A sixth horse died at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Chloe’s Dream’s death comes after four horses perished in just six days. Chloe Dream was a three-year-old gelding who participated in the Derby undercard.
Morning line favorite to win Forte was also knocked out of the 149th Race for the Roses just hours before the Kentucky Derby was due to start. The vets examined Forte and determined that it was best to be careful as he was related to the bruise on his right hoof.
The deaths during Derby week have heightened the scrutiny of the sport as it also continues to deal with multiple doping suspensions. «This is part of the racing and it’s the cruel part,» Forte co-owner Mike Repole said in an interview with FanDuel TV.
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The ongoing problems within the sport have also caught the attention of some Derby attendees.
«It’s concerning, and I hope they quickly do the best they can to correct whatever is going on,» said Michael Freeze, who along with his friend dressed up as jockeys. «They need to do what is best for the horses and the sport in general.»
KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITE SCRATCHED OUT OF RACE DUE TO MATURED RIGHT FOOT
Chloe’s Dream was injured in the second race on Saturday. The horse was taken away in an equine ambulance with a right front knee injury and was euthanized, trainer Jeff Hiles confirmed to The Associated Press.
«He just took a wrong step,» Hiles said. «They could do the same running on the field as on the track. So it’s very unfortunate. That’s what we deal with.»
New anti-doping and medication rules imposed by the sport’s central governing body are scheduled to take effect on May 22.
«Something’s going on,» said Pat Murtha, who was attending her first Derby. «They need to find out and put some rules and regulations in place to protect these animals.»
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner, is nearing the end of a two-year suspension issued by Churchill Downs Inc. One of his horses, Medina Spirit, crossed the finish line first in the 2021 Derby and failed a post-race drug test. The horse was disqualified and Baffert was punished.
More than 30 horses died in 2019 at the Santa Anita racetrack in California. The death toll sent shock waves through the industry and led to various safety reforms.
New York authorities revoked Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Rick Dutrow’s license in 2011 for 10 years. Regulators found syringes loaded with unauthorized drugs on a desk in his barn. Dutrow reopened his barn last month.
Forte had been the early 3-1 favourite; his absence narrows the field to 18 horses for the 1 1/4 mile race.
Repole said that veterinarians with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had diagnosed Forte with a bruised foot and that the colt had developed the bruise a few days ago. The colt stumbled during training Thursday, though trainer Todd Pletcher publicly played it down.
Behind the scenes it was a different story.
«We did X-rays, we brought in vets, the state vets came and looked at him every day,» Repole said in the interview. «He’s fine. He probably needs a couple more days (to recover).»
Pletcher still has two horses in the Derby: Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns.
Horse deaths included Derby contender Wild On Ice. Two of the horses were trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He was indefinitely suspended from the track, though investigators have yet to determine the cause of death for his horses.
«It doesn’t make me happy to see a horse put down,» said Joe Conforto, a race attendee, wearing hockey glasses and a stuffed horse on his head. «But I think a lot of it is bad luck. Most racehorses are better cared for than humans.»
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Four horses were eliminated: Practical Move, Lord Miles, Dragon and Skinner, in the final days. Practical Move and Skinner had a fever, while Dragon was not in optimal condition, according to his Japanese trainer. Lord Miles was Joseph’s Derby horse.
Associated Press contributed to this report.