Kentucky Derby overshadowed by 6 horse deaths in 10 days, scratched favorite
As the Kentucky Derby gets set to kick off Saturday evening, Churchill Downs sees its sixth horse death in the hours leading up to the race, as well as favorite-to-win Forte scratched due to a bruised foot.
The sobering events serve as further blows to a sport already suffering from a string of doping suspensions and breakdowns.
“This is part of racing and it’s the cruel part,” said Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte, during an interview with FanDuel TV.
Forte became the fifth scratch from the $3-million race. Chloe’s Dream, a 3-year-old gelding running on the Derby undercard, became the sixth horse to have died at Churchill Downs since April 27.
“It’s concerning, and I hope they’re quickly trying the best they can to correct whatever’s going on,” said Michael Freeze, who attended the race with his friend, dressed up as jockeys. “They need to do whatever is best for the horses, and the sport in general.”
Chloe’s Dream was competing in the second race Saturday, when it took a bad step on the first turn. An equine ambulance took the horse off the track, diagnosing it with a right front knee injury. Chloe’s Dream was later euthanized, said trainer Jeff Hiles.
“He just took a bad step out there,” said Hiles. “They could do the same thing running in the field as they could on the track. So it’s very unfortunate. That’s what we deal with,” he added.
The other horse deaths at the track included Derby contender Wild On Ice, while two of the horses lost had been overseen by trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who’s now indefinitely suspended by the track. Both horses collapsed and died on the track following earlier races, and investigators have yet to determine a cause for the deaths.
Four other horses were scratched in recent days. Practical Move and Skinner had fevers, while Continuar “wasn’t in peak condition.” Lord Miles had belonged to Joseph Jr., the now-suspended trainer.
On May 22, new antidoping and medication rules for the sport are supposed to take effect.
About 150,000 people are expected at Churchill Downs to wager and cheer on the horses Saturday. Post time is 6:57 p.m. EDT.
With News Wire Services