Horse deaths before Kentucky Derby mounts scrutiny : NPR

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An equine ambulance arrives at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.

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Michael Reaves/Getty Images

An equine ambulance arrives at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 149th Kentucky Derby may be over, but the questions about what led to a series of horse deaths at its famous racetrack have only just begun.

Over the past week, a total of seven horses have died before Saturday’s final race — prompting an investigation into the deaths and sparking outrage from animal rights activists.

The disturbing death toll seen at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, is the latest scandal to hit the horse racing industry despite recent efforts to make the sport safer for – animals.

Joseph Grove of the Animal Wellness Action group said the number of deaths was alarming.

“As a native Louisvillian, I get the passion that people here and around the country feel about this iconic race,” Grove said in a statement. “But the care of the horses should be our first priority, and this group of horse deaths is shocking. The lamentations are not enough.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Four of the seven horses were euthanized after sustaining injuries

The first death occurred on April 29. Code of Kings, a 3-year-old gelding, repeatedly bucked and broke his neck before a race, said his trainer, Tim Glyshaw. Daily Racing Form. Glyshaw added that his horse appeared to be fixated on the lights in a nearby DJ booth before turning around.

On Tuesday, a horse named Take Charge Briana was euthanized after being injured during a race. Two days later, another horse, Wild on Ice, was also euthanized after an injury during training, Louisville Public Media reported.

Two horses, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, also died this past week under mysterious circumstances, Churchill Downs said. Their trainer, Saffie Joseph Jr., has been suspended indefinitely for the “sudden unexplained deaths.”

On Saturday, two more horses, Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point, were euthanized after sustaining seemingly irreparable racing injuries.

Chloe’s Dream, who competed in the second race of the day, suffered from an injury to her right front knee, trainer Jeff Hiles said. The Associated Press. Freezing Point’s left ankle hurt badly during the eighth race, trainer Joe Lejzerowicz told the AP.

Kentucky racing officials launch investigation into deaths

Churchill Downs described each horse fatality as “unique” – adding that there was “no discernible pattern in the injuries sustained.”

Still, the group said it will partner with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority to investigate the incidents and learn how to improve the sport safety.

“We will work rigorously to understand what caused these incidents,” Churchill Downs said in a statement.

The University of Kentucky will be conducting post-mortem examinations on the racehorses, said Kristin Voskuhl, spokeswoman for the Public Protection Cabinet which includes the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

“The KHRC is committed to the health and safety of every horse and rider and will follow the robust investigative procedures in place for matters of racing safety and integrity,” Voskukl said in a statement, Louisville Public Media reported.

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