Eight horses die at Churchill Downs

Eight horses die at Churchill Downs

Lucy Williams, Staff Writer

The general public would never automatically associate animal deaths to the exciting, fast-paced sport of horse racing, but recent fatality rates at Louisville Kentucky’s Churchill Downs have raised questions among riders, viewers, and animal-lovers as a whole.

Joseph Grove, a member of Animal Wellness Action, says, “As a native Louisvillian, I get the passion people here and across the country feel about this iconic race.” Grove then further expressed, saying, “But the care of the horses must be our first priority, and this cluster of horse deaths is startling. Lamentations are not enough.”

Seven horses died in the span of 10 days during the Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. These horses included Parents Pride, Chasing Artie, Wild on Ice, Code of Kings, Chloe’s Dream, Freezing Point, and Take Charge Briana. 

Deaths before the Derby.

The fatalities all began on April 27th around 6 A.M, when the stud Wild on Ice became injured during a training session. Professionals at both the Equine Medical Center and an equine surgical center in Lexington both attempted to save the horse, however, hours later, they determined the injuries were far too severe. Euthanasia became a last resort.

On April 29th, two horses died: Code of Kings and Parents Pride.

Code of King’s death appears to be a “freak accident.” The stallion was in his paddock, when he suddenly reared up and flipped over. He was driven to a clinic in Lexington, according to his trainer, Tim Glyshaw. The horse was diagnosed with a fractured neck and was therefore at high-risk of paralysis. He was euthanized not long after the prognosis.

Parents Pride collapsed and died following the eighth race at Churchill Downs. The cause of the filly’s sudden death is yet to be determined.

May 2nd led to more tragedy. Take Charge Briana and Chasing Artie both met their unfortunate fates.

Take Charge Briana was injured during the last stretch of the fifth race on Tuesday, suffering musculoskeletal injuries far beyond repair.

Chasing Artie collapsed and died during his eighth race- the horse’s death ironically looking much like Parents Pride’s. Both of the horses were owned by Ken Ramsey and trained by Staffie Joseph Jr. The cause of the equines’ sudden deaths are still unknown. Ramsey and Joseph are now suspended from racing at Churchill Downs.

Finally, on May 3rd, officials at Churchill Downs spoke up:

“Transparency is an important component of our commitment to safety and accountability in horse racing. We share the concern of our fans who have questions about the recent equine fatalities at Churchill Downs Racetrack and we extend our sincere condolences to those who love and cared for these horses.”

The Derby day deaths.

On may 6th, Chloe’s Dream had suffered an injury during the second race. Churchill Downs stated that “Chloe’s Dream sustained an injury from which he could not recover, and for humane reasons, was euthanized.”

During the eighth race, Freezing Point was bumped into by another horse, causing him to twist sideways while galloping and break his leg. It was decided that the stud could not recover from this injury. He was euthanized.

Churchill Downs ended Derby Day with a statement, saying:

“It is with the utmost sadness that we report these tragic fatal injuries. Churchill Downs is unwavering in our commitment to the health and well-being of equine safety. The equine fatalities leading to this year’s Kentucky Derby are a sobering reminder of the urgent need to mobilize our industry in order to explore every avenue possible and effectively minimize any avoidable risk in the sport.

“Despite our determination to continually improve upon the highest industry standards, there is more to be done and we will rigorously work to understand what caused these incidents and build upon our existing data, programs and practices to better understand what has been incredibly difficult for us to witness and accept this week.”


An eighth fatality took place over the weekend at Churchill Downs. Rio Moon was euthanized after the sixth race of the day due to a “catastrophic injury” to his left foreleg.