings, continued to flip before a race and ultimately suffered a broken neck.
Following that incident, Take Charge Briana and a long-shot Derby contender, Wild on Ice, had to be put to sleep after the former was injured training on the turf while the latter suffered an injury on dirt.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A 7th horse has died at Churchill Downs ahead of the Kentucky Derby, with 2 euthanized after racing on undercard.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) May 6, 2023
But that wasn’t the end of it. Parents Pride and Chasing Artie raced on separate days and both collapsed after their races and died. What the hell?! After reporting on this I thought to myself, “There’s something happening here. What it is, ain’t exactly clear.”
And if the horse racing world was perplexed before, well, they’re even more dumbfounded now after it was revealed two more horses had died on Saturday before the big event. Chloe’s Dream sustained a right front knee injury after the second race and Freezing Point badly injured his left ankle after the eighth race. Both were euthanized.
I should also point out that five Derby entries were scratched before the race, including the 3-1 favorite, Forte. This is the highest number of Derby scratches since 1936, the same year Jesse Owens won four gold medals in track and field, BTW.
Churchill Downs stated each horse fatality was “unique“, and added there was “no discernable pattern detected in the injuries sustained.“
Nevertheless, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority will investigate the deaths to try to determine whether this was a staggering coincidence or something more nefarious.
The Ky Horse Racing Commission released the following statement 5 minutes ago about the morning-line Kentucky Derby favorite pic.twitter.com/jdHox4xPQh
— Steve Bittenbender (@BittGDCG) May 8, 2023
Moreover, the University of Kentucky will be conducting post-mortem examinations on the horses according to Kristin Voskuhl, a spokesperson for the Public Protection Cabinet which includes the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Voskukl said in a statement, “The KHRC is committed to the health and safety of every horse and rider and will follow the robust investigative procedures in place for issues of safety and racing integrity.“
Thus far, the only human casualty out of all of this is trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., the trainer for Parents Pride and Chasing Artie. All of Joseph’s subsequent entries, including Derby contender Lord Miles, were scratched by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission while Churchill Downs suspended him until a thorough investigation into the deaths was completed.
But a guy who could be juicing his horses or trying to get an edge by endangering the lives of the horses he trains would not likely comment as Joseph did when asked about the litany of deaths. “This is something that doesn’t happen. I’m shattered, basically, because I know it can’t happen. The odds of it happening twice is in the trillions. I ran almost 4,000 horses and it never happened. It doesn’t make sense.”
And it sure as hell doesn’t make sense to me either. The BetUS team and I will keep you posted on these deadly shenanigans as events unfold.