There have been six race-related horse deaths at Kentucky racetracks so far in 2023.
That news came Tuesday during a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The KHRC Veterinary Report tracked horse health at active Kentucky racetracks from January through March.
Only Turfway Park in Florence was active during that whole time. So all six horse deaths came during Turfway Park’s winter meet. It is currently running its spring meet. There were 3,903 total starts at Turfway Park during the January-March period. Of those 3,903 starts, 36 resulted in race injuries or lameness, and six resulted in EIPH, or lung bleeding.
The report also lists zero fatalities in 188 total starts at The Red Mile in Lexington. It began racing April 1.
Comparison to previous years
Six deaths through March is a poor result compared to other years for the Kentucky horse racing industry. In 2022, for instance, only two race-related horse deaths occurred from January-March. In fact, six fatalities through March is the most since 2010, when the state also had six deaths. That year, Kentucky finished with 27 deaths. There haven’t been more than 20 deaths in a year since 2019.
All six deaths in 2023 were listed as musculoskeletal. That means the horse was euthanized after sustaining a serious injury, most often a broken leg.
Turfway Park also had five deaths during training. Three were musculoskeletal and two were sudden deaths.
Horse racing deaths generating more debate
Horse deaths at racetracks have generated more attention and debate in recent years. At Santa Anita, just outside Los Angeles, the racetrack had a terrible stretch of six deaths in two months last year. In 2018-2019, Santa Anita made headlines for the worst reason with 49 total horse deaths. Those fatalities led to changes in procedure and veterinary care at the racetrack.
According to Veterinarians.org, there were 2.00 horse deaths per 1,000 starts at US racetracks in 2009. By 2019, that number had shrunk to 1.53. So far in Kentucky in 2023, it’s at 1.54 fatalities per 1,000 starts.