Update (July 19, 2023): It appears that Churchill Downs has attempted to keep quiet about the death of 3-year-old Thoroughbred Im a Modest Man, who was euthanized on June 24 after fracturing his leg at Ellis Park. His death follows Churchill Downs’ decision, under pressure from PETA and our supporters, to temporarily suspend racing at its track in Louisville, Kentucky—which the company did after 12 horses died there in only six weeks—and move its races to Ellis Park.
Suspending racing at Churchill Downs was the right thing to do, but shifting it to another track before comprehensive safety protocols were put in place risked horses’ lives. It’s time to suspend horse racing everywhere until PETA’s recommended safety protocols are the standard, including a zero-medication policy, CT scanning equipment, and synthetic surfaces.
Update (May 14, 2023): The carnage continues at Churchill Downs with the death of an eighth horse, Rio Moon. On the same weekend, there was another fatality at Belmont Park, and an injured horse was taken off in the equine ambulance at Pimlico. Horses aren’t safe at any of these “Cripple Crown” tracks—or at any other horse racing facility. Get the deaths down to zero or bury this “sport.”
Another horse euthanized at @ChurchillDowns on Mother’s Day.
The little girl next to me was in tears 😢
What can we do better?
There’s absolutely no way to rehabilitate a horse after a break? Are we doing adequate health assessments before they run? Are they overworked? pic.twitter.com/vNj6XnfIdW
— Erica Coghill (@EricaCoghill) May 14, 2023
Update (May 7, 2023): Seven horses are dead in the carnage that continued right through Kentucky Derby day. Two more horses—Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point—were killed on the track, bringing the total dead before the Derby to seven. Churchill Downs isn’t just a racetrack—it’s a killing field. They should play “Taps” at the Derby instead of “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Chloe’s Dream suffered a severe knee injury, and Freezing Point endured a critical fracture on his leg. Both were racing on the notoriously dangerous dirt track of Churchill Downs.
The Kentucky Derby early-betting favorite, Forte, was spared from a likely injury by being scratched by a Kentucky state veterinarian in the morning —while we appreciate the caution by removing him from the race, Churchill Downs should have listened to PETA’s calls to suspend racing at the track. With a closure, stronger protocols to prevent injury could have been implemented, and seven horses just like Forte could still be alive.
No other “sport” would tolerate the deaths of seven athletes and would be shut done immediately. The Kentucky Derby is a race to the bottom for horses’ safety and humans’ integrity.
Originally Posted May 4, 2023:
It’s not about big hats and mint juleps this year. The news about the biggest horse race of the year is the body count that led up to it. Five horses have died at Churchill Downs in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby. This means that injured, sore, or sick horses are being forced to race.
The track should close down immediately to put more safety protocols in place, including reviewing all veterinary records and medications, observing workouts, and, as PETA recommended years ago, installing standing CT imaging equipment to detect pre-existing injuries. Dirt and turf tracks should be replaced with synthetic surfaces, which statistics have long shown to be the safest.
Nine days before this year’s Kentucky Derby even started, the first contender died. The 3-year-old victim, Wild On Ice, was training on the racetrack at Churchill Downs early in the morning on April 27 when he sustained a catastrophic injury to his hind leg. Translation: His bone shattered. The injury was determined to be so severe that Wild On Ice had to be euthanized.
On April 29, 4-year-old Parents Pride collapsed after a race and never got back up. 3-year old Code of Kings died the same day after suffering a broken neck. Three days later, both Take Charge Briana and Chasing Artie died.
— PETA (@peta) May 3, 2023
Horses used in racing begin training and are already racing before their skeletal systems are even fully developed. These young animals are unprepared to handle the physical strain of competitive racing on a hard track at high speeds. One study of injuries at racetracks concluded that one horse in every 22 races had sustained an injury that prevented them from finishing the race. An average of three horses die on racetracks every single day in the U.S..
Actor James Cromwell partnered with PETA to show the treachery that occurs at the Kentucky Derby and other racetracks across the country:
The Kentucky Derby Is Held on a Dangerous Track
The odds of injury are even higher than normal at Churchill Downs, the venue that hosts the Kentucky Derby. Last year alone, 25 horses died after sustaining catastrophic injuries on Churchill Downs’ dirt and turf tracks. Dirt track—the surface the Derby is run on—is the absolute worst of the worst for horse safety. If the racetrack had any interest in horse welfare, it would replace its dirt with a synthetic track, which is much less likely to result in broken bones and deaths than dirt or turf. We’ve encouraged track officials to make this change, and so far, they’ve refused.
Investigating the Death of Wild On Ice
PETA has demanded that Kentucky officials conduct a thorough investigation into Wild On Ice’s death and scrutinize all medication and veterinary records for evidence of injury or soreness. The owner’s comment last week that the horse might not belong in the Derby raises questions about what part the trainer, the veterinarian, and others may have played in a decision to push the colt beyond his capability.
How You Can Help Horses, on and off the Track
As long as horses continue to die at Churchill Downs, please refrain from attending or betting on the Kentucky Derby. By boycotting the most prominent horse race in the U.S., we send a message that Wild On Ice’s death as well as the injuries and deaths of all the horses like him at Churchill Downs are not acceptable.
Right now, countless horses across the U.S. are suffering, on and off racetracks. Please spare a few moments of your time for horses by taking PETA’s series of rapid actions.