Instead of Derby Glory, We Have the 'Stench of Death'

Horse racing has a big problem, writes Paul Newberry for the AP
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2023 9:05 AM CDT
Instead of Derby Glory, We Have the 'Stench of Death'
Horses leave the starting gate during the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Louisville, Ky.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

This should be the day the world of horse racing is celebrating Saturday's winner of the Kentucky Derby and speculating about the odds of a Triple Crown winner. And while derby winner Mage is indeed getting attention, this year's race has been spoiled by what AP sports columnist Paul Newberry calls the "stench of death." A staggering seven horses died at Churchill Downs this week, including two on derby day that were supposed to run in an undercard race. "Is enough being done to make this sport as safe as possible for 1,200-pound thoroughbreds that can reach top speeds of 45 mph?" wonders Newberry. Because "if this can happen at Churchill Downs, with the eyes of the world focused on its biggest race, what's happening when no one is looking?"

Given the speed and power of today's horses, achieving a zero-death standard in a sport where a fall or broken leg can result in euthanasia may not be realistic. But seeing more than 7,200 horse deaths in races from 2009-21 is not acceptable. The industry put new rules into effect—particularly in regard to doping—after a string of deaths at California's Santa Anita track in 2019. It's a good start, but not enough, writes Newberry. "Breeding practices that produce faster horses but perhaps increase the risk of other health problems is the next big frontier that needs to be addressed," he argues. "That's going to be the most perplexing issue of all." Newberry suggests that some of the celebs spotted at Saturday's race start using their voices to demand faster change. After Mage crossed the finish line, "the roses were red, but they should've been black." Read the full piece. (More horse racing stories.)

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