Two of the horses died at Churchill Downs on Saturday after they suffered injuries during races and were subsequently euthanized
Seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the days leading up to the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
Two of the animals died on Saturday, May 6, the day of the famous horse race. The two horses, Chloe's Dream and Freezing Point, were injured on the day of the Kentucky Derby and subsequently euthanized. During Race 2, Chloe's Dream sustained a right knee fracture at the top of the first turn, and during Race 8, Freezing Point sustained a biaxial sesamoid fracture.
"In the interest of pursuing the most humane treatment for each horse, the owner, trainer, and private veterinarian, in consultation with a board-certified equine surgeon, made the difficult decision to euthanize," according to a statement on May 6 from Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. "We express our most sincere condolences to those connections who cared for and loved Chloe's Dream and Freezing Point."
During the week ahead of the Kentucky Derby — the longest continuously held sporting event in the U.S. — four horses died. Two, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, died suddenly. Saffie Joseph Jr. trained both horses, whose causes of death have not yet been released. The other two horses, Wild on Ice and Take Charge Briana, sustained injuries "from which they could not recover," according to a statement from Churchill Downs, and were euthanized.
Additionally, a fifth horse, Code of Kings, died on April 29 before a race after flipping and breaking his neck, Daily Racing Form reported.
"While each incident reported has been unique, it is important to note that there has been no discernable pattern detected in the injuries sustained," Churchill Downs said in its May 6 statement. "Our track surfaces are closely monitored by industry experts to ensure their integrity. Each horse that participates in racing at Churchill Downs must undergo multiple, comprehensive veterinarian exams and observations to ensure their fitness to race."
Churchill Downs' statement maintains that the racetrack will "fully and actively work with the Kentucky Horseracing Commission (KHRC) and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) to thoroughly investigate each incident to determine, to the degree possible, any underlying health or environmental causes and apply those learnings to continue to improve the safety of this sport."
The deaths underline a need for industry-wide reform, says Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
"Seven was not a lucky number for the horses, as that is how many died in the lead-up to this year's Kentucky Derby. And yet, they ran it," Block said in a statement to PEOPLE. "We mourn the devastating loss of two three-year-old racehorses today, Chloe's Dream and Freezing Point. Both suffered catastrophic injuries during races at Churchill Downs and were euthanized."
"The unacceptable deaths of so many young horses surrounding the Kentucky Derby this year underscores the urgent need for reform to protect the lives of horses, including the immediate and full implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act which has been held hostage by some horsemen obstructing the anti-doping provisions."
To World Animal Protection, an animal welfare nonprofit, the deaths are a result of the racing industry prioritizing "profit over animals."
"World Animal Protection, US is deeply saddened and concerned by the increasing number of horse deaths at racetracks worldwide," World Animal Protection executive director Lindsay Oliver said in a statement to PEOPLE. "Seven horses have now died at Churchill Downs in pre-Kentucky Derby races. How many more horses have to die before action is taken? The deaths of Parents Pride, Chasing Artie, Wild on Ice, Code of Kings, Chloe's Dream, Freezing Point, and Take Charge Briana prove it's time to address the ethical implications of this so-called 'sport.'"
"No horse wins the Kentucky Derby," Oliver added.
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