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Only days before horse racing’s signature event, the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is looking into the recent deaths during training of four horses, including a colt who was scheduled to run in Saturday’s Derby.
Wild on Ice, a 3-year-old who had three wins in five career starts and was in the Derby field, was euthanized after he was injured while training on the dirt track on Thursday, Churchill Downs said in a statement. Take Charge Briana was put down after an injury during a turf race on Tuesday.
Two horses trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. died suddenly for unknown reasons, the track said. Parents Pride collapsed on Saturday and Chasing Artie on Tuesday.
“This is something that doesn’t happen,” Joseph said on Wednesday morning at his Churchill Downs barn. “I’m shattered, basically, because I know it can’t happen. The odds of it happening twice is in the trillions. I run almost 4,000 horses and it’s never happened. It doesn’t make sense.”
The deaths come at one of the few times each year when the sports world is focused on horse racing as the Derby kicks off the Triple Crown season. They are likely to renew longstanding concerns about the horses’ safety even as the industry contends with doping scandals, competition from other forms of betting and waning fan interest.
“While a series of events like this is highly unusual, it is completely unacceptable. We take this very seriously and acknowledge that these troubling incidents are alarming and must be addressed,” the Churchill Downs statement said.
The statement continued: “We have full confidence in our racing surfaces and have been assured by our riders and horsemen that they do as well.”
Joseph said Thursday morning that his entrant in this year’s derby, Lord Miles, will run on Saturday. Joseph’s 2022 Derby horse, White Abarrio, finished 16th.
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