4 horse deaths ahead of Kentucky Derby are coincidental, equine experts say

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 4:13 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WLKY) – Four horses have died in five days at the famed Churchill Downs racetrack in Kentucky.

With the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend, many people want to know if the deaths are connected.

Dr. Foster Northrop, an equine veterinarian, said the horse deaths are a coincidence.

“I mean, you know, horses do get hurt occasionally, but, but to have four or whatever the number is right now in so few days is very unusual,” he said.

However, Northrop said it isn’t uncommon for a horse to suffer an injury.

“These horses are putting out everything they have and they’re going upwards of 40 miles an hour, and as they get closer to the wire, that’s when they start getting tired,” he said.

It’s around this time when injuries occur.

Since last Thursday, four horses have been injured or have died at Churchill Downs.

Two horses, Parent’s Pride and Chasing Artie, collapsed on the track after their race.

The cause of death has yet to be determined, but both horses were trained by Miami-based trainer Saffie Joseph Junior.

The other two horses, Wild On Ice and Take Charge Briana, suffered leg injuries and had to be euthanized.

“Well, a horse has to have four legs. They can’t survive on one leg. They can’t survive on crutches. They can’t survive in a wheelchair,” Northrop said. “So, we have no choice but to keep those horses on all four.”

Three of the four horses went down on the track’s turf course. One went down during a race and the other two just after their races.

Churchill Downs recently underwent a $10 million renovation to its turf course. Even after having trouble with it in the fall, jockeys and trainers alike said they see no issues with it now.

Horse trainer Dale Romans said the problem is not with the track’s surface.

“The surface, he actually said it was really good, it felt good,” he said. “I just think that we’ve run into a little stretch of bad luck.”

Churchill Downs released a statement calling the incidents highly unusual but unacceptable.

They also said they have “full confidence in their racing surface.”

Trainers and vets like Romans and Northrop said they have full confidence putting their horses on the track.

“If there is an issue, then we’re going to identify it and, you know, possibly scratch the horse from the race,” Northrop said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby will be run on Saturday at Churchill Downs.