Four horses have died after running at Churchill Downs since Thursday as the famous track prepares to host the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Wednesday that three horses have died in the two days of spring racing since the season began. Pride’s parents collapsed and died after Saturday’s race. Chase Artie died in similar circumstances after the race on Tuesday.
Both were owned by Ken Ramsey, who were trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He was ridden by Luis Saez, the Courier-Journal reported. Mark Partridge, who runs Ramsay Farms, confirmed their deaths to the Courier-Journal.
Charge Briana was killed on Saturday after he kept what Daily racing forum reports It was a “catastrophic” injury during the competition. It was owned by Willis Horton Racing and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the Courier-Journal reports.
A fourth horse – Wild on Ice – was killed Thursday after breaking its hind leg during training. His jockey Ken Twohill pulled him up as he galloped on the backstretch. He was preparing to run in the Derby. It was owned by Frank Sumper.
The cause of the death of two horses remains a mystery
The death of the horses Joseph trained did not appear to be related to the injury. The grounds are still awaiting autopsies, the Courier-Journal reports. Joseph told the Courier-Journal that blood and labs are back to normal for both horses and that their team is testing horse feed and supplements for irregularities.
“We have to understand,” Joseph said, “what’s the reason?” “I don’t think it’s bad luck. It’s not about that, that it happens twice… I don’t have an answer right now. I wish I did.
“Something isn’t right. These horses, it wasn’t because of the injury. They just left the gate and didn’t even try and then fell off. … Theories won’t help. We need facts.”
Joseph is a well-known trainer whose horses have 174 wins and more than $10 million in prize money in 2022. He trains Lord Miles, who is set to start at gate 19 in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Joseph told USA Today that other horse racing plans this weekend are in jeopardy as the causes of parental Pride’s death and Artie’s pursuit remain unclear.
“When you don’t know something, that’s what you worry about the most,” Joseph told USA Today. “Something is not right. There are so many thoughts running through your head, but you can drive yourself crazy.
“But I’m very uncomfortable right now. It’s not something I would wish on anyone.”
It is not uncommon for horses to die at Churchill Downs, elsewhere
Horse deaths are not unusual at Churchill Downs. The Courier-Journal reported in 2019 that the track fatality rate of 2.73 per 1,000 starts in 2018 was the second highest of the 25 tracks that publicly reported horse fatalities. Its rate of 2.42 per 1,000 (43 total deaths) from 2016 through 2018 was 50 percent higher than the national average over the same time frame, according to the report.
Race-related equine deaths are not unique to Churchill Downs. According to Jockey Club data cited by the Courier-Journal, more than 7,200 horses died from racing injuries from 2009-21.