A look at five well-known horse deaths in races ranging from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness to the Breeders’ Cup:
Mongolian Groom, a 4-year-old gelding, was euthanized after breaking his left hind leg in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in California.
Jockey Abel Cedillo pulled up the horse in the stretch with a national television audience watching. The gelding’s death was the 37th at the track in 2018-19, which led to a spate of safety reforms.
In 2008, the filly Eight Belles finished second behind Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby. About a furlong past the finish line, she suffered compound fractures of both front ankles while being slowed after the race.
Because her trauma was too severe to move her, she was euthanized on the track in front of 157,770 fans and a live television audience.
Her trainer, Larry Jones, said he thought Eight Belles tripped over her own feet, a habit she developed because she didn’t pick her feet up high enough. She was buried in the garden of the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The colt won the 2006 Kentucky Derby and horrifyingly shattered his leg two weeks later in the Preakness. Barbaro’s injuries were similar to Eight Belles’ two years later.
He had surgery for three broken bones in and around the fetlock of his right rear leg. Two months later, Barbaro developed laminitis in his left rear foot. He had five more operations during an extended stay at an equine hospital. Laminitis is common in horses who shift weight to one foot for extended periods to take pressure off an injured foot.
Barbaro’s right leg eventually healed, but he developed laminitis in both front feet. Veterinarians and his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, decided he could not be saved, and he was euthanized in January 2007.
His plight led the Jacksons to endow a chair for equine disease research at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school, where the Barbaro Fund also was set up to help the treatment and care of large animals. College scholarships were created for students studying veterinary medicine and equine research.
GO FOR WAND
In 1990, the filly Go For Wand ran against the mare Bayakoa in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at New York’s Belmont Park. Go For Wand was leading by a head at the sixteenth pole when she suffered an open fracture to her right cannon bone.
She fell to the track and threw jockey Randy Romero to the ground before rising to limp on three legs. Track personnel caught her and got her to lie down, and she was euthanized on the track. She was buried in the infield at Saratoga. Romero broke his pelvis and several ribs.
In July 1975, the filly Ruffian competed in a highly anticipated match race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. She was unbeaten in her first 10 races, winning by an average margin of 8 1/3 lengths. Her domination earned her Eclipse Awards as champion filly at ages two and three.
Over 50,000 fans attended what was billed as “The Great Match” at Belmont Park and about 20 million watched on television.
Ruffian was ahead by a half-length when she changed leads and both jockeys heard a cracking sound. Both of the sesamoid bones in her right front leg had snapped.
Jockey Jacinto Vasquez tried to pull Ruffian up, but she kept on running and did even more damage to her leg. Video showed Ruffian was startled by a bird on the track and took a bad step.
She underwent a 12-hour operation. When the anesthesia wore off, she thrashed about on the floor of a padded recovery stall as if she was still running in the race. She knocked the plaster cast against her elbow, shattering it, and the cast came off her leg, undoing the surgical repairs. She was euthanized and buried in the track’s infield.
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