Churchill Downs suffers eighth horse fatality as Rio Moon is euthanized


Rio Moon, a 3-year-old colt, became the eighth horse to die at Churchill Downs in less than three weeks at the home of the Kentucky Derby. According to notes in the Equibase chart for the sixth race, Rio Moon “suffered a catastrophic injury to his left foreleg a few strides after the wire.” The race notes said that Rio Moon was euthanized Sunday at the Louisville, Ky., track.   Rio Moon, ridden by Martin Garcia and trained by Dale Romans, made six career starts and earned $11,621. Churchill Downs did not immediately respond when asked for a comment about the colt’s death.

Churchill Downs had confirmed that two horses — Freezing Point and Chloe’s Dream — were euthanized after sustaining leg injuries in races on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 6, and five others were euthanized after training and racing incidents at the track in the days leading up to the Derby.  In the wake of the incidents, Churchill Downs suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.  Joseph trained two horses — Parents Pride and Chasing Artie — that collapsed and died at Churchill Downs. Officials also scratched Joseph-trained Lord Miles from the Derby.

In a statement from Churchill Downs after the two horses were euthanized on May 6, they said it was working continuously to “improve upon the highest industry standards,” but acknowledged there was “more to be done and we will rigorously work to understand what caused these incidents and build upon our existing data, programs and practices … While each incident reported has been unique, it is important to note that there has been no discernable pattern detected in the injuries sustained.”

The horse deaths prompted widespread criticism, and a joint investigation was launched by track officials, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority.  The Preakness Stakes — the second leg of horse racing’s triple crown — will be held Saturday at Pimlico Race Coure in Baltimore. The Belmont Stakes — the final triple crown event — will be held June 10 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Editorial credit: Thomas Kelley /

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