During the sixth race at Keeneland on Wednesday, 2-year-old filly Integral became the fourth horse to sustain an injury that resulted in its death during the 2019 Fall Meet.
That brought to eight the total of race-related deaths at the Lexington racetrack in all of 2018, the most reported in any one year at Keeneland since at least 2009.
A report on Keeneland’s website stated that Integral “sustained a catastrophic injury to left front limb.” Integral was part of a 10-horse field competing in a $73,000 claiming race for 2-year-old fillies going 6 furlongs on the main dirt track. Jockey Jose Ortiz pulled up Integral before the halfway point as she was running in second place. Integral was vanned off and later euthanized, the track confirmed.
On opening day of the Fall Meet two horses were euthanized. Stella d’Oro pulled up early in the fourth race and was vanned off the track with a front-left leg injury. One race later, Fast Dreamer was vanned off after breaking down with a front-right leg injury.
On Oct. 9, Triggerman fell near the finish line and suffered a catastrophic left-front leg injury. Jockey Adam Beschizza broke his collarbone during the incident and was transported to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
Integral and Fast Dreamer were injured during dirt track races. Triggerman and Stella d’Oro broke down during turf races.
This marks the second straight meet Keeneland has reported four horse fatalities. The current meet, which started Oct. 4 and ends Oct. 26, still includes eight more days of racing. Last spring, Keeneland reported three deaths on dirt and one on turf, according to the Courier-Journal. The track reported five total deaths in all of 2018.
The eight fatalities this year are the most Keeneland has reported since The Jockey Club launched its Equine Injury Database in 2009. Keeneland’s best year was 2013 with one fatality. Its worst previously was five in 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2012.
Last year, Keeneland averaged 1.77 fatalities per 1,000 starts, which was slightly higher than the national average of 1.68 from all tracks reporting. During the current Fall Meet, Keeneland’s rate of fatalities per 1,000 starts is 4.76, with four deaths from 840 starts.
A rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita Park in California last winter and spring — 30 deaths all told — brought widespread negative attention to the sport and led to reforms at that track and throughout the industry.
Before the Fall Meet, in an interview with the Herald-Leader’s John Clay, Keeneland President Bill Thomason spoke of changes at the track to improve horse safety. He said the dirt racing surface had undergone “a complete rehabilitation.” The track also hired its own equine safety director.
Thomason also spoke of additional changes ahead for the industry as a whole.
“There are different paths that are going on right now to find ways to create a structure that provides for uniformity around the country,” he said. “This patchwork quilt of regulations that we’ve got in America right now has got to change. We have got to find a way to create that uniformity and assure all the racing jurisdictions that care about the horses and care about racing and care about the sport, they are going to have to abide by those regulations in order to participate.”
After three fatalities in the first four days of the Fall Meet, Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, told WKYT that safety is a top priority at the track. In an effort to increase transparency, Keeneland launched a database this fall that details on-track incidents day by day as part of a webpage that explains the track’s safety initiatives.
“No one takes this harder than me and my colleagues here at Keeneland,” Elliston told WKYT. “We take it very seriously and we have an ache in our heart when that happens.”