The horse death toll at Churchill Downs continued to grow Friday when Lost in Limbo, a 7-year-old gelding, was euthanized after breaking down in the seventh race. The horse was running in a claiming race, his 35th lifetime start. Adding that to a previously unreported death two weeks ago, 11 horses have died in a month at the Louisville home of the Kentucky Derby.
Lost in Limbo threw his rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., during the post parade but was OK’d to run. The death was confirmed by Dr. Will Farmer, equine medical director for Churchill Downs, Inc., through a spokesman.
On May 13, Bosque Redondo finished 10th in a race but was then taken off the course by equine ambulance, according to the steward’s report. “The horse was transported to a Lexington clinic for further diagnostics,” the report said. “It was later reported that the horse was humanely euthanized due to his injuries and poor prognosis for recovery.”
The number of equine fatalities rivals that of Santa Anita in 2019. In a similar one-month period, 11 horses died between Dec. 30, 2018, and Jan. 25, 2019. Santa Anita did not close down racing until March 5 after the death toll reached 21 horses. The Churchill Downs meeting is scheduled to go until July 3.
Santa Anita revamped its safety protocols, since adopted by the California Horse Racing Board, and fatalities in the state have decreased by 55% since 2019.
The spate of deaths at Churchill Downs started April 27 when Wild on Ice broke down after a training session and was taken to Lexington for further evaluation. The injury to the Kentucky Derby hopeful was said to be unrecoverable, and he was euthanized. The deaths continued to mount as the week progressed to the Kentucky Derby, with two horses dying on the Derby undercard.
Unlike California and New York, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is not transparent on equine fatalities. Both New York and California have a continually updated website that is available to the public. In addition, Churchill Downs and other tracks it owns do not allow their fatality counts to be made public by the Equine Injury Database. Churchill Downs submits data and allows it to be part of the national average but keeps its results private. Kentucky track Keeneland makes its statistics public. The EID is a flawed accounting system, as it only counts racing deaths, not those in training or through other means.
After a death on the Preakness undercard, there will be heightened scrutiny from the public as the Triple Crown moves to the Belmont Stakes in New York in two weeks.