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Churchill Downs’ 2023 spring meet was met with quite a bit of controversy. Although Saturday’s Kentucky Derby ran as planned, the week and races leading up to the biggest even in horse racing was marred by an underlying storyline.
Seven horses were euthanized. Five horses died prior to the weekend, two died on Saturday after suffering an injury during the undercard.
In addition to the deaths, multiple horses were scratched throughout the week— including Saturday morning’s Kentucky Derby favorite, Forte. His injury was diagnosed as a bruised foot and pulled from the race just a few hors before post time.
At this point in time, no explanation has been given for the concerning trend. It has been called “tragic” and “unfortunate” on multiple occasions, but no blame nor fault has been issued.
Churchill Downs promises to be better amid backlash.
PETA issued a statement in response to the seven deaths that occurred thus far during the spring meet, and called Churchill Downs a “killing field.”
They should play ‘Taps’ at the Derby instead of ‘My Old Kentucky Home.’— PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in a statement to Fox Digital
Meanwhile, Churchill Downs has vowed to “rigorously work to understand” what caused the incidents in a lengthy statement on late Saturday night. It said that Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point, the two horses euthanized after the undercard, suffered a right knee fracture and left front biaxial sesamoid fracture, respectively.
In the interest of pursuing the most humane treatment for each horse, the owner, trainer and private veterinarian, in consultation with a board-certified equine surgeon, made the difficult decision to euthanize. We express our most sincere condolences to those connections who cared for and loved Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point.— Churchill Downs in a statement
The track also spoke to its “unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of equine safety,” and vowed to “explore every avenue possible and effectively minimize any avoidable risk in the sport.” It continued on to say that there was not a discernable pattern in the injuries sustained, even those that led to the seven deaths.
In regard to the protocols that are currently in place, PETA appreciated that the Kentucky state veterinarian scratched Forte. However, it continues to call for Churchill Downs to close so that stronger protocols could be put in place.
The track will see its next race go off on Thursday. Churchill Downs’ spring meet schedule will continue until July 3.